Disclaimer- Saban owns the Beetleborgs, the VR Troopers, the Power Rangers, and the Masked Rider, DIC owns the Real Ghostbusters, and I own just about everybody else in this fic. This fic is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, language, and heavy stuff. It is the second in a five or six part miniseries (still havenít decided) within PC continuity. In PC terms, it is number 23, and occurs after "Second Star to the Right." For any other information, read the first story. Oh, terminology! Usual terms for Rangers apply, of course. Everybody knows the drill by now. Dex in costume is Masked Rider. Transformed Beetleborgs are referred to simply by color, such as "Chromium Gold." Troopers in costume are Blue, Black, and White Troopers, a concept which Iíll admit I stole from Hellfireís "Alliances." Brownie points to anyone who gets the Gunstar ref!
The Simudeck of the Astro Megaship had many uses. It can be a dojo for martial arts training, a vacation spot when someone wanted to relax, or even a lab for testing inventions and devices in certain situations. Currently it was acting as a sort of flight simulator, as Chris Sterling, the new Silver Astro Ranger, showed Andros exactly what he could do.
"I admit, I didnít quite believe you at first, Ashley," Andros mused, speaking to the yellow-clad girl beside him. "But you were right, he can fly ANYTHING. This is the seventh type of craft weíve tested him on, and heís handled all the simulations like a pro."
"Thatís good, Chris," Carlos called, looking up from his console. "Youíve finished the course. Set her down now, okay?" A hideous crashing noise shook the room.
"Fly, yes," Ashley sighed, shaking her head. "Land, no." Chris had not yet managed to set a single ship down in one piece.
"They never dealt with docking maneuvers at the arcade," the newest Astro Ranger said sheepishly, as his fighter and course evaporated around him.
"Nice going, Launchpad," TJ grinned.
"Hey, any crash you can walk away from, right, DW?" the other boy responded easily. Ashley sighed. From the minute Chris and TJ had discovered their mutual love of Darkwing Duck, she had known she was doomed.
Seeing Androsí puzzled expression, she explained. "Itís a reference to a TV show that theyíre both WAY too old to be interested in." TJ and Chris stuck their tongues out at her.
"Hey, Chris, donít forget, youíre supposed to meet me, Jason, and Tommy back here in an hour for your lessons," TJ reminded the other boy.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Iíll be there. In the meantime- Iím gonna go have lunch."
Andros shook his head. "This is gonna be an interesting trip."
"Ah, sunshine, warm breezes, and little to no traffic." Peter Venkman turned his face up towards the sky. "I could ALMOST understand why people like this town."
Beside him, Lita Kino grinned. "Itís not that bad, really. After all, youíre not an ACTIVE Morphin Warrior. You donít have to worry about getting ambushed or anything."
"Itís the principle of the thing," the Ghostbuster sniffed, eyes sparkling. "But I have to admit, this is a nice park." The two of them were sitting under a tree in Angel Grove Park, discussing psychology, superheroes, and anything else that came to mind.
"Yeah, when itís not overrun by Tengas," the psychiatrist replied. "Speaking of the park, what does that meter say?"
Peter looked at the activated PKE meter that lay beside him. "Twenty percent above normal for Angel Grove. A full fifty percent above normal for the rest of the world. Looks like Egonís theory is right about ley lines giving off PKE."
"How did he blackmail you into doing the legwork for his research?" Lita teased.
Peter grinned. "He didnít, exactly. But itís RAINING in New York, and we donít have any busts today, so I was looking for any excuse to come out here and have fun in the sun. This was it."
"And are you having fun?"
"More fun than Iíd have alone in the firehouse, and more fun than Iíd have in the Power Chamber. Egon and Ray are practically in a trance over those computers."
"Justinís giving them the run-through?"
"Yeah, and Rayís drooling at the thought of all the research he can do," Peter chuckled. "Egonís more interested in some of the technical stuff. Iím almost afraid to see what heís gonna come up with."
"Well, I know it means a lot to the kids to have someone monitoring the Power Chamber- and it means a lot to the other Rangers to have someone monitoring the kids."
Peter raised an eyebrow. "I thought that all the problems with Ďyouíre too youngí had been worked out after Muiranthias?"
"Not exactly," Lita grimaced. "The older Rangers know they canít STOP the Turbos from joining the battle, and they certainly accept that the kids are more than competent to handle day-to-day threats, but- weíve got FIVE villains circling this planet right now, and only five Rangers on call to stop them. Itís like Fred says, the only thing working on our side is that the bad guys are incapable of working together. They canít do anything but stab each other in the back, so thereís a limit to how much can come down on our heads at any one time."
