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Friday, July 10, 2015

2429 - Power Rangers: Zero Hour - FIVE

Disclaimer: The author would like to clarify that Power Rangers and its characters is owned by Saban Brands and not the author.

Note: This chapter has been recently revised from its originally published version.


-o-

Night had fallen upon the ravaged city of Angel Grove.

Although the fighting and struggling had stopped, the peace was anything but inviting. In fact, most of the people were either worried or downright terrified, knowing well that the momentary cease fire was only the calm before the storm. Some had given up hope, some had believed that the Rangers had been soundly defeated, while others believed that they couldn't handle the pressure and fled with their tails tucked between their legs. But even among those who have lost hope, a few still cling to the chance that they will pull out of this slump and come back fighting.

Within the shadows of wreckage, Ashley Hammond overheard the conversation among a group of civilians who were discussing that which had lingered in the minds of everyone in the city. Comments of defeat, hopeless, and cowardice had made her burden heavier than before. Not even the positive attitudes of Bulk and Skull, who had assured the depressed group that the Rangers had never let them down before and that this time would be no different, could change her outlook. Having heard enough and unable to hold back the tears she fought so hard to keep in, Ashley gently walked from the group and made her way through rubble and debris to another part of the ravaged city where the depowered Space Rangers had set up camp. It was well-hidden, assuring no surprise ambushes from Alliance troops positioned at various points in the city.

She saw Carlos, Cassie, and TJ discussing tactics and options over their next course of action. After a careful study of their faces, Ashley could tell that even their confidence in their own abilities are far from high. Nonetheless, they managed to put up a strong face and Ashley, wiping the tears and thin layer of dust off her face, regained her composure and approached the group.

"People are worried," she interrupted the group, who all turned to her. "Worried that we've abandoned them."

TJ stood up to lay a comforting arm on Ashley, at which point Andros emerged from the shadows. All eyes turned to the current Red Ranger. "Any sign of Zhane?"

Andros shook his head. "I've found the wreckage of the Megawinger about a few blocks away, but no sign of Zhane."

"Maybe we can rally some of the locals to form a resistance." Carlos made the suggestion with a bit of uncertainty because he believed it seemed like a logical yet untried strategy. After all, the Rangers have tried hard not to have civilian involvement in their conflicts.

"We can't risk the lives of civilians in a futile struggle," Andros said prompting all eyes on him, "Terrans have never faced alien invaders of this magnitude and would be maimed needlessly unless they're wearing special colored costumes we don't know about. And I seriously doubt that."

"They'll be killed either way if we lose," Carlos said, "So might as well go down fighting."

"We can't risk the lives of civilians," added TJ, "Unless they all have their own morphers, it'll be slaughter. We'll have to find another way."

"There is one way," Andros offered, "If I can get into the Dark Fortress, I still think I can get through to my sister. Maybe I can talk her into stopping all this."

"And you were saying my plan was futile?" Carlos quipped, "Man, she'll kill you first chance she gets."

"She's my sister," Andros retorted, "She won't hurt me."

"They've changed her into something worse. For all we know, she destroyed Dark Specter to take the reigns of the Alliance herself." TJ gave his words some thought, laying a hand on his longtime friend's shoulder. "I hate to have to tell you this, but she's not your sister. Not anymore."

"I'll never accept that," he spat out.

"Look, we're not trying to make an issue out of this," TJ said, "But just think about this. The Alliance is the only sense of family she's ever got in her life. She just found out you're her brother a short time ago. Do you really think she'll betray all she's known just because you say it isn't right?"

"She's my sister," he said again, this time in a much more fragile tone.

"The question is does she believe that?" Cassie said.

"Look, I'm willing to give this a try," Andros stated, undeterred by what the others have said, "If it means losing my life to save hers and bring her back into the light, it's an acceptable risk. I need to do this."

Carlos got up slowly. "Okay, so let's assume you're right and you might have a chance. How do you know where to find her? According to the last news broadcast, there are a dozen spaceships up in space. Not to mention two Dark Fortresses that happen to look the same."

