Rangers in Space: Chapter Twenty-seven

Countdown to Destruction: Four

 

Eltar’s skies were tinted red and purple. A once great city of towering palaces and statues was rubble. Black lightning scorched the skies, and howling thunder roared with pain.

 

The six rangers stood in silence as they looked out upon the city ruins below. They were on an outcropping of burnt woodland that looked down into the valley of the once great city.

 

Kimberly placed a hand over her mouth as she bit back her tears. “I can’t believe this actually happened.”

 

Tommy shook his head. “There’s no time for that. Let’s get going…”

 

The rangers walked in silence as they entered the valley. They walked across what was once a street of marble. The street was covered with toppled columns and piles of rubble that had once been buildings.

 

“Tommy…” Teddy said as he walked besides his brother. “How the hell are we supposed to fight against something that did this?”

 

Tommy pulled out his portable scanner, keeping the sensor range as tight as possible. “One thing at a time, little brother…we have to get down to the surface. Once there, we can use the planet’s natural duct system to get to the other side of the planet, and enter the capital.”

 

Billy shook his head with disproval. “We don’t have any information about troop positions. These vents could be guarded with thousands.”

 

“It’s doubtful,” Tommy said, keeping his eyes on his scanner.

 

Billy sighed and rolled his eyes, mumbling under his breath. “It’s a wonder you survived this long.”

 

Tommy turned and glared at Billy, his eyes like daggers. “At least we’ve been out fighting, not digging ourselves in some hole and staying out of site for a year. A year. That’s how long we’ve been looking for Zordon. That’s how long we’ve been fighting, and you-”  

 

“Hey, hey,” Rocky said, trying to break them up. “Save it for the bad guys.”

 

Billy ignored Rocky. “I think you’re forgetting, if it wasn’t for me, you would never have had a ship, or powers. It’s not my fault you squandered them.”

 

Tommy snarled. That was it. He swung a hook punch that crashed across Billy’s jaw. Billy fell onto his back.

 

“Tommy!” Kimberly shouted at him with alarm as she bent down to Billy’s side and helped him up.

 

The rangers stood silently as Billy rose to his feet. The tension was palpable.

 

The hairs on the back of Tommy’s neck suddenly stood on end. Adam and Rocky felt it too. They brought their senses to full alert.

 

Adam narrowed his eyes, shifting them towards his right shoulder. “We’re being watched.”

 

He snapped back with a sidekick that slammed against an invisible foe. The figure materialized while slamming backward through a building’s remains. The figure was dressed in a solid black body suit. Green, leathery armor covered his chest, forearms and legs. Several slick tendrils wrapped around his body. A black mask covered the lower part of his face. His eyes were blood red with yellow slits.

 

The creature was a Sulankree, one of Eltar’s fallen defenders that was given new life again to serve as Sauron’s mystical and demonic fighting force. This particular warrior, Rapwynvor, was one of the lesser Sulankree.  

 

The room was cold and empty, illuminated only by beams of red-tinted light from the outside. Three rows of stone columns ran down the room, some shattered, most damaged.

 

“He must be some kind of scout,” Adam said as he leapt into the empty room.

 

Before the others could follow, a group of soldiers appeared in flashes of black flame. Each of the skinny goblin-like soldiers wore dull black armor plating and carried sword, spears, and longknives.

 

“The little bastard isn’t alone either,” Rocky said as he tornado kicked a goblin across the head. He picked up the soldiers two longknives.

 

The rangers did not morph. Morphing on Eltar would be like lighting a signal flare and inviting Sauron’s entire army to fall upon them.

 

Tommy smashed a goblin’s face in with a reverse sidekick. “Take them out hard and fast. We can’t let them give us away this early.”

 

Rocky held his longknives forward in an ‘x’ pattern to block a spear blow between the two blades. He swung the knives in opposite directions, shattering through the spear, and kicked that goblin upside the head.

 

Tommy grabbed a goblin’s sword hand and twisted, snapping the wrist before slamming a sidekick against the soldier’s chest. He turned to his left and slammed a hook kick across a soldier’s head, and followed with a  round kick that crushed the goblin’s skull.

 

Inside the building ruins, Adam and Rapwynvor circled around each other. The un-dead creature pounced first with a series of flying front kicks. Adam blocked each blow as he was pushed back. He countered with a palm-heel blow that crashed against the villain’s sternum.

 

Adam pushed forward with a combination of kicks, each parried by the agile villain, who moved like a serpent.

 

Rapwynvor lurched forward and swung a fist towards Adam’s face. Adam blocked the blow, knocked the hand away, and swung the back of his fist across the villain’s face. He pushed forward with a sidekick that broke several of the villain’s ribs.

 

Rapwynvar flipped backwards with the blow while kicking Adam upside the head. The villain landed in a crouched position and pounced forward, slamming a palm-heel strike against Adam’s chest.

 

Adam blocked the creature’s second blow and snapped a jump roundkick against the villain’s head. The ranger slammed his knee against the creature’s chest, and smashed a knifehand strike against the back of its neck.

 

The creature crashed to the ground and flipped backward onto its feet before diving at Adam. Adam jump kicked the creature upside the head and spun forward with a reverse sidekick that smashed in the creature’s sternum.

 

The creature grabbed Adam’s leg and twisted. Adam was flipped off the ground and crashed onto his back. The creature hissed as it charged forward towards the fallen Ranger.

 

Adam sprang back to his feet, grabbed the creature’s head, and snapped its neck. But the creature still attacked. It reached back and slammed a kick against Adam’s chest.

 

“Oh, come on,” Adam said with frustration as the creature straightened its neck bone in place and charged forward.

 

“Hand of fate!” Adam shouted as he swung his right fist forward. His fist energized with pale-green light and emitted a wave of light that burnt through the center of the creature. The villain went flying backward, crashing against a wall as its body melted from the light.    

