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Friday, July 10, 2015

2432 - Power Rangers: Zero Hour - TWO

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

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


-o-

As soon as he crashed against the wall as a result of the full brunt of an energy burst, Thomas Oliver momentarily blacked out into unconsciousness... but it didn't last too long. He weakly opened his eyes, and saw Lord Zedd pointing the tip of his staff at his chest. He tried to push himself back to his feet, but the pain was so overwhelming that he couldn't do it. The worst of it wasn't the intense pain, but the fact that he had somehow himself too trusting of his most hated enemy that he believed that he was here to reclaim the planet from the Alliance. He didn't know why this came to be... could it have been due to that act of mercy? Was it because Zedd had spared him two years ago that Thomas actually thought there would be a slip of decency in the fleshman's being? How the hell did that happen? He couldn't find the answer to that right now... he's busy trying to block the pain from his mind.

"I'd have to thank you for taking out the master," the fleshman sneered, almost sounding as if he's enjoying this. "Saves me the trouble of doing it myself. And as payment, I'm going to do you a favor and send you to the afterlife so you can join with your dead girlfriend."

Thomas grunted in response, slowly finding the strength to get himself up to a standing base. The pain was plentiful, but he had managed to get to his feet. He slowly limped his way towards Zedd as Zedd taunted him.

"Or at least, that's what your clone told him before you retired Rangers raided my palace," Zedd continued, "I keep asking him where the corpse is or the ashes, but he keeps moaning about how his explosive was design to vaporize. Regardless of how you vaporize something, it doesn't completely disappear. And yet... she's nowhere to be found."

Thomas' eyes widened. "You don't know where she is... is that what you're telling me?"

Zedd threw his arms up in the air. "Yes! As much as it pains me to admit it, I don't know where Rita's kitty bitch is."

There it is, the Ranger thought, Zedd doesn't know.

"In that case," Thomas said confidently, slowly regaining his strength. "I have no further use of you."

With that, Thomas leapt at Zedd fiercely, who sidestepped the Ranger, allowing him room to land on his feet. He immediately followed the missed jump with a sidekick that struck Zedd's lower back, who swung his staff in retaliation. The staff missed its mark, as Thomas had managed to duck the attack in time, but was soon caught off-guard by a quick jab across the face. Taking advantage of his enemy's stunned state, Zedd continued with a powerful roundhouse kick, which Thomas expertly blocked and countered with a missed uppercut. Zedd then swung his staff at Thomas again, but this time the Ranger saw it coming and with a palm strike, shattered the metal weapon into several pieces. The fleshman recoiled back in shock of what happened and only watched as the Ranger threw him a grin.

"Ready for Round Three, you bastard?" he growled.

In response, Zedd jumped at Thomas and delivered a flurry of kicks, which were countered or blocked. From there, the two longtime adversaries threw every move, countermove, and any other trick they knew, but none of them were able to land a single blow. But Zedd was too weak to keep this up for long and following a mistake that left his ribs open, Thomas capitalized on it with a swift jab that stunned the fleshman. Relentlessly, Thomas continued with his flurry of punches and kicks, not giving Zedd a chance to counterattack or even block. When it seemed like Zedd was about to fall, Thomas delivered an uppercut that served to keep the limping fleshman on his feet and he continued his relentless assault. At this point, Zedd was a living punching bag, unable to defend himself as his vision began to fade quickly. Thomas stopped his assault and positioned his two hands facing each other, but without actually touching. Instantaneously, green energy began to build up between his palms, eventually forming a ball of energy. When he saw Zedd dashing at him, Thomas shot the ball outward and the projectile struck Zedd's chest, forcing the dark lord down on one knee. With his enemy down, Thomas pulled out the stone-bladed Saba saber, studying his enemy before delivering the killing blow.

When Thomas swung the white saber at Zedd, the blade connected with another object that had suddenly formed in mid-air. Zedd had used up some energy remaining to form a short sword to defend himself with. The two struggled with their blades and then pushed each other back, giving some distance. Zedd, renewed with a fighting chance, leapt at the Ranger with intense ferocity that caught him off-guard and the fleshman tackled his enemy to the ground easily. Zedd had a hard time getting up while the human leapt to his feet almost instantaneously. By the time Zedd was up, his chest began to burst in flames as beams from Saba's eyes fired... real energy beams, not the stream of energy particles that had been used years earlier.