Andros didn't reply. T.J.'s eyes narrowed as he slowly approached Andros, who was expecting a verbal lashing for what he had suggested. Instead, TJ placed a hand of Andros' shoulder and said, "If you're going through with this, at least let us go with..."

"Forget it, Teej," Andros interrupted in a calm voice. "I'll stand a better chance of going alone than if we went together. You need to save your world. Do whatever you can."

TJ didn't say a word. He couldn't think of anything else to add to the matter - there was nothing more to be said except "good luck." So he simply nodded and turned towards the other Rangers in order to work on a plan to turn things around. Andros turned and headed towards a secluded area. After searching the area for any local folk, he pulled out his communicator unit and dialed in his co-ordinates. Just as he was ready to go, he noticed Ashley approaching him and for a while, he just stood there as she got closer, unable to think up anything to say.

"You can't just..." Andros laid a finger on her lips, silencing her.

"I have to." His voice was soft and cool, as though he was trying to convey his deepest feelings for her. "You know that."

"Andros, we're set to go," a voice Ashley was unfamiliar with chimed from his morpher. "Be ready to teleport in one minute."

Andros absently raised his wrist to his mouth so he could reply, his eyes still staring to Ashley's. "Whenever you're ready, William."

He took a step back from Ashley. who just looked at him in surprise. "You mean you had this planned? From the beginning?"

Andros only half-smiled. "Not quite from the beginning. More like several minutes ago." He went closer to her and took her hand, stroking it gently. "If I don't see you again..."

Ashley puts a finger to Andros' lips, just as he had done earlier. "I will see you again. That much, you can be sure of."

"Right," Andros said as he took a couple steps away from Ashley, trying to hold back some of the tears that were stinging his eyes. For some time, the two looked each other in the eyes for what seemed like an eternity, but more like several seconds. Before Ashley could utter another word, she watched as Andros' form vanished in a blaze of red light. She found herself following the red trail with her eyes until it was out of sight. In some strange way, she knew he would be fine. After a few moments, Ashley turned and rejoined the others, who didn't notice Andros leaving.

-o-

"Sir, we must not delay! We must launch the offensive now!"

The Japanese general shook his head, earning a look of shock from the two officers that stood before him. If one would look at the wide room-sized window of the situation room, they would see a tropical island in flames, with various monsters slumbering about on their dying breaths as the wave of meteor rocks fell from the blackened sky. While the rocks were harmless to humans, they were deadly to the inhabiting monsters, and one by one, the monsters of the Japanese military installation known as Monster Island were dying off in a whimper. Just a short while ago, the general was ready to launch an offensive against the invaders, but that was before... this devastation. And when the satellite images revealed the size of the fleet, he felt worse.

"She controls the Earth now," the general said bitterly, "Our monsters are all destroyed by the meteors."

"It's not all lost, General," the officer replied enthusiastically, "We still have the five experimental Arwings fighters designed for space flight."

"Five Arwings against an entire armada in space?" the general cried incredulously in response. "You think this is just some Nintendo game we're playing here? Those aliens will destroy those fighters without a second thought! Humans will be an extinct species on this planet!"

"Act rationally, sir!" the second officer said, "We still have the chance. If necessary, we will activate the fighters and boost them to full power. The aliens know we are weakened and they won't expect an aggressive assault, not at our current state."

"And as a last resort, we have the Jet Icarus attack force," the first officer interjected. "Five tactical assault jets configured to assemble into a battle mecha with enough power to destroy a small island." He gathered his thoughts for a moment. "All we need is your authorization to make the appropriate preparations for combat. We'll handle the rest."

"With all due respect, sir, we still have a chance to win," the second officer added, "Are you willing to take it?"

The general considered his options; either send the attack force or just sit there and wait for the end to come. Neither one was a truly appealing option, as he believed both would lead to imminent defeat and subsequent destruction. In the end, though, the general believed that if this planet would be conquered or destroyed, it wouldn't be without a fight. He saw that now, more than ever. With newfound determination, the general turned to the two officers and uttered only one word; the only word either officer really needed.

"Go."

