Ultimate Time Rangers: Chapter Five

Battle Casino

 

The dimly-lit room was clouded with cigarette smoke. A circular mat sat in front of the two-level room like a stage. Tables and chairs were arranged to face the stage. Tables were laid out on the first level on wide, ascending steps like an amphitheater. Each table was covered in red cloth.

 

The top level of the room was a balcony reserved to only privileged guests.

 

Waitresses in skimpy-black swimsuits and bowties carried trays of drinks and poker chips to guests at the tables. The spectators were all dressed formally in suits, ties, and dresses. They gave the waitresses large sums of money for the chips.

 

Two curtains on either side of the stage opened as two men stepped forward, drawing cheers and jeers from the crowd.

 

A topless Japanese man wore black pants and had a small red flag on his waist. An American in a black karate gi approached the other side of the mat. He had a white flag.

 

Guests of the club placed their bets on who they thought the winner of the match would be by sliding a colored card onto the front of their table.

 

A bald referee moved towards the center of the stage and signaled the combatants to begin. The opponents charged at each other and started launching fierce volleys of blows and kicks. The audience reacted to every strike that connected.

 

The red-flagged fighter spun with a series of roundhouse and tornado kicks, forcing his opponent backward.

 

The red-flagged topless man spun a heel kick that smashed across his opponents face. Red pushed forward with a flurry of punches that slammed against White’s chest. The white-flagged man fell onto the mat.

 

Red slammed an axe kick down on his fallen opponent’s ribs.

 

***

 

A woman sat on the couch crying within the rangers’ office. Sion was the only one there. He brought a glass of tea into the main room and set it on the coffee table for her.

 

“Here,” he said, in his typical, meek voice. He sat down on a chair next to her. “It’ll be okay.”

 

“It’s just…” she wiped her tears with a Kleenex. “It’s just I worry about my husband so much. And to have him missing…oh, I told him he shouldn’t have gone to that dreadful casino.”

 

“They’ll find your husband,” Sion said of his friend. “You’ll see him again in no time. I’m certain of it.”

 

***

 

Lucas pulled a van up to the side of the road near the casino. He was in the driver’s seat next to Jenn, while Damien and Wes sat in the back. Damien straightened the tie on his suit.

 

“This is the place,” Lucas said. They watched various people walk in and out of the city casino. The search for the lady’s husband, Richard Pohlar, had led them to the casino.   

 

Jenn narrowed her eyes. “I don’t like the looks of this casino.”

 

Damien slid the van’s side door open. “Don’t worry about it,” he said as he stepped out of the van, a smug grin on his face. “I am all over this.”

 

***

 

Richard Pohlar sat on the upper balcony level next to a tall man concealed in a thick black cloak. What remained of Pohlar’s life savings, inflated by several nights’ worth of his favored contestants winning matches, sat in a suitcase between them. The cloaked man had the same amount of money in the pot. 

 

They were the only spectators on the balcony.

 

The cloaked figure sat completely still. Pohlar, a skinny businessman with wire-frame glasses, was practically jumping out of his chair while cheering his fighter below.

 

Two opponents slammed into each other on the bottom level sparring mat. Their knuckles were thick with blood.

 

Pohlar routed for the red-flagged fighter, who clearly had the upper hand. The topless Japanese man slammed a jumpkick upside his opponent’s already battered face. Red grabbed the man by the back of his head and pulled him down, slamming a knee against his face.

 

The white-flagged fighter collapsed to the ground.

 

Pohlar was at the edge of his seat, his eyes opened wide. He was going to win.

 

The referee stepped onto the mat and looked down at the fallen combatant. The ref raised his hand and was seconds away from declaring the match a victory. But an unseen force struck like lightning and snapped across the fighter’s head before slamming against his gut. The red-flagged man collapsed to the ground and slipped from consciousness.

 

White slowly rose from the floor, his eyes narrowed with confusion. The ref raised the man’s hand and announced him the winner.

 

“No!” Pohlar shouted. “What happened…no, no!”

