Rangers in Space: Chapter Thirteen

Zhane

 

I raced on my speeder bike as fast as possible towards the factory. It was hidden in the barren terrain of the planet Roramiir.

 

Darkonda had laid a trap for the Rangers there. They had fallen for it. I knew I had to save them, despite my obvious weaknesses. Weaknesses the Kerovian scientists were more than happy to remind me of.

 

“Zhane,” one of said scientists called over my cycle’s speaker. “The Keitizer is not your property. Return at once. You will not be warned again.”

 

“Good,” I answered. “I’m getting sick of hearing it.”

 

The science team had gone as far as to threaten deactivation of the prototype Astro morpher. I knew that was beyond their power.

 

My cycle pulled up to the open warehouse of concrete and rock. Inside were the five Rangers. They were caught in some kind of energy net. I hopped off my bike and ran towards the warehouse entrance. A group of Craterites was kind enough to give me a greeting.

 

A Craterite swung its blade down towards my head. I blocked the blow with my left arm and leaned forward with a hook punch across the soldier’s face.

 

Another soldier charged at me, and I flipped the creature over my shoulder. It crashed against the ground behind me, and I slammed a knifehand blow against its chest to discourage the Craterite from moving.

 

“Zhane!” I heard Astro Black call my name.

 

“Nice of you to show up, big guy,” Astro Blue said. His sense of humor escaped me.

 

“Any time,” I called back.

 

I slammed a front kick against a Craterite’s face and whacked the back of its neck with a knifehand chop. I turned to my left and grabbed the arm of another soldier and flipped it over my shoulder.

 

“Zhane!” Astro Red shouted to me. “Darkonda’s lab…you have to morph and destroy it.”

 

I knew all about Darkonda’s plans of course. His mutant alligator/lizard/slime things were being mass produced. Each was capable of spreading a nasty viral infection.

 

“I’m working on it,” I said while slamming my elbow against the gut of a Craterite that had tried to sneak up on me.

 

“Keitizer!” I shouted while flipping open my morpher. I input the code M-E-G-A-MEGA. “Install!”

 

I snapped into my signature fighting stance and shouted “Astro Silver!”

 

I activated my communicator to call for my vehicle.

 

“Auto Slider!”

 

The silver Cyber Slider shot through the air and throttled towards my location. I leapt forward, landed on the slider, and entered the warehouse in a burst of speed.

 

One of the lizard mutants was on a catwalk above and fired an energy web to try and snare me like he had the Rangers. I wasn’t about to fall into its trap.

 

“Cycle mode,” I commanded.

 

My Slider transformed into its two-wheeled cycle mode and touched down. I leaned to the right and shot underneath the energy web before it could catch me.

 

“Nice…” I heard Astro Yellow say quietly.

 

I turned down a narrow corridor and opened my throttle to full when I saw another mutant lizard blocking my path.

 

“Coming through,” I shouted while leaning forward and smashing against the monster. The creature was thrown backwards while I approached a large cargo bay door.

 

My cycle’s pulse cannons blasted across the door’s armor enough for me to plow through on my cycle. Darkonda’s lab was behind the large door. Several glass spheres held little mutant embryos, and several beakers held the base for the virus he created.

 

Darkonda turned to glare at me while I skid my cycle to a halt.

 

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” the villain said in a screeching voice.

 

“What a shame,” I said while activating my cycle’s pulse cannons.

 

Lances of golden energy exploded across the lab in a series of sparks and flashes. Glass shattered and circuitry was fried as Darkonda fell back.

 

One of the mutants hissed while stalking towards me among the lab’s falling debris. I lunged forward and tackled against the creature.

 

We went crashing through the lab’s walls and burst out onto the ground outside the warehouse. We rolled forward several feet before I released the creature and let it stumble out of control.

 

I rose to my feet and fell into a fighting stance.

 

A massive beam of green light pierced the sky and struck something at the other end of the warehouse. I recognized it as Astronema’s enlarging beam. Another one of the mutants grew to giant size behind me. I assumed the Rangers had broken free and beaten the creature badly enough to warrant an enlarging beam. The Astro Megazord took shape to combat the monster.

 

The mutant charged towards me, snarling through a pair of grotesque nostrils.

