Rangers in Space: Chapter Twenty-four

Secret City

 

The Megaship drifted alone in space near Aloc. Plasma leaked from its war-torn vents. The vessel’s engines whined with protest. The five rangers were at their bridge stations within the vessel.

 

“Report,” Tommy said.

 

Kat’s fingers moved across her control panels as lines of data flashed across her console. “We’re broadcasting distress signals on all frequencies.”

 

Chris’ monitor blinked. His finger pressed on the red flashing light and a status report downloaded onto his display. “A patrol of Tark ships just dropped out of hyperspace. There’s three of them.”

 

“Polarize the hull plating,” Tommy said. “Weapons?”

 

“Hull plating is at 30 percent,” Justin said. “Plasma cannons and Megalasers are offline.”

 

Cy shook his head. “Our thrusters are offline. We’re not going anywhere.”

 

Chris gave another report. “The Tark are coming into firing range.”

 

“Hold onto something,” Tommy said as he and the others braced themselves.

 

The Tark ships, spear-shaped vessels with tan-tinted hull plating, move forward towards the Megaship and fired streams of particle energy. The blasts exploded against the Megaship’s hull as the enemy vessels passed by.

 

Before the enemy ships could come about for another pass, two vessels de-cloaked and thrust forward. The ships moved towards the Tark vessels and fired bursts of jade disrupter blasts that ripped across the enemy ships.

 

“Now,” Tommy said on the bridge. “Hull plating to full. Megalasers and plasma cannons, online. Thrusters ahead. Target the lead ship and fire.”

 

The Megaship’s systems came up to full power and the saucer-shaped vessel streaked forward. Darts of blue and red energy shot from the Megaship’s weapon turrets and exploded against the lead ship, piercing through its armor and destroying the vessel in a cloud of fire.

 

The two allied ships opened fire with bursts of torpedoes that exploded against the remaining ships, gutting them with fiery explosions and shrapnel.

 

“Stand down,” Tommy said. “Kat, tell our new friends good job. And bring in the Delta Mega to help us with repairs. We may have been playing dead, but we didn’t have to act too hard.”

 

The pronged vessels were Basf ships. The Basf lived on the outer rim of the galaxy near the Prizelus sector. The apparently emotionless race was the latest addition to the Allies efforts against Sauron. The Basf had cloaking technology that made them a valuable asset.

 

The Basf people were mostly humanoid in appearance. Their eyes were solid black slits. They had sharp, angular facial features.

 

The Delta Mega moved into position and started repairs on the Megaship. The Delta Mega downloaded a cache of information and data files into the Megaship’s computer during the repairs.

 

***

 

Tommy sat alone in the Situation Room. He reviewed a set up data pads on recent battle campaigns across the galaxy. Each data pad had the same basic theme: engage and retreat. The Allied forces were constantly on the defensive. No one had any word of Zordon’s whereabouts.

 

The sleeves on his jumpsuit were rolled up. His zipper was down to his stomach, exposing his red undershirt. 

 

The doors slid open and Justin walked in. His appearance was similar. He tossed a data pad onto the main table. He didn‘t look happy. “Here’s the last of the reports from the Delta Mega.”

 

“I take it it’s not good news,” Tommy said as he lifted the data pad.

 

“That’s one way of putting it,” Justin answered. “The Confederation’s Second Fleet lost the Prizelus Sector. Only 13 ships survived…out of 220.”

 

Tommy sighed with frustration and dropped the pad. He leaned forward, his elbows on the table as he placed a hand over his forehead. The Confederation, an Allied group of pirates and smugglers, was vital to holding the fourth quadrant of the galaxy from Sauron.

 

“That was one of our largest fleets,” Tommy said, rubbing his eyes with frustration. “All those people…”

 

Justin took a step forward, his brow knitted with anger. “We can’t keep going on like this, Tommy. We’re losing, and we’re nowhere close to finding Zordon. We can’t just stay on the defensive like this. We need a solid victory.”

 

“I agree,” Tommy said as he slid the data pads aside and looked up to Justin. “We’re rendezvousing with a mixed battle group near the Drilax System. We’re going to regroup and cut hard into Sauron’s territory.”

 

***

 

The Dark Fortress spun through the black void of space. The fortress opened fire with a barrage of neon-green energy blasts that exploded against an attack wing of raptor-like Crinyte assault ships. The attack ships exploded in spheres of fiery death.

 

Astronema stood on the bridge of the Dark Fortress. She watched with a cold and emotionless face as the enemy ships went up in flames. The victory was meaningless to her.

 

Astronema’s plan to use the Psycho Rangers to drain Sauron of his power - while destroying the Rangers - had failed. She needed a new plan, but inspiration alluded her.

 

Eclipter walked over to Astronema’s side. “Princess…Pratorite Rashanar has sent word from Vongnar. He has reported success with the Xynzon Plot.”

 

A cold smile crossed Astronema’s face as a thought struck her. The Xynzon Plot was one of the many projects that Sauron’s underlings oversaw. Each project was designed to gain favor in the Dark Monarch’s eye. But Astronema had different plans in mind for Rashanar and his Xynzon Plot.

 

“Tell Rashanar not to proceed until I arrive,” Astronema commanded. “I need to provide him with some new direction.”

 

Rashanar designed the Xynzon Plot to gain favor with Sauron. But when Astronema was finished…the plot would be the end of Sauron.

 

***

 

The Graveyard was a whirling mass of broken starships that stormed through the darkness of space. Gutted vessels twirled around a cluster of gravity anomalies and other spatial tears.

 

The ships were ancient and nearly unrecognizable. The vessels were all that remained of a battle that raged eons ago. The story of the battle was one of time’s oldest and strangest mysteries.

 

One of the hollowed out cruisers was serving as a meeting ground.

 

Vea’ra walked along a narrow passage that ran along the spine of the dead ship. The lights on her EV suit illuminated the battle-scarred deck plating and walls. Bits and pieces of steel floated through the weightless environment as if propelled by air.

 

Vea’ra was one of the few Taileon to survive the destruction of her homeworld. She had worked for the smuggler Durak ever since. She had met the Rangers during one of their early missions after leaving the Terran system.

 

A group of three humanoid men in EV suits walked towards her. Their leader was gray skinned with brown eyes. Every ridge and curve on his face was accentuated with segmented pieces of protruded bone.

 

The leader took a step forward, a smug grin on his face. “I didn’t think you would actually come, Orphan.”

 

It was a demeaning nickname for her homeless people. But she ignored it, despite her anger. She had little time. “I’m not surprised, Damahr. It seems you’re always wrong. That’s why you’re licking the boots of Astronema instead of leading your people yourself.”

 

Damahr was from Vornholt, a rust-colored world near Edenoi. His people had joined forces with Sauron at the start of the war, before the fall of Eltar. But it seemed like Astronema didn’t know about the race’s genetic tendency for treachery. Or their selfish greed.

 

Vea’ra tossed a data pad forward, sending it floating towards the three Holts. Damahr caught the pad and reviewed it. He double checked its readings with a data pad of his own to ensure the pad’s accuracy. A sizeable amount of gold-pressed latinum had been deposited in one of his many accounts.

 

“Hmph. So much latinum, for such a trivial piece of information. You’re either desperate or foolish,” Damahr said.

 

“Give me what I want,” Vea’ra said.

 

Damahr tossed her a small pack of data cards. The data pack went floated forward. It’s contents held the key to finding Zordon. Divatox was keeping him deep in the galactic core, an area dense with stars that were nearly impossible to navigate. The data pack had Zordon’s coordinates, along with a detailed star route to his location.

 

“There,” Damahr said. “Now to finish the deal. He suddenly pulled a disrupter from behind his back and vaporized his own men with pulses of white energy. He aimed the weapon towards Vea’ra and fired.

 

She acted on instinct, leaping upward to avoid the blast and letting lack of gravity jet her backward while she pulled two blasters from her leg holsters. She faced her opponent while floating backward, and fired rapid shots of bright-red plasma that exploded across the deck and against the bulkheads.

