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Friday, July 10, 2015

2433 - Power Rangers: Zero Hour - ONE

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-

"There are days when I prefer the old days."

Jason Scott - the original Red Ranger, back in action - grumbled out loud. A sentiment undoubtedly shared by his fellow Rangers and friends, all of whom were lucky to be morphed. The helmet helps to hide their anxiety from the enemy. They've been in tight squeezes before, but this time, the stakes were higher.

Standing before them was a group of Quantrons that have just materialized, armed with their double-handed blade weapons. Behind them was a spinning orb that Billy - the original Blue Ranger - had referred to as the Mainframe Core, the very device responsible for the rapid production of Quantrons and enemy troops. Taking this thing down would strike a serious blow to the Alliance. Even if the war is lost, one less Mainframe would seriously cripple them to the point where a rebellion could overpower them.

Billy studied the mechanism and studied it for a moment. Turning to Justin, he said, "Justin, I'll need you to watch my back."

Justin nodded and stood guard as Billy got to work while the remaining Rangers stood their ground against the group of Quantrons, whom outnumbered the Rangers. Jason gripped on his Power Sword tightly, waiting for the right moment to strike. With a nod, the Rangers charged in, as did the Quantrons, and the battle began.

Jason leapt up and landed directly in front of two Quantrons, causing them to attack with their weapons. Although they seemed skilled with the blades, Jason had managed to dodge most of their attacks and took them down easily with a couple of spinning kicks. He quickly turned to see another Quantron attempting a sneak attack and responded with a kick to the stomach with enough force to send the Quantron flying against the wall and disintegrated on impact.

By being one of the few former Rangers who had dealt with Quantrons on more than one occasion, Adam was able to anticipate most of their moves. Two had tried to surround him, but Adam kicked one in the ribs and threw the other aside, causing it to collide with another Quantron who had been fighting Jason.

Despite a weakened back, Rocky was able to hold his own against three Quantrons attacking him. With a quick kick to the knee, the Quantron buckled and was soon taken down a follow-up roundhouse kick. Another Quantron rushed in and tried to kick Rocky, but the Blue Zeo Ranger blocked the kick and then knocked the creature off its feet with a leg sweep. Rocky turned and saw a Quantron approaching the area where Billy and Justin were working.

"Guys, watch out!" Rocky called out.

Justin turned and saw the approaching Quantron. The Quantron swung the blade downwards at Justin, who managed to roll out of the way and land a kick to the soldier's ribs. Pulling out his Auto Blaster, he fired a concentrated shot at the Quantron's chest, which exploded on impact. The soldier fell on the knees and Justin got up, noticing that the Quantron's attack and sliced through a piece of machinery Billy had installed. That didn't escape Billy's notice.

"Damn!" Billy cursed. Instinctively, the Blue Ranger summoned his Lance again and charged at the nearest Quantron, impaling the soldier through the chest. Once all the Quantrons were taken down, Billy demorphed and checked the damage done.

Jason eyed his friend and ran towards him, as did the others. "What happened?"

Billy turned to face Jason, who seemed stunned by his anger. "The bomb's been disabled. We can't set a countdown."

Jason glanced at the damaged equipment and turned his attention to the Mainframe Core, which was beginning to spin a little faster than before.

"What if we use our blasters to destroy it?" he suggested, "It doesn't look like it's well protected. I think one good shot will take it out."

"Not without killing ourselves in the process," Billy said, "And as much as we want to make that sacrifice, we can't afford to do so. I might have another way of doing it, but we'll have to make it back to the Astro Megaship."

Jason shook his head in disappointment while Adam looked on. All this work, all this planning was for naught. Finally, after a minute of silence, Justin raised his wrist communicator, activated it, and spoke into it. "Alpha, teleport us out of here."

The robot's high-pitched voice squealed over the tinny speaker. "It'll take me a while to lock on to your communicators."

The Rangers demorphed and grouped together as they waited for teleport. Adam had considered joining them, but then turned his attention back to the Mainframe Core, which began to spin faster and glowed brighter than before. He turned back to the other Rangers before eyeing the spinning orb again. It was then that he made one of the hardest decisions he would ever have to make and it was then that he decided to make the greatest sacrifice. Part of him hesitated while another part convinced him that this was the only decision. The instant he felt his fingers snapping off his wrist communicator, he knew he had to go through with this.