 

The rest of the rangers took cover in the building ruins after killing the last of the soldiers. 

 

Teddy looked over to his older brother. “What were those things?”

 

Tommy shook his head while he looked over his scanner. “I don’t know. But there’s probably more of them, so we shouldn’t stay here. We need to head west. It looks like there’s an entry point a couple blocks away that will take us into the surface.”

 

“There is,” a voice said from the shadows, causing the six rangers to snap into fighting stances. A slender figure stepped out from the shadows. She was covered in a tight-fitting black body suit. She wore three daggers on each of her upper arms. Twin longknives were sheathed on the sides of her waists. Metal stakes were strapped around her thighs. Throwing stars lined her silver belt. A pair of double-edged sword were strapped across her back. Silver hair flowed down her back. “Or at least there used to be. That entire corridor was destroyed during Sauron’s first attack.”

 

“Who are you?” Tommy asked.

 

She shook her head. “We made a pact. Not to use names until our homes were freed. Just call me Silver.”

 

Rocky huffed. “We’re going to need a little more than that, given the circumstances.”

 

“She’s a friend,” another voice said as it stepped from the shadows too. The rangers turned towards the new figure.

 

“God,” Rocky said with shock, “would you guys stop doing that!”

 

The new figure slowly blurred into focus. It was the Phantom Ranger.

 

“Phantom,” Tommy said as he lowered his guard.

 

The Phantom nodded. “Rangers. Silver is telling the truth. She was sent here months ago to organize a resistance. She knows this place better than anyone.”

 

“Alright,” Adam said. “So what were those things that attacked us?”

 

Tommy nodded. “Let’s talk on the move. We have to get away from this place.”

 

“Agreed,” Silver said.

 

The rangers started moving out. Rocky looked to Tommy and whispered. “Do you think they’d teach us that cool shadow blending thing?”

 

Tommy allowed himself a brief smile. “Go ahead and ask her. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with one of those daggers in your ass.”

 

***

 

Webs lined the city streets on Triforia.

 

“So, guys,” Blue Racer said as he used his Vi-Blade like a machete chopping through the woods. “I just thought of something we forgot.”

 

“What’s that?” Red Racer asked. He was in the lead, using his Lightning Sword to cut a path through the webs.

 

“A plan,” Blue Racer said.

 

Red Racer shrugged. “We’ll improvise.”

 

Luke and his friends were arguably the least likely of Earth’s Rangers. A mage named Dappu had given them the Turbo powers in 2004 to battle the space pirate Divatox and her horde. Their martial arts skills were limited to a few school self defense classes at the time - and a lot of television.

 

They were mostly average students, working in Luke’s father’s Pegasus auto garage for part-time money. Dappu had used the car garage’s theme when developing the Turbo Powers.  

 

Yellow Racer spotted something up ahead. She pointed her Vi-Blade towards the distance. “Guys, look.”

 

Up on the street ahead, Trey was suspended from a balcony by a web line. They recognized the prince from his time fighting on Earth alongside the Zeo Rangers. He looked like he was barely breathing. A group of humanoid spiders surrounded him from all sides, almost as if they were toying with him.

 

“See,” Red Racer said as he looked back towards Blue Racer. “Improvise.”

 

A web line wrapped around Red Racer’s neck and snapped him off his feet. The Red Turbo Ranger went flying against a web net and stuck against its strands.

 

A group of the spider creatures dropped around the other four Rangers. The creatures pounced forward with acid dripping from their fangs and claws.

 

“Move!” Blue Racer shouted as he rolled aside with his saber in hand.

 

Turbo Yellow leapt to the side while arming her Star Charges. She slammed the charges against a spider’s leg, shooting the creature up with electric sparks. The spider hissed with pain and took a step backward.

 

Green Racer rolled to the aide, but looked up to see a spider creature lunging down towards him. He swung his Vi-blade upward, chopping the creature’s legs off.

 

Red Racer struggled to break free from the web strands pinning him down. Three of the spider creatures crawled down the web towards him. Turbo Red cursed through his clenched jaw. “Why’d he have to send us to the bug planet?”

 

Turbo Pink armed her bow and aimed at the three spiders in front of her. She fired lances of pink energy that tore through the spiders, knocking them aside as their insides exploded with a burst of black and green ichor.

 

Three creature pounced forward from behind Pink Racer and tackled her to the ground. She screamed as she dropped her bow.

 

Blue Racer leapt to her aide. He jumped onto a spider and drove his blade through the creature’s back. The spider fell as Turbo Blue rolled forward, rose to his feet, and chopped a second spider off of Pink Racer.

 

Turbo Red continued to struggle as the spider warriors inched towards him on the web. “Uh, guys! I could use a little help over here!”

 

Green Racer armed his Auto Blaster and fired lances of green energy that exploded against one of the spiders inching towards Turbo Red. Explosions ripped that creature apart, and the bug soldier splattered onto the Triforian streets.

 

A spider came inches from Turbo Red’s faceplate and opened its maw to take a bite.

 

“Shut your damn mouth!” Red Racer slammed the front of his helmet against the spider monster‘s maw. The spider was dazed by the blow, so Turbo Red struck again, his helmet mashing the creature’s jaws. The spider warrior fell backward and crashed on the ground. 

 

Turbo Green leapt forward towards the web and jammed his saber through the last spider trying to eat Red Racer. Green ichors splattered across the Ranger as the spider’s lifeless body crashed to the ground below. Turbo Green cut his leader free, and they both flipped to the ground.

 

Nearby, Turbo Blue and Turbo Pink trying to fend off a group of soldiers that had them surrounded. Yellow Racer was using her sword to try and hack her way towards Trey.