The beams accomplished their goal and left Zedd momentarily stunned, his legs barely stable. With one quick motion, Thomas' sword slashed and dug into Zedd's burnt flesh, ripping several burnt pieces of it from the fleshman lord. The wounds stung and caused Zedd all but the briefest of pains. One quick slice across the neck later, a thin line of light could be seen and suddenly all life escaped the shell it had been confined to. The lifeless body of the fleshman dropped to its knees before eventually collapsing to the floor entirely, with Zedd's head detaching itself and bouncing off the floor until it hit a wall... all while the victorious Ranger stood and watched. The two skinless parts of the dark lord gradually changed from a healthy red to various shades of grey, eventually breaking down into mounds of dust. Only the metallic coverings and the mask of the late Lord Zedd remained.

Thomas stared into the crimson mask of Zedd and with a mix of hesitation, obligation, and other feelings he couldn't precisely describe, picked up the metal piece, and held it for a moment before it too dissolved into dust along with the other metallic coverings. Even so, he looked as though he still held the mask in his hands, staring at his palms before the realization hit. Lord Zedd was dead and his evil power has been extinguished. Thomas would normally be glad that his greatest adversary was slain and that the defeat he had suffered two years ago was finally avenged...

...but the victory would be a hollow one. Zedd's death won't bring back Katherine from wherever she is nor has it gotten him any closer to finding out her fate. Thomas' mind wandered a bit, but reality hit as he felt the full brunt of a Robot Ranger's dropkick to the side of his face. He recovered quickly, but now he found himself quickly surrounded not only by the reprogrammed robots, but also the Ranger Wraiths who have come to avenge their fallen master, a result of internal programming done by Zedd as a last contingency. Thomas would fight them off for a moment before he was eventually overwhelmed by the ever-growing numbers of a unified force.

Suddenly, that hollow victory over Zedd meant nothing. Thomas had killed his most hated rival, only to be taken down himself by a force that even in the right state of mind, he couldn't defeat.

-o-

On the surface of Earth's moon, Serpenterra sleeps within her specially-constructed hangar. The hangar bay served two functions: recharging the destructive zord and protecting her from those who wish to claim her power. While the hangar had recharged Serpenterra to full capacity, the latter function had hardly seen much use, since there was no longer any forces occupying the moon. A special network was constructed and set to activate in the event Zedd's vibrations waned somehow. This never happened and thus there was no need to execute the final command... until now.When Zedd's evil vibrations were no longer detected, the hangar engaged the final command protocol: a self-destruct mechanism that sent a single to the three-thousand explosive and implosive devices built into the mainframe and foundation of the elevated hangar bay. All in unison, the devices set off and everything was either engulfed in flames or collapsed into the forming abyss. With no support to hold her sleeping body, Serpenterra fumbled to the growing grave with such force that some of the outer armor was pierced and scratched. By the time the zord had settled deeper into the growing crevice on the surface of the moon, it had sustained considerable damage, its mass and size reduced greatly. Not long after, the rockslide from the implosions quickly buried the sleeping beast.

Although the self-repair protocol will eventually kick in and repair the outer shell, Serpenterra has been well secluded to the point where only a machine could find her and restore her to glory. Today, the greatest threat to civilization has been buried, awaiting the day and she will be summoned once again to fulfill her destructive potential.

-o-

The battle between two Machine leaders had spilled onto hallways, ceremonial rooms, and dungeons deep below the palace of the Machine rulership. Although Aradon was the quicker of the two, he wasn't as experienced in close combat as Mondo has been. Mondo didn't bother with risky moves and relied mostly on his weight. The fighting was constant throughout the period of time, with neither gaining much of an advantage over the other. Both were equally frustrated by the lack of advantage, but at the same time, this was no mere fight for control of a nation. This was for control of the whole Empire and such power has to be earned. Aradon knew this and so did Mondo... although organics would call him evil, even they had to admit that there were certain values he held up to.Eventually, the two had fought their way to one of the energy core rooms, a long shaft surrounded with various connector pipes and wires. The bottom of the shaft, a pool of molten lava, is said to lead straight into the core of Gorah Khan itself. Mondo could feel the heat seeping into his internal systems, slowly depriving him of his

"You're tired, Mondo," Aradon said, noting Mondo's weakened state, although he wasn't feeling too well either. "Perhaps you should return to your slumber."