"Adam, what are you doing?" Jason asked as he saw Adam gingerly snapping the communicator from his wrist and tossed it aside. From his pocket, he pulled out a small hand blaster - probably from the packet of weapons they've amassed on the shuttle - and activated the charge. Rocky's eyes widened when he saw Adam prepare the gun and he realized what his friend planned on doing.

"Adam, what the hell are you doing?" he yelled.

"Doing what I have to, Rocko," Adam replied gently. "This seems to be the sure way to kill this thing."

"By killing yourself?" Rocky barked.

"You don't have to do this," Billy said, "We can initiate my other plan from the Megaship! There's no need to do this!"

"It's either this or follow Billy's other plan!" Adam retorted, "And I'm pretty sure the chances for whatever plan you guys might have in mind are pretty slim."

Rocky took a step forward, but before he could do any further, blue light whiffed him away. The other Rangers were also whiffed away in blue and red light, leaving Adam alone in the chamber room. He eyed the spot where his friends had been, then he tilted his head towards the wrist communicator on the floor as it vanished in a blaze of green light. He turned back to the spinning orb, which had reached the maximum spinning speed possible.

With no other option left at his disposal, he aimed the small blaster at the orb and thought for a moment about his life, his tenure as a Ranger, and most of all, his friends and family. He thought about the pain he would inflict upon them, but he knew that they would endure. Was it a well-thought plan? Perhaps not. Was it a necessity? He'd like to think so. He always pictured ending his career in a blaze of glory. He just hoped that the sacrifice he was about to make wouldn't be in vain. Somehow, however, he didn't think so.

"Goodbye, my friends," he said silently as he pulled the trigger and watched as a single bolt of energy flew at the Mainframe Core. As soon as it made contact, Adam Park's world turned white and the young man managed a satisfied smile before...

-o-

Ecliptor rammed his shoulder into the sealed door of Astronema's quarters, but his efforts were for naught, as he was unable to make a dent into the door. He made another attempt by firing several energy beams from his eyes and sword, but again, they did not so much as a scratch on them. The warrior cursed silently, regretting the day he had ordered the blast doors to be magnetically enforced. Little did he know that on the other side of the room, Astronema was handling the Red Ranger... her brother... just fine.

Astronema stood there, looking below at the fallen Red Ranger, who had hoped to talk her out of this path of destruction. She responded, of course, with quick kicks and fierce staff strikes that had caught Andros off guard until he was downed. The battle lasted all of five minutes so far and to say Astronema was disappointed was an understatement. She figured that if her own "flesh and blood" as Andros had put it, was this easy to take down, then her monsters should have gotten the job done and eliminated the Rangers long ago. They didn't.

Despite the nagging pain flowing through his body, Andros pushed onwards. His attacks were more out of self-defense than they were intended to actually inflict harm to her sister, which was almost funny when he considered her attacks were lethal. He tried pleading with her to end this conflict, tried to get her to see the light and turn away from the darkness she knew for so long, but her response were swift kicks that knocked him down every single time.

For the sake of amusement, away from her fallen brother, Astronema switched monitors to the battle on Earth. However, rather than see her forces conquer the primitive world easily, she would be shocked to see her army getting beaten badly not just by the Space Rangers, but by the human population of Angel Grove City. Her army was losing. A bunch of weakling humans were beating her grand army and were winning, much to her disappointment and utter shock.

She checked for other battles on Earth where her mighty armies waged, expecting signs of victory but was once again let down. In the Far East of Earth, her Velocifighters and streams of giant-sized monsters were easily being taken down by the weakling Japanese army, who had gained experience fighting their own ungodly creations using some sort of Megazord that she had never seen or known Earth to possess. In New York, four mutant turtles were valiantly fighting off Quantrons and showed no signs of backing off or falling down. For most of the major cities of the world, the respective government armies were gathering their forces and dealing with her armies. Even in small farming communities, a small rebellion of farmers with pitchforks and shotguns were suddenly growing backbones to counter the enemy.