 

“Help Cassie and Tyler,” Red Racer said to Turbo Green. “I’ll go with Tanya to get Goldie.”

 

Red Racer retrieved his blade and charged forward to help Turbo Yellow deal with the spider creatures.

 

Yellow Racer spun low past a spider and chopped off its legs. The spider crashed as Turbo Yellow pushed forward. But spider creatures blocked her path and slashed claws across her armor. Explosions sparked upon impact and tossed the Ranger backward.

 

Turbo Red leapt through the air towards the spider creature. He landed while chopping a creature’s head off. He cursed beneath his breath as black ichor from the wound splattered against his armor.

 

“Tanya,” Turbo Red said as he slashed another creature across the throat. “Use my shoulders. Jump and get Trey.”

 

Turbo Yellow leapt forward and pushed off Red Racer’s shoulders while leaping towards the suspended Triforian. She energized her blade and slashed with a streak of power that cut through the support web.

 

The web snapped and Trey’s body fell towards the ground. Turbo Red caught Trey before he could slam to the ground. “Let’s fall back,” Turbo Red said to the others. “Let’s get this guy awake and get a plan.”

 

***

 

Retreating from Eltar was even more difficult that Kruger thought it would be. The K-9 warrior stood on the bridge of his ship as Shadow Fighters swarmed across the forward view screen.

 

Shadow Fighters belonged to a race that had no name. No one had ever seen one of their species or spoke with them. The Shadow Fighters had allied with Sauron months after the capture of Eltar.

 

The Shadow Fighters spat lines of purple-tinted energy. Each ship resembled a mass of black spikes that swooped back from a small central component. 

 

“Report,” Kruger said to his first officer as another blast rocked their ship.

 

A young humanoid woman, nicknamed Swan by her crew, looked over her damage control console. “Hull breaches on decks 8, 10, and 12. Aft Quantum Missiles launches and starboard plasma cannons are operational, all other weapon and defense systems are offline. Still no word from any other ships in the fleet.”

 

The Shadow Fighters had tore Kruger’s ship from hyperspace and ambushed the vessel. The crew could not get in contact with any other allied ships.

 

“Roll hard to port,” Kruger commanded. “Fire all starboard cannons.”

 

Darts of plasma shot from the ship and spread towards the Shadow Fighters. Plasma bolts exploded through the center of a fire and thrashed through a second and third fighters’ spikes.

 

The Shadow Fighters regrouped for an attack run and opened fire with blasts of dark amethyst energy that punctured through Kruger’s ship and vaporized hull plating and armor.

 

Kruger narrowed his eyes as he glared through the viewer. He was tired of running. The Shadow Fighters were about to learn why he was called Guardian of the Gates of Hell.

 

“Full stop. Prepare auto destruct sequence…”

 

***

 

Silver escorted the rangers through what was once a complex series of alley ways throughout the city.

 

“Those soldiers were Gritchin,” she told them.They haven’t walked the Eltar for eons. But when Sauron returned, he revived them. All of them, along with Orchin, Drow, and Sul. They were his army when he ruled the galaxy, and he’s brought them back. They’re living dead now,” Silver explained.

 

“What about the creature I fought?” Adam asked.  

 

“Rapwynvor,” Silver explained. “One of the nine Sulankree. Originally, they were protectors of the planet. They each died while fighting against Sauron. But the Dark Monarch brought them back. Sauron made them into something…different. They’re nothing but living dead now, but powerful. Only magick can stop them.”

 

Kimberly shook her head. “So there’s more of them out there,” she stated more than asked.

 

Silver nodded. “You’ve already met Rapwynvor. He used to be a combat Magister of the Shadow Skill.

 

“Smah’oke was one of the first Sulankree. His body is covered with mystical, metal armor that lets him turn into a living fog at will. He’s an assassin. A silent killer. He was formerly a Veis, one of the planet’s four guardians chosen shortly before Sauron’s attack.

 

“I’sa was also a Veis warrior. As a Veis, he commanded silver flame. Sauron turned him into a mockery of what he once was. As a Veis he drew flame, but as an undead he draws ice. Cold.

 

“Scorpwayn was a member of the Shadow Skill, but he was only an Adept. His magick seemed best when focused towards controlling insects. He commanded swarms of creatures against Sauron’s forces and wiped out hundreds. Sauron was not pleased. As a Sulankree, Scorpwayn has the tendrils of an Eltarian Scorpion running through his veins instead of blood.

 

“Tomar’ze is one of the stronger Sulankree. He is a master swordsman armed with a pair of scimitars. His skin is darker than night, in contrast to the white robs he wears. He was  only a carpenter before the occupation.

 

“Zono is part wolf, part man. The creature is covered with black and gray fur. He was a soldier who specialized in dark arts before his death. He was meshed with the black wolf he traveled with.

 

“Bosh is a giant. Sauron combined the bodies of five soldiers to create this abomination, three-times larger than humans.  

 

“Sensh’ka was governor of the southern continents before Sauron transformed him. The villain’s skin is now all onyx. He wears a dark bandana that covered his upper face and head. His eyes are hollow blue. He wears a cloak of black flame over a black bodysuit.

 

“The final Sulankree is Kreyvosh. Kreyvosh appears as a white-furred humanoid cat, feminine in nature, with black spots across her skin. She wears silver armor and a black cloak. She was the most powerful of female warriors when alive.”

 

They approached the entrance to the caverns beneath the surface. Silver slid a stone slab away from the entryway. “We’ll have to tread carefully through the tunnels. They lead through an underground city that was once inhabited by a race long since extinct. Mindless predators lurk there.”

 

“How far until we reach the main tunnel network?” Tommy asked.

 

“Half a day’s walk,” she said as she lit a torch. “That’s only if we avoid predators such as Flesh Claws and Terrors.”

 

“Wonder how they got their names?” Rocky said sarcastically.