"Ah. Howís he taking this? I didnít get much of a chance to talk to him when we first met the whole crew, but he seems to be the type to take all the stress of a situation on his shoulders."
"He is, but unlike Tommy or Jason, he has a team that is already intimately familiar with the way such things work. Franklin will force him to delegate authority if necessary, Rosa knows just how to cheer him up, Justin ALWAYS has an answer when Fred needs one, and Tasha knows how to make him laugh and break the tension. Despite what the older Rangers think, the Turbos are in some ways BETTER equipped to deal with this job. Theyíve seen the inside workings of the other teams for years, even if they didnít know what they were seeing."
The two were silent for a moment, then Peter rose to his feet, offering Lita a hand. "Come on. Egon asked me to check out the old quarry, and then I thought I could treat my tour guide to lunch."
Allowing him to help her up, Lita chuckled. "Dr. Venkman, youíve
got a deal."
"I really want to thank you for letting me do this," Parker OíNeil grinned, snapping pictures like mad. "This is going to be the story of the century!"
Jason, staying well out of the way of the camera, chuckled. "Well, youíve been conveying the truth about the Power Rangers to the people of Angel Grove for five years now. Why stop when youíre ahead?"
"And Andros is perfectly okay with this photo tour of the Megaship?" Parker asked, the flash never stopping.
"Well, everyone knows itís there already, so he figures this canít hurt and might even help. People will be less worried about it if they see itís not a warship." Jason studied the journalist curiously. "Is that the only reason you came? The story? I mean, you donít have any powers or armor to protect you, just an anti-magical katana that Zordon and Alpha gave you."
"Well, I had to come along to take care of my baby sister," the reporter grinned. Then his expression grew more serious. "I wonít lie to you, Jason, the story was a big part of it. An in-depth, on-the-spot photo narrative of the Rangersí biggest battle in history? The chance to see alien planets and civilizations? This could win the Pulitzer! But the story wasnít the only reason I came. Part of itís just my natural reporterís curiosity, but also- how often does a guy get a chance to be involved in something like this? I became a reporter because I wanted to make a difference. And I do, and itís wonderful, without a doubt. But you guys- what you do makes a difference on a whole new scale, a planetary scale. The chance to be involved in something like thatÖ Anyway, when Lil told me you needed a pilot, I jumped at the chance. And here I am."
Jason shook his head. "It seems so strange. I used to dodge you every chance I got, way back when I was Red Ranger. Do you remember that?"
Grinning, Parker nodded. "Of course. I also remember the few times you couldnít. Remember right after Tommy showed up?"
"I was considering teleporting out and ditching you, but Kim and Trini convinced me that if I didnít give you an official story, who knew what the people of Angel Grove would think of Tommy?"
"Itís a good thing you did," Parker said soberly. "There was a lot of anti-Green Ranger sentiment out there, and some of the papers were fanning the flames."
"Then your interview hit the papers, and he was a hero overnight."
Jason shook his head. "Power of the press. Come on, letís finish your
While Les Fortunes cowered as far back in the cavern as possible, Nukus, Horribelle and Vilor sized up the Shadowborg, their newest weapon against the Beetleborgs. The black humanoid robot scanned the room around it with large, black, rectangular optical sensors. Then, in a low, husky voice utterly devoid of emotion, it spoke.
"Where is Vexor? And who are the three of you?" Something about the Shadowborg somehow suggested masculinity, and subconsciously the Crustaceans began to think of it as "he."
Nukus stepped forward. For a long moment, the two warriors sized each other up, a twisted copy of a Beetleborg and a warrior in red armor who looked vaguely like a triceratops. "I am Nukus. I became an ally of Vexorís after your destruction. Regrettably, he was returned to the comic book world by the Beetleborgs. I managed to destroy their powers, but they have new ones, and I have not been able to defeat them as yet. That, I hope, is where you come in."
Nukus then gestured to the two creatures on his left. "This is Horribelle, my second-in-command, and Vilor. And THAT, over there in the corner, is Les Fortunes. He is the cartoonist responsible for your- resurrection."
"Fortunes?" Despite the dead tone of Shadowborgís voice, a note of curiosity was plainly audible. "As in Art Fortunes, creator of the Beetleborgs?"
"Heís my brother, thank you very much," Les snarled. "We donít like to advertise the relationship."