 

“Silver Blazer!” I shouted, firing golden energy darts that exploded against the creature in a series of sparks.

 

The computer chip emblem on my helmet flashed, activating the countdown sequence on my visor.

 

ONE MINUTE THIRTY SECONDS

 

“I’ll have to make this quick,” I said while charging towards the creature.

 

The Astro DeltaMegazord took shape above and started slamming its fists against the giant-sized mutant. Its blows were as loud as thunder claps.

 

I switched my weapon to blade mode and lunged forward while slashing my saber diagonally across the mutant’s chest. I followed with a horizontal strike, then brought the blade down vertically. The mutant was taken aback by my speed and urgency while I pressed forward.

 

My blade lunged towards the creature’s chest like a spear and struck hard, sending the monster tumbling backwards.

 

The mutant slowly rose to its feet as the battle above continued to rage. The Megazordzord opened fire with gattling cannons that exploded against its opponent. The mutant returned fire, but the DeltaMegazord was well armored.

 

My count down neared zero as I pressed on for my final assault.

 

NINE

 

“Blazer impact!” I shouted while charging my rifle.

 

EIGHT

 

I charged forward while squeezing the trigger, firing rapid darts of golden energy.

 

SEVEN

 

The blasts sparked across the mutant’s chest as I continued my advance.

 

SIX

 

I heard the knuckles of the zord above crash through the giant creature, punching through the monster and destroying it.

 

FIVE

 

The monster took several steps backward in a desperate attempt to break away from the volley of energy blasts crashing into it.

 

FOUR

 

I switched my weapon to blade mode.

 

THREE

 

My saber charged as I leapt forward with an energized diagonal strike that slashed through the creature.

 

TWO

 

I followed with a horizontal strike that ripped across the mutant’s midsection.

 

ONE

 

I flipped around and assumed a victory pose.

 

ZERO

 

My armor flashed off as the monster exploded behind me.

 

***

 

I went to find my shuttle after the battle, but it was missing. I couldn’t pick the craft up on my portable scanner either.

 

“This is crazy,” I said while trying to broaden my scanning range.

 

The planet’s natives were a primitive bunch of mole people who lived underground. They could never have stolen my shuttle.

 

My Keitizer suddenly toned. I flipped it open and held the device by my ear to open the comm line.

 

“Hey Zhane,” a voice said from the other end. I recognized it as Tommy’s. “Lose something?”

 

I couldn’t help but smile. “I didn’t realize you Terrans were so proficient at hijacking.”

 

“We need to talk,” Tommy said, cutting to the chase. “I had to get your attention somehow.”

 

Touché. “What if I don’t like what I hear?”

 

“Then you’re free to go,” Tommy said.

 

“Agreed,” I said after a brief moment. “But I could use a lift.”

 

***

 

I sat around their situation room table while wearing a similar jumpsuit to theirs. Mine was black with a silver undershirt. I sat back in a relaxed posture while tapping my fingers against the table.

 

I recognized Cy right away from the time we spent together on the Astro Ranger project. Their proposal was to be expected, although their methods surprised me. They wanted me to join them on the Megaship.

 

“Just like that, huh?” I asked.

 

Ashley nodded. “You’ve been following us anyway.”

 

“Right,” Justin said. “At least around here you’ll have more space.”

 

“Why so interested?” I asked while leaning forward.

 

“It’s obvious,” Cy said. He never did have much patience for me. “You’ve been following us since leaving the Confederation.”

 

“I didn’t see you complaining back down on the surface a while ago,” I pointed out

 

“No one is complaining,” Kat said. “It just makes sense for us to work together.”

 

“Yeah,” Chris said. “We can drop this cloak and dagger stuff.”

 

“Look,” I said while leaning forward. “I’m not exactly supposed to have the silver morpher. I’m just…borrowing it.”

 

“You stole it?” Tommy asked.

 

I gave them my best smile and shrugged. “They weren’t using the morpher, so it’s not like they’ll miss it.”

 

The science team I worked with was reluctant to contribute the Silver armor to the fight against Astronema. KO-35 was a ghost world because the planet fought against Sauron, they often warned. They didn’t want to follow in the planet’s footsteps.

 

I on the other hand wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the bad guys to come to me. I took the armor and I intended to use it.

 

“They’ll want it back,” Cy said.