 

Silver looked at the rangers. “Hope you do not find out.”

 

***

 

Trey slowly regained consciousness. Luke and the rangers hid in a dark room with an entrance mostly blocked by rubble. Luke his team finished updating Trey about what had happened on Earth, Triforia, and countless other worlds.

 

The young prince shook his head. He could not afford to think about everyone else now. He had to focus on the task at hand. Trey looked to the Earth rangers. “We need to destroy Lloth. She’s the spider queen that was rooted here on Triforia. With the queen dead, her drones will become disorganized.”

 

“And how do we do that?” Luke asked.

 

“Lloth prefers the high ground,” Trey said. “She spun her web among the tallest buildings of the capital.”

 

Tanya shook her head. “But how do we get to her without getting stuck on the web?”

 

“There is a way,” Trey explained as he looked out a crack in the wall to make sure no enemies were near. “The war mages here started developing an elixir when we first learned the spider creatures were attacking. They completed their work but never employed it.”

 

“Cut to the chase,” Tyler said.

 

Cassie elbowed him in the ribs. “Don’t be an ass.”

 

Trey ignored them and continued. “They developed an elixir that will let us fight on the web without getting stuck. But Lloth will still have the advantage. We can cut her down from her web and bring the battle to ground level, where we will have the advantage.”

 

***

  

Kruger’s crew obeyed his orders without hesitation. The vessel moved to a stop as the countdown to self destruct began.

 

A pulse of light suddenly flashed in the distance as another vessel dropped out of hyperspace. It was the pirate ship Stirji‘mn. Stirji’mn crew members were mostly Digree’elves, or Diggers as they were commonly called. A few humans, ram-headed Peroytians, and a seven-foot ogre-type being with leathery segmented flesh called a Torgk rounded out the crew.

 

Gidyin was the ship’s commander. The orange-skinned captain stared out his bridge’s view port as the Shadow Fighters continued to swarm around Kruger’s vessel. “Weapons, you know how to handle these Shadow Fighters. Do it.”

 

The pirate ship emitted an omni-directional sonic pulse that flowed across space. The wave caused each Shadow Fighter to explode in a sphere of purple flame. Communication systems on Kruger’s ship overloaded and exploded and the self destruction program was damaged, but the vessel was safe.

 

“Dock with that ship,” Gidyin said. “Have the kid Nolan and Shara meet at the docking port. They make a much better first impression than I do.”

 

***

 

Tommy and the other rangers followed Silver down a dark tunnel of jagged rock. The tunnel became wider and taller with each step as they descended towards the bowels of the planet. Silver held a faint white torch that served as their only source of illumination.

 

Kimberly walked over to Tommy’s side. “Tommy, what’s going on with you and Billy?”

 

“This really isn’t the time,” Tommy said while keeping his eyes on his scanner. He loved Ashley. But seeing Kimberly dug up old feelings of pain that kept resurfacing no matter how many times Tommy thought he had dealt with them.

 

“It is the time,” Kimberly said. “You and Billy can’t be at each others’ throats this whole trip.”

 

“I’m not at his throat,” Tommy said. “Or any other part of him for that matter.”

 

Kimberly narrowed her brow, surprised at his sarcastic remark. “This isn’t like you.”

 

“A lot’s changed in two years…” he said as he quickened his pace away from Kimberly.

 

Silver held up her hand, signaling the rangers to stop. They stood still as Silver’s eyes looked up. She whispered quietly. “We’re about to have company.”

 

A tentacle lashed out and grabbed Kimberly. She screamed as Tommy unsheathed his sword and cut her free in the blink of an eye. Other tentacles lashed downward that the rangers dove away from or chopped at with the weapons they’d stolen from their fallen foes.

 

“Flesh claws,” Silver said as she armed a bow and arrow. She snapped a volley of arrows in streaks of silver light that pierced into the darkness above.

 

More tentacles snapped down than the rangers could parry.

 

A group of twelve tentacles lifted Rocky and Teddy from the ground and brought them up towards the ceiling. They could barely see their attackers. The creatures resembled hard-shelled twelve-legged mouths attached to the ceiling. Instead of teeth, the creatures had pincers and claws that thrashed from its slimy jaws. The tentacles came from the rear of the creature.

 

Rocky could have blasted the creature with a  gravity pulse, but he would have likely collapsed the entire tunnel. “I should have stayed in retirement,” he mumbled to himself.

 

The ranger narrowed his eyes at the creature. “Kiryoku!” he shouted, firing an invisible telekinetic pulse that crushed the creature’s jaw, bone and shell snapping as black ichors splattered. The tentacles went limp and dropped Rocky, who flipped back down towards the ground.

 

Teddy grabbed onto the tentacles as white energy crackled from his palm. “Sound bite!” he shouted, sending a sonic pulse coursing through the creature. Vibrations ripped the Flesh Claw apart as its tentacles went limp. Teddy flipped backward onto the ground.

 

Tommy grabbed onto a tentacles and pulled down hard, ripping a Flesh Claw from the ceiling. “Burn Knuckle!” he shouted, swinging an energized fist that slammed against the Flesh Claw, splattering it upon impact as shell and bone snapped.

 

The rest of the Flesh Claws scurried off into the shadows.

 

Before the rangers could celebrate, they heard high-pitched screeching come from further down the corridor. The shrieking grew louder and closer.

 

“Terrors,” Silver said. “They hunt Flesh Claws. And they’re coming this way.”

 

***

 

Trey led the rangers through a dark, rubble-filled passage. The passage was narrow and the rangers barely had any elbow room.

 

“Where are we headed?” Carlos asked.

 

“The city’s transit system,” Trey said. “It runs just underneath the streets like your subways. The spiders have not destroyed all the routes. I know a route that will lead to the other end of the city.”

