Rangers in Space: Chapter Twenty

Live from the Field

 

A small hover craft cruised over a network of metal and glass bridges. The city was the capital of the world Otton. A humanoid man with silver hair stood in the craft, looking down at the city below, as a younger boy operated the controls.

 

The silver-haired man, Gam Salsar, used his genetically-enhanced eyes to scan the ground below. “We’re getting close,” he said to his sidekick driver. “Take us down another five clicks. Then get your camera ready.”

 

Gam was a retired holo-journalist, forced back to work after Sauron started his attack. He wanted the war well documented. He wanted future generations to know who the heroes of his time were and who the enemies were.

 

He pulled out a handheld holographic cam. An imaging apparatus he wore over his right shoulder-blade sprouted six spike-like antenna.

 

“There,” Gam said, as he squinted at a nearby bridge. “There they are. Take us in closer.”

 

***

 

The Rangers gathered in a bridge covered with an iron-webbed arc and glass. They snapped into fighting stances as the latest monster approached. It was more metallic than Astronema’s typical gene beasts. The creature resembled a gold-plated lion.

 

“Hello, Rangers,” the creature snarled. “I’m going to enjoy tearing the skin from your bones.”

 

Astro Blue looked to Astro Red. “He’s much more fluent than Astronema’s other gene beasts.”

 

The creature laughed. “I am no ordinary gene-beast. I am a Psycho-gene beast.”

 

“Huh,” Astro Red said. “That’s fitting.”

 

The Rangers reached for their sidearms.

 

“Astro Snipers!” they shouted while firing lances of blue energy at the creature.

 

The monster waved his arm, deflecting the blasts with his golden armor. The monster lowered his arm and snarled with delight. “That did not exactly work the way you expected it to, did it?”

 

The creature extended his hand and summoned a group of Craterites. The Rangers charged forward against the wave of purple-and-yellow soldiers.

 

Astro Red leapt forward with a jump kick that slammed against a soldier’s face. He landed and crouched, swinging his feet to sweep a soldier’s legs out.

 

Astro Black outer blocked a soldier’s blow with one arm, and with the other, slammed a hook punch across a soldier’s head. A Craterite tried to sneak up on the Ranger. Astro Black snapped backward with a sidekick that slammed against the creature’s chest.

 

Astro Yellow round kicked a soldier in the head. She turned, round kicked a soldier in the gut, and slammed a knife-hand blow against that creature’s back.

 

Astro Pink slammed an outer crescent kick against a creature’s head. She followed by reaching backward and slamming an elbow blow against a Craterite’s gut.

 

“Drill Saber!” Astro Red commanded while downloading his weapon. He slashed a soldier across the chest diagonally, and turned while swinging a horizontal strike that ripped across a Craterite’s gut.

 

Astro Red slashed away the last Craterite before turning towards the gene beast. The Ranger charged forward and flipped through the air, landing a flying sidekick against the monster’s chest. The creature was forced a few steps backward as Astro Red landed.

 

“Astro Sniper!” he shouted, aiming for the creature’s joints. Shots exploded against the monster’s armor.

 

The Rangers regrouped and snapped into fighting stances. The gene beast aimed a long golden launch tube forward at the team. He fired an energy burst that exploded against their armor and knocked them backward.

 

Astro Red rose to his feet and formed his Drill Sniper. He pressed the ‘3’ key on his Battleizer, giving the weapon an extra boost.

 

“Drill Sniper, booster mode!” he shouted, firing a crackling energy pulse towards the monster.

 

The gene beast swung his arm, batting aside the energy blast.

 

“Impossible,” Astro Red said as he lowered his weapon.

 

The monster fired again. An energy bolt exploded against the Rangers and sent them shattering through the bridge. They landed on a plaza below, smoke still rising from their armor. The gene beast leapt down to their level.

 

The monster armed his cannon and prepared to fire again.

 

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” a voice shouted from the creature’s side. The monster turned to see Astro Silver riding forward on his Auto Slider.

 

Astro Silver triggered a volley of energy bursts that exploded against the monster. He opened his throttle to full, zoomed towards the creature, and rammed the gene beast backward.