 

Damahr dove to the side and ricocheted off the corridor wall before bouncing back towards Vea’ra. He opened fire with blasts of white energy that streaked past Vea’ra.

 

Vea’ra used the weightless environment to flip upward and slam through a shaft above the corridor. She entered an above level of the ship.

 

Damahr crouched low on the deck plating and sprang forward towards the opening above. He flew upward with his weapon blasting - but Vea’ra was gone. He narrowed his brow with anger and activated a small, wrist-mounted scanner. Vea’ra was slipping away into her ship.

 

He activated his ship’s beacon and called the vessel towards the nearest docking port.

 

***

 

Vea’ra piloted her fin-shaped vessel through a twisting dive to avoid a hulking mass that used to be a ship. Darts of red energy exploded against her rear deflector shield as Damahr’s freighter dropped into view behind her.

 

The freighter, a diamond-shaped vessel with octagonal solar panels on its flanks, was opening fire with its forward blaster quad.

 

Vea’ra turned hard to port and climbed upward. She armed her aft torpedo launchers and fired a volley of three missiles. The missiles streaked towards the sides of Damahr’s vessel. Damahr fired his ventral thrusters and rose above the missiles while launching a group of decoys. The missiles exploded against the decoys, saving Damahr from death.

 

Damahr lowered his ship back down in time to see Vea’ra’s vessel streak towards him. She opened fire with lances of blue energy that exploded against his dorsal shield emitters. Vea’ra passed over Damahr’s ship and launched aft torpedoes. The torpedoes exploded against Damahr’s ship and ripped the vessel to shreds.

 

Vea’ra angled ship towards the nearest clearing in the debris and fired her afterburners. She had no time to waste celebrating her minor victory.

 

***

 

A small dwarf star was feeding off of a red giant. Tendrils of solar energy connected the two stars. Streams of solar flares were sucked from the giant and absorbed into the dwarf.

 

The two stars’ struggle was a never ending mystery. The smaller star would grow as it absorbed the giant. Then the process would reverse. It was unexplainable. And the resulting energy made the entire region unstable.

 

It was the perfect meeting place for the mixed battle group near Drilax. 

 

The Megaship speared into real space at the edge of the system and angled towards the fleet. Five Titan attack cruisers formed the core of the fleet. Each cruiser was slender and sand colored, with jagged plates of armor extending from its hull.  The attack cruisers were the latest ships to be produced by the simian warriors.

 

Various freighters and pirate vessels flew in escort positions around the attack cruisers. At least ten of the smaller ships were Avinza Raiders, fighter-shaped vessels with high speed and maneuverability.  

 

The small fleet stretched across the Megaship’s viewer.

 

“Hail the lead ship,” Tommy said.

 

“Channel open,” Kat said.

 

A simian warrior appeared on the main viewer. His fur was dull gray and his armor bronze. Tommy clenched onto the forward console, his knuckles turning white. Seeing the Titan race still reminded him of Shannon’s murderer.

 

“We are glad you could join us, Terran Rangers,” the commander said. “I am Tragdar, commander of the fleet.”

 

Tommy nodded. “I look forward to speaking with you. We’ll bring our ship in for docking. Megaship out.”

 

The viewer deactivated.

 

A signal on Chris’s console lit up. His fingers danced across the control console. “An unidentified ship is entering the system on an erratic vector.”

 

“On screen,” Tommy said.

 

The forward viewer showed an image of the approaching fin-shaped ship. The vessel was leaking plasma.

 

“Hail them,” Tommy said.

 

“Their comm system is down,” Kat said.

 

Justin activated his tactical scanners. “They’ve taken heavy battle damage…but it could be a trap.”

 

“Life signs?” Tommy asked.

 

“One,” Chris answered. “Very faint. The Titan ships are arming weapons and moving in on an attack vector.”

 

“Kat, tell them to stay put,” Tommy said. “Cy, get us closer to that ship and get a tractor beam ready. Polarize the hull plating.”

 

The Megaship moved closer towards the vessel. Ashley reported from her station. “Their engines are going to overload…”

 

“Justin, Chris,” Tommy said, “morph and head into the ship. Save whoever’s on board. I want to know who they are and why they’re here.”

 

***

 

Astro Black and Astro Blue landed on the deck of the damaged craft. Conduits exploded around them as the deck plating shook. Fires dotted the corridor, providing the only illumination.

 

“Nice place,” Astro Blue said. “And I thought we had it bad.”

 

Astro Black activated his helmet scanner. “She’s this way,” he said, nodding towards the bridge. Come on…”

 

They ran through the damaged corridor and approached the bridge door. They didn’t bother trying to open it with conventional means. Astro Black downloaded his lance and swung downward, tearing the door from the bulkhead.

 

Astro Blue hopped in first. Consoles in the small bridge were erupting with flame. He noticed Vea’ra hunched over the forward flight control station. “There she is.”

 

They moved further onto the bridge. A support beam exploded from above and fell towards them, but they merely knocked it aside as if it were paper.

 

Astro Blue gently scooped her into his arms. Astro Black fit a small brace onto her arm. The brace emitted an energy shield that would protect her from the vacuum and pressure of space for a short period of time while providing oxygen.

 

The ship suddenly lurched as explosions sparked all around them. Kat’s voice came through their helmet’s comm system. “Justin, the ship’s falling apart, you have to get out of there!”

 

A conduit beneath their feet exploded and hurled the three of them into the corridor. They scrambled to their feet and ran towards the docking ring as explosions ripped around them. They leapt through the ring and out of the ship as it expanded in a ball of flame. The shockwave knocked them hard against their backs and sent them flailing through space, crashing against their Cyber Sliders.

 

They pulled themselves onto the Sliders and returned to the ship.

 

***

 

Vea’ra lied back on the Megaship’s medical bed. She was still unconscious, but her vital signs were stable. The rangers recognized her from one of their early missions, shortly before getting the Delta Mega from Phantom Ranger.  

 

“Well,” Tommy said as he, Cy, and the other five rangers gathered around, “anyone have any ideas as to why she’s here.”

 

Zhane arced an eyebrow. “Who is she again?”

 

“Vea’ra,” Chris answered. “She works for Durak.”

 

Zhane recognized the name. Durak was one of the galaxy’s top smugglers and information brokers.

 

“Guys…” Ashley said, her eyes fixed on a data pad. She had downloaded the data pack they found on Vea’ra onto the pad. “You’re not going to believe this…that data pack she had. It has a way to find Zordon.”

 

The rangers’ eyes opened wide.

 

Justin shook his head at the thought. “How do we know if we can trust her? Her and her big boss almost got us killed.”

 

“Even if it’s true,” Zhane said, “what about the battle group? We can’t just abandon them. We’re committed.”

 

Tommy sighed. A part of him couldn’t believe what he was about to suggest. “We’ll split up. One team will stay here in the Megaship. The second team will go and see if Zordon is really where this data pack says.”

 

***

 

Tommy and Ashley decided to go to the core alone with the data pack. They would scout the area, and if Zordon was there, they would send the proper signal back to the Megaship. 

 

In the meantime, the rest of the rangers would take the Megaship and join in the battle group’s efforts against Sauron’s forces.

 

Tommy and Ashley were taking a sleek delta-shaped Eltarian shuttle into the core for their mission. The shuttle was one of the few remaining vessels from the once legendary Eltarian defense and exploration fleet.

 

The shuttle was still docked at the Megaship’s ventral port as Tommy and Ashley sat at the forward station, getting the shuttle ready for launch. Their fingers moved across the control consoles, running various diagnostics and system checks.

 

“I don’t suppose this thing turns into a Megazord,” Tommy joked as he ran a check of the weapon systems. 

 

Ashley smiled. “Not yet. But give me a few minutes.”

 

She downloaded the data pack’s contents into the ship’s navigation system.

 

Cy’s voice came over the shuttle’s comm system. “We’re ready to get underway.”

 

Tommy nodded. “Good luck guys. Separate the docking clamps.”

 

“Separating docking clamps,” Cy said. “Good look to you too.”