 

Trey knelt down towards the ground and ripped off a panel hidden by dust. A dark hole was underneath the panel. “This way,” Trey said as he leapt down the hole. The rangers reluctantly followed.

 

They landed on an underground platform of dull-gold brick. A rail system ran alongside the platform, bronze archways covered the rail and supported the ceiling above.

 

A small bullet-shaped vehicle sat on the rail. The vehicle was hoodless and large enough to carry 12 people.

 

“Come,” Trey said as he walked towards the vehicle. The rangers rolled their eyes or muttered under their breath as they followed.

 

The six rangers climbed into the vehicle. Tyler jokingly put his arm around Cassie to lighten the mode. She returned his gesture with an elbow strike to his rib cage.

 

Trey flipped open the vehicle’s control panel as Luke looked over his shoulder. “Can you hotwire the thing?”

 

“I don’t know what that means,” Try answered. “The transit system is typically controlled by a central outpost. There are ways to independently gain control of vehicles in case of emergency.”

 

Trey continued working.

 

Luke tilted his head back towards the end of the dark tunnels. He heard something that sounded like footsteps. “Do you guys hear that?”

 

“That’s not funny, Luke,” Tanya said.

 

“No, seriously…” Tyler said. “It’s coming from the ceiling.”

 

The rangers lifted their heads as they heard the noise to. It sounded like a stampede. From the distance, they saw a wave of spider creatures crawl across the transit system walls, ceiling and floors as they scurried towards the vehicles.

 

“Trey, move faster,” Luke said as he and the others pulled out their Turbo Keys.

 

“Shift into Turbo! Axel, power!” Energy ignited around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.

 

“Auto Blasters!” Red Racer shouted as they pulled out their weapons and fired lances of jade-tinted energy that blasted through several spiders. But the blanket of spiders kept moving forward, screeching and snapping their mandibles.

 

The first few dozen spiders pounced towards the Ranger. Turbo Red leapt onto the rear of the vehicle and unsheathed his sword while swinging upward and gutting a creature. He swung the blade around in a horizontal arc that thrashed through another villain.

 

Turbo Pink armed her Wind Fire bow and fired darts of pink energy that thrashed through villains as the other Rangers kept firing their Auto Blasters. A pile of spider corpses quickly piled up at the rear of the vehicle as the main wave approached, countless spider creatures spread in every direction like a thick blanket.

 

“Trey, come on!” Turbo Red shouted as he hacked left and right. Then the blanket spread over them. Hundreds of spiders dropped from the ceiling and pounced from the walls, thrashing their claws across the Rangers’ armor with massive bursts of spark and biting at their limbs.

 

Turbo Red was forced to the ground, using his blade to keep ten hungry spiders away from his face.

 

Trey activated the vehicle and it shot forward down the tunnel.

 

“Ultra Transform!” he shouted, morphing into his armor and summoning his staff as he rose from under the control console. “Victory flash!”

 

Zeo Gold fired pulses of golden energy that blasted several spiders from the speeding vehicle, reaching almost 60 miles per hour and gaining.

 

Turbo Red flipped back to his feet and hacked through six spiders trying to eat Blue Racer. Blue Racer rose to his feet and spinning heel kicked the last spider off the vehicle.

 

But countless other spiders bled through cracks in the tunnel walls and pounced forward to attack.

 

“Split up!” Red Racer shouted as they each stood on opposite sides of the vehicle, trying not to get knocked off by the winding, spinning turns.

 

Pink Racer used her bow to blast spiders away. Blue Racer used his Mountain Blasters and Green racer used his Thunder Cannon, the massive green weapon sent shockwaves exploding down the corridors.

 

Turbo Red and Turbo Yellow joined in with their Auto Blasters.

 

“Guys,” Zeo Gold said. “We have a serious problem.”

 

“We noticed,” Red Racer answered as he blasted a spider creature through its abdomen.

 

The vehicle made sharp turn and blasted off the tracks into midair. A massive hole was ripped across the tracks and ground of the transit system. The vehicle and Rangers tumbled into the darkness below.

 

***

 

Gidyin poured Kruger a glass of red ale. The two sat in the pirate’s quarters while their ships blasted through hyperspace. “I prefer these discussions with drink…especially now that Sauron’s forces have gained control of every major hyperspace lane in the galaxy.”

 

Kruger’s fur stood on end with anger. “I still don’t understand how such an attack was possible. Not even Sauron should be able to conquer the entire galaxy with a single move. It’s impossible.”

 

“He’s not done yet,” Gidyin explained. “At least according to some of my more religious-minded comrades. What Sauron has done is basically cleared major pockets of resistance. Set up small garrisons Allied worlds. Taken control of the hyperspace lanes to keep us from launching an effective counter attack or regrouping, and even stopping refugee convoys and taken prisoners for slaves or genetic fodder.

 

“His next move is going to be the big finish,” Gidyin said. “If what I’ve heard is true that is. I have no reason to doubt it. You’re familiar with how species traveled through space eons ago before there were starships?”

 

Kruger nodded. “Gateways. Near-instant travel from one world to the next.”

 

Gidyin nodded. “My people tell me Sauron is gaining the power to open every dormant gateway in the galaxy. He’s been using Zordon’s power, and Eltar’s power,  to gain control of the portals and rebuild his army of Gritchin, Orchin, Drow, and Sul. He‘ll send the army through the gateways, to every inhabited planet. They say Sauron came to power by using the gateways the same way, before recorded time.”

 

Kruger growled beneath his breath. “If what you say is true, Sauron has just been staling. Biding his time until he can gain control of the portals.”

 

Gidyin nodded. “You better hope to the gods your little Ranger friends stop him in time. Otherwise every civilization in the galaxy will be wiped out.”