Mondo didn't reply. He simply pushed back the slender emperor with his staff, which was barely holding up amidst the intense heat generated from the energy core of the planet. Aradon took too long to attack, which gave Mondo the edge he needed. With whatever energy he could muster, he shot a bolt from his fingertips that struck the bionoid Aradon across the chest, stunning him momentarily. Suddenly, neither one was at an advantage and it was becoming evident that both were losing energy quickly.

"It's over, 'Emperor' Aradon," Mondo said bitterly, "Your short reign is over."

Before Mondo could deliver the final blow, something caught his eye. Another humanoid android emerged from the opposite, wearing a heavy stained cloak beneath its old-style royal armor that Mondo immediately recognized as one his first-built son used to have. Aradon took a quick glance at the cloaked machine and, with a quick study of the eyes and exposed brain, recognized some of the organic components he had personally used on bio-noids similar to his daughter's husband no more than two years. When the shock passed them, they both realized that this bio-noid's sudden appearance wasn't a visual illusion in their systems.

He was genuine.

"Gasket?"

The bio-noid barely nodded in acknowledgment as he pulled out a curved scimitar from his cloak. He said no words, but did study both sides of his family... both of them obviously shocked by his sudden re-emergence.

"Gasket, my boy! You're alive after all!" he cheered, "And you didn't bring that wench with you either."

Aradon ignored the shot as his daughter and stared intently at the machine she chose to marry. Gasket slowly made his way towards Aradon and with a slow motion, raised his weapon to the point where the blade could be wrapped around the emperor's neck. This pleased Mondo, who wouldn't have to destroy his rival.

"That's it, son," he pleaded, "Kill him."

Gasket glanced at Mondo, holding the scimitar to Aradon's neck. Aradon didn't say a word, didn't make a move... he just stood there with his eyes affixed to those of Mondo's son.

"Kill him and we will rule the Empire as father and son."

Gasket stared intently at Aradon, throwing the occasional glare at Mondo, who seemed almost agitated by the delay. Aradon studied the features of his son-in-law, looking for any hidden motive to his actions. He couldn't find any... it was hard to tell whether Gasket would kill him or not. Mondo kept insisting that Gasket killed him, but he didn't move a muscle, saving for the twitching of his organic eyes. If Aradon knew any better, he'd say Gasket was beginning to get annoyed by the obese king's ranting. Mondo's patience quickly wore thin.

"What are you waiting for? Kill him!" Mondo screamed in frustration. "Kill him or I'll kill the both of you! And then I'll find that mechanical bitch of yours and kill her too!"

Almost immediately, Mondo had come to regret those words as he saw Gasket's head shift violently toward his direction. Quickly, the former prince pushed Aradon aside, dashed at Mondo, and with one quick motion and an almost bestial roar, gutted the scimitar into the heart of his own father. Mondo silently looked on in shock as Gasket returned an icy glare. Aradon turned to see what had happened and was also in shock.

"See you in Hades, my king." Gasket's words bled with rage as he violently pulled out the blade from the damaged hulk of Mondo and kicked him off the ledge, watching it fall further into the pit until it was nothing more than a speck of light. He turned to Aradon, whose shock had worn off and was now perplexed as to what has happened.

"Why?" Aradon had managed to ask, but Gasket didn't reply directly to the question. Instead, he walked past Aradon and proceeded to the door. Just before he stepped out, he turned back to Aradon.

"The Empire is yours now, my lord," he said simply, "As your debt to me, you shall leave me and my bride in peace."

Gasket turned his back and walked out of the chamber before Aradon would have a chance to respond. He looked down at the pit of molten magma and, using a built-in zoom feature, watched as Mondo buckled against the heat and liquid fire that slowly broke down his body into melted metal. Behind him, several Cog generals - his Cog generals - rushed in to tend to their leader.

"Are you injured, my lord?" one of them asked.

Aradon shook his head, his attention still staring into the constantly burning hulk of what was once his greatest rival and the most ruthless king that the Empire had ever been subject to. He watched as the flames slowly died down and the ashes began to disperse from the rest of the wreckage.