 

The shuttle dropped from the Megaship. The engines flashed with blue light as the small ship streaked forward into hyperspace.

 

***

 

The Megaship was in formation alongside the battle group as it traversed through hyperspace, slingshot ting around the rim towards the other side of the galaxy. CY, Zhane, and the other rangers gathered in the situation room for a mission briefing.

 

Cy activated the table’s central holographic emitter. An image of a massive space station appeared. The station was like a web of various hull components strung together without much thought to design.

 

“This is the DaVreen shipyards,” Cy said. “It’s located near the Jolna Compact and Vongnar. The entire area of space is clouded with Nebula storms except for one main route.

 

“A small task force of Frayloth and Gernaydin ships is launching a frontal attack through the main route. They’re just a diversion. Our battle group is going to maneuver through the Nebula storms and destroy the station.”

 

“How bad are these storms?” Chris asked.

 

“Bad,” Zhane said.

 

Cy nodded in agreement. “I piloted a freighter once through the Nebula Inferno of Qo’nos. We should make it. It’s the Titan ships I’m worried about. They’re larger.”

 

“But still maneuverable,” Zhane said.

 

“What kind of defenses are we up against once we make it to the shipyards?” Justin asked.

 

“The station itself is armed with Nadion pulse cannons,” Cy said. “The station’s defense group consists of Vihes, Kyrana, DaVreen and Vongnar ships. The Vongnar will likely hold back while the other ships engage the decoy fleet.”

 

“Then what?” Zhane asked.

 

“The station has seven structural integrity weak points. Once we destroy those weak points, the station will collapse.”

 

“Sounds easy enough,” Justin said sarcastically.

 

***

 

The shuttle speared into real-space. The stars around them were dense, a clear sign that they were near the galactic core.

 

“Just a few more jumps and we should be there,” Ashley said. “Unless this data pack is a sham...”

 

Tommy nodded. “I’m starting to think we should have explored that possibility a bit more before coming out here,” he said, only half joking.

 

“What fun would that have been,” Ashley said.

 

Tommy shrugged. His sensor panel started blinking before he could answer. “We’ve got company. A wing of light freighters, probably patrols for Divatox. I hope the weapons in this crate are working.”

 

“Not well enough to take on six ships,” Ashley said.

 

Tommy nodded in agreement. “Plot us an escape vector. We’ll have to fight our way around them.”

 

Tommy polarized the shuttle’s hull plating and brought the phase cannons online.

 

“Got it,” Ashley said. “Head 217 mark 8.”

 

“Hold on,” Tommy said as he swung the shuttle into a hard dive and turn. The attack freighters followed while igniting their thrusters for a burst of speed.

 

“The freighters are entering firing range,” Ashley reported.

 

The ships opened fire with rapid-fire blasts of green energy that streaked towards the shuttle. Tommy brought the ship up in a steep climb and banked to avoid the blasts. He brought the shuttle around in a loop and aimed its nose back at the freighters.

 

The shuttle’s phase cannons fired streams of energy at the two ships. The phase blasts exploded against the enemies’ hull plating as the shuttle passed above them, continuing to fire all cannons.

 

Tommy activated the ship’s hyperspace drive. The shuttle shot into warp, with the freighters not far behind.

 

“Those ships are pursuing,” Ashley said. “And they’re gaining on us.”

 

“Can this ship go faster?” Tommy asked.

 

The freighters launched missiles charged with jade colored energy. The missiles slammed against the shuttle’s dorsal hull. Tommy and Ashley shook within the cockpit on impact. 

 

“I didn’t think it was possible to fight in hyperspace,” Tommy said.

 

Ashley shook her head. “Neither did I.”

 

***

 

Three Frayloth Talvoth-class Warbirds dropped out of hyperspace on the outskirts of the DaVreen shipyards. Five of the smaller Gernaydin assault ships fell into position alongside the main cruisers. The Gernaydin ships had green-tinted hull plating across a teardrop-shaped hull and edged wings, tipped off with blade-like nacelles.

 

 

The shipyards’ defense fleet reacted. Jagged DaVreen ships flew forward with a wing of Kyrana assault raiders shaped likes birds of prey. Vihes assault ships moved flanked the Kyrana ships. The Vihes ships resembled pods with jagged plates of armor extended backward and twin cannons aimed forward. A single red deflector array made the pod look like a Cyclops.

 

 

The white-furred Admiral Trefli’ah stood on the bridge of the lead Frayloth cruiser as the enemy approached. “Admiral to Gernadyn attack force…peel back the enemy’s Vihes ships, attack pattern Rigel beta. Port gunners, target the Kyrana escort wing. Starboard gunners, lay down covering fire.”

 

The battle started.

 

The DaVreen ships opened fire with spheres of crackling energy that slammed against the Frayloth cruisers. The Kyrana ships broke formation and opened fire with rapid bursts of jade-colored energy.

 

The winged Gernadyn ships broke formation and fired lances of plasma energy that exploded across the pod ships’ hulls.

 

The pods scattered formation and ignited their thrusters to counter attack. The pods fired darts of orange energy that splashed across the Gernadyn ships’ shields, exploding across the hull.

 

The lead Frayloth cruiser opened fire with a full port cannon barrage that sent bursts of blue and red energy darting through space, exploding against the Kyrana ships. One of the light assault raiders turned hard to starboard to avoid a blast, but one of its wings was ripped to shreds by the cannon assault. The ship went spinning out of control.

 

The DaVreen ships looped around and aimed their cannons towards the ventral side of the Frayloth ships while trying to sneak upward.

 

“Full axis rotation starboard,” the admiral commanded. “Fire all ventral cannons.”

 

The lead Frayloth rotated so its belly cannons were facing the incoming DaVreen ships. The cannons opened fire, spraying blue and red energy darts that exploded against the lead DaVreen ship. The first barrage of blasts ate away the ship’s shields. The next volley of plasma and disrupter blasts exploded through the ship’s hull, ripping apart armor plating.

 

***      

 

The Megaship climbed upward as a nebula lightning burst scorched the side of the ship’s hull.

 

“DECA,” Cy said. “Transfer auxiliary power to maneuvering thrusters, and emergency power to hull plating.”

 

The battle group moved through the nebula storm while maneuvering past flashes of lightning and energy. The rangers were jolted within their cockpit as another blast struck their ship - only the blast was not from the Nebula storm.

 

“One of the Titan ships,” Justin reported. “They’re opening fire on us!”

 

“What?!” Cy said. “Hail them.”

 

“No response,” Kat said.

 

Chris shook his head as he reviewed his sensor readings. “I’m not picking up any life signs on the ship that’s attacking us. It’s like their whole crew just died.”

 

Kat’s monitor flashed. “I’m picking up a message from the lead Titan ship. They swear they’re not responsible. They think someone has taken over the rogue ship.”

 

“Just what we need,” Justin said sarcastically.

 

The Titan ship fired again, striking the Megaship’s hull. The energy discharge attracted a bolt of nebula lightning that nearly ripped through their hull.

 

Justin looked to Cy. “If we return fire, we’ll just attract more of that nebula lightning. Our weapons are like magnets to it.”

 

Chris turned towards them. “We can board the ship and regain control. We’d have to take Zhane with us.”

 

Cy nodded. “You three go to the engine room and get Zhane. Do whatever you can to stop that Titan ship.”

 

***

 

The Titan ship’s corridor was bronze plated with dim red lights signaling battle readiness. The four Rangers entered the corridor through the docking port, and immediately found two bodies of Titan warriors slumped against the walls.

 

Astro Pink shook her head. “What happened to them?”

 

“We don’t have time to figure it out, Kat,” Astro Blue said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

 

Astro Black activated his helmet icon and scanned the interior of the ship. “I can get us to the bridge,” he said as he started forward. “This way…”

 

An artificial wind suddenly blew through the corridor. The dead Titan warrior reanimated and slowly climbed to their feet. Their eyes burned with deep red fire. Their wings turned into black flame.

 

One of the Titan’s lunged forward and swung his blade towards the Rangers.