"I can see why," Shadowborg replied dismissively. "Why have I been brought back?"
Nukus chose his words carefully. Although the magic of his sword compelled the creatures brought to life to obey him, he was quite aware that Lesí notes had stated that Shadowborgís intelligence was extremely high. It was uncertain just how far the induced loyalty would extend, and Nukus had no intention of pushing his luck. That had been Vexorís mistake.
"I require the assistance of a warrior with your capabilities," the Crustacean leader explained. "You have been redesigned to be an even far more formidable force than before. Between the two of us, there is little we cannot accomplish."
Shadowborg seemed to think about this for a long moment. Finally, he said, "What do you intend? I think youíre intelligent enough to have something in mind other than a simple direct assault on the Beetleborgs."
"Indeed. In fact, your first assignment will not even deal with those tin-plated heroes. First, I want you to go south, to Angel Grove."
"The home of the Power Rangers?" Les blurted, before remembering that he didnít want to be noticed.
"Exactly," Nukus rumbled. "The Power Rangers, as you may know, are Earthís most formidable fighting force. However, their power level seems to have decreased recently. Between that and the fact that you are an unfamiliar adversary, you should have the advantage over them. What do you say?"
Shadowborg chuckled, a sound that sent chills up even Nukusí spine.
"It sounds like fun. Iíll be back later." With that, he turned
and walked into one of the shadows of the crypt. Melting into it, he was
"Hiyah!" Ecliptor watched impassively as Chelsea threw Trey over her shoulder with very little effort. The three of them were currently working out in the small gym on Ecliptorís scout ship. Designed for long interplanetary scouting missions, the ship was equipped with replicators, a gym, a computer room,- and only two bedrooms. That meant, of course, that Trey and Chelsea wound up sharing one room, which came equipped with only one rather small bunk. Luckily, both of them were mature enough not to be flustered by this for more than a few minutes. Although, Chelsea thought wryly, Trey did have a tendency to kick in his sleep.
Parrying the punch her fiancé aimed at her, Chelsea pivoted smoothly, turning so that she held Treyís arms behind his back, and mimed bashing his head into the nearest wall.
"I give," Trey laughed. She released him, and he shook out his arm. "Good workout, Chelse. Thanks."
"Most impressive," Ecliptor allowed. "Perhaps you would allow me a turn?"
Chelsea shrugged. "Sounds good to me, but leave your sword over there, okay?" The crystalline being did so, and the two of them began to circle around the mats as Trey watched in a combination of amusement and trepidation.
Suddenly Ecliptor swung a punch at Chelseaís head. She ducked it and launched a kick into his ribs, wincing slightly at the impact. Backing off, she revised her strategy. Ecliptor was made of solid rock- she had to hit him in such a way as not to do any damage to herself.
Another of Ecliptorís punches flashed out, striking Chelsea in the ribs. She dodged just in time to only catch part of the blow, but that was enough to half-knock the wind out of her. Cartwheeling around her opponent, she lashed out, sinking a kick into the back of Ecliptorís knee. He dropped to the ground, but was up almost immediately. As he grabbed for her, she locked onto his wrist. Pivoting, she set her hip into his midsection and tossed him over her shoulder. Ecliptor crashed into the ground and lay still for a moment. Then he rose to his feet, chuckling.
"I underestimated you, I see. Iíll not make that mistake again- and I feel sorry for the fools that do." Then he turned to Trey. "Marry her, and I donít think youíll need many bodyguards." Picking up his sword, he strode out of the room. Trey cocked an eyebrow at his girlfriend.
"I think you got his respect."
She nodded. "Yeah, but is that a GOOD thing? I mean, what does
that say about me?"
"íSurf Spot,í" Fred read, looking up at the sign. "Anyone want to check this place out? I mean, we canít eat at Ernieís ALL the time."
"Or my house," added Rosa. "Even WE donít have that much food."
The five Turbo Rangers made their way into the building, looking around curiously. The interior layout was similar to the Juice Bar, which in and of itself wasnít unusual. It was a very common building plan for Angel Grove businesses. Unlike the Juice Bar, however, this was definitely not intended to act as a gym. Besides the eating area, there were pool tables everywhere, and Justin spotted a room in the back where a number of chessboards were set up.
The five teens sat down at a table to look over the menu, and were surprised when a Rocky-size plate of french fries was suddenly set down in front of them.
"Iím sorry, but we didnít order these," Franklin told the woman politely.
"Theyíre on the house," she responded. "Nameís Adelle Ferguson. I run this place."