 

Astro Silver pulled over to the Rangers on his bike. He pulled a small black case and handed it to Astro Red. “Here…take cover and use this on your Battleizer. It will give you an extra boost.”

 

Astro Red nodded. “Thanks, Zhane…”

 

Astro Red moved for cover to modify his Battleizer as Astro Silver and the other four Rangers snapped into fighting stances.

 

Astro Red ducked for cover as he opened the case. He extended a small cable and connected the device to his Battleizer. Red energy tendrils traveled up the wire to the wrist brace.

 

Meanwhile, the monster launched an energy pulse that exploded against Astro Silver and the other Rangers’ armor. The Rangers slowly rose to their feet as the monster stalked towards them.

 

“Hold it!” a voice shouted from above. The monster turned to see Astro Red standing on the roof of a two-story building with his Drill Sniper in hand.

 

Astro Red leapt forward and pressed the ‘3’ key on his Battleizer. Red energy tendrils lashed out from the Battleizer and charged the Ranger’s weapon.

 

“Astro Sniper, booster mode!” Astro Red shouted.

 

A high-volt energy blast slammed against the monster and exploded. The creature’s energy overloaded, and the gene beast was destroyed in a giant ball of flame.

 

***

 

A small Rodanian child sat in front of his holographic viewing table. He was on his homeworld, Levmar, light years away from the attack, but he saw every second of it with his own three eyes. The being had smooth, blue-tinted skin and strands of dark navy hair.

 

He watched with eyes wide open as the Mega Voyager armed its arm-mounted missile launcher. The zord aimed its weapon at a giant version of the lion gene beast and fired.

 

The missile exploded against the monster, ripping the beast apart.

 

His mother entered the room. “What have I told you about viewing these holo dramas?”

 

The boy looked back at his mother with his right eye. “It’s not a holo drama. It’s an information feed.”

 

“It’s lies,” his mother said. “Made to scare you into believing our world, too, could be subject to such disaster. Rangers have not existed for thousands of years, if even then. They are myth.”

 

“It’s the truth,” he said. “They just saved Otton!”

 

“Otton is a world of paranoid beings who rather kill you than try and trust you,” she said.

 

The wide window that looked out upon their sparkling city started to shake. She turned to look outside, and with her three-eyes, saw a giant spire crash into the ground of the city. The spire seemed to reach up all the way to the heavens.

 

Her blue face turned green with fear, and for a moment, she hoped her son was right.

 

***

 

A standard day later, Gam brought his ship into orbit around the planet Kartano. The journalist’s sidekick, Malc, stared out the forward viewport at the gold-and-blue world below.

 

“This is where they hold the Great Game? Isn’t it?” Malc asked.

 

The Great Game involved nearly a hundred worlds in surrounding systems. Each world selected a champion to compete in dozens of tests, challenges, and games.

 

Gam loaded a power cell into his recorder. “That it is. The attack on the Coliseum started less than an hour ago. Another one of the Psyko Nejierejia from the sound of it. Now…let’s get into the drop ship.”

 

“But…” Malc started. “Shouldn’t we scan the surface first?”

 

“There’s no time,” Gam said. “The attack’s been going on for too long already. We have to know what happened quickly.”

 

The two loaded into the drop ship and blasted down towards the planet’s surface.

 

***

 

Astro Black somersaulted forward through the air and charged towards the arena. A group of Craterites tried to block the Ranger’s path, but he did not slow down.

 

He jumpkicked through a trio of soldiers, dashed forward while spinning and sweeping the legs out from a Craterite, and pounced forward to tackle a soldier. He slammed the soldier to the ground, rolled forward, and crushed his elbow through the Craterite’s chest.

 

The other Rangers leapt onto the scene. Astro Red and Astro Blue launched flying sidekicks against a pair of Craterites.

 

Astro Yellow outer crescent kicked a soldier, round kicked that Craterite in the gut, and swung her leg around for an axe kick against the soldier’s neck.

 

Astro Pink low blocked a blow and knifehand struck the soldier in the neck.

 

Astro Black continued his advance with a hook punch across the head.

 

The five Rangers charged into the dirt-paved arena. An armored porcupine psycho-gene beast stood with a line of Eltarian competitors besides him. They were each under a strange, hypnotic trance.