With that piece of business done, he then turned his attention to the head general. "General, I want you to purge the Mondo protocols from the memory banks. I want to make sure he has no means of returning." To the other generals, he said, "You will assist in deploying the mobile vehicles to round up the remaining enemy forces. Last time I checked, there's a war going on."

"It'll be done, my lord." The Cogs bowed his head and marched out of the heat chamber, with Aradon following close behind.

-o-

Gasket continued walking down the empty halls of the palace until he reached the hangar bay, where the ship he commandeered from Earth's moon had been sitting. Stepping into the small craft, he immediately sat in the cockpit and operated ship systems. In a short instant, he was flying out of the hangar bay and will shortly fly away from the drudgery of Machine politics. Power means nothing to him anymore.

Almost as an afterthought, Gasket reached for the comm system and inputted a set of frequencies. It wasn't long before a female voice replied.

"Gasket, dear. Are you alright?"

Gasket sighed. "Yes, my bride. I did what I had to do. I'm coming home."

-o-

Meanwhile, things were taking an unexpected turn in the second Dark Fortress. Within the main hangar bay of the base, a firefight is emerging between the remaining Quantrons and a small group of former Power Rangers armed with laser pistols and power cannons. Despite their best fighting skills and great numbers, the Quantrons were quickly and soundly destroyed. With that piece of business out of the way, the Rangers regrouped to a secluded corridor devoid of enemy troops. They continued down the path until they were met with more Quantrons. Some wore silver armor while others wore gold."Can we morph now?" Justin groaned.

"Not yet," Billy said, "We shouldn't be escalating a battle."

On that note, the gold-armored Quantrons shot beams from their eyes, which the group of retired Rangers managed to dodge by moving out of the way.

"Forget that, man," Adam quipped. "They already escalated the battle."

Rocky shot his friend a smile and turned to Jason. "I'd say it's about that 'time' again. Don't you, Jay?"

Jason nodded and pulled out his "old-school" morpher, which prompted Billy to pull out his own old-school morpher. Rocky and Adam summoned

"Okay, boys," he told them, "Time to kick ass. It's morphin time!"

In unison, the five activated their morphers and invoked their long-dormant powers, causing them to be enveloped in various lights of red, blue, and green. When the light cleared, five Rangers unfamiliar to the Quantrons replaced the five human intruders. The Red and Blue Rangers immediately summoned their respective Power Sword and Power Lance weapons and began pummeling silver-armored Quantrons into submission. The Blue and Green Zeo Rangers leapt at the gold-armored soldiers and fought them on, leaving the Blue Turbo Ranger to take down whatever was left with his dual hand blasters. In a short period of time, the second wave of Quantrons were defeated and the now-morphed veterans pushed forward.

"That was a little too easy," Rocky mused as they proceeded forward. Then, in an old man's voice, he added, "In our day, the putties used to be a lot tougher than this."

"Don't count them out yet, Rocky," Justin said, "They can easily outnumber you."

Jason ignored all the small talk. "So where's the core room, Billy?"

Billy stopped to look around the corridors. "If the diagrams Andros gave us are accurate, the main core should just down this hall."

Adam briefly looked around a bit and said, "Considering we haven't teleported inside a bulkhead, I'd say they're accurate."

And so they continued on their way until a few minutes later when they reached a large door with a keypad next to it. A quick glance at the sign - which said CORE ROOM in large type - confirmed this was where they were supposed to go.

"Finally, a door," grunted Rocky, "Seems like all we do is run around corridors these days."

Blue Ranger shook his head and studied the keypad momentarily before shrugging his shoulders and slamming his fist into the mechanism, which prompted the doors to open. He stepped inward, with the remaining four Rangers behind him. They soon found themselves in a relative large circular room with few consoles scattered about. What caught their attention was the spinning orb in the center of the room, surrounded by a plexiglass tube. Billy took a closer look at it, his helmet hiding the look of familiarity and awe.

"Mainframe core," Billy uttered absently.

Jason eyed Billy, confused. "You've seen this thing before?"

Billy nodded. "A very efficient computer core, capable of doing anything you want it to do. If this thing was installed on Serpenterra, chances are she wouldn't have had rapid power drains because the Mainframe would have been able to effectively manage its power allocation."

