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Friday, July 10, 2015

2430 - Power Rangers: Zero Hour - FOUR

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-

On Eltare, in front of the planet's governing headquarters, a great battle was being fought. A battle for control of the planet and one of the key powers in the galaxy. No words were spoken, nor was there banter exchanged. Within the clouds of that world, mighty spaceships clashed. With missiles launched, flak guns fired, and armor plating ripping apart, the battle was every bit as intense as the one on the surface. For the moment, the importance of victory is not in the skies, but within the blood-stained streets of the Eltarian capital. Robot Rangers, reprogrammed by evil Alliance forces, fought feverish but fell before the Ranger Wraiths, created by dark magic and lead by two longtime rivals who, for their own immediate survival, had put aside their differences to work together and reclaim the planet. Only the strained grunts and violent blows of soldiers fighting for their beliefs and leaders did the speaking. The battle continued onward without delay and without an end in sight until one side is completely destroyed.

At this point, the end isn't near. Not even close.

-o-

The Fourth Chamber seemed bustling with activity, although that isn't really saying much considering this compound was well-hidden and unused in the ages it had existed. While Billy, Justin, and Adam were working with various computer consoles and equipment to go through the motions of initiating something called Project Prodigy, Jason sat in a corner, watching the three work their respective magic. Close by, Rocky walked back and forth to check on the three, but in reality, he was just bored, waiting for something - anything - to happen so they could return to the fighting.

"How's it going back there, Rocky?" he asked his replacement.

The former Blue Zeo Ranger shrugged and sat next to the former, original Red Ranger. "From the looks of things, Billy sure knows what he's doing. Which is a good thing, in some cases."

Jason nodded, understanding what Rocky meant. "I never could understand any of that technology. Otherwise I'd have an easy answer for how I managed to summon this Power Sword without a morpher."

"Maybe it's recharged its batteries," Rocky said, "I remember Billy saying something like that."

Jason looked to Rocky. "You mean I could... morph if I wanted to?"

Rocky shook his head. "I don't know. Just as I still don't know how Prodigy is supposed to help end this war."

"I tend to trust Billy's judgment on these things, Rocky," said the original Red Ranger as he glanced over to the workstation where Billy, Adam, and Justin were working. "Even if I haven't a clue as to what he says. There are times when I wish Trini was still here instead of Geneva undergoing the diplomatic trials." The thought of the original Yellow Ranger brought a smile to Jason's face. "Wonder how she's doing now, considering the hell that's going on out there? By the way, did you know she was on her way to becoming a full-fledged ambassador?"

Rocky raised an eyebrow. "Really? I'm surprised she wasn't already there considering her track record."

"Trini isn't one to rush things unless she knew what she was doing and even in those cases, she preferred to take things a little slow if it meant learning all the intricate details." Jason couldn't help but let out a strained laugh. "Some people, I suppose, aren't like that."

Rocky turned back to watch the Ranger-gathered workstation before facing Jason with a grin. "Look at it this way, Jason. We now have three geniuses working on this Prodigy. Any missed detail would be caught just like that and if Billy's right, we'll use this thing to end the war once and for all."

Jason nodded. "Yeah, bro. I hope you're right." He turned back to the gathering of Rangers. "Think we should join them?"

Rocky thought for a moment and grinned. "Eh, might as well. I'm starting to get bored listening to an old-timer like you."

And so the two Red Rangers got up from their corner of the room and approached the circle of consoles, but not close enough to distract the others from continuing their work. After a while, Billy looked up, smiled, and turned to face the two Rangers outside the circle of consoles.

"Looks like we're ready to commence Stage 2," Billy said approvingly, "All I really need to do is pull the switch."

Rocky waved his hands. "Alright, so let's do it."

"Um, there is a problem," Justin said, "We don't have the password."

Rocky sighed. "Man, this stuff just keeps getting better! And the reason we need a password is because...?"

"Security," Adam answered.

"Since when did Zordon need security?" Rocky asked impatiently.

"Since both the Command Center and the Power Chamber were destroyed by ouitside forces, the computer system of this chamber activated a complete lockdown of all systems, including Prodigy."

Billy tried several different combination of passwords he could think of and inserted all of them one by one. One by one, each password entered was rejected. After the fiftieth attempt was rejected, Billy slammed his fists onto the console in frustration and walked away. Adam quickly glanced at the keypad Billy had used, and after some thought, immediately approached it and studied it.

"What's up, Adam?" asked Justin.

Adam smiled as he fiddled with the rainbow keypad. "If I'm right, then the password is color-based. So..." Then he pushed a sequence of seven colors before pressing the switch. "White, Green, Black, Pink, Blue, Yellow, and Red. The original morphing order of colors."