-o-

Within the caverns and inner corridors of the Temple of Power laid Ninjor's meditation quarters. It is here where the Ninja Master and eons-old arcane specialist had created the original eight power coins and drew up plans for the original Ninjazords and Aquitian Battleborgs. Other than for deep meditation and for thinking through difficult decisions, it is a chamber that Ninjor had rarely ever occupied, if at all. Aside from being a well-hidden chamber perfect for maintaining some semblance of privacy, it was cramped, poorly lit with two simple candles seemingly close to burning out, and the room bore a fairly unforgiving stench that seemed to have been around for a long time.

Therefore, he found it funny that it would be his resting place, as he limped his way to the quarters with Kimberly's help. Although the excessive bleeding from the open wound had stopped more than an hour ago, both of them were completely covered in the crimson liquid from the waist down. When they reach the quarters, Ninjor waved off Kim, who let go and watched as he grabbed onto a wall railing with both hands to make his way towards the plain altar. When he got there, Ninjor dropped to his knees and began to breathe heavily, prompting Kim to rush over to him. Ninjor waved her off again and when Kim took a step back, Ninjor managed whatever strength he could to stand and walk behind the altar to face Kim.

"What we are about to do has never been done in ages," he said, making an effort to speak clearly. "In fact, the trial of the Ranger Sentinel has only been achieved once in many millenia and all subsequent efforts... what few had been done since... ended tragically." He weakly thrust his hand forward and soon a chalice of liquid formed in his hand. "If we are successful in this procedure, you will attain my life essence, along with all the knowledge to use it wisely."

"And if we fail?" Kim asked.

"We both die and both our souls are ripped asunder." His words were straightforward, to the point, and downright depressing despite his weak state.

"That's bad."

"Yes... ugh!" Ninjor winced as he felt pain from the wound. "We haven't much time left. We must start this now."

"So what do we do?" Kim asked, eager to get this done.

"We shall both drink from the chalice and then..." Ninjor paused, as if trying to remember. "And then, we'll... find out."

Kimberly didn't say anything. Instead, she reached for the chalice, took a small sip from it, and passed it on to Ninjor, who took the chalice and placed it back on the altar. Kim wondered about how Ninjor could drink, but then she felt dizzy for a second. When her head cleared, she no longer found herself in the dingy meditation quarters, but in an endless white void that seemed both strange and familiar at the same time. She looked down on herself to find his clothing clean and free of blood, then turned to her right and saw Ninjor in pristine condition. Judging from his stance, he seemed to be in perfect health.

"Where am I?"

"This is white space," Ninjor said, sounding much more energetic than a few seconds before she was brought to this state of being. "This is where you'll be for the moment."

"Doing what?"

"Nothing."

Kim shook her head in disbelief. "This is supposed to be life-threatening? We just stand here and do absolutely nothing! What? Did the other five times be failures because the participants did something and then poof!"

The ninja master gave a hearty laugh in response. "Oh, don't worry about it, kiddo. You'll do just fine."

"Why are you so sure about that?" asked Kim, "And why do you think I'm worth bestowing this? Other than the fact that I'm the only other human on the planet."

"I assure you, Kimberly, that is far from the reason I brought you here to begin with," Ninjor said, "All of you Rangers have admirable qualities that would be advantage to the success of this. But you're the only one to have a specific link to the power."

Kimberly shook her head, unable to grasp what Ninjor was saying, before she looked up in realization. "When I tapped into the true power of my coin."

"Far quicker than any of the other coinbearers have," Ninjor added.

"But Billy was the first to find out about it," she countered. "I didn't even know about until a year or so ago."

"Yes, but Billy never had that missing link." Seeing Kimberly was confused by his answer, Ninjor paused for a moment, considered his words. "It isn't just the harnessing of the coin's true potential. It is your exposure to the Power in its purest sense."

"I don't understand."

It took a brief moment for Ninjor to answer. "Kimberly, do you know about the eighth Power Coin?"

Kimberly's eyes widened, recollecting the . "I knew the girl who had it. She got it from a master warrior from some planet. She showed up in Angel Grove. All hell broke loose, I was knocked out, she helped me out, and then she left." She paused for a moment before glancing at Ninjor. "But that all happened before we met you the first time."