 

“I know,” I answered. “But it’s not like they can just show up and take it from me. They’re scientists.”

 

“So are you,” Ashley pointed out. “So how could you not want to be here? This ship is cutting edge.”

 

Justin nodded. “Yeah. At least let us show you around…”

 

For reasons that escaped me at the time, I expected the Terrans to be much more disciplined and much less friendly. I knew Earthers were soft compared to Kerovians, but that knowledge didn’t prepare me for their unwarranted hospitality. They were offering a partnership, but also a friendship, even though I hardly knew them.

 

“I suppose a tour wouldn’t hurt…” I agreed after a moment of deliberation.

 

***

 

The Megaship corridors reminded me of my academy days. Even though those days were less than two years behind me, they seemed like a lifetime ago.

 

Ashley and Justin were leading me along the way, which Tommy seemed to silently object to for some reason. I found Justin to be an interesting individual. He was so full of life, despite all the tragedy he’d seen. He had a unique way of looking at things, and a sense of humor that seemingly couldn’t be dulled.

 

Ashley was strikingly beautiful. For a Terran at least. She had a curiosity and energy about her that I admired.

 

“Engineering is on this level,” she said while they led me forward. “I’ve made a few modifications.”

 

“Modifications?” I asked while raising my eyebrow with doubt. “I didn’t realize Earth’s public school systems taught subspace mechanics.”

 

Ashley raised an eyebrow while turning and smiling at me. “Am I supposed to be amused.”

 

I shrugged. “I’m just not familiar with your customs.”

 

“Right,” she said while turning back around. He entered the engine room shortly afterward.

 

Her engine modifications were actually impressive. I could tell she picked up a few things from Dr. Cranston. She also seemed to have a natural understanding of machines and the way they worked. She also showed me her work on the ship’s holographic projectors. The disguises she cooked up for the Megaship were works of art.

 

My tour moved on to one of the Mega Laser ports. Justin seemed to have basic knowledge about their function, but Ashley was clearly the expert. She removed the outer paneling along the small chamber’s walls and let me catch a glimpse of the turret’s power conduits.

 

“More modifications?” I asked. I couldn’t help but be impressed.

 

Ashley nodded while her eyes scanned her own handy work. She was gleaming with pride.

 

“I compressed the plasma stream using a modulator based on Rigelian design,” she explained to me. “It took some extra work to integrate the modulator with our ship’s power grid…but it was worth it.”

 

“Not bad,” I told her, hiding my awe. I never would have thought a Terran capable of such an act. The species hadn’t even escaped its own star system yet.

 

After the tour was finished, I told Ashley I needed some time to think. They set me up in temporary quarters. There was plenty of room to spare in a ship crewed by only six people.

 

I was only in my room for five minutes before the chime rang.

 

“Come on in,” I called as the door swung open. It was Cy.

 

“You still haven’t learned, have you?” Cy said. He was always one to cut to the chase.

 

Our differences were rooted in religion, strangely enough. I often took stabs at his spiritual beliefs during the brief time we were together on the Astro Ranger project. It was an attempt on my part to get Cy to admit to his true feelings about KO-35’s science team. He wasn’t a big fan of them.

 

“Learned what?” I asked.

 

“Always joking around,” Cy said while stepping further into my room. “Always playing games, whether it's with people or nature.”

 

“I’ve saved your butt three times now,” I said defensively.

 

Cy shook his head, and he seemed more disappointed than angry.

 

“Maybe you should just leave,” he said.

 

It was a surreal moment for me. There I was, a Kerovian scientist well versed in the fighting arts, in possession of a stolen prototype morpher, on board a Megaship. A Megaship constructed primarily by a Terran organization. On board was Cy, the spiritual nut who apparently hated me, the beautiful Ashley, kind and quiet Kat, loud mouth Justin, timid Chris, and Tommy. The infamous Dragon Ranger. All of whom apparently wanted me on board their ship.

 

I still struggled with why they wanted me. Why they thought they could trust me.

 

“Look,” I said, feeling agitated. “Life is a game, Cy. And we’re nothing more than game pieces.”

 

Cy wrinkled his brow at me. “What are you talking about?”

 

 “I accept life for what it is,” I explained. “A game.”