 

***

 

The Terrors landed in crouched positions on the ground in front of Silver and the rangers. Each terror had a skinny, wrangled body and was 12-feet tall. Bone spikes protruded from their elbows and claws. Each creature had a vertical mouth filled with fangs above to horizontal, gaping maws, also filled with saliva-dripping fangs. Ridged bone armor covered the creatures’ heads and bodies. Their legs were inverted, bending like ostriches.

 

The creatures charged forward towards the rangers.

 

Silver snapped a volley of arrows that shot towards the creatures in streaks of silver motion before puncturing through bone armor and flesh. The arrows had little effect.

 

“Kimberly,” Tommy said, “Use your wind to take them off guard.”

 

Kimberly extended her hand. “Tempest wind!”

 

A huge gale-force wind howled down the corridor and slammed against the creatures. The Terrors dug their claws into the tunnel to hold their ground as the other five rangers sprang forward to attack.

 

Tommy threw his sword like a spear while in midair. The sword jammed in between two bone plates on the Terror’s head. He somersaulted forward through the air while slamming his feet against the sword’s hilt, jamming the weapon through the creature’s skull and puncturing its brain. The dying creature spasmed and swatted Tommy aside as it collapsed with a final breath.

 

Tommy crashed against the tunnel wall and crumbled top the ground as a Terror sprang towards him.

 

More of the giant creatures moved in from the darkness.

 

“Fire stream!” Tommy shouted as he incinerated the creature in front of him. The rest of the Terrors backed away from the flame while screeching.

 

“The light,” Silver said. “They hate the light.”

 

“Adam,” Tommy said. “You and me.”

 

Adam thrust his arms forward. “Shining fury!” he shouted as he produced a blinding spear of pale-green light.

 

“Star fire!” Tommy shouted as he blasted a comet of flame.

 

The flame and light combined into a blazing display of white-hot force that tore through most of the Terrors and sent the other ones running. The light faded as the corridor trembled.

 

***

 

Red Racer and Yellow Racer rose to their feet. They were alone in a dark, circular chamber. They had fallen through a hole in the ceiling above. Red Racer tried to use his helmet communicator, but all he heard was static. “I can’t get through to the others. I’m just picking up static on this damn thing.”

 

Turbo Yellow moved towards a circular door. “They have to be close by, don’t they? We all fell the same way.”

 

She pushed the door open and walked towards the center of an adjoining room. Turbo Red followed her, and they both stopped in their tracks at what they saw. The walls were lined with countless egg sacks.

 

“See,” Turbo Red. “This is why I wish we were assigned to fight the Machine Empire.”

 

“It’s a hatchery…” Yellow Racer said as she moved towards one of the sacks.

 

“Don’t touch it, Tanya,” Red Racer said.

 

Yellow Racer scoffed. “I’m just looking. Relax.”

 

“Sure,” Red Racer said sarcastically. “Relax…that seems like the perfect thing to do when you’re lost in a hatchery full of alien spider men.”

 

A dozen of the egg sacks exploded, spraying ichors across the Rangers’ armor as dozens more started to erupt. Spiders the size of fists crawled from the sacks and surrounded the walls. There were thousands of them.

 

***

 

Tyler and Cassie’s vision blurred into focus as they sat up, removing the cold compresses from their heads, which brought up the question - who had put cold compresses on their heads.

 

They looked around and appeared to be in an underground tunnel that almost looked like a sewer beneath the Triforian city. Tents of thin metal dotted the tunnel. Each was lit by a dim red glow.

 

Someone walked from one of the tents. He was dressed in a suit of black body armor caked with dirt and scratched. His hair was dirty and disheveled. He had eyes so dark brown they almost appeared black.

 

“You two had a rather long fall,” he said as he tossed them a small cylinder of water. “A long fall that should have killed you.”

 

“I’m thickheaded. Now, who are you?” Tyler asked.

 

“I thought it would be obvious,” the man said. “I’m a member of the planetary defense force. Myself and others who survived the first attack wave regrouped beneath the surface. We’re trying to free as many civilians as we can and launch a  counterstrike.”

 

“The others who were with us,” Cassie asked, “where are they?”

 

“We only found you two,” the man said. His name was Drel. “There were others?”

 

Cassie nodded. “There were five of us. From Earth. We met up with Trey when we arrived.”

 

Drel’s eyes opened wide. “Prince Trey is alive?”

 

“He was a while ago at least,” Tyler said.

 

Drel moved back to his tent and started giving orders to his tent. “try is still alive. We must find him now. Lay out a search pattern and…”

 

Their voice trailed off as Cassie placed a hand on Tyler’s. Their relationship had always been an on again, off again roller coaster ride, although Tyler tried to refer to it as various things such as water skiing, snowboarding and hockey to be humorous.

 

“Are you okay?” he asked her softly, in one of his rare serious moments.

 

Cassie nodded. “It’s still settling in…what’s going on here. I mean, just yesterday I was worried about finding an internship. How crazy is that?”

 

“I know,” Tyler said. “Who needs and internship when you can work at Luke’s dad’s auto garage your whole life?”

 

Cassie rolled her eyes and smiled, playfully shoving Tyler to the ground.

 

***

Carlos awoke and immediately felt a familiar sensation. He was stuck to a web, not protected by his armor. Trey was stuck on the same web nearby, deep in the sewer systems beneath the city streets.

 

“We have to stop meeting like this,” Carlos said.

 

Trey was not in the mode for humor. “Can you see any of the others?”

 

Carlos looked along the sewer system as much as he could. He barely saw anything. Only a few rays of pale light bled down from the ceiling, piercing the darkness. “No…”

 

One of the spider creature suddenly leapt onto the Web and snapped its mandibles. Carlos and Trey felt the web slowly shake as a dozen more spiders crawled towards them.