 

Crowds in the stadium stands, beings from dozens of worlds, fled for their lives as the players kicked explosive spheres at them.

 

Astro Black blasted the ball before it could exploded against its target. The monster narrowed its beady eyes at the sight of the Ranger.

 

“Astro Black…” the creature snarled.

 

One of the players kicked a ball towards the Rangers. It arced through the air and exploded against Astro Black’s chest. The other Rangers ran to Astro Black’s side and helped their teammate to his feet.

 

The players, still under the Psycho-gene beast’s control, lined up and readied another round of balls. They each kicked the balls. The spheres went spinning forward and slamming against the Rangers, exploding on impact.

 

Astro Black rose to his feet first and rolled his hands into fists. He pounced forward and leapt through the air to attack the gene beast. The monster leapt forward too, claws and spikes primed to strike. Astro Black flying punched the monster in the face, and the creature went tumbling backward.

 

Astro Black moved forward and grabbed hold of the creature’s snout. The two struggled against one another as Astro Black tried to pry the monster’s control device away. The creature fired optic blasts that exploded against the Ranger and knocked him away.

 

Astro Black rose back into a crouched position before leaping forward. He punched the monster on the head while flipping past, landed his feet on the side of the stadium, pushed off, and slammed a flying punch against the creature.

 

The Ranger landed and combined his weapon with his Astro Sniper.

 

“Rod Sniper!” he shouted as he aimed the weapon down at the monster. “Fire!”

 

The blast ripped through the monster’s skull.

 

***

 

The gene beast grew giant and kicked through the side of the arena. Rubble started falling towards civilians below, including Gam and Malc.

 

“Look out!” Gam shouted as he pushed Malc away from a falling column.

 

Malc went skidding across the ground as a column slammed behind him. Gam rolled to safety as well, cracking his recorder lens in the process.

 

“Blaster bolts,” he cursed as he rose to his feet.

 

Gam looked to his left and saw an arm waving beneath a pile of rubble. The green-skinned being was trapped. “Malc! I need a hand!”

 

Gam and his assistant ran to the rubble pile and started digging the trapped person free. The ground started to shake as the battle above raged on. Fists and kicks slammed against each other, shaking the rubble pile.

 

Malc slid down the rubble pile and slammed his head against the concrete below.

 

“Malc!” Gam shouted as he hopped down to his side kick.

 

A large column tumbled through the air seconds later. The column slammed against the debris pile, crushing everyone trapped underneath.

 

***

 

Gam and Malc were on their ship in orbit. Gam sat at his rear station while repairing his recorder. Malc was at the pilot station. Only the beeping of a nearby control panel cut the silence.

 

Malc shook his head. “Those people down there…gone. Just like that.”

 

Gam kept working on his recorder. “Death is part of the job. It gets easier.”

 

Malc’s eyes turned red with anger as he turned to face Gam. “I don’t want it to get easier! People died down there!”

 

“We did what we could,” Gam said as he fit a new lens on his camera.

 

“We should have done something sooner instead of just watching!” Malc shouted.

 

Gam polished the recorder’s handle. “What we’re doing, Malc, will save more lives than we could have possibly helped today.”

 

Malc’s eyes grew brighter. “How do you figure?”

 

“You’ll learn,” Gam said. “You’ll learn…”

 

***

 

Xeitar was Astronema’s next target.

 

The Mantis Psycho-gene beast stalked through a wooded path through the alien city with his blade casually over his shoulder. The villain laughed with blood-thirsty delight as citizens ran in panic.

 

Explosions suddenly sparked against the Mantis’s chest. The villain looked up to see the five Rangers somersault off their Cyber Sliders. The Rangers landed and snapped into fighting stances, surrounding the monster.

 

The Mantis used its compound eyes to examine each of the Rangers at once. He was not impressed or worried. The gene best held his scythe in a fighting stance. “Come.”

 

The five Rangers pounced forward from different directions and swung punches at the creature. The mantis leapt upwards, slipping away from the Rangers, and the teams’ punches slammed against one another.