 

“You sound just like them,” Cy said, referring to the scientists.

 

“I know, I know,” I said while waving my hands mockingly. “Tinkering with the laws of nature and its people. How evil am I…”

 

“Just go,” Cy said before turning and leaving.

 

I sat down on the bed in my quarters and stared at the door from where Cy had left. Despite our differences, he always had a way of making me think with only the fewest of words...

 

My mind flashed back to my first day on the Astro Ranger project. We were all in our lab, settled on a large grassy plain on KO-35.

 

I had left my standard lab trenchcoat at home, favoring my black jumpsuit instead. My superiors didn’t approve, but I didn’t care. I was a genius and I knew they needed me. I was too important to let go on account of improper dressing habits.

 

I remembered hunching over my desk, going over holographic displays of the prototype silver armor. Ranger technology fascinated me from the second I saw it.

 

On my first day at the job, I met Dr. Cranston. Even though he was only a Terran, he was the spearhead behind the Astro Ranger project. Many social circles called him The Shaper.

 

“What’s the status of Prototype Unit Silver One?” he asked from behind me without so much as an introduction. His eyes were fixated on the holographic monitor in front of us.

 

“Almost ready,” I said as I called up a more detailed report for Dr. Cranston to look at. After going over a few more technical details, I remember he told me to go meet Cy. Cy was the project’s field commander who was to deliver the Megaship and morphers to the Earth rangers at Zordon’s command.

 

So I went to go meet Cy like Dr. Cranston wanted. I walked through the lower levels of our base until coming across the shooting range. I peaked inside and caught my first glimpse of Cy. He was dressed in a black-and-gold colored military uniform while firing a plasma blaster at moving holographic targets.

 

The young military man grinned after shooting down his last target and holstering his weapon. I was quite impressed my his accuracy and didn’t attempt to hide it. I whistled while looking at his scores.

 

“Not bad, not bad,” I remember telling him.

 

“Thanks,” Cy said with a lopsided grin. “You shoot?”

 

“Depends on what the barrel of my gun is facing.”

 

Cy laughed at my joke, but his smile quickly faded when he turned and saw the science badge I wore on my left arm.

 

“You’re with the science team…” he said, as if I’d been responsible for the plague of AC125.

 

I shrugged and smiled, not wanting to let his sudden shift in moods get to me. “The best and the brightest.”

 

“Hmph,” Cy said as he turned back to the shooting range and started firing at the targets.

 

He barely said a word to me the first time we met…but that look…the look said it all.

 

I was a scientist, which meant to Cy that I was an enemy of nature.

 

***

 

I became sick of reminiscing with myself and started walking down the Megaship’s winding corridors. The engineering level was only a few decks below my room, so I decided to pay a visit.

 

I took a moment to marvel at the Mega Accelerator, which took up most of engineering. I ran my hand along its outer access panel, looking for a way to access the core.

 

“Lost?” a voice asked from the entrance to engineering. It was Ashley.

 

“Are you always up this late?” I asked her with a smile.

 

 She shrugged and took a few steps closer to the engines. “Only when I can’t sleep…”

 

I nodded and turned my attention back towards the engines. “I still can’t believe you guys can keep up with this stuff. No offense…it’s just your people aren’t even warp capable.”

 

Ashley rolled her eyes and smiled. “Saying ‘no offense’ doesn’t negate the insult.”

 

I shrugged. “I’m impressed, is all I’m trying to say.”

 

“Thanks,” Ashley said as she moved closer to the Mega Accelerator. “Most of what I learned I picked up from Billy when I was a Zeo Ranger.”

 

“Zeo Ranger?” I asked. “As in the Zeo Crystal.”

 

She nodded, seeming pleased to have surprised me yet again. “We used the Zeo Crystal to fight against the Machines. I thought you knew…”

 

We continued talking and lost track of time. She filled me in on her pre-ranger days, and I told her about my time at the science academy. We must have talked about everything from co-axial dimension variances to our favorite colors.

 

We lost track of time, not realizing that the ship had dropped out of hyperspace. Not realizing the bridge received a distress call from the surface of a nearby world.

 

DECA’s voice suddenly piped through engineering’s speakers.

 

“The Rangers are fighting a gene-beast on the planet’s surface,” DECA said.