 

The cloaked man slowly rose and turned towards the balcony exit as two waitresses picked up his winning. His face was completely concealed by his own bulky cloak. “I hope you enjoyed your stay in my casino…” he said in a low, cold voice.

 

“Please,” Pohlar pleaded. “Just give me one more chance.”

 

“There are no second chances,” the cloaked owner said as he moved towards the balcony exit.

 

Pohlar followed, pleading every step of the way.

 

***

 

Damien ignored the next round of fighters as he walked across the bottom level. He did take the time to check out several of the several of the scarcely clad waitresses, some of them even wearing thongs.

 

The 21st century was looking a little better every day, Damien thought to himself as he walked towards a bar in back. Damien sat on the bar and ordered a scotch, but he had no intention of drinking it. Jenn would kill him.

 

“I was wondering if you could help me with something,” Damien asked the bar tender while leaving a generous tip.

 

The tip disappeared under the waiter’s quick hand.

 

Damien placed a picture of Pohlar down. “I’m looking for this man. He owes me some money.”

 

“He just got done on the top a few minutes ago,” the bartender said. “Haven’t seen him since.”

 

Damien knitted his brow with confusion. “The top?”

 

“Heavy winners are taken to the top balcony and face off with one-on-one bets against the owner,” the bartender explained. “Like I said, this guy lost, so the odds of him having your money probably aren’t that great.”

 

Two men in black suits approached Damien from behind. They grabbed him by his upper arms and started pulling him away from the bar.

 

“Hey,” Damien protested, but he let the men carry him off.

 

***

 

Jenn, Wes, and Lucas watched from the van as the casino doors opened. The suited men carried Damien outside. Damien struggled to break free from their grasp.

 

Jenn sighed. It was time for Plan B. “Looks like Damien didn’t make it.”

 

Lucas looked back to Wes. “Wes, you’re up.”

 

Wes put on his sunglasses and straightened his shirt collar. He wore a stylish sports jacket and cleanly pressed slacks. His shirt was partially unbuttoned down to the center of his chest. A lopsided grin spread across his face. “Tell Damien I’m sorry when he gets here.”

 

Damien broke free from the men and slammed an uppercut against one of their guts.

 

Wes stepped out of the van and started walking towards the entrance. “Hey!”

 

Wes grabbed Damien by the shoulder and pulled him around. Wes slammed a backfist against his friend’s face. Damien stumbled back from the blow as Wes pressed forward. Wes slammed a spinning sidekick against Damien’s chest, knocking him off his feet.

 

The van skid up to the curb as the side door opened. Damien scrambled to his feet and hopped in the van as its screeched off down the road.

 

The guards turned and started back towards the entrance.

 

“Wait!” Wes said as he ran over to them. “I want in. I want a fight.”  

 

***

 

Damien handled his injured jaw. Lucas looked back to him. “Wes says he’s sorry.”

 

“The hell he is,” Damien said as he pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the blood from the corner of his mouth. He started to rub his knuckles. “Those guys back there I was fighting? The guards? I don’t think they were human.”

 

Jenn arced an eyebrow. “Do you think it was the Londaraz Family?”

 

Damien shook his head. “I don’t know. But something wasn’t right about them.”

 

***

 

The guards shoved Wes through a curtain entrance. He was pushed into a small, concrete room filled with various fighters: a straw-hat Chinese monk who carried a bamboo staff, a topless African American with straps wrapped around his fists, a bald man with jagged teeth, a seven-foot powerhouse with a red bandana, and a punk with purple hair were among the fighters that stood out the most.

 

They stared at Wes with quizzical looks on their faces.

 

“I’m Max Powers,” Wes said, introducing himself.

 

The other fighters were not impressed. Except for one.

 

The seven-foot man stepped closer to Wes and looked him up and down. A slight grin spread across his face. He winked at Wes and slapped him on the side of the arm while walking away.

 

Wes swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.

 

***

 

The cloaked man, a few suited guards, and skimpy waitresses walked into a small side room, which had a single table and some chairs. Pohlar stumbled off his feet and fell to his knees, still pleading.