 

The Mantis landed several feet behind the Rangers. They drew their weapons and ran towards the creature, attacking one by one. Astro Red and Astro Black were knocked away. Astro Blue and the other two Rangers were slashed across their chests with a single swipe from the monster’s blade.

 

The Mantis flipped through the air again and landed on top of a wide set of stairs. The Rangers regrouped at the foot of the stairs and snapped into defensive stances.

 

The creature threw a curved and jagged blade that spun towards the Rangers like a propeller. The spinning blades slashed across the Rangers with a series of sparks and explosions.

 

The Mantis dove down to attack the Rangers. But before the creature could strike, a silver motorcycle pulled up to the five Rangers. It was Zhane.

 

“Zhane!” Astro Blue said. “Seriously, cut it closer next time.”

 

Zhane pulled out his morpher.

 

“Keitizer!” he said while flipping the device’s paneling open, revealing a numeric keypad. He used his thumb to input the code M-E-G-A-MEGA. The device flashed with golden energy as he whipped it around to the right side of his face and used his left hand to hit the enter key while shouting “Install!”

 

Energy flashed around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

“Silver Blazer!” Astro Silver shouted. He activated his arm-mounted cannon and switched the weapon to blade mode.

 

Astro Silver dashed towards the gene beast. He switched his weapon to blade mode when he moved in close enough, skipped forward, and swung his blade down towards the creature’s head. The monster parried the blow and smashed the end of his staff across the Ranger’s helmet. Astro Silver went falling to his side.

 

The Silver Ranger rose to his feet and switched his weapon to blaster mode. The monster swung its scythe and emitted a green energy boomerang that exploded against Astro Silver’s chest and knocked him backward.

 

Silver Ranger rose back to his feet.

 

Astro Silver ran forward and snapped into a fighting stance. His visor’s readout started counting down. His morph was about to fail.

 

“Blazer impact!” he shouted while charging his blaster.

 

EIGHT

 

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

 

SEVEN

 

The blasts sparked across the monster’s chest as Silver Ranger continued his advance.

 

SIX

 

The creature dropped its scythe while blasts ripped across the creature’s armor.

 

FIVE

 

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

 

FOUR

 

Astro Silver switched his weapon to blade mode.

 

THREE

 

The Ranger’s saber charged as he leapt forward with an energized diagonal strike that slashed through the creature.

 

TWO

 

Astro Silver followed with a horizontal strike that ripped across the monster’s midsection.

 

ONE

 

The Ranger spun around and assumed a victory pose.

 

ZERO

 

Zhane’s armor flashed off as explosions sparked across the monster. The gene beast collapsed to its knees, but stayed alive.

 

***

 

People set up a camp just outside the capital to tend to the wounded. Gam walked past them, recording various injured and medical personnel. The mantis creature had severed limbs, broken bones, and killed several. Others were injured in property-damage accidents as a result of the attack.

 

Malc was getting more upset with his boss.

 

“I don’t know why I even took this job anymore…” Malc said quietly.

 

Gam kept recording. “Because I took you in before you grew your first tark. I brought you under my roof. Put food in your belly. You used to like this kind of work, remember?”

 

“I just saw people die,” Malc said. “And now…now you’re exploiting the injured. And for what? Profit? Fame?”

 

Gam shook his head and kept filming. Malc snorted and stormed away from his mentor.

 

***

 

The monster attacked again, less than an hour later, and the five Rangers responded.

 

Astro Red and Astro Pink jumped forward and armed their weapons.

 

“Astro Snipers!” they shouted, firing lances of blue energy that exploded against the creature.

 

The monster retaliated with jagged beams of jade energy that crashed against the Rangers’ armor with a series of sparking explosions.

 

Zhane’s cycle raced to the scene and slammed against the monster. The ranger dismounted and pulled out his morpher.

 

“Keitizer!” he said while flipping the device’s paneling open, revealing a numeric keypad. He used his thumb to input the code M-E-G-A-MEGA. The device flashed with golden energy as he whipped it around to the right side of his face and used his left hand to hit the enter key while shouting “Install!”

 

Energy flashed around him as he morphed into his Ranger form. A timer on the monster’s shoulder started counting down from two minutes.