 

“What?!” Ashley said as we ran to lend our assistance.

 

***

 

The planet’s capital had a wide open plaza area, paved with round blocks of white stone.

 

I saw a hairy termite creature open fire with jade-tinted optic blasts that exploded against the Rangers’ armor and knocked them back.

 

I opened up the throttle on my speeder back and shot towards the creature as fast as I could. My cycle slammed against the monster and knocked it back.

 

The creature tumbled out of control across the ground while I pulled my bike to a halt. I climbed off the cycle and removed my helmet.

 

“You guys can thank me for this later,” I said as I flipped my morpher open.

 

“Keitizer!” I input the code M-E-G-A-MEGA. “Install!”

 

My silver armor flashed into existence, and I snapped into a fighting stance. The Rangers regrouped and stood around me while downloading their weapons, Astro Yellow having arrived shortly after I did.

 

“Let’s hit him together,” Astro Red said, as if I needed to be told.

 

He leapt forward with his sword.

 

“Screw Drill Saber!” he shouted while corkscrewing forward. His energized blade speared against the monster and knocked it back.

 

Astro Black and Astro Blue jumped forward next with their weapons.

 

“Astro Rod!” Astro Black yelled while slashing the creature with his staff.

 

“Astro Tomahawk!” Astro Blue yelled while spinning and striking the monster with a horizontal blow.

 

Astro Yellow and Astro Pink moved in next.

 

“Astro Sling!” Astro Yellow shouted. She fired lances of yellow energy that exploded against the monster.

 

“Astro Capture!” Astro Pink shouted while firing rings of pink energy that smashed against the creature with a shower of sparks.

 

I moved in next. My rifle weapon activated and wrapped around my forearm. I snapped the weapon out into blade mode.

 

“Silver Blazer!” I shouted while jumping forward and spearing the monster through the chest. I used the leverage to lift the creature up and toss it backward.

 

The creature stumbled to the ground. Its energy overloaded in a violent series of tremors before exploding.

 

We powered down our armor, and Tommy turned to glare at me and Ashley. He didn’t look happy.

 

“Where were you two?” Tommy asked.

 

“Engineering,” Ashley said.

 

“It was my fault,” I stepped in for Ashley, not realizing at the time I probably should have just kept my mouth shut.

 

Tommy arced an eyebrow at Ashley. “Oh?”

 

Ashley rolled her eyes. “Tommy…don’t.”

 

“Uh, guys?” Justin asked while nervously looking around.

 

“Ashley,” Tommy said, his voice calming a little. “It’s not what you think. It’s just…”

 

“Guys…” Justin tried to say again.

 

I took a moment to ignore Tommy and Ashley’s exchange and looked off into the direction where Justin was pointing. A group of strange men in white-and-gold colored cloaks were walking across the plaza. They each carried jagged and curved swords. Their faces were covered in short white fur, and they had deep yellow eyes.

 

They were the Brisea, natives to the world. It took about a minute for Tommy and Ashley to come out of their own little world and notice the newcomers. The lead Brisea aimed his jagged blade at us.

 

“You have soiled our ground…” the man said, narrowing his eyes.

 

Tommy extended his hands low, palms up. Not bad for a Terran.

 

“We didn’t mean you any harm,” Tommy said. “We were just trying to protect your people…”

 

The leader craned his neck forward. “And who asked for your protection, human?”

 

“We’re Rangers,” Tommy said. “It’s our duty to safeguard lives.”

 

“You are unclean,” the leader said through clenched teeth, his body shaking with rage.

 

“Listen,” Cy said calmly. “We truly apologize for any harm we’ve done to your land…it would be best if we were on our way. We don’t want to cause you anymore trouble.”

 

One of the holy soldiers stepped forward and began twirling a pair of star-shaped swords. “I am afraid you won’t be leaving…”

 

Tommy stepped forward again. I waited for him to speak, wondering what he could say to alleviate the tension. He never had a chance. I watched him and the other Earth rangers slowly start to stumble forward and collapse to the ground.

 

“What the hell…” I shouted as I fell back into a fighting stance and grabbed my morpher.

 

Cy pulled out his twin blasters and ran to the fallen rangers’ sides. Before he could reach them, one of the cloaked men extended his hand and fired a crackling blue energy pulse. The pulse slammed against Cy and knocked him backward, sending him skidding across the ground. He’d probably be dead if not for his uniform.