 

He looked up, and opened his eyes wide with fear. He scrambled backward while staring at the casino owner. The cloak was dropped, and Pohlar faced a tall, muscular monster.

 

The creature’s rusty brown skin was like a thick suit of hide. His arms had crab pincers instead of hands. Its head was small and purple, with two tentacles draped downward over the chest. His eyes were yellow and beady.

 

“So…” the criminal said. “What is it you think you can do for me? Hm?”

 

***

 

Sion draped a blanket over the wife, who had fallen asleep on the office couched.

 

The door opened as the other rangers walked in.

 

“Guys…” Sion said as he walked over to him. “Is it really the Londaraz?”

 

Jenn looked down at the woman and arced an eyebrow. “Is she really asleep.”

 

Sion grinned sheepishly. “I made sure she would be when I gave her some tea…so we could work.”

 

“Yes,” Jenn said as she walked towards the office computer and Takku. “At least we think so. Takku, access prisoner files. Have any of them been convicted of organizing illegal Battle Casinos, or rigging professional fights?”

 

“One,” Takku said as he uploaded the information onto the computer. “Prisoner number AG-11M. Bura’kavice. Convicted on counts of fraud, kidnapping, illegal gambling and battery. Sentenced for 20 years.”

 

“It’s going to be a lot longer now,” Jenn said. “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

The rangers filled Wes in. Wes stood underneath a stairwell in the rear of the building, close to where all the fighters were kept. He was wearing a black gi and read headband

 

“But how can we be sure this is Dorunero’s gang?” he asked into the brace.

 

“We’re sure,” Jenn said. Wes scoffed, but Jenn ignored him. “See if you can find him.”

 

“I will,” Wes said as he lowered his brace.

 

“Red!” the ref called to him from the curtain.

 

Wes took a deep breath and walked out to the mat. Even on the lower level, the stank of cigarette smoke nearly choked him. He scanned the audience, looking for any sign of a Londaraz criminal.

 

The ref signaled the next fighter to step onto the mat. Wes opened his eyes wide with shock for two reasons.

 

First, Wes’s “opponent” was a skinny businessman with visible fear. The man was practically shaking, and his hands were held in a weak defense that lacked form. The man obviously had no training.

 

Second, the man was Richard Pohlar.

 

The ref signaled the fight to begin. Pohlar screamed and charged forward while frantically swinging his fists. Wes dodged each blow with ease while stepping backward. The ranger grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted his arm while leaning in close to his ear. “Mr. Pohlar right?”

 

Pohlar paused his struggle, startled to hear his name. Wes kicked the man’s legs out and slammed him on the ground while leaning down to him. “Your wife hired me to find you…You have to get out of her.”

 

Pohlar panicked and pushed Wes off. They rose back to their feet, and Pohlar charged forward, swinging his punches like a mad man. Wes ducked and dodged each blow, resisting his impulse to hit back.

 

An unseen force whipped forward and hit Pohlar hard in the gut. The man keeled over in pain and collapsed. Wes knitted his brow with confusion. 

 

***

 

Wes moved to one of the wings leading away from the stage. Pohlar was on the ground, pleading with the tall villain concealed in a cloak.  “Please…give me one more chance…”

 

“Possibly,” the cloaked man said. “It depends on how much more amusement I can get from you. Remember…your life belongs to me now.”

 

Wes knitted his brow with confusion. What the hell were they talking about?

 

“Please,” Pohlar pleaded again. “I promise, I-”

 

“Your promises are worthless,” the cloaked criminal said. “You promised to make me money…and yet…nothing.”

 

Two of the casino owners’ men lifted Pohlar by the arm and slammed him hard against the wall. They smashed their fists against his gut and dropped him to the ground. The guards and owners walked away and left Pohlar in the wing.

 

Wes walked over to the man and helped him up. The man was badly injured, and had trouble keeping his balance. He shook his head. 