 

Astro Silver sprinted towards the gene beast. The others followed the charge, but a group of Craterites appeared and tackled the five Rangers. The Rangers split up and attacked, slamming against the soldiers with a flurry of kicks and punches. They worked together in fluid unity, honed after almost two years of fighting together as a team.

 

Meanwhile, the monster dove through the air and passed Astro Silver while slashing the Ranger across the chest. The monster flipped and landed against a tree trunk, pushed off, and angled back towards Astro Silver. The monster tackled against the Silver Ranger, driving its shoulders against the Ranger’s chest.

 

Astro Silver grabbed hold of the creature and swung it around before front kicking the monster in the chest. The monster went tumbling backwards.

 

The Psycho-gene beast rose to its feet and tightened its grip on its Scythe. “If you were stronger, that blow might have done more than daze me.”

 

“Keep talking, Mantis,” Astro Silver said. He switched his Silver Blazer to blade mode and charged towards the monster.

 

The gene beast swung his scythe across the ground and kicked up a cloud of dust. Astro Silver jumped into the dust cloud, but he could not find the monster. He looked back and forth, keeping his finger on the Silver Blazer’s trigger.

 

A thick green-armored hook suddenly arced through the dust and snapped around Astro Silver’s upper body like a vice. The hook had a timer on it, counting down the seconds left in Astro Silver’s morph.

 

The timer dropped to zero, and the bomb brace exploded, enveloping Astro Silver with a ball of flames. Silver Ranger was gone when the flames cleared.

 

“No!” Astro Yellow shouted.

 

The Rangers charged towards the mantis, rage boiling in their veins at the loss of their teammate.

 

The mantis launched a green energy blast that smashed against the Rangers, halting their advance, and exploding against their armor.

 

The gene beast leapt forward through the air with it scythe held high to strike down the team. Before he could attack, the silver Cyber Slider suddenly shot through the air and slammed against the monster. The Slider’s rider leapt off and landed on the ground. It was Astro Silver.

 

Silver Ranger turned and walked boldly towards the mantis.

 

“How the hell did you pull that off?” Astro Blue said.

 

“I found a way to sustain my morph,” Astro Silver said, “so the bomb didn’t work quite as planned.”

 

“How?” Astro Yellow asked.

 

Astro Silver shrugged. “I tightened the fractal code frequency to allow for more-”

 

The mantis fired another burst of jagged energy that exploded around the Rangers.

 

The Rangers leapt forward through the explosions and attacked the creature.

 

“Screw Drill Saber!” Astro Red shouted as he energized, spun through the air, and struck the creature.

 

“Astro Capture!” Astro Pink shouted, firing rings of pink energy that sparked against the monster.

 

“Blazer Impact!” Astro Silver shouted. He swung his energized weapon downward diagonally and slashed through the creature’s chest.

 

The three Rangers turned and snapped into victory poses as the monster fell backward, its energy overloading and exploding.

 

Sati-lasers from above struck the fallen beast and made it grow giant.

 

***

 

Malc ran through the medical camp as the ground started shaking. More injured were being taken to the area as the zord and giant battled above.

 

He had lost track of Gam, and he had a gnawing feeling of impending doom at the back of his throat. Malc’s fears were justified when he saw Gam lying in a stretcher.

 

“Gam!” Malc shouted as he leapt towards his mentor with surprising agility. “You idoc, you got too close!”

 

Gam struggled to catch his breath, his entire body battered and bruised from debris. “Watch…your language.”

 

Malc leaned over his mentor. The young assistant’s body was trembling with sorrow and rage. “So was it worth it? Was it worth your life? Just to get your little prize?”

 

“You…will learn,” Gam said. His eyes rolled to the back of his head.

 

Malc’s face grew pale blue. “I will never learn,” he said softly. “I will never learn why you risked your life…just for ratings…”

 

***

 

Footage of the battle inspired a world neighboring Xeitar to mount an assault against a Kyrana convoy, freeing hundreds of Edenyte slaves.

 

After learning the horrors of occupation, a world’s people launched a counter strike against the forces holding Levmar.

 

The Rodanian child and his mother watched through the viewport as the dark spire fell to the ground and shattered.

 

To be continued…Chapter 21