A few seconds later, a confirmatory tone sounded and the group of former Rangers cheered. Billy walked towards the console and studied the display, which began showing a database of files, information, and other figures. At this point, the doors opened and the small group of former Power Rangers turned to the only entrance of the chamber as a figure emerged.

"Andros," Billy greeted, "Right on time."

"Sorry I'm late," Andros said as the doors closed behind him, "but that corridor is hard to navigate."

Billy nodded. "Understood, now if you can input some of the shuttle command codes, we can begin our plan."

Andros went over to the console and inputted the shuttle codes into the computer database. A short while later, the computer finished processing the information and Billy accessed the memory core of the chamber, downloading all the necessary data into the shuttle's databank.

"I've downloaded everything we might need into the shuttle," Billy told them, "Now all we need is a plan."

"I have something like a plan," Andros said, "But you'll probably won't like what I have to say."

Jason placed a shoulder on the Kerovan's shoulder. "So what else is new? But let's get all we need onto the shuttle first and then we'll discuss your plan."

-o-

After a routine patrol of rounding up stray prisoners around the planet, Goldar had decided to call it a day. Night had already fallen upon Vika Prime and even though there were enemies to fight, the Titan still needed to eat. After checking up with some Putties, Tengas, and other foot soldiers, he made his way to the small building where Zedd and Rita had taken and made their base of operations. Upon entering the building, Goldar continued his way forward and entered through the door another larger chamber, with barrels of raw meat, fruits, and other foods. Coincidentally, he saw Zedd, who was casually conversing with one of the Rock Putties.

This struck Goldar as odd, since Zedd was never one for idle conversations unless it was over discussing battle plans for the next conquest. But from what he had overheard, it was more about weapons enhancements and vehicle training; something that had never interested Zedd unless it concerned powering his personal warzord, which laid hidden in a secret docking bay on Earth's moon. Zedd, having noticed the Titan, dismissed the Rock Putty, who left through the door.

"Goldar, there you are," the fleshman said as he approached Goldar. "I've been meaning to speak with you."

"Have you now?" the Titan growled, "Perhaps you would like to explain where the master is."

Zedd halted in his tracks. "What are you babbling about?"

The Titan leaned closer to the fleshman. "I know that you are not Lord Zedd, but a pretender to his throne. And I must admit that your ruse has been convincing enough to have myself fooled. But you should have treated your troops with a lot more disregard than you have. Now I want to know the truth."

"Zedd" confirmed the Titan's suspicious with a nod and the use of his real voice. "I suppose I could let you in on a little secret. My name is Flinn and I am under orders from Lord Zedd to oversee his forces here under his name while he is on a mission to claim Eltare."

Goldar recalled Zedd leaving, recalled his sudden return, and change in attitude. He recalled the sudden change of abandoning a long-planned strike against Eltare to follow Dark Specter's orders. He recalled not being able to make any sense of it... until now.

"It all makes some sense now," the Titan said, "But why the pretense?"

"He has his reasons," Flinn said, "Reasons you might know, but others don't. But we must ensure that Rita does not find out about my ruse."

"It's already too late for that, you worthless fraud!" The familiar shrieking voice of Rita Repulsa echoed in the chamber, prompting both Flinn and Goldar to turn their attention to the witch. Rita smiled wickedly as she stared attentively at the impersonator, who took a step back. In one quick motion, Rita pointed her Repulsa Staff at the fleshman and from the tip of the weapon shot out a flurry of purple lightning bolts, each of which struck Flinn at various points of the body. Goldar stood back and watched Flinn scream in agony as the various bolts of lightning caused his body to erupt in flames before he eventually exploded into ash, with several fireballs flying from their point of origin.

Goldar looked at the flaming remains of Flinn and then stared intently at Rita, who began to point her still-glowing staff at him. One quick glance at Rita's eyes filled the Titan with a fear that he had not felt since serving Lord Zedd as a novice soldier. He saw something in Rita that he had never seen her possess or at least demonstrate to such extremes. It was a pure, uncontrollable rage that seemingly could not be sated. Knowing this, Goldar awaited the fate he thought would be coming. To his surprise, however, Rita tossed the staff aside and slivered closer to the Titan, who hid his fear well with his intimidating exterior. When she was practically close to him, she laid a single finger on his forehead and smiled. She moved closer, as if to whisper into the warrior's ear.

"Let that be a warning to you, Goldar, and a sample of your fate should you decide to betray me again."