 

“It’s the Londaraz, isn’t it?” Wes asked quietly.

 

Pohlar looked at Wes quizzically and tried to back away. His balance was off because of the head injury he suffered from the blow on the mat.

 

“Relax,” Wes said. “I’m here to help. Just tell me what happened…”

 

Pohlar swallowed and shook his head. “Nothing happened, that’s the whole point. I’m a nobody. My wife…I can barely afford to keep a roof over our heads. She deserves better. I started playing here. I started winning…”

 

A slight grin curled up the man’s lips. “Started to win a lot. Then he called me up to his level. I lost everything. I couldn’t go home…once he saw how desperate I was…”

 

Pohlar shook his head. His body slumped down as he slipped from consciousness.

 

Wes knitted his brow. He checked the man’s pulse and breathing to make sure he was alive and still breathing. He sighed. “Well that was…less than clear.”

 

Wes saw the red bandana in the man’s hand. The teen took the bandana into his own hand and tightened his fist. Whether his story was clear or not, the man needed help. And the best way to help was to take the casino down.

 

***

 

An hour passed. Jenn walked towards the casino’s entrance. She wore a classy, tight-fitting dress and carried a purse slung over her shoulder. She wore the most expensive diamond earrings she could replicate.

 

The suited man at the entry way let her inside, and an usher led her towards the nearest table. The guards at the entry way did not notice three young men sneak towards the back of the building with rope.

 

***

 

A bartender finished pouring a drink. He went into the cellar behind the bar area to get more beer bottles when he tripped over Lucas feet. Lucas slammed his fist against the fallen man to knock him out.

 

Light shimmered around the man as his holographic disguise dropped. It wasn’t a man at all. It was one of Dorunero’s droids.

 

The guys took their position at the bar. They each wore a black tuxedo.

 

Sion started subtly pouring a sleeping drug into as many drinks as he could. If a fight broke out, the rangers didn’t want any witnesses. They wanted to keep their identities secret.

 

While the guys set up, Jenn took a seat close to the sparring mat. A waitress gave her a complimentary stack of three chips. She ordered about $250 worth more.    

 

A Chinese man in a gold kimono stepped onto the sparring mat. Wes stepped onto the stage next. He exchanged a silent nod with Jenn.

 

The bald-head ref singled the two fighters to step forward and face each other. They snapped into fighting stances as the match began.

 

Wes’s opponent wasted no time. The man lunged forward with a punch. 

 

Wes sidestepped and knocked the man’s arm away while snapping a roundkick. Wes’s kick slammed hard against the man’s chest. Wes jumped and slammed a hook kick across the man’s head, whipping his body around.

 

The man stumbled backward, but managed to stay on his feet.

 

Wes jumped forward with an inner crescent kick that slammed across the man’s head, knocking him to the ground.

 

Jenn watched, her face emotionless because she did not want to stand out in the crowd. But she could not help but be impressed.

 

The battle tournament continued. Wes dispatched of his fist two opponents with ease, meaning Jenn had racked up quite a stack of winnings.

 

Most people in the casino bet on Wes’ opponent when they saw the man. It was the seven-foot-tall giant that had a red bandana wrapped around his head. Jenn bet all her winnings on Wes.

 

Wes gulped back his anxiety when he looked up at his opponent. The giant pounced forward.

 

Wes knocked his opponent’s arms aside and slammed a volley of punches against the giant’s chest, leaning into each powerful blow. The giant merely smiled down at Wes.

 

“Oh come on…” Wes said. “Fall down.” He spun forward with a reverse sidekick that barely phased the man.

 

“Fall,” Wes said as he leaned in and slammed an elbow against the man’s chest.

 

The giant grabbed Wes by the arms and lifted him off his feet. Wes swung his legs up, kicking the man upside the head, and chopped his legs back down against the sides of the neck.

 

The giant winced and dropped Wes.

 

“Fall,” Wes said, kicking the legs out from the man. “Fall,” he said again, smashing the back of his fist across the man’s face. “Fall!”