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Ferguson," Rosa replied, quickly followed by nods from the other four.
"Please, call me Adelle. You just chow down on those, and Iíll be back for your order in a minute."
She left, and the kids immediately began to chow down on the fries. "Man, these are good," Tasha remarked, swallowing.
"No kidding," Justin agreed. "I vote we eat here more often. All in favor?" Four hands went up around the table.
Suddenly a familiar six-tone beep sounded, startling the five. Quickly, they headed into one of the hallways, although not before Rosa grabbed one last handful of fries.
"This is Fred. Whatís up?" the Red Turbo Ranger asked.
Egon Spenglerís bass voice sounded very odd coming through the little speaker. "Something just appeared in downtown Angel Grove. Readings show that it is highly powerful and of a configuration that doesnít match any of Zordonís files."
"And itís shooting up cars, too, so I donít think you have to worry about whose side itís on," Ray Stantz added.
"Got it. Weíre on our way." Cutting off the connection, Fred turned to his second-in-command. "We clear?"
After a quick check, Franklin nodded. "Yeah, weíre clear."
"Shift into Turbo!" In a flash of light and color, the Rangers were teleported to the main plaza of town, where their battle with Ivan Ooze had begun, little more than a month ago. Their opponent had toppled the statue of the original six Rangers, and was taking out everything that moved with some sort of laser. The sound of sirens in the background indicated that not everyone had been able to escape from the attack this time. Beneath his helmet, Red Turboís expression hardened.
"Anybody know who or what that is?" he asked, in a voice like solid steel.
"Shadowborg!" Pink Turbo cried. "I saw it on the news. It fought the Beetleborgs to a standstill, before they finally destroyed it. Heís bad news."
"Well, thereís five of us, and only three of them. Weíve got that on our side, at least," Red Turbo mused. "Iíll get his attention. You guys flank him, and beep me when you get into position. And be very careful, guys. Weíve got no idea what this guy is capable of."
"Right." As the other Rangers quietly spread out around the square, Red Turbo took a moment to silently pray that he wasnít getting in over his head. But what other choice did he have? With that thought in mind, he stepped forward.
"Hey!" he called. Rather than whirling around, Shadowborg turned lazily, almost as if he couldnít care less what was behind him. _Bad sign,_ Red Turbo grimaced. _Oh well, the show must go on._ "What do you want here?"
"Iíve been waiting for you, Power Rangers," Shadowborg replied huskily. "I want to test my skills against warriors as skilled as you. Itís a bit of a disappointment, though. Iíve already had my fill of fighting children."
_What does he mean by that?_ Red Turbo thought, puzzled. Then he pushed the question away. _No time to think about that now._ "Well, Iím terribly sorry, but Iím all youíve got. But hey, give me a try. Maybe Iíll surprise you."
"I doubt that." Suddenly, without so much as a bit of warning, Shadowborg whirled and fired. Only Blue Turboís phenomenal agility saved him from destruction. "Standard flanking maneuver. How- predictable." Whirling again, he began to open fire on all of the Turbo Rangers, somehow knowing exactly where they were.
"Regroup!" Red Turbo yelled, moving in for a strike. It never landed, however. A brutal kick by Shadowborg knocked him back into his teammates.
"That worked real well," Yellow Turbo grimaced, helping Red Turbo to his feet.
"To think, I was told the Power Rangers were Earthís greatest defenders," Shadowborg mocked. "Youíre nothing but the latest in a long line of losers. Powers, Battle Mecha, everything, continually lost to the arrogance of your leaders."
Beside him, Green Turbo felt Red Turbo stiffen with anger, and laid a cautionary hand on his friendís shoulder. "Easy," he said quietly. "Heís just trying to push your buttons."
"Youíd know a great deal about that, wouldnít you, Green Ranger?" Shadowborg asked smoothly. "Always the one in the background, but always in control? Perhaps youíre too afraid to take the responsibility of the leadership position?"
"This guyís full of it, but heís done his homework," Pink Turbo growled. "I say we take him out NOW."
"I agree," Red Turbo replied. "Autoblasters!"
Despite the Turbo Rangers phenomenal speed, Shadowborg was somehow able to draw and fire his Shadow Laser into the five of them, knocking them in all directions.
"Weapons!" Red Turbo yelled. "Hit him from all sides."
The Turbo Rangers fought valiantly, but the Shadowborg seemed to throw them aside without effort. Yellow Turboís Star Chargers were completely ineffective, and short-ranged to boot. A casual cuff sent her flying into a wall. Falling to the ground, she did not rise.