And with that, she turned towards the door, picking up the staff on the way out, and soon Goldar was alone in the chamber with the remains of one of Zedd's agents. And for the first time in his life, Goldar lost his nerve, falling down to his knees and letting out the tears. Whether it was out of sadness, intimidation, or humiliation, Goldar could not know for certain. What he does know is that he needed to think of what to do next. And given the circumstances, his choices were limited.

Suddenly, he wasn't very hungry any more.

-o-

"My liege, we have arrived above the Gorah Khan capital," one of the Cogs reported as King Mondo was prepping himself for combat, "We are within proximity of launching an air raid, which will decimate most of the bionoid forces."

Mondo looked intently outside the window as the city of the Machine homeworld came into view, the charred smoke and fires the product of bitter conflict between two warring factions for control of the Empire. Mondo didn't care about the loss of troops; they could always be rebuilt. What was important now reclaiming the throne and putting an end to his hated rival. His thoughts reflected back to the past two years, ever since he was stripped of his title and declared a fugitive by Aradon. He thought of all the secret dealings with the Alliance and other less-than-hospitable beings. All of it was touched upon and...

"We have momentary teleportation power, sir," a Cog soldier called, breaking Mondo's thoughts. "We can teleport you into the superstructure whenever you're ready.

Mondo quickly began his march towards the teleportation chamber. "I'm ready now! Let's go!"

After some time, amidst the hard rocking of the flagship due to weapons fire, Mondo and his personnel had reached an area which had been dubbed the teleportation chamber. The chamber itself was a small room which consisted of a makeshift teleportation pad, an aged console used to operate the pad, and loose cable wires laying about the floor hooking both of these contraptions to a power generator on the wall. Pushing aside some of the Cog guards, Mondo made his way to the pad and stepped on it. He saw a Cog officer operating the teleportation console fiddle with a few controls before giving his king the thumbs up. Without hesitation, Mondo was about to say the word when...

"My liege!"

Mondo turned and saw one of his generals, Venjix, entering the chamber. "What is it, General?"

"I have received word from Squadron XB56, sire." Venjix was having a hard time finding the words, so he decided to be straight with it. "I regret to inform you that the ship carrying the Queen Machina and your royal court has been destroyed. The squadron responsible for the attack is in pursuit, but they are getting more"

Mondo turned away for a moment. Although he couldn't cry, he had the urge to break in a tantrum. He couldn't do that here; there was a war to fight. It was hard to cast aside the grief he was feeling for learning of his true family's demise, but he knew such feelings would only hinder his ability to fight this war. He would not give Aradon that satisfaction.

It wasn't long before he turned back to Venjix. "Thank you for the news, General," he said, "But now is not the time for mourning. Now is the time to reclaim what was wrongfully taken from me!"

Turning to the Cog behind the teleportation console, he gave a nod. The Cog respond with a few command inputs and in a short time, Mondo vanished in a streak of orange light. A second later, the console exploded and the chamber lights were cut off, leaving all within the room in darkness.

-o-

A quick glance from TJ Johnson's still-functioning morpher indicated that it was now 1:13 AM. They had been planning for a counterstrike against Astronema since nine o'clock. Unfortunately, all their planning had produced no definite results and in the end, there wasn't any planned result. So TJ suggested being completely random for the next day and get some shut eye, to which the other three Space Rangers agreed. TJ took a quick glance at each one of them, who were sleeping as comfortably as possible on the ground. Then he glanced towards the night sky, where Andros might be on the Fortress trying to bring Karone back to the light. He knew otherwise, but in his heart, he hoped that he was wrong.

Just as TJ was about to pass out from fatigue, he heard rumbling from the distance... no, it sounded more like the sliding of a manhole cover. Suddenly, he had gotten up to his feet quickly and made his way towards the source of the sound, careful not to make any loud noises to wake the others. When he saw an open lid, he saw someone else emerge from the cover and run to him, recognizing the dirt-covered blond man.

"Zhane! Are you okay?"

"I'll live," Zhane said, dusting off some of the dirt from his ragged clothes, "But I'm going to have to talk to the mayor about its sewer system. I've never seen such a mangled underground network. Damaged or otherwise."

After a while, he turned to TJ. "So what did I miss?"

-o-

In the hour since the refitted shuttle launched from the former holding bay of the Zeozords, Andros had explained everything he felt was important to the other veteran Power Rangers, whom had listened intently without question. Andros went over the backstory of Astronema, how he had discovered her to be his sister, how he had "saved" her from the clutches of Dark Specter, and how she had been forcibly turned evil again after a failed mission. He recounted the Psycho Ranger incidents, the Secret City projects, and the recent attacks prior to the full-scale invasion that had resulted in the destruction of the Delta Megaship and the Mega-V squadron of attack zords. Finally, he had told them of his plan to board the Dark Fortress and try to break control over Karone with the hope of ceasing this invasion from going further.