Bit by bit, absolute victory was slipping from her fingertips and control of Earth was quickly fading. If the ground battles wasn't proof that Astronema's reign Queen of Evil was starting off on the wrong foot, then the sudden explosion of the second Dark Fortress, along with the sudden withdrawal of her star fleet from a lone Astro Megaship and five Earth ships, confirmed it. She soon switched to other sectors and other battles; she did not like what she was seeing in any of them.

The distant world of Rugalia fended off an entire legion of Velocifighters and Alliance destroyers; a small portion of the fleet already destroyed by an ancient weapon ship she recognized only as the Wraith. On the ground, Alliance walkers and Cyclopsis-class warzords were utterly destroyed by advancing war tanks of the Rugalian Confederacy. This distressing visual forced Astronema to shift to another planet.

The Aradon-led Machine Empire, despite internal political conflicts, were united to remove the Mondo-led Alliance fleets from their homeworld of Gorah Khan. Already, the Empire had scored a significant victory in the form of Mondo's abrupt execution at the hands of former prince Gasket, who had since left the planet for parts unknown.

The viewer shifted to the Nemesis planetoid, where word of Ninjor's death had passed already passed, making conquest of the planet and the Temple of Power to be an easy one. Instead, the Alliance armies (which continue to grow at this moment) were being upheld and beaten by a former Pink Power Ranger who had just ascended to the ancient rank of Sentinel. This was the sort of thing Astronema's Alliance was not only trying to prevent, but also an event that she (or any other modern superpower) was ill-equipped to deal with.

Another flicker and the viewer was on Eltare itself, where a lone Ranger had recently taken down the Alliance leaders responsible for the planet. Although he had been subdued by his enemies, Astronema didn't recognize them and assumed that they weren't Alliance soldiers. On an orbital view of the planet, the rogue armada had successfully taken down the Alliance's orbital fleets, securing the planet.

Astronema switched from planet to planet in order to keep up with the war, where the Alliance forces were slowly being repelled. According to statistics from the main computer, roughly forty-five percent of Alliance forces were being repelled by the defending homeworlds, with a small percentage of those forces having already surrendered. Even though a large portion of her alliance controlled the universe, she was slowly losing her grip. Things were quickly and brutally falling apart.

But it didn't matter, for even if they defeat the armies currently occupying their respective worlds and even if one of her precious Mainframe Cores have been destroyed, she still has millions of troops under her command who will not stop fighting until her grand vision for the universe has been fulfilled. But those images have already planted the seeds of doubt in her mind and suddenly, Astronema was feeling sick to her stomach: a feeling she hadn't felt since her meeting with a mysterious rogue Power Ranger in the cathedral months earlier. Peeking out the door, she noticed the Red Space Ranger slowly regaining his bearing.

"Don't like what you see. Do you, Astronema?" Andros muttered, noticing his sister's distraught state. "You probably expected an easy conquest of Earth, given its primitive methods and its lack of experience in fighting extra-terrestrials. You thought that all you had to do was defeat the Power Rangers."

Astronema did not answer. Just as Andros expected. Got to play this right or else I'll never get to her.

"But if there's one thing I've learned about Terrans, it's that you shouldn't underestimate them," the Red Ranger said as he stood to his feet. "When times are desperate, Terrans are capable of anything and everything possible. Call it what you will, because I've my own share of things. But today, I think I'll call it courage."

"I am the Queen of Evil." The words from Astronema's mouth came out pathetically.

"Queen of Evil? Isn't that a little cliché?" Andros said as a smirk formed on his face. Suddenly, he no longer saw his sister Karone, but the creature called Astronema who had controlled her for a lifetime and who did not take Andros' comments well. Just as he had expected. "All I see is another pathetic lifeform feeding off the weak, just like you're feeding off my sister." He let out a slightly amused chuckle. "So let's get finish this so I can free Karone and fight the real master of evil."

Astronema gnawed her teeth. "I am the real master of evil."

"Are you, now?" Andros said, slightly amused by this banter despite what is at stake. "But you're just a girl. How can you be a master of evil? That's a big man's job. Even I could be a master of evil and I'm the good guy."

That did it. Whatever patience Astronema had left was lost. With her last nerve touched, Astronema blinked from her previous spot to just before Andros and belted the Red Ranger with a fierce uppercut that knocked him through the fencing. Astronema blinked to standing over Andros, raising her foot and holding the high heel over Andros' helmet. Andros instinctually responded by landing a kick to Astronema's back, which staggered her a bit. She regained her composure and as soon as she plucked her staff, she pointed the very tip of the weapon at Andros.