 

A group of the cloaked men started moving forward towards the fallen rangers. I sprang forward to help, but a pair of the cloaked men erected an energy barrier between me and the rangers.

 

“Great…” I muttered, just as things got worse.

 

A trio of soldiers walked through the barrier and built up electric charges within their palms. They extended their hands and shot the energy blasts forward.

 

“Install!” I shouted, activating my silver armor as the explosions sparked against me.

 

I leapt through the explosions and armed by Silver Blazer. I aimed forward towards the soldiers’ feet and fired, creating a line of explosions between me and them.

 

I was gone before the smoke cleared, flying on my Auto Slider with an unconscious Cy draped over my soldier.

 

***

 

Forests of red and gold surrounded the plaza. I landed within the woods and demorphed along with Cy. I set him down against a tree and pulled out my scanner to read his bio signs. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized he’d be okay.

 

I leaned back against a tree, trying to figure out what I was going to do, and how the rangers were captured in the first place. I didn’t realize until later that some of the mystics launched an invisible psionic pulse. The pulse only effected the Terrans for some reason, even though Cy and I were technically human too.

 

My scanner was short-ranged, but I flipped the device over and opened its access port. I tweaked the power levels and output waves to broaden my scanning range. The rangers’ bio signs showed up, but they were hard to pinpoint.

 

Cy slowly started to stir as his eyes opened. “What happened.”

 

“Our new friends have the rangers,” I told them.

 

Cy apparently wasn’t too injured to lash out with a chastising. “You let them get away with the rangers? How could you?”

 

“You’re the one who decided to take a nap,” I said.

 

Cy shook his head and started to stand. “We don’t have time for this…we have to get to the rangers.”

 

“One step ahead of you,” I said while flashing my scanner. “I have a lock on their location.”

 

“Good,” Cy said. “We should move towards them on foot. In case they can track us by air.”

 

“Who are they, anyway?” I asked as we started through the trees. “I’m not familiar with them.”

 

“The Brisea,” Cy said. “They’re a pre warp civilization. There’s only a few hundred of them. All magick users.”

 

“That explains it,” I said, in reference to how I didn’t recognize the planet’s natives. Most pre-warp civilizations where hardly noticeable in the grand scheme of things.

 

We walked in silence for a while, following the signals on our respective scanners. At least until Cy said something unexpected.

 

“Thanks, by the way,” Cy said, keeping his eyes on the scanner. “For getting me out of there.”

 

“No problem,” I answered. And we left it at that.

 

***

 

We had no way of knowing that the white-furred mystics were watching our advance through some kind of vision spell. No way of knowing they were sending some big-time backup to capture me and Cy.

 

The Brisea apparently had a few ‘holy guardians’ to patrol their lands. These guardians were created by injecting various spirits into animals that roamed the woods. The spirits mutated the animals, creating the guardians.

 

 Cy was the first to notice something strange on his scanner. “Something’s wrong…”

 

A guardian suddenly sprang from the woods and slammed a pair of hooves against me and Cy, knocking us through the air and towards a pair of trees. The creature resembled a hog, with plates of bone armor covering its fat flesh.

 

I pushed off of the tree and leapt towards the hog-type creature while flipping open my Keitizer.

 

“Install!” I shouted while quickly keying in the morph sequence. My armor activated in a flash of silver energy.

 

My Silver Blazer flashed online, wrapping around my forearm as I aimed the blaster at the creature. I opened fire with a volley of yellow energy darts. The monster disappeared and the blasts went through thin air.

 

The creature reappeared behind me. I instantly turned and opened fire again. The monster tele-skipped away. It reappeared at my side and slammed the back of its fist against my faceplate. The blow dazed me enough, and I let his follow up attack slip through. The creature slammed its fist across my helmet, and I fell back again.

 

I stumbled across the ground and rolled to my knees.

 

“Sword mode,” I commanded while snapping my weapon into its blade mode.

 

I charged forward and swung diagonally towards the creature’s head. It blocked with its hooves, so I spun around for a horizontal strike. The monster parried and slammed its hoof across my helmet. It stepped against my ankle and followed with another strike to my helmet.