"So that's how they're producing more troops faster than we can take them down," Justin added in realization, "All because of this stupid spinning ball."

On cue, the Mainframe core began to spin faster than before and from it shot several beams of light that landed on certain points around the chamber. From the spots materialized groups of three Quantrons, each one holding their blade weapons. The Rangers immediately took defense stances, except for Billy, who set himself against the panel closest to the core and began to install his furbished bomb.

"There are days," Red Ranger grumbled, "when I prefer the old days."

-o-

As soon as he materialized from teleportation, Andros found himself in the cargo bay area of Astronema's Dark Fortress, which was practically empty because all the fighters were sent to fight off the other attackers. Adding to his fortune was the fact that the Dark Fortress had a minimal complement of Quantrons, mostly assigned to meager system checks. None of them noticed his presence as he made his way to a nearby corridor. Whenever he saw the coast was clear, he would continued onward, hiding behind any walls to avoid any troops passing by.

After some time, he made his way to the power core room, which was a short walk away from the main control room of the Fortress. From his hiding spot, he didn't have a clear cut view of the control room, but he did see Ecliptor briefing several Quantrons on system operations. There doesn't seem to be anyone else short of that group, which gave Andros the chance he needed to provide a distraction.

"Here goes nothing."

With Astro Blaster in hand, Andros began shooting down core stabilizers left and right to the point where they couldn't be salvaged or repair. If things were to go wrong and he couldn't save Karone from the evil controlling her, he would bring down the Dark Fortress, which should send a powerful message to the attacking forces. After several stabilizers were destroyed, Andros fired several shots at the power distributors, incinerating them instantly. Their destruction also triggered an alarm, which caused a panic throughout the fortress.

Upon hearing the alarms, Ecliptor and several troops emptied the control room to check the damage done. With great speed, Andros ran past the door and typed in a code into the keypad, closing the door just as Ecliptor had noticed his presence. Once the door was securely closed, Andros pulled out his blaster and destroyed the keypad.

"Now to find my sister."

Slipping the blaster back into his holster, Andros took a quick scan of the room and was disappointed to find nobody here. He began to walk a few steps towards the office at the end, when he heard a deep voice calling his name. Andros turned to the sound of the familiar voice, which came from an energy tube resonating a bluish glow. He recognized the glow and the floating head within. He took a few steps closer and his shock magnified as his eyes fell upon his old mentor.

"Zordon?"

The sage nodded in confirmation. "Yes, it's me."

Andros made a run towards Zordon and studied the contraptions connected to his energy tube that he had been held prisoner in. Only two small generators were connected to the base of the tube, possibly the very energy draining systems that was robbing Zordon of his life force.

"Listen to me, Andros. There's not much time," Zordon said, breaking the Red Ranger's trance. "The forces of evil have captured most of the universe. Soon they will capture the Earth and other free worlds."

Andros nodded in agreement, aware of the grim situation. "I know."

"You can stop it from happening."

The Red Ranger looked up excitedly. "How?"

"Shatter my energy tube."

Wait a minute, Andros thought, almost dropping his saber. "What?"

"Only the good energy from my tube will destroy the Alliance for good."

"But what about you?" Andros stammered.

"I will be gone," he said regretfully, "But my spirit will live on in all that is good."

Andros shook his head, not wanting to accept what Zordon was saying. "We'll keep fighting! There has to another way!"

"There is no other way," Zordon insisted, though he too wished otherwise.

And with that, the trembling stopped. Andros' hand extended forward and red energy soon formed his signature Spiral Saber, which he soon grabbed by the hilt of his saber, his breath slowing as he gathered his wits. Slowly, he extended the saber above his head as Zordon watched, preparing himself for his eventual demise. Just as Andros was about to swing the saber, he hesitated. Again, he pulled the saber back and swung it, only to stop himself from making contact with the glass tube encasing Zordon. His mask hid the tears streaming down his cheeks.

"I... can't!" he sobbed, dropping the saber. "I can't get myself to end your existence."

He took a step back and turned away from Zordon, unable to face his mentor. On the corner of his eye, he could see someone behind the grated wall of the office about to step out and reveal herself.

"I have a suggestion," Astronema blurted out as she emerged from the darkness, much to Andros' surprise. "Rather than you ending Zordon's existence, how about I end yours?"



End TWO

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