 

“Silver Blazer!” Astro Silver shouted as he used his arm-mounted sword to knock the villain’s saber away. Silver Ranger brought his blade back down in a diagonal arc that tore through the Titan’s armor and flesh like a blade through a cloud of sand.

 

The Titan’s body crumbled and turned to ash. Astro Silver dashed forward to the second Titan and swung his Blazer upward in a diagonal arc that tore through the simian like paper. The second warrior crumbled and turned to ash.

 

The remains of the two warriors started to pulse with energy as two small clouds of crimson smoke arose. The two clouds rose above the deck and phased through the bulkhead.

 

The Rangers stood in silence.

 

“What the hell was that?!” Astro Blue said.

 

“Pa Reens,” Astro Silver said.

 

“What’s a Pa Reen?” Astro Black asked.

 

“They’re creatures from the Astral Plane,” Astro Silver said. “Someone had to have brought them here. Used them to take control of the ship and its crew.”

 

The deck plating before them erupted, causing a shockwave that knocked the four Rangers backward. Four lifeless Titan warriors climbed from the hole in the deck plating. Their eyes were glowing with the crimson fire of the Pa Reen, and their wings were black flame.

 

***

 

Tommy and Ashley were jolted in the cockpit as another blast struck the shuttle’s hull. The lines of hyperspace in their view port came to a halt as the ship fell back into real-space near a brown and green planet.

 

“Where are we?” Tommy asked.

 

Ashley shook her head. “I have no idea. Navigation systems and sensors are offline.”

 

The freighters speared into real-space, jetting past the shuttle and circling around to attack like a group of sharks.

 

Tommy’s fingers danced across the control panel. With weapons and hull plating offline too, he did not have a lot of options. “I’m taking us towards the planet. Maybe we can lose them in the atmosphere. They don’t look designed for planetary flight.”

 

The shuttle ignited its thrusters and looped back towards the planet. The freighters started closing in on the shuttle and opened fire with rapid blasts of green energy. Most blasts darted across the shuttle and streaked past the view port. Other blasts exploded against the dorsal hull plating and exploded near the shuttle’s main engine.

 

The shuttle went spinning out of control towards the planet’s atmosphere.

 

***

 

Astro Silver and Astro Blue spun forward while thrashing through two more Titan zombies. The zombies turned to dust as the crimson clouds of the Pa Reen floated through the deck plating.

 

The Silver and Blue Rangers were covering Astro Black and Astro Pink, who were trying to open the entrance to the Titan ship’s bridge. The large metal doors clanked open, revealing the dimly-lit battle bridge.

 

A group of dead Titans leapt forward, taking the Rangers by surprise. Astro Black downloaded his staff and swung the weapon through the Titan warrior, causing the zombie to dissolve. Astro Pink held her weapon forward and fired rings of pink energy that ripped through the rest of the creatures.

 

“We’re in,” Astro Black said to his teammates.

 

The four Rangers entered the bridge and sealed the door to delay any other un-dead Titans from trying to stop them.

 

They heard laughter echo across the bridge walls. The crimson clouds of the Pa Reen suddenly gathered in the center of the bridge and started to circle around. They circled a man wearing a dark robe who stood at the center of the bridge. Lines of blood formed a demonic pattern at his feet. He stood at the center of the pattern.

 

A ruby held a black cloak around the stranger. He held a broad, double-edged sword with a white gem at its hilt. His hair was white, and his skin black. His eyes were deep purple.

 

“Who are you?” Astro Blue asked.

 

The villain extended his hand. Invisible forced of energy slammed the Rangers backward and pressed them against the bridge walls. “I am Ortu. A mere traveler who was…hitching a ride.”

 

Astro Silver struggled against the force to aim his arm-mounted blaster. “Great…sense of humor…” he triggered a volley of golden energy darts, but the Pa Reen acted as a shield that protected the villain.

 

“Don’t try that again,” Ortu said as he used invisible energy to pull the blaster out of the Silver Ranger’s hand. “Not that you’ll have much time to try.”

 

The villain tightened his invisible grip on the Rangers, nearly crushing their ribs. The bridge shook violently from a powerful lightning burst, breaking the villain’s concentration. The Rangers dropped to the ground.

 

“Now!” Astro Blue shouted as he fired his Astro Sniper.

 

Pa Reen deflected the blue energy darts as Astro Yellow moved in from the side, slinging blasts of yellow energy that the Pa Reen deflected as well.

 

Astro Silver retrieved his Silver Blazer and aimed the weapon at the deck plating. He triggered a volley of golden energy blasts that exploded against the demonic symbol on the deck. The symbol was broken, and the Pa Reen disappeared.

 

Astro Black pounced forward before the evil magick user could react and slammed a hook punch across his face. The villain went stumbling into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

The shuttle had crashed against the planet’s surface near a ring of woodland surrounding a jagged spire of rock that pierced into the sky. The shuttle itself was a useless wreck, and it was a wonder the two rangers survived.

 

Dark clouds covered the night sky above, and a chilling breeze was blowing down the mountain side. They brought various pieces of wood and dried leaves into the shuttle so they could use it as a shelter and keep warm while trying to get a message to the rest of their team.

 

Tommy tried to rub two sticks together and start the fire, but he could not ignite the flame. “This was a lot easier in theory than in practice…”

 

“I take it you were never in boy scouts,” Ashley said. She was trying to rig her portable scanner to get a signal off of the planet.

 

Tommy shook his head. He continued to try and work on the flame. “I never saw the attraction. Besides…I was always busy with martial arts.”

 

“What got you started with that anyway?” Ashley asked.

 

Tommy shrugged. “I got picked on a lot as a kid. It was mostly my own fault…I’d see other people get hassled by bullies, I’d step in to try and help. That never went very well. What about you? Why kick boxing?”

 

Ashley smiled at the memory, her eyes still on the portable scanner. “They were passing out fliers for free lessons one day in junior high. I never actually considered going…but my Dad found the flier in my book bag. He flipped out. Said a kick boxing class was no place for girls.”

 

“I’m sure you took that well,” Tommy said.

 

“Oh yeah,” Ashley said sarcastically. “I went to that class three days a week and practiced at home on the other days. It drove my dad nuts.”

 

The shuttle suddenly lurched and tipped to the side. Tommy and Ashley went slamming against the storage lockers as the rear of the shuttle was ripped off. They reached for their morphers, but it was too late. An unseen monster fired beams of energy that caused the two rangers to vanish.

 

***

 

The Megaship was back on course, leading the task force towards the outskirts of the nebula storm. The rangers learned that Ortu had stowed aboard the Titan ship near the spaceports of Lodosazbar before the battle group’s rendezvous. He was a dark mage in Sauron’s employee.

 

A skeleton crew manned the Titan ship so it could join the rest of the battle group.  

 

“We’re approaching the edge of the nebula,” Chris said.

 

“Zhane, get ready for a hyper-rush-one jump,” Cy said.

 

Zhane made the calculations. The ship fleet was going to skip through space from the edge of the nebula to the station itself. Only the Megaship had the precision necessary to make the jump, so the other ships in the battle group slaved their computers over to the Megaship.

 

The battle group jumped into hyperspace. The jump lasted less than a fraction of a second, then the station grew larger in the Megaship’s forward view port. A dozen or more Vongnar ships-- heavy cruisers and lighter attack ships-- flew in defense formation around the station.

 

 

 

“Signal all ships to attack,” Cy commanded. “Pattern starburst-nova.”

 

Allied freighters opened fire with a volley of concussion torpedoes, proton missiles, quantum missiles and torpedoes. The Vongnar ships started to break formation to try and avoid the missile barrage streaking towards them with red and blue pulses of light. The enemy ships did not react fast enough to the sneak attack.

 

A volley of missiles exploded against the dorsal side of a Vongnar ship. The ship was crushed and exploded violently, the shockwave damaging another two ships. Two ships were destroyed total, and another five badly damaged.

 

The Megaship thrust forward towards the top of the station as the Vongnar ships regrouped and opened fire with pulses of purple energy. The allied freighters opened fire with rail cannons and plasma cannons, laying down cover fire as the larger ships moved in.