 

***

 

Kruger’s vessel and the pirate ship parted ways. It wasn’t long before an enemy ship dropped out of hyperspace and set an intercept course towards Kruger’s ship.

 

The enemy vessel was a war cruiser. The design was ugly, but powerful. The ship belonged to a race called the Arcturus, a race of four-legged creatures with elongated heads whose bodies were covered in sleek black exoskeletons.

 

Kruger’s fur stood on end at the sight of the ship. He knew his own vessel was no match.

 

“Helm, there’s a Miranda-class nebula not far from here,” Kruger said. “Lay in a course.”

 

Kruger’s starship entered the Nebula at full speed, and the Arcturus vessel followed. The Nebula interfered with both ships’ sensors and targeting scanners, including visual scanners.

 

The Arcturus fired random darts of crimson energy into the depths of the Nebula. The blasts passed harmlessly over the bow of Kruger’s vessel.

 

Kruger snarled with delight. He had a distinct advantage in the blinding nebula. His race had a special sixth sense that let them almost feel space around them. Kruger could sense the enemy ship cutting through the clouded nebula.

 

“Prepare to fire all aft cannons on my mark. Manual targeting, 786 mark 2,” Kruger said.

 

Kruger had performed the same trick during his early years as a law enforcement officer ion his homeworld, tasked with hunting down and apprehending smugglers and pirates. He found it ironic he now fought besides some people he used to hunt down through space.

 

“Fire,” Kruger commanded. His vessel shot spears of energy that pierced through the nebula and slammed across the enemy vessel’s forward shields. The enemy craft’s shields buckled and the energy blasts tore through the ship’s hull, superheating its armor.

 

The ship exploded with a sphere of flame.

 

The destruction of the ship did not put Kruger at ease. Enemy forces controlled the space lanes. He would find trouble everywhere he went. By last count, almost half the galaxy was under assault.

 

Kruger’s minds drifted to refugee transports. Planets on the verge of destruction would likely evacuate. Would transports filled with civilians come under direct assault by the enemy? Most likely, Kruger thought.

 

“Helm,” Kruger commanded, “Lay in a course for the nearest jump point and engage, maximum hyper rush.”

 

The hyperspace lanes were filled with filth. Kruger intended to do the cleaning.

 

***  

 

Spider soldiers crawled towards Carlos and Trey as they struggled to break free. Carlos clenched his jaw with pain as he pulled. It felt like his skin would rip off. Dozens of smaller spiders suddenly scattered down the corridor towards the two trapped rangers. This is it, Carlos thought to himself as he closed his eyes tightly.

 

But the smaller spider creatures attacked the soldiers and tore them from the web. Carlos peaked through his eyelids and saw the smaller spiders bite into the larger soldiers. He opened his eyes wide with shock as he saw  Red Racer and Yellow Racer ran down the tunnel alongside the small spiders.

 

“Can you believe this, Carlos, my man!” Turbo Red shouted as he leapt forward and cut Carlos and Trey down from the web.

 

Carlos and Trey landed on their feet and readied their morphers.

 

“Shift into Turbo! Axel, Power!” Energy raced around the teen’s body as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

“Ultra transform!” Trey connected his morphers. Golden energy flashed across his body as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Zeo Gold turned to face the Turbo Rangers. “How has this happened?”

 

“We were in the hatchery when the spiders hatched,” Yellow Racer said. “They imprinted us somehow.”

 

Turbo Green shook his head. “Spiders don’t imprint.”

 

“These are alien spiders,” Red Racer said. “Try to keep up.”

 

***

 

Turbo Red, Turbo Green, Turbo Yellow and Zeo Gold fled the lower levels beneath the streets and moved into the basement of the mage academy.

 

“The elixir is near,” Zeo Gold explained.

 

“Why do you sound like that’s a bad thing?” Red Racer asked.

 

“I forgot to take into account that mages likely layered the academy with traps before abandoning it,” Zeo Gold said.

 

The stone wall beside them started to ripple. A 12-foot-tall creature of bulky rock stepped forth and slammed its fist down towards the Rangers. The Rangers dove to the side as the creature’s fist slammed through the concrete floor.

 

The Rangers rolled into crouched positions behind the creatures as the Turbos pulled out their sidearms and aimed forward. “Auto Blasters!” they fired darts of green energy that exploded through the rock creature, shattering it to rubble.

 

But another one of the creatures emerged from a wall behind the Turbo Rangers. Zeo Gold leapt forward while a flying sidekick that slammed against rock soldier’s chest, knocking the creature backward, web-shaped cracks spreading on impact. The Gold Ranger landed and slammed the blade end of his staff through the creature.

 

The second soldier turned to rubble.

 

Three more of the rock creatures dropped from the ceiling.

 

“This is getting old,” Turbo Red said as he ran his Vi-blade through another stone giant.

 

“We must move upward,” Zeo Gold said as he aimed his staff towards the ceiling. “Victory Flash!”

 

Golden energy blasts exploded through the ceiling, causing a massive cave in. The Turbo Rangers and Zeo Gold leapt through the opening and landed on the floor of the next highest level. The dark corridor was dimly lit with beams of light that bled in from cracks along the walls.

 

“Any more surprises?” Red Racer asked.

 

“There always are,” Turbo Green said.

 

The ceiling down the hall in front of them suddenly caved in. Debris collapsed to the floor with a cloud of dust. The dust cleared. Turbo Blue and Turbo Pink stood among a group of armored Triforian soldiers. 

 

Turbo Blue smiled beneath his helmet. “Looks like we’re one step ahead of you guys,” he said as he tossed a metallic vial towards the others.

 

Zeo Gold caught the vial. He recognized it immediately. “The elixir…”

 

“Kick ass,” Red Racer said. “Let’s go take care of Lloth.”