 

Wes smacked a punch against the man’s face. The opponent crashed backward.

 

“Thanks,” Wes said quietly.

 

A guard with shades walked to Jenn’s table and leaned down to her. She suppressed a grin when she was invited to the top balcony to bet against the casino owner.

 

She walked up to the balcony and took a seat next to the cloaked owner. Money and chips were placed on a table between them.

 

The cloaked criminal nodded to Jenn. “You may make first bet.”

 

Jenn nodded graciously and bet on Wes.

 

***

 

Wes’ opponent was armed with a bo staff.

 

Wes and his opponent circled around each other while switching chances. Wes’ opponent was searching for weaknesses in defense and movement. Wes was just switching stances for show. He fought on instinct.

 

The man spun forward while swinging his staff towards the ranger. Wes hopped over the staff and snapped a roundkick as soon as he landed. The man blocked the kick with his staff, and swung the other end of his staff towards Wes’s head.

 

Wes outer blocked the blow and moved in low. He sprang to his feet and snapped a jump sidekick towards his opponent’s face.

 

The kick was an inch away from the man’s face when an unseen force wrapped around Wes’s ankle and flipped him backward in the blink of an eye.

 

Wes slowly rose to his feet, his eyes and the eyes of his opponent were opened wide with shock. Wes’s opponent shook his head, dismissing the strange event, and charged forward while swinging his staff.

 

Wes was taken off guard, and the staff slammed against his body, cracking against his ribs, and smashing across his face.

 

Above, the cloaked man nodded approvingly. “It looks like your favored opponent is losing his edge.”

 

“We will see,” Jenn said.

 

Back on the mat, Wes caught the man’s staff with his left hand. He was over getting beaten. The ranger slammed his elbow through the staff, snapping it in two. He sidestepped and slammed a sidekick against his opponent’s chest.

 

Wes followed with a hook kick, but a v=blur of motion knocked his foot away and slammed the ranger to the ground, knocking the wind out from him.

 

On the balcony, the cloaked criminal rose to his feet. “Well…it was an interesting match.”

 

“It’s not over,” Jenn said, her eyes still fixed on the battle below.

 

The ref was standing over Wes while counting to ten. Wes slowly rose to his feet while tightening his fists. Then everything clicked. The ref. It was the only way.

 

Wes grabbed the ref and flipped him off his feet. The ref crashed against the ground and tumbled backward as his holographic cloak dropped. It was the headless body of the criminal.

 

Wes’s opponent screamed and ran in shock.

 

Above, Jenn ripped the cloak off from the owner. It was the villain’s hovering head. “It’s over, Bura.”

 

“Guards!” the villain shouted.

 

Two junk droids slammed to the ground behind the criminal as Damien stepped forward.

 

The head hovered over the balcony and combined with its body below. The five rangers regrouped.

 

The criminal looked frantically in every direction. All his guards were down, and every customer and waitress in the casino was asleep thanks to Sion slipping sleeping powder into every drink.

 

The villain realized who he was facing. “Time Ranger…” the villain cursed. He ran for his life.

 

The rangers chased after him.

 

They ran along a row of columns that held up a pedestrian bridge above. The villain skid to a halt and turned to face the rangers.

 

They activated their braces.

 

“Chrono Trigger!” They slapped their braces’ activation panels. Streams of data swirled around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms, their backs towards the villain when they landed.

 

The five Rangers snapped around to face the villain while shouting their names.

 

“Time Red!”

 

“Blue!”

 

“Green”

 

“Yellow!”

 

“Pink!”

 

They thrust their badges forward. “Time Ranger!”

 

“Bura!” Time Red shouted, his badge still extended as he and the others took a few steps forward. “You’re under arrest for breaking the Temporal Accords.”

 

Lightning-quick tentacles thrashed out and exploded against the Rangers’ armor, knocking them backward onto the ground. Time Red rolled to the side and rose in a crouched position.

 

“Vector Search,” Time Red commanded. His visor locked onto the two tentacles whipping out from the monster’s body. “Vector saber!”