 

Justin aimed the Megalasers at a Vongnar ship approaching their port side. The dorsal lasers fire darts of blue energy that sprinkled against the Vongnar ship with a series of sparks and explosions. The Vongnar’s shields collapsed as Justin triggered the plasma cannons, sending darts of red energy spearing through the enemy ship’s hull.

 

A Titan ship moved in and fired twin lances of blue energy. The energy streams exploded against the ship, causing the Vongnar vessel to rip in half.

 

“The station is aiming its Nadion Pulse Cannons,” Justin reported. 

 

The station spat out a volley of 20 orange-tinted energy spheres. The spheres blasted against the allied fleet, skinning the starboard side hull of a Titan ship and exploding against the other attack cruisers.

 

The smaller Avinza Raiders managed to evade the blasts and move in on attack runs towards the Vongnar ships. The Raiders opened fire with pulse cannons that exploded against the Vongnar shields.

 

***

 

Tommy moaned as he sat up, rubbing the back of his wounded head. Ashley was on the concrete ground besides him. She was regaining consciousness too.

 

“You okay?” he asked her.

 

Ashley nodded. “Where are we?”

 

Tommy shook his heads. A line of human-like men and women spanned underneath a concrete archway. The ground was paved with the same material, which resembled concrete. “It looks like some kind of city…”

 

The lines of people were moving into a central tower structure. Various buildings dotted the perimeter of the small city. Quantrons marched about at various intervals. Three of the soldiers, along with a bounty hunter, moved towards Tommy and Ashley. The green-skinned bounty hunter had a mouth that resembled a fly trap and dark red eyes. His hair was long and black. The villain wore rugged plates of gray armor and had slender blades extending from his arms.

 

Tommy and Ashley rose to their feet and readied their wrist morphers. “Install! Astro Ranger!”

 

They input the code 3-3-5-enter. Nothing happened.

 

“What the-” Tommy started to say.

 

The bounty hunter extended his hand and shot two spheres of energy that wrapped around the rangers’ arms and formed wrist bindings. The wrist bindings made the already-injured rangers weak, and they almost collapsed to the ground.

 

Quantrons grabbed them and pushed them into line with the rest of the humanoids. One of the girls, dressed in rags, looked back at the Terrans. “Where did you come from?”

 

“Near the core,” Tommy said. “What is this place?”

 

The young woman’s gaze grew distant before she even heard the question. “The core…their range is larger than I thought.”

 

Ashley tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

 

“Mass teleportations,” she said. “Most of my planet was uprooted and brought here. The same is true of many worlds.”

 

“What planet are you from?” Tommy asked, although he suspected that he knew the answer.

 

“De’journel,” she said.

 

Ashley and Tommy exchanged knowing glances. They had been to the world. It was completely deserted. The natives who were not teleported away were twisted and transformed into living weapons by Darkonda.

 

“What is this place?” Tommy asked again.

 

“No one knows,” she said. “A few of my people once escaped to the edge of the city. It’s protected by a dome.”

 

The bounty hunter growled at the woman and rangers. He spoke an unintelligible language. He aimed an arm blade at the rangers and muttered again. Tommy took a bold step forward. “I could say the same to you…”

 

The bounty hunter swung his blade down towards Tommy’s head. Tommy stepped backward and held up his wrists. The blade snapped through his bindings. His strength returned and he spun forward with a reverse sidekick that crashed against the bounty hunter’s chest.

 

“Burn knuckle!” Tommy shouted as his fist radiated with fiery energy and slammed against the bounty hunter’s chest, cracking his ribs.

 

Tommy turned, keeping his hand ignited as he ripped Tommy and the young woman’s bindings off. “Come on…” he said as they sprinted away from the oncoming group of Quantrons.

 

***  

 

Rashanar stood in the main lab of the city’s central building. A view port looked down to a metal pit below. A slender emitter extended from the ceiling towards the center of the pit. The villain was a member of the Lkitrnzizzit race. His deep eye sockets and slimy blue skin made him look more like a monster than made. He had no lips or hair.

 

A group of civilians entered the lab below and stood beneath the emitter. Rashanar smiled at the fear that crossed their faces. The pain they were about to experience was one of a kind. And for such a worthy cause.

 

He activated the emitter. It sent a burst of energy that seemed to consume the civilians molecule by molecule and suck them up. Their DNA codes and molecules were digitized and stored into slender, rectangular chips that slid out from the evil scientist’s console.

 

Astronema stepped up from behind him and removed one of the disks. “Excellent,” she said as she looked the disk over. “With these DNA codes, we can double our army and our labor force.”

 

Rashanar nodded. “Sauron will be pleased.”

 

Astronema glared at him. She slammed the end of her staff against his gut. She leaned down and spoke into his ear. “Your allegiance is with me. And me alone.”

 

***

 

Their presence remained. In the void. Darkness. They were empty. Or free. Bottomless. Existence torn. Astronema created them. Now they were gone. But still. Energy cannot be destroyed. They remained. Their energy lingered. Rebirth. They needed Rebirth. Astronema created. Astronema. Rebirth.

 

The spirits of the Psycho Rangers reached out towards Astronema’s presence.

 

*** 

 

A Nadion pulse blast slammed against the Megaship. Explosions sparks across the bridge as power conduits erupted. A duo of Vongnar ships descended on the Megaship and opened fire with blasts that exploded against the ship’s hull.

 

Emergency claxons sounded along with crimson emergency lights, the sole source of light on the war-torn bridge.

 

Chris’s fingers moved across his control panel. “The Titan ships have taken out two of the weak points. That’s five total counting the ones we took out.”

 

Justin manipulated his control. He adjusted the targeting scanners to lock onto a Vongnar ship closing in on their starboard side. He triggered a volley of plasma darts that exploded against the enemy ship and destroyed it.  

 

“Where are those Raiders?” Cy asked. “They’re supposed to be watching our flank.”

 

Another blast impact rocked the bridge.

 

Cy activated the Battleizer, on loan from Tommy. “Delta Mega, Install!”

 

The delta-shape ship appeared moments later and fell into formation besides the Megaship. The Delta Mega ignited rapid-fire yellow energy darts at an approaching group of Vongnar ships. Delta Mega cleared a path as the Megaship moved closer to their next target on the enemy station.

 

“We’re closing in on the next weak point,” Chris said. “We’re all clear.”

 

“Fire Megalasers,” Cy commanded.

 

Justin locked weapons on target and triggered a burst of blue energy darts that exploded against the station, cracking through armor and obliterating the weak point. “Only one left.”

 

“New problem,” Chris said. “The last weak point has been reinforced with multi-layered regenerative deflector shields. The Titan cruisers haven’t been able to break through.”

 

“We’ll have to use our beam cannon,” Cy said. “Get ready to form the Megazord.”

 

“No can do,” Zhane said over the comm system. He was in the engine room. “The fusion program is offline.”

 

Kat’s console displayed a transmission. “The main battle group says they have to break off soon.”

 

“Fine,” Cy said. “Tell all our ships to concentrate fire on the last structural weak point. Lay down heavy laser fire, then blast it with torpedoes.”

 

“Cy,” Justin said. “We don’t have enough firepower to get through those shields. We were expecting a weak point, not a miniature fortress.”

 

One of the Titan ships ignited its thrusters and charged forward towards the last structural point. Kat’s monitor blinked. “The Titan’s lead ship…they’re going to ram the last weak point.”

 

The Titan ship opened fire with streams of cyan-tinted energy that pounded against the deflector shield. Nadion pulse cannons ate away at the cruiser’s hull, but the ship continued its advance.

 

The Titan ship collided with the station. Massive explosions started ripping across the shipyards with a  fury of flame and twisted steel. The Titan ship was consumed by the blast. The entire vessel erupted into a sphere of flame.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Cy said, his eyes glued to the view port as the shipyards fell.

 

***

 

The Megaship arrived at the rendezvous site, but the shuttle was nowhere to be found. Cy, Chris, Kat, and Justin managed to track the shuttle’s hyperspace trail to a planet deep in the core. Zhane had traveled with the Mega Winger to make repairs to the Delta Mega and his own Mega Winger.