"This is the end for you, 'brother,'" she said sarcastically, "Time to say goodbye."

He tilted his head and saw the Saber in arms' reach. He quickly glanced back to Astronema, who seemed unaware of the idle weapon next to him and continued her approach. Feeling the end is near, Astronema shot a death bolt from her staff. For an instant, time seemed to slow down in Andros' eyes as he saw the bright red bolt crawling towards his body. Without any other option, Andros plucked his idle Spiral Saber from the ground and used it to deflect the beam back at Astronema, which struck the cybernetic implant on her forehead and caused sparks shoot from it. Astronema stood there dazed as streams of red energy briefly flashed around her body, then dropped to her knees before losing consciousness and dropping to the floor.

Andros stood there momentarily in victory, then a worried expression formed on his concealed face when he noticed that she hadn't moved. In a panic, he dropped the weapon held firmly in his hand and dropped down to check on her sister. When he checked for a pulse, he found none. He merely glanced to her forehead to see the small implants fall off and vanish before it hit the ground. He tried to call to her to wake her up, but the words had no effect and Astronema... Karone laid peacefully still.

What have I done?

Andros knelt there in stunned silence. Throughout his entire life as a space traveler and later as a Space Ranger, one of his top priorities was to find his missing sister. He didn't care what it took, he was determined to find her. Now he found her... only to lose her again by his own hands. Just the thought of it made Andros weep inside, but before he could shed a tear, he felt a hand grab his shoulder and toss him towards a wall. When he broke out of his momentary trance, he glanced at the door and saw it had been forced open.

"She was your own sister!" he heard Ecliptor's voice bellow in anger. "What did you do to her?!"

"I-It was an accident," Andros argued, but it came out weakly.

Ecliptor dashed at the fallen Astronema, pushing the Red Ranger aside. Just as Andros did a short while ago, Ecliptor tried to shake Astronema out of unconsciousness, calling to her. And just like Andros, they had no effect and Karone was still. The bodyguard then turned to Andros and the Kerovan could see in Ecliptor's eyes a rage he had never seen before.

"You, Red Ranger," Ecliptor growled accusingly, "I'm going to make sure you suffer for this outrage if it's the last thing I do!"

Andros glanced worriedly at Karone, who had not moved a muscle since being knocked down. He turned to find Ecliptor charging at him and instinctively knocked him down with a superkick to the chest, watching as Astronema's bodyguard was flung to the wall, hitting it with such force that sparks flew.

"Andros, you must not delay," Zordon said, "You must shatter my energy tube."

Andros was still hesitant, but he knew it was the only way. His momentary distract gave Ecliptor the opening he needed and again he charged at Andros with his sword held high. Andros swung his own Spiral Saber and watched as it collided with the sword, shattering it on impact. And when the Spiral Saber's drill blade shattered Ecliptor's blade, it also slashed through his right hand, severing it and the remainder of the sword from his body. With Ecliptor stunned by what has happened, Andros delivered another swipe across the bodyguard's chest, sending him flying across the room and smashing through what remained of the barrier.

"Listen to me, Andros," the sage said, "It is your duty as a Power Ranger to save the Universe, no matter what the cost. Now is the time."

Andros gripped onto his saber and turned to the sage. He took one close hard look at Zordon before turning to the Spiral Saber in his hand, which seemed all the more heavier. Despite thinking otherwise, the Ranger knew fully well that this was the only way. And may the consequences be damned.

"I'll miss you, old friend," he said, clutching onto his saber.

Ecliptor tilted his head towards Andros as he raised his weapon. He got up to his feet and dashed at the Ranger, but sensed that it was too late as the tip of the Red Ranger's spiral saber penetrated the Eltarian sage's tube and shattered the protective glass that contained Zordon's life essence. With nothing to hold it in, the energy contained within the former tube shot out and as a result, Ecliptor took the full brunt of the energy - effectively turning his corporeal form into dust. All that remained of Astronema's bodyguard was the metallic implants and a small memory chip that laid on top of the sand pile - the first victim of Zordon's Zero Hour.

Then the room went white.

The countdown has ended... the destruction has begun.


End ONE

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