When Andros was finished, he immediately assumed the worse when his plan was met with silence. One look at each of the Rangers faces showed that they did find the plan, with its small chance of success, to be downright insane.

"It's a long shot," Jason Scott said, sounding relaxed. "At best, she'll kill you. At worst, she'll eat your heart out. But it seems reasonable in its own insane way."

"Jason's right," Billy concurred, "If you get Astronema... or Karone, whatever... to stop this, it could be beneficial to us. And we'll need all the options we can get."

Adam stiffened as he considered his words. "The way I see it, the situation's pretty bad that you could go either way. You've got nothing to lose, really."

"Nothing to lose?" Justin quipped, "Come on, Adam. This is his sister. I'm pretty sure we'd be doing the same for one of our own."

Everyone nodded in agreement with the Blue Turbo Ranger's query. With only one Ranger remaining, all eyes were Rocky DeSantos, who merely gave a shrug as he said, "Eh, anything's worth a try."

Andros seemed genuinely surprised by the responses his plan had gotten. "I don't believe it," he said, too embarrassed to look up. "I would have expected you guys to tell me that I was being foolish into thinking that Karone could be saved."

Jason shot a wry smile, placing a hand on the Red Space Ranger's shoulder. "I'll have to remember to introduce you to this guy I know when the war's over." He stepped back and turned to Billy, who was fiddling with the shuttle controls. "How are those upgrades running, Bill?"

"Perfectly," the original Blue Ranger said, "The stealth drive to the shuttle is working perfectly and we're headed for the orbiting Dark Fortress as we speak. Hopefully, we won't have to use the other upgrade."

Jason gave a confirming nod and turned to Justin, who was dividing various weapons and pieces of equipment from a metal crate. "Do we have everything we need in that crate?"

"Pretty much," Justin said, "We have a couple laser rifles, a couple Power Blasters, and a few detonators to blow that stupid Frisbee fortress thingy and its buddies out of space."

Jason nodded approvingly. Then, in a sheepish tone, he added, "Have any spare morphers in there?"

"As a matter of fact, I do have something," Billy said. With a flick of a switch on the shuttle console, a pair of familiar old-style power morphers materialized on the replication platform. "Replica power morphers, designed to emulate our original morphers as well as a few additional functions. I managed these while working on Prodigy." He picked up the first one in the corner and passed it to Jason, while slipping the second one in his pocket. "It's not pure old-school, but it does a pretty good job of getting there."

"This is great, man. Thanks." Jason said and looked to Rocky, who gave a thumbs up as he was inspecting his Blue Zeoniser to see if it was in pristine condition. Adam and Justin did the same with their Zeo and Turbo morphers respectively. Andros checked on his own morpher before facing the group.

"So it's settled, then," Andros jumped in, "I board the Dark Fortress with Karone on it and try to talk her out of this mess while you board the other one, plant the explosive charges, and get out. I just hope you guys can handle things out here."

"We've handled ourselves fine no thanks to you," Rocky called out from the cockpit in mock anger. "And if we somehow get killed, it'll be on empty stomachs."

Adam shook his head in disbelief, a smile slowly forming on his face. "Leave it to Rocko to think of food at a time like this. I'm sure whoever owns the Youth Center this year will fix you up that Devastator value meal for you, Rocky."

Everyone laughed for a while, briefly elevating the heavy burden of what was about to come. Andros felt a little more relieved in what he had to accomplish, now that he had the blessing of a few older - more experienced - Rangers, even if they did come from Earth. After a while, the laughter stopped and seriousness filled the air.

Jason nodded and slowly marched towards Andros, extending his hand to him. "Good luck, Red Ranger."

Andros nodded and accepted Jason's hand. "To all of us."

-o-

On Earth's moon, a lifeless android lays on the surface. The bio-noid, a android composed of organic, mechanical, and technological components, had been damaged and left for dead for quite some time. The bio-noid, during its lifetime, was supposed to have been a renegade prince or something to that extent, but no one knew for sure, because it is dormant for the most part. Inactive... worthless... scrap.

But something interesting happened during its period of inactivity. The damage, which had been fatal, suddenly repaired itself, slowly but surely. The missing organic components were regenerating to the point where you never knew damage was inflicted. Then its eyes flashed open, its organic heart pumps, the sound of hard, coarse breathing echoes from its voice processor... slowly, the android moves its limps and helps itself up.

It is alive... and it is angry...


End FOUR

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