 

The Megaship entered into low orbit around the world and scanned its surface. Cy leaned over Chris’s shoulder as the sensor station displayed results. “It looked like they were teleported away…the pattern looks familiar, but I can’t place it.”

 

Cy’s eyes opened wide. He recognized the pattern. He turned to Kat. “Contact Kruger. We’re going to need his help.”

 

***

 

The Megaship regrouped in the Rigel Expanse with Kruger’s flagship and small flotilla of Rigelian ships. Kruger's vessel was a heavy dreadnaught named Boss One, and the Rigel ships were a mix of heavy battle cruisers and lighter assault frigates.

 

 

 

Kruger’s image was on the Megaship’s forward viewer. The rangers and Kruger had shared data on the teleportation readings.

 

“Your timing could not be better,” the blue-furred K-9 said. “We’ve tracked the signal from the De’journel abductions. It’s safe to say your teammates were transported to the same place. Slave your navigation systems to my ship. We‘ll escort you to this hidden planet.”

 

***

 

The Astro Megaship dropped out of hyperspace alongside Rigelian battle cruisers and assault frigates. The planet ahead was protected by a group of Vongnar attack ships and Jolna frigates. The ships were in formation around Astronema’s Dark Fortress. 

 

 

Chris reported from his station. “There’s some kind of city on the surface. Its protected by a giant dome. Our sensors can’t recognize the material.”

 

Kat looked back to Cy. “That’s probably where Tommy and Ashley are.”

 

Cy nodded. “Polarize the hull plating. Kat, signal the Rigel ships to fall into screening formation around us. We have to make it to the surface.”

 

“What about the dome?” Chris asked.

 

“Does it extend under the surface?” Justin asked.

 

Chris cracked a grin when he studied the readouts. “Not far.”

 

“Then we can use the Megatank to drill our way under,” Justin said. 

 

The Megaship and Rigel ships flew in formation towards the planet’s defense fleet. The more maneuverable, beetle-like Vongnar attack ships broke formation and moved to intercept the allied flotilla.

 

The Vongnar opened fire with neon-purple energy blasts that streaked towards the allied ships. Cy piloted the Megaship through evasive maneuvers as Justin brought the plasma cannons and Megalasers online.

 

“Hold on,” Cy said as he triggered the ship’s afterburners.

 

Justin locked on weapons and started firing. Blue and red darts of energy shot from the Megaship and exploded against the enemy ships.

 

***

 

Tommy, Ashley, and the woman named Neiah ducked for cover near a store building. Quantron patrols were criss-crossing the streets, searching for the three escaped prisoners. The android soldiers were getting harder to avoid by the minute.

 

Tommy served as look out as Ashley inspected her morpher. Neiah looked panicked. She grasped onto Tommy’s shirt. “How were you able to do that? You’ll be tortured to death when they catch us.”

 

“Well,” Tommy said, “we’ll just avoid getting caught. Ash, how’s it look?”

 

The morphers are working fine,” she said. “There’s definitely a jamming field keeping us from morphing or communicating. My guess is it’s coming from the central building.”

 

“Makes sense,” Tommy said. He looked to Neiah. “Do you know anything that might help us.”

 

“The central building is their headquarters,” she said. “We can’t go there.”

 

“Be an optimist,” Tommy said. He looked to Ashley. “Here’s the plan. We head deeper into the dome. They won’t suspect us to go back the way we came. We’ll ambush a patrol, take their weapons, then…get into the main building somehow.”

 

“Okay,” Ashley said. “What are we waiting for?”

 

The two rangers and Neiah started to move out. Explosions rang out around them before they moved far. Tommy and Ashley rolled for cover while pulling Neiah down with them.

 

They looked up to see a Psycho-Gene Beast stalk forward towards them. The creature wore bulky orange and black armor. Tommy and Ashley recognized the monster as their kidnapper. The bounty hunter Tommy had broke free from earlier stood beside the gene beast.

 

The green-skinned bounty hunter had a mouth that resembled a fly trap and dark red eyes. His hair was long and black. The villain wore rugged plates of gray armor and had slender blades extending from his arms.

 

Tommy looked back to Ashley. “You two go.”

 

Ashley nodded. “Don’t be too long.” She knew it was pointless to argue. And she knew they had to bring down whatever jamming covered the dome area. They ran off. 

 

The bounty hunter, jSugfnd, charged forward and swung his blades like scissors towards Tommy’s neck. Tommy sidestepped and slammed a round kick against the villain’s chest before smashing a round kick against his face.

 

***

 

The Megaship broke through the atmosphere and moved close to the surface. The ship arced towards the dome within sight distance. Chris finished scanning the dome and its equipment.

 

“Done,” Chris said. “I know where we need to hit. Drop us off bearing 7 mark 709.”

 

Cy arced looped the ship towards the south side of the dome while the three rangers moved into the docking bay. Cy opened the bay doors and the Mega Tank dropped towards the surface. The tank armed its drill and dove beneath the earth.

 

***

 

“Astronema,” Eclipter said. He and the princess were on board the Dark Fortress bridge. “The Rangers’ ship has entered the planet’s atmosphere.”

 

“Have they,” Astronema said. She turned and glared at Eclipter with ices of ice an expression just as cold. “Let me make this clear: I am tired of the Rangers interrupting my every move. You are my right-hand general. Cut off their ability to launch attacks.”

 

“But princess-”

 

“Think,” Astronema said. “The Mega Voyager, Delta Mega and Mega Winger are not in use. Find them and destroy them. Psycho Yellow must have left residual energy behind that even you can track.”

 

***  

  

The Mega Tank burst from the ground on the outskirts of the city. A cluster of stone and bushes concealed the tank as the rangers hopped out of the cockpit.

 

Chris opened his scanner. “We’re close enough to pinpoint troop deployments.”

 

“Let’s morph,” Justin said.

 

They readied their morphers. “Install! Astro Ranger!” They input the code 3-3-5-enter into their morphers. Nothing happened.

 

Chris wrinkled his brow and looked to his scanner. “There’s some kind of dampening field. We can’t morph.”

 

“Great,” Justin said sarcastically. “Next time we go on a mission like this, remind me to morph before we break into the enemy stronghold filled with people who want to kill us.”

 

“We’ll be okay,” Chris said, his eyes on his scanner. “The energy field surrounding the dome is the same field blocking our powers. Once the field is down we can morph and signal the ships in orbit. Then they can start landing inside the dome and getting people off this rock.”

 

Justin checked to make sure his blaster was charged. “Let’s try to avoid as many patrols as we can. We’ll have enough target place once we reach the main building.”

 

***

 

Ashley snuck into the main compound of the secret city along with Neiah. They watched in horror through a small view port as a group of civilians were converted into data and stored onto cards.

 

“God,” Ashley whispered. “That’s what they’re doing here.”

 

***

 

Justin, Chris, and Kat moved to the base of the central complex. Chris looked over his portable scanner. “The transmission cluster is at the top of this building. Guards are stationed just outside the entrance to the roof.”

 

A burst of light flashed nearby as a group of Craterites dropped to the ground.

 

“Damn,” Justin cursed as he opened fire. He plasma blaster shot bursts of orange energy that exploded against the soldiers. “Cover me, guys. I’ll go plan the charges.”

 

“Be careful,” Chris said as he and Kat aimed their weapons at the approaching soldiers and opened fire. Justin entered the building.

 

***

 

Justin ran up the winding stairs. A group of Quantrons charged down the steps towards him. He jump kicked the first soldier away and blasted the next two at near-point-blank range. Explosions sparked across their chest as they flipped backward.

 

Justin heard fighting from a level above. He moved farther up the stairs and saw Ashley, spinning forward and bringing an axe kick down on a creature’s collar bone.

 

“Ashley!” Justin shouted.

 

“I was wondering if you guys would show up,” she said as she kicked the last Quantron away.

 

“Come on,” Justin said. “We have to blow up the transmission array that’s blocking or morphers. “

 

Ashley turned to Neiah. “Find somewhere to stay out of sight. You’ll be safer.”