 

I stepped back and snapped into a defensive stance while the monster armed a bone-type blade. I skipped forward and swung my Blazer towards the monster’s head, but he parried my strike and slashed me across the chest.

 

The guardian stomped forward, ready to finish me off as I struggled to rise to my feet.

 

A volley of blasts slammed against the guardian and tossed the creature backwards. I turned to see Cy standing with both his blasters held high, barrels smoking from discharge.

 

“Glad to see your aim isn’t rusty,” I said.

 

The guardian quickly rose to its knees and snarled. I armed my weapon and aimed forward, my visor counter slowly ticking down to my armor’s last seconds.

 

“Blazer impact!” I shouted while rushing towards the creature, pouring a rapid stream of golden energy darts that exploded against the hog. I snapped open my weapon, switching to blade mode, as I hopped forward. My blade energized and slashed diagonally through the creature. I followed by dashing forward with a horizontal strike that cut the guardian in two.

 

***

 

We approached a deep pit layered with concrete steps. In the center of the pit was a tall spire, a spire that the five rangers were tied to. None of them seemed to be moving.

 

The Brisea priests were chanting a strange spell, causing the spire to fluctuate with light.

 

Cy and I crouched along the perimeter of the pit, doing our best to stay out of sight until we could come up with a plan to free the others.

 

“What are they doing?” I asked quietly.

 

Cy shook his head. “Looks like they’re summoning something to-”

 

A blue energy beam shot from the spire and pierced into the skies as the gathered priests and soldiers bowed, humming some kind of strange tune. Whatever Cy thought the creeps were summoning had arrived.

 

The column of light started to spin and condense, shrinking to form a human-sized cloak that rippled as if made of fire. The cloak formed a humanoid soldier with a white-masked face. Her forehead had a blue gem on it, and the mask’s fanged mouth had a sick, flapping tongue extending from it.

 

Cy told me later that the creature was a sort of “cleansing spirit.” Basically, she was tasked with killing the unclean rangers, purifying their blood, and spreading the blood across the ground they touched.

 

“Not good,” I said.

 

Cy narrowed his eyes and tightened his fists. He pounced forward into the pit while shouting “Power of Shadow!”

 

Cy morphed into a loose fitting body suit of Eltarian and ninja design, with a golden coin on his chest. He wore dark crimson with gold trimming over his chest and legs, and dark gray along his arms. The coin on his chest had the symbol of a Jahvin, a Kerovian insect.

 

I opened my eyes wide with astonishment. “Didn’t see that coming.”

 

My morpher was still recharging from my fight with the guardian, so I couldn’t help tackle against the white spirit. I took advantage of the distraction Cy created to slowly move down the steps of the pit to try and reach the rangers.

 

Cy aimed a flying sidekick towards the spirit. Upon impact, the cloak wrapped around Cy and started to squeeze him, threatening to suffocate him. The spirit held Cy within its body while leaning its head over and licking Cy across the face.

 

“Sick!” Cy shouted while slamming the back of is head against the spirit’s face.

 

The robes slackened, and Cy started to drop towards the ground. He landed in a crouched position, and the spirit started firing energy pulses from the blue gem on her forehead. Cy started a series of back flips, moving up the steps as explosions sparked around him.

 

I snuck down towards the spire and crept in closer, only to slam against an invisible energy field that knocked me backward. The dizziness threatened to knock me out, but I fought against it. I slowly rose to my feet as a group of Brisea warriors surrounded me, each enhanced with a suit of magical armor.

 

A slight vibration came from my pocket and I pulled out my Keitizer, finding that the force-field had somehow knocked its power back up to full. I still only had about two-and-a-half minutes, but it was better than nothing.

 

“Install!” I shouted while flipping my morpher open and keying in the transformation sequence.

 

The Brisea soldiers extended their hands and fired electric bursts of energy that exploded against my armor. I hopped through the blasts and aimed my Silver Blazer forward. I triggered a rapid-fire pulse of golden energy darts that exploded at the feet of the warriors, distracting them while I turned to the pillar itself.

 

“Hope this works,” I said quietly to myself while aiming forward and triggering a volley of blasts. My blaster ripped the top half of the spire to shreds, causing the pillar to collapse as the five captive rangers slumped forward and fell onto the ground.