The ninja master nodded. "Indeed."

"Do you know what happened to her?" Kim asked suddenly, "I only saw her a couple times after, but after I left for-"

Ninjor raised a hand. "I'm afraid I know nothing of the girl's fate, but I'm sure she's just fine."

Kimberly frowned.

"When she healed you with the coin," explained Ninjor, "It did more than just break your state of unconsciousness. It left behind a permanent presence upon your own life force. That permanent presence, regardless of whatever power drain, bodily harm, or ailments inflicted, can never be severed outside of your eventual passing. It never would have manifested itself otherwise had you gone on to live a normal, productive life."

"Didn't quite turn out that way," she said, "Especially when I used as bait for a giant lava monster, among other things."

Ninjor shrugged. "That wouldn't have made a difference, because nothing would have come of it if you had left it all behind. Your continued possession of your old coin and its gradual restoration of power had caused that inert essence to mature slowly and eventually embed itself as part of your being. It is because of this essence that you were able to harness your power coin to its fullest potential, potential that goes beyond any mere Ranger. And that, my dear, is why this ordeal will be successful."

Kimberly thought about what Ninjor had said. In some strange way, it almost made some sense to her. The pain she felt earlier could have been her body adjusting to changes that were sudden and drastic. And considering she didn't feel any pain during the recent battle, she knew, from Ninjor's point of view, that whatever changes she had experienced were complete. And while she was relieved to learn that what she had experienced wasn't fatal, it also made her uneasy... what would she be when this is all over? How much would she change when all is said and done.

Kim cringed at the thought.

-o-

Eltare. The homeworld of the sage Zordon. The first casualty of the Alliance War.

Although heavily defended and in control of the United Alliance of Evil, it is not safe from conflict. Above the planet and within the atmosphere, mighty starships lock horns in a struggle for dominance. Neither side had gain a significant advantage, but one wrong move can turn the tide. So far, none were made. But the true battle had yet to begun - as an assault group of Ranger Wraiths and Tenga Knights approached the shining crystal citadel that had served as the main headquarters of the Eltarian government. The strangest aspect of this group was not its complement, but rather on the two beings who lead it - two beings whom, at one point, despised each other like nothing more. But for the time being, both fleshman Lord Zedd and Ranger Thomas Oliver had agreed to put aside their differences to reclaim the planet. Or at least, that is what Zedd told Thomas, who is still weary of Zedd's true motives.

"There it is," the fleshman called in reference to the twin spires. "The Capital Palace, our target, is dead ahead."

Thomas stood ahead of Zedd and took a long look at the palace. "You don't really think that they'll just let us in, do you?"

"Of course not," Zedd replied, "I hope they send their robots after us. Let's go."

After several minutes of walking, the group were standing before the stairs leading up to the main door. Around the same time, from hidden entry points, several groups of color-coordinated Robot Rangers emerged and formed a blockade between the group and the entrance. Shortly, the blockade was joined by Quantrons of black, gold, and silver varieties, as well as the rare but deadly Iron Golem foot soldiers. Finally, yet another group of Robot Rangers appeared and formed the final blockade.

"That's a lot of Turbo Rangers," Thomas said smugly, "Maybe you should have stayed in retirement."

Zedd didn't reply. He looked intently on as the group of multi-colored Ranger bots summoned their respective power weapons, which were replicas of those used by the original Turbo Ranger teams on which these robots were based upon. Quantrons wielded their weapons while Iron Golems pulled out various swords, axes, and stone clubs. At the same time, Ranger Wraiths summoned their own weapons - swords, axes, blasters, and other weapons - while Thomas pulled out Saba before discarding the jacket and Zedd summoned his curved saber out of thin air.

"If you have morphing powers, I suggest you use them," the fleshman advised, "This could be a little rough."

"Nah," Thomas said, ignoring the trail of sweat riding down his face. "Where's the fun in that?"

And before anyone knew it, without warning and with no turning back, both armies clashed with each other and the brutal, bloody battle for control of the planet Eltare began...


End FIVE

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