 

***

 

A group of Quantrons stood on the roof near the transmission array. The door to the roof shattered in as three Craterites fell through and crashed to the pavement. Ashley and Justin moved in, triggering blasts that exploded against the first three Quantrons.

 

The soldiers charged towards the rangers. Ashley ducked under a boomerang blade and slammed a round kick against a soldier’s chest.

 

Justin spun forward, slamming the handle of his blaster against a Quantron’s chest as he moved towards the transmission cluster. He pulled out five charges and started placing them along the cluster as a group of Craterites rushed towards him, their jagged blades ready to strike.

 

Justin started to swing his blaster up, but a Craterite swiped the weapon from his hand and kicked him on the chest. Justin went flipping backwards, stumbling over the railing. He grabbed hold of the railing, his feet dangling 20 stories above ground.

 

“Justin!” Ashley shouted. While she was distracted, a Quantron pushed her over the railing too. She grabbed hold of the railing to keep from falling.

 

The soldiers stalked towards the railing, ready to cut the Rangers down. Justin pulled the detonator from his pocket and triggered it. The transmission array exploded, creating a shockwave that blasted the soldiers off the roof.

 

The shockwave shook Justin and Ashley loose, and they started falling towards the ground below. They snapped open their morphers, but were flailing to wildly to trigger their transformation streak.

 

A red streak suddenly passed beneath them and caught them. It was Astro Red. “Hang on…”

 

He arced his slider downward and skid to the ground near Kat and Chris. Astro Red hopped off his slider as the gene beast stalked towards them.

 

“Let’s take care of business, guys,” Astro Red said.

 

The other four rangers flipped open their morphers. “Install! Astro Ranger!” They input the code 3-3-5-enter.

 

Energy shimmered around the five Rangers as they morphed into their armor. They snapped into fighting stances as a group of Craterites appeared around the monster at the foot of the stairs.

 

The Craterites and monster charged forward to attack.

 

“Drill Saber!” Astro Red shouted as he downloaded his sword and leapt forward.

 

He speared his blade through the chest of a soldier while landing at the base of the steps. He pulled his blade out of the soldier’s chest while slamming a knifehand chop against its neck.

 

Astro Red turned to his left and dashed forward while thrashing horizontally through a Craterite, his blade sparking against the soldier on impact. The Ranger turned to his right and circled his sword to parry a blow before arcing the blade upward in a diagonal strike that slashed through a Craterite, sending the soldier flipping backward as sparks rips across its chest.

 

Astro Pink leapt over a Craterite while slamming her heel against the back of its neck. She landed while holding her arms out in an ’x’ pattern and striking a second soldier in the neck.

 

Astro Blue leapt up and pushed his feet off the building. He dove past a soldier while striking it in the neck, rolled across the ground, and rose to his feet while flipping a soldier over his shoulder.  

 

Astro Black and Astro Yellow moved in at opposite sides of the gene beast. Astro Black smashed a hook punch across the creature’s head. The monster used its arm like a club to bash the Black Ranger in the chest.

 

Astro Yellow moved in with a jump round kick to the head. The creature used its club arm to block the blow, and kicked the Yellow Ranger aside.

 

Astro Black launched a flying punch towards the monster. The gene beast slammed its arm against the Ranger and flipped him over. Astro Black went crashing against the ground.

 

The gene beast turned to Astro Yellow and fired jagged beams of energy that lashed against her armor with a series of sparks and explosions. Astro Black ran to her side and helped her to her feet, just as the monster struck again. It fired an energy whip that slashed across their armor with a violent shower of sparks, sending them tumbling backward.

 

The monster stalked towards the two Rangers.

 

Astro Red knocked a Craterite away nearby. He saw his friends in trouble and activated his Battleizer. Astro Red pressed the “one” key on his brace and leapt forward to attack.

 

“Riser chop!” he shouted, bringing an energized knifehand strike chopping down against the gene beast and exploding against its armor.

 

“Riser punch!” Astro Red shouted. He slammed a fiery punch that exploded against the monster, knocking the gene beast backward.

 

***

 

Their presence drifted in the secret city. They moved towards headquarters. An unseen force. No consciousness. No mind. Just energy with a single desire. Death to their counterparts. The energy drifted into the lab room.

 

The power drifted into the machinery. The machines turned matter into digital code. Energy into digital code. The process could not be reversed on a specific person. One was dead when digitized. But the presence could take shape. They entered the machine. Downloaded code.

 

The emitter in the lab pulses with power. A beam of bright energy shot forth as code assembled and took shape. The code became twisted flesh. Armor covered the flesh. The presence entered the drones. The Psycho Rangers were reborn.

 

***

 

“Drill Sniper! Booster Mode!” Psycho Red shouted as he aimed his rifle at the monster. He pressed the one key on his Battleizer. The Battleizer transferred a massive serge of energy into the Sniper. “Fire!”

 

The energy blast punctured through the gene beast and exploded. The monster’s energy overloaded with a massive burst of flame that consumed the creature.

 

Astro Red lowered his weapon as the other Rangers gathered around them. They heard clapping coming from behind them. They turned and froze with shock. The Psycho Rangers were standing in front of the central complex.

 

“No…” Astro Red said. “We destroyed you!”

 

“Yes,” Psycho Red hissed. “You did…and we are going to make you pay dearly for that.”

 

“Thanks to that digital contraption,” Psycho Black said, “we’re back from the dead.”

 

Astro Red rolled his hands into fists. “We beat you before, psychos, and we’ll do it again. For good this time.”

 

The Rangers snapped into fighting stances. 

 

“Astro Red!”

 

“Astro Black!”

 

“Astro Blue!”

 

“Astro Yellow!”

 

“Astro Pink!”

 

Together, they shouted: “Digital Task Force, Astro Rangers!”

 

The Psycho Rangers and Astro Rangers charged. The two groups bashed into each other with a flurry of kicks and punches that sparked against each other’s armor.

 

Astro Red parried a blow by Psycho Red and dashed forward, his blade held horizontally. Psycho Red brought his blade down as well. The enemies passed other while thrashing across each others’ armor, their blades sparking on impact.

 

Psycho Blue launched a spinning-heel kick that Astro Blue ducked under. Astro Black slammed a hook punch across Psycho Black’s head. Astro Yellow and Psycho Yellow slammed roundkicks against each others’ armor. Psycho Pink and Astro Pink exchanged knifehand strikes.

 

The Rangers were knocked backward and regrouped.

 

“Drill Sniper, booster mode.” Astro Red said as he aimed the blaster rifle forward.

 

“Quadro Blaster.” Astro Blue said as they aimed their combined weapons towards the Psychos.

 

“Fire!”

 

Their combined energy blast exploded violently against the Psycho Rangers, explosions ripping apart their armor. Their armor shattered with a bright flash of light. The Psychos stood in their monster forms.

 

Psycho Red fired crimson optic blasts that exploded against the Rangers’ armor., knocking them backward.

 

The Rangers started to rise to their feet, but Psycho Blue shot ice blades that exploded against their armor as the other Psychos charged forward.

 

“I have a plan,” Astro Red said. “Come on.”

 

Astro Red ran back into the complex as the others followed. “Kat,” he said. “Use your helmet icon to tap into this building’s system and take control of the digital device Ashley told us about.”

 

“You think that will work?” Astro Blue asked.

 

“It brought them here,” Astro Red said. “It can send them back.”

 

***  

 

The Mega Voyager, Delta Mega, and Mega Winger were undergoing repairs at a science outpost near Aquitar. The outpost was on the surface of a rocky moon. Patches of liquid dotted the moon like lakes of boiling mud.

 

The outpost’s control room was only large enough to hold five control console stations. Space was an issue, since Zhane and two Aquitions were the only people working in the lab.

 

One of the Aquitions was Cestro, a ranger of Aquitar.

 

Zhane called up a data display on his console. “Those torpedo launchers fit the Mega Winger perfectly.” 

 

Cestro nodded while reviewing design specs for the Mega Voyager. “They should prove most useful.”