 

The Brisea scattered around, soldiers and mages alike, trying to keep the situation from getting out of control. They were too late.

 

The rangers slowly rose to their feet, their consciousness returning. The first thing they noticed was Cy tangling with the white-cloaked spirit. They noticed the panicked mages and soldiers next, and myself standing among them.

 

“Huh,” Justin said. “Glad to see the situation is under control.”

 

“Let’s help Cy,” Tommy said. “And don’t hurt the Brisea.”

 

The rangers readied their morphers. “Install! Astro Rangers!”

 

Energy shimmered around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

“Ashley, Chris,” Astro Red said, “Keep the soldiers and mages off our backs. Justin, Kat, you’re with me.”

 

A mage used a short staff to fire an electric pulse towards Astro Yellow. She rolled out of the way, somersaulting across the ground and rising to her knees. “Astro Sling!” she shouted while firing yellow energy darts that knocked the staff out of the mage’s hand.

 

Another mage fired a sphere of flame towards Astro Black. The Ranger twirled his staff, using the weapon like a bat to knock the energy blast away.

 

The cloaked spirit hovered over a fallen Cy, her grotesque tongue hanging from her mouth.

 

Astro Red, Astro Blue, and Astro Pink ran towards Cy’s aide.

 

“Astro Snipers!” Astro Red commanded as they aimed their firearms and blasted lances of blue energy at the spirit. The energy blasts exploded against the cloaked figure and sent her sprawling backwards across the ground.

 

The cloaked spirit hovered upright and extended her hands, firing strands of cloth that wrapped around the Rangers’ wrists and chests. The spirit lifted the three Rangers into the air and started slamming them against each other before tossing them aside.

 

The three Rangers rolled back to their feet and regrouped as the cloaked figure hovered down to face them. The spirit’s blue gem started to flash, and an invisible pulse of energy exploded around the Rangers with a shower of sparks.

 

Astro Blue narrowed his eyes beneath his helmet, glaring at the spirit’s gem. “The gem…we have to destroy it.”

 

“Right,” Astro Red said. “You want the honors?”

 

“Thought you’d never ask,” Astro Blue said as he combined his weapon and blaster to form the Tomahawk Sniper.

 

Astro Red and Astro Pink scissored to opposite sides of the spirit while firing lances of blue energy. Astro Blue ran down the center, his blaster aimed forward.

 

“Tomahawk Sniper!” he shouted while firing a trio of pulse blasts that exploded against the creature’s forehead. The blasts shattered her crystal.

 

The spirit’s body started to crack as blue energy started to stab from her body like pinpoints of light. The creature exploded with a bright flash of light.

 

The Brisea collapsed to their knees around me, staring up at the smoking remains of the spirit as if they’d lost a god.

 

“Let’s get out of here, guys,” Astro Red said. “We’ve done enough damage…”

 

***

 

I paced back and forth in my temporary quarters, my hands crossed behind my back. The lines of hyperspace passed by my viewport as we headed away from the Brisea homeworld.

 

My door chime beeped, and I stopped pacing. I stood upright and straightened my uniform. “Come in.”

 

The doors slid open, and Tommy walked in.

 

“We’ll be at Thidorex Station in an hour,” he told me, his expressions unreadable. “We can drop you off there.”

 

I sighed. “What if I stayed?”

 

Tommy raised an eyebrow. “What made you change your mind?”

 

I gave him a lopsided grin and shrugged. It was a good question, and I wasn’t sure of the answer at the time. Part of it was the excitement. Part of it was revenge for what Sauron did to my home. Okay, maybe to this very day I’m not sure exactly why. It just felt right.

 

“It’s the food,” I said. “The synthatron makes it just like mom’s.”

 

Tommy smiled and rolled his eyes. “Welcome aboard.”

 

And with that, he turned and left.

 

***

 

I walked down a corridor while the Megaship was in night mode, and I was anxious to try out the new simudeck. I heard footsteps coming from behind me and turned to see Ashley.

 

I stopped and smiled at her. “Up late?”

 

“I’m always up late,” she said with a smile of her own. She kept walking past me, and I followed.

 

It was then that I knew for sure. Knew it was going to be one hell of an interesting trip.

 

To be continued…Chapter 14