 

He downloaded his double-bladed Vector Saber and aimed it at the villain while pulling the trigger. A blade of crimson power blasted the tentacle off of the villain with bursts of spark.

 

The criminal took a step back in shock.

 

Time Red energized his blade and swung the weapon down towards the villain’s head. The criminal separated his head before the blade could connect. The head thrashed small tentacles across the Red Ranger’s armor, knocking him onto the ground.

 

Time Red tumbled backward before rising to his feet and regrouping with the others. The head dashed past them while thrashing across their armor with bursts of spark. The head curved around and shot back towards the Rangers for another pass.

 

“Vol Sniper!” Time Pink shouted as she blasted the head from the air.

 

“Chrono Launcher,” Time Red commanded.

 

The five Rangers combined their weapons into a bazooka. Time Green, Time Blue, Time Yellow, and Time Pin stood at the weapon’s sides, while Time Red grasped the weapon from behind.

 

“Target…locked on,” Time Red said as his visor zeroed in on the villain. “Chrono Launcher, fire!”

 

The bazooka shot an energy pulse that streaked towards the criminal. The blast exploded against the head, causing a chain reaction that shrunk the head. The shockwave blasted the criminal’s body backward, tearing off his patch.

 

The criminal’s body grew giant.

 

Time Pink leaned down and held her badge over the shrunk head. The badge flashed with golden energy and imprisoned him in a cylinder.

 

Time Red activated his communicator. “Takku!”

 

“Yokai,” Takku answered. The droid activated his temporal transceiver. “3-D system, stand by for launch!”

 

***

 

Angel Grove, 3006AD

 

A platform of five Time Jets surfaced at the end of the runway. The platform rotated and lined the red-trimmed jet into position with the Time Gate.

 

The Providus zord swung its massive fist towards the Time Jet. The fist smashed against the Time Jet and throttled the vessel forward. The Time Jet accelerated closer to the Time Gate, and disappeared through the gate, leaving a trail of energy vapor in its wake.

 

One-by-one, Providus slammed the Time Jets through the Gate. The five zords flew in tight formation and throttled backward through the time stream.

 

***

 

Angel Grove, 2006AD

 

A wormhole opened in the sky and the five zords streaked through, swooping down into the atmosphere.

 

“Time Flier,” Time Red commanded as the Time Flier hovered past their location.

 

The Time Rangers leapt onto the Flier. The Flier carried them over their five Time Jets, traveling at frightful speeds. Thankful he was not afraid of heights or prone to airsickness, Time Red and the others jumped off the Time Flier and fell into their cockpits.

 

“3-D Formation…” Time Red commanded as he grasped control levers to his side. “Time Robo, Beta!”

 

The Time Jets stayed in tight formation and flew across the streets as they streets, Each zord started to reassemble and combine into a giant, blue-armored zord. The 3-D formation completed as the Rangers activated their zord: the Time-Force Megazord, Mode Blue.

 

The Rangers stood in the zord’s central cockpit. Five tall rods extended from the floor to the Rangers’ waist levels. The Time Rangers reached forward and grabbed the Lancers.

 

“Flier Magnum,” Time Red commanded. The Time Flier transformed into a blaster that the Megazord gripped in its hand.

 

“Flier Magnum!” Time Red shouted. “Final Strike!”

 

The magnum energized and shot a lance of blue energy that pierced through the creature, causing a massive explosion that sent a chain reaction along the DNA strands of the villain’s body. The criminal shrunk and entered a state of suspended animation.

 

***

 

Dawn came. Customers in the casino slowly awoke as their vision blurred back into focus. They were confused, to say the least.

 

Pohlar climbed to his feet, his legs wobbling. He looked up to see his wife walking towards him. She wrapped his arms around him in a hug.

 

“I’m sorry…” he said. “Everything I…” He glanced down to see a suitcase of money at his feet.

 

***

 

Wes walked out of the casino and put on his shades. He smiled with pride and stretched while walking off.

 

To be continued…Chapter Six