 

***

 

The Triforian soldiers scattered through various buildings to cover the Rangers’ advance towards Lloth. One group of troops planned to battle soldiers, while another group planned to space explosives along the main buildings that Lloth was webbed too.

 

The Turbo Rangers and Zeo Gold crouched at the edge of a building looking out upon sheets of webbing that stretched across the buildings, and 34 stories off the ground.

 

“That’s going to be a long fall…” Turbo Blue said quietly after they all took the elixir.

 

“We will survive,” Zeo Gold said as he summoned his staff with a bright burst of golden energy.

 

“Let’s get this over with,” Red Racer said as he sprang forward and leapt onto the web.

 

Lloth immediately felt him from the center of the web and turned to hiss at him. The spider queen more than twice his size with an abdomen bristling with needle-sharp spikes. Her feminine torsos was humanoid, and she carried a pair of axe blades in a pair of humanoid hands that extended from the torso. She had bug-like complex eyes that glowed with an inner fire.

 

Lloth spat a wide strand of webbing that Turbo Red slashed through as he jumped forward towards the villain.

 

While Turbo Red was in midair with his Vi-blade held high, Turbo Blue and Pink Racer charged forward with their Auto Blasters. The two Rangers fired lances of jade-colored energy that exploded against Lloth with a shower of sparks.

 

Red Racer chopped his blade towards the spider’s head. She used her right axe to block the blow and her left axe to thrash across the Ranger’s chest, batting the Ranger away and sending him rolling across the web.

 

Lloth opened her maw and fired a volley of needle-like darts that exploded against the three Rangers’ armor with a flurry of sparks, knocking them off their feet.

 

Turbo Red landed next to Turbo Blue and looked to his teammate. “What kind of queen used axes, anyway?”

 

“I was thinking the same thing,” Blue Racer said.

 

Zeo Gold charged towards the creature with Turbo Green and Turbo Yellow at his sides.

 

Lloth extended her left arm and thwipped a web line from the top of her hand. The web wrapped around Zeo Gold’s legs as Lloth snapped her arm towards her body. The web line snapped Zeo Gold his feet and shot him towards Lloth. The spider queen swung her right axe hard, batting the Ranger aside with a shower of sparks upon impact.  

 

The villain opened her mouth and spat streams of acid that exploded against the five Turbo Rangers’ armor, knocking them backward.

 

Green Racer landed on his stomach. He could see through the web to the streets below. Hundreds of the spider creatures were hissing on street level, staring up at their battling queen.

 

Four explosions rocked one side of the web, and one side only. The Rangers waited for the second side to blow, but nothing happened. The blanket web swung downward, arcing closer towards the buildings it stayed connected with. The Rangers grabbed hold of web lines to keep from falling while Lloth leapt through an opening in the building.

 

“Damn!” Red Racer shouted. “After her!”

 

The Rangers swung through the building and landed in a dark hallway cluttered with rubble. There was no sign of Lloth.

 

“Where’s the web bitch?” Red Racer said as he held his sword in a fighting stance.

 

“Stay alert,” Zeo Gold said. “Lloth will not run.”

 

Needle darts shot from the shadows and exploded against the Rangers’ armor. A web line wrapped around Blue Racer’s feet and snapped him off his feet, pulling him towards the shadows.

 

Turbo Blue fired bursts of green energy into the shadows with his Auto Blaster. The blasts exploded against walls and rubble before sparking against the queen’s chest and knocking her from the ceiling.

 

Lloth crashed against the ground. The entire floor collapsed on impact, knocking the six Rangers down to the next level.

 

“Can we go home yet?” Blue Racer said as he and the others flipped back to their feet.

 

“I grow tired of this,” Zeo Gold said as he tightened his grip on his staff. The staff started radiating with golden power. The light scattered across the hallway, illuminated the dark corridor and exposing Lloth. The golden energy blinded her compound eye and caused her to start scurrying backward.

 

Turbo Ranger placed his hand against his helmet communicator. “Turbine laser!”

 

Artilitron was parked at the edge of the city, the Turbo Rangers having used the zord to travel from earth. The Turbine Laser shot from the zord in the blink of an eye and into the Rangers’ hands.

 

“It’s time for a gold rush!” Zeo Gold shouted. He swung his staff down towards the queen while shouting. “Victory Flash!”

 

“Turbine Laser!” The Rangers shouted as the turbine charged. “Fire!”

 

Blasts of gold energy and the turbine blast exploded through Lloth, tearing the creature apart and incinerating her body.

 

With Lloth gone, the collective mind of the spider soldiers collapsed, giving Triforia’s remaining soldiers an advantage against their enemy. 

 

The Turbo Rangers kept alert.

 

“…shouldn’t she be growing by now?” Blue Racer said.

 

Zeo Gold shook his head and lowered his staff. “Few races have the magick or science to expand.”

 

“Right,” Turbo Red said sarcastically. “Try telling that to the people back on Earth.”

 

***

 

Silver led Tommy and the other rangers deeper beneath Eltar’s service. The darkness was so thick that the rangers could not even see the cave walls or the ground beneath their feet.

 

“We are approaching Svilwanzoborezan,” Silver told the rangers.

 

Rocky raised an eyebrow. “Svil-wha?”

 

“Svilwanzoborezan,” Silver said. “One of the underground colonies. Scarcely populated.”

 

“I thought you said it was deserted?” Tommy asked.

 

“Only the city is vacant,” Silver explained. “Smaller colonies are dispersed throughout the tunnels. The colonies are home to a race of gray gnomes. We should be able to move around them, taking the lower tunnels straight into the deserted city.”

 

***

 

The wolf-type Sulankree named Zono crawled across the ceilings of the underground tunnels. He moved silently, not making a single sound as he closed on the rangers’ location. A pack of Drow and Sul accompanied him.

 

The countdown continues…Chapter Twenty-Eight