 

Power suddenly flickered within the control room as control panels whined with protest.

 

“What is happening?” Cestro asked.

 

“I was about to ask you,” Zhane said.

 

One of the control consoles flashed as a beam of red and green light twisted from the screen and materialized into a humanoid figure. It was Eclipter. The android had managed to track Mega Voyager to the outpost. Materializing through the outpost’s security system caused his metallic body to appear dark red.

 

“Eclipter!” Zhane shouted as he snapped into a fighting stance. He looked back to Cestro and the other Aquition. “Get out of here. Take cover.”

 

“I can help,” Cestro said.

 

Eclipter lunged forward and chopped down his sword. Zhane grabbed the android’s arm and slammed a round kick against his side.

 

Cestro slapped his brace’s activation panel. “Aquition rebirth! Pegasaur Ranger!” He morphed into the blue armor of a water-dwelling creature from his home world’s past.

 

Eclipter turned his head and fired a crimson optic blast that exploded against the Blue Ranger with a burst of spark. The Ranger fell backward against his companion.

 

Zhane kept the android’s sword at bay. Eclipter pushed Zhane against a control console, his back bending. Zhane freed a hand and flipped open his morpher. “Keitizer! Install!”

 

Golden energy flashed around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Astro Silver drew his Silver Blazer and extended the arm-mounted blade. He swung upward diagonally, the blade sparking against Eclipter’s chest. Astro Silver swung his saber downward, but Eclipter parried the blow and arced his sword towards Astro Silver’s head. Silver Ranger sidestepped and used his weapon to block the blow.

 

The opponents’ blades pressed against each other as Eclipter leaned forward. “You’re not leaving this rock alive.”

 

“I beg to differ,” Astro Silver said as he pushed Eclipter back.

 

The android swung his blade horizontally, but Silver Ranger ducked beneath the blow while passing behind the android. Silver Ranger turned and brought his blade down diagonally. Eclipter spun around in time to parry the blow and thrash his saber across the Ranger’s armor.

 

Astro Silver swung the back of his hand towards Eclipter, angling the blade towards the villain’s head. Eclipter blocked the blow.

 

Silver Ranger looked back to Pegasaur Ranger and the Aquition. “Go to the zord bay. Now.”

 

The Blue Ranger did not argue. The zords had to be secured. He left the lab room.

 

Astro Silver was sick of maneuvering in close quarters. He twirled his blade, clashing against Eclipter’s sword while moving behind the android. Astro Silver moved towards airlock and slapped the door’s control panel. The door slid open as atmosphere bled out.

 

“Let’s take this outside, rust bucket,” Astro Silver said as he dashed outside.

 

***

     

The Rangers lured the Psychos into the lab room. They scattered about the room, exchanging fierce blows that filled the small lab with clouds of spark.

 

Astro Pink fed data on the digital transformation device to Astro Yellow’s computer so she could operate it. “We have to keep them in the center of the room.”

 

Psycho Blue grabbed Astro Blue by the throat and slammed him against a wall while swiping ice daggers repeatedly across his chest.  “Tell them that,” Astro Blue said through a clenched jaw as he kicked the Psycho away.

 

“Keep it together guys,” Astro Red said as he slammed a round kick against Psycho Red’s head. “We’re almost there. Just hit them with everything you’ve got.”

 

The Rangers slammed against the Psychos, pushing them all in a cluster towards the center of the room. The Psychos knocked them away.

 

“Again,” Astro Red said as he tackled against Psycho Red.

 

The Rangers slammed against the Psychos, ignoring the near-crippling pain of the enemy’s counter attacks. They pushed the Psychos to the center of the room.

 

“Got it!” Astro Yellow said as she triggered the device.

 

The Rangers leapt back as the emitter projected beams of energy that swept around the Psycho’s. But Psycho Red was not about to be destroyed without taking his most hated adversary with him. The Psycho extended a red and black tendril that wrapped around Astro Red and started dragging him towards the field.

 

Astro Red almost fell into the field, but he held his ground. The other Rangers grabbed onto him and tried to pull him away. Astro Red downloaded his Drill Saber and sliced the tendril off. The Rangers fell backward as the Psychos vanished.

 

*** 

 

The Dark Fortress withdrew from the planet. The enemy ships left the system shortly afterward. Kruger and the other allied vessels moved into orbit and started retrieving survivors from the surface.

 

The Megaship flew alongside Kruger’s flagship. The rangers regrouped on the bridge, their uniforms war-torn and disheveled. The bridge was in just as bad shape. Several of the control panel’s flickered on and off. Only half the lights provided dim illumination. Some of the control panels were ripped open because of overloaded conduits. 

 

Chris looked over his control console. “The last of the shuttles are leaving the surface.”

 

“How many survivors?” Tommy asked.

 

“200,” Chris said softly.

 

Tommy cursed beneath his breath. The planet De’journel alone had once supported billions.

 

“I’m getting a message from Kruger,” Kat said. “It’s about Zhane. Something’s wrong at the zord outpost.”

 

***

 

Eclipter and Astro Silver circled around each other on the moon. The moon’s green-brown world was visible over the horizon.

 

Astro Silver hopped forward and brought his blade down diagonally across Eclipter’s chest, sparking on impact. Silver Ranger thrashed the android again with a horizontal blow before swinging his blade down in an ‘x’ pattern.

 

Eclipter barely moved or seemed to feel the blow. Silver Ranger struck again with a horizontal slash. He brought his blade back around for a vertical strike.

 

Eclipter grabbed the blade. The android twisted the blade aside and chopped his sword across the Ranger’s armor. Eclipter’s blade sparked against the Ranger’s armor on impact. Astro Silver was knocked backward by the force of the powerful blow.

 

Astro Silver rolled back into a crouched position and aimed his Blazer forward in blaster mode. He fired darts of yellow energy that exploded against Eclipter.

 

The blasts sparked across Eclipter’s armor, but he ignored the attack. He triggered a program within his system that caused him to grow giant.

 

Eclipter stalked forward to the dome-shaped outpost.

 

“Mega Winger!” Astro Silver commanded. The zord launched and rose up to its warrior mode as Silver Ranger entered the cockpit.

 

Mega Winger extended his wing blaster and fired rapid pulses of yellow energy that exploded against Eclipter. Explosions sparked against the android’s armor on impact. The android charged forward with his sword held high.

 

Eclipter thrashed downward across the zord’s armor and slashed horizontally. His blade sparked against the zord as it cut across the Mega Winger’s armor. Eclipter swung his sword in an ‘x’ pattern. The blow crashed against the Ranger’s armor, knocking the zord backward as small explosions ripped across its armor.

 

Eclipter stalked forward towards the dome and chopped downward. His blade crashed through the structure. The impact sent explosions tearing through the inner docking bays and lab rooms. Crimson energy crackled around the outside of the dome as Eclipter swung again.

 

Debris fell upon the Mega Winger zords, crushing them. Eclipter swung again. His blade sending an energy shockwave that tore the Mega Winger’s zords apart.

 

Astro Silver activated the Delta Mega. The delta-shaped zord flew from the dome before falling victim to the attack.

 

Eclipter turned his attention back towards the Mega Winger. The android chopped his blade down on the fallen zord, tearing through part of its armor.

 

Delta Mega assumed its robo mode and fired gattling cannons. Cannon blasts exploded Eclipter, knocking him back from the zord. The extra energy from his crimson power boost was wearing off.

 

Eclipter activated a button on his sword. The blade vibrated with fiery energy as crimson power crackling along its edges. Eclipter swung the blade horizontally. The sword emitted a re, fiery energy wave that crackled with crimson lightning. The wave tore through the Delta Mega, tearing the zord in half. The zord’s systems overloaded and exploded.

 

Steam suddenly erupted from the android’s body. He shrunk back to his normal size and green-grid color. He teleported away in a rippling teleportation wave.

 

***

 

The eye of Sauron flashed with power. His energy was almost at a peak. He sent out a telepathic command to every troop and ship loyal to him. The command was a simple word: Attack.

 

To be continued…Countdown to Destruction