"NO!" Blue Turbo cried, leveling his Hand Blasters at Shadowborg. Before he could open fire, though, a blast from the Shadow Laser sent him hurtling back into another wall, where he slumped to the ground as well.
Dodging Pink Turboís energy bolts, Shadowborg easily picked the girl up and threw her into a lamppost. Now only Red and Green Turbos remained, looking at Shadowborg warily.
"This is a slaughter," Green Turbo grimaced. "Iím going to try and hit him with Cannon shots from too far for him to get me. You stand by, all right?"
Red Turbo nodded, biting his lip as his friend began to circle their target. Suddenly, Shadowborg extended his arm and a claw attached to a cable shot forth, encircling Green Turboís neck. Laughing coldly, Shadowborg reeled the boy in like a fisherman bringing in a bass. Picking him up, the robot easily threw to the ground and then turned towards the last Ranger.
Taking a deep breath, Red Turbo readied his Lightning Sword and fought down the panic he felt. If he was going down today, heíd damn well take this bucket of bolts with him. "Just you and me, now, ugly," he growled, careful to keep any hint of a tremor out of his voice.
"Too true, Ranger. Not much of a leader, are you? Canít take me down, canít protect your friends- and you canít save your city. Why donít you just put down your sword and give up?"
For a split second, Red Turbo felt disoriented. Why not do as Shadowborg suggested? He was a failure, pure and simple. It would be so easyÖ Then he shook his head violently. "Not a chance, Shadowborg. Rangers NEVER give up."
"So be it." Suddenly Shadowborg swung its arm around, whipping its cable and claw towards Red Turboís sword. The Ranger braced himself, thinking that Shadowborg intended to snare the sword and pull him off-balance. Instead, however, the cable snapped out straight, shearing through the sword as if it were butter. A blast with the Shadow Laser knocked Red Turbo to the pavement.
"Pathetic," Shadowborg mocked. "Still, not a bad warm-up. Now for the spoils of my victory." Extending a hand to the sky, he began to glow with a strange black light. As if in response, the Turbo Rangers began to glow in their respective colors as tendrils of light floated from them to Shadowborg. Five voices were raised in agony, as the Turbo Rangersí screams bounced from every wall in the plaza. Suddenly their costumes began to flicker and die. Just before Shadowborg could absorb the last of their energy, they dissolved into five columns of colored sparks and were gone.
"He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day,"
Shadowborg mused. "And Iíll be waiting." Pulling his Shadow Laser,
he began to fire shot after carefully aimed shot at the buildings around
him. One by one, structures crumbled to the ground as the mocking laughter
of the Shadowborg rang through the city. Stopping, the robot then saluted
the television crews watching in horror. "Your defenders have fallen,
humans!" he cried. "Soon, the Earth will belong to Nukus!"
Turning, he walked into the shadow of one of the still-standing buildings
and was gone.
Chris looked around the Simudeck nervously. The other Rangers had insisted that he take an intensive course in hand-to-hand combat, and he really couldnít blame them. Technically, his Silver powers should tell him what to do, but they were so weak and screwed up from going into cryogenic suspension with Androsí friend, they couldnít be relied on to do more than their basic job, and that only for three minutes. Still- spending the next hour in a small room with a bunch of jocks, jocks who were going to be trying to hit him, was not the best thing for his nerves.
Now dressed in a sweatsuit, the newest Ranger scanned the Simudeck. It looked like a Red Ranger convention, he thought semi-sourly. Jason, Andros, and Tommy were all there, as well as TJ. _One friendly face,_ Chris mentally sighed. Not that the other three werenít nice, but- Andros was so distant, and as for Tommy and Jason, well, they were exactly the kind of guys who had made his life miserable for the last fifteen years.
"Ready?" TJ asked, a small grin on his face.
"No, but do I have a choice?" Chris shot back. Tommy chuckled.
"Okay, then, letís begin." Clustering around their student, the four boys began to demonstrate punches, kicks, and throws.
Half an hour later, the really interesting part began. With a few quick keystrokes, Andros created a troop of Craterites, holographic warriors, and sicced them on Chris. As the first one approached his target, Chris surprised everyone by dodging. A few more quick moves, and the new Silver Astro Ranger had the Craterites knocking each other out every time they threw a punch. A few quick strikes from behind mopped up the last of them. Dusting off his hands, Chris turned to his instructors, who were looking at him in astonishment.
"Iíve been the least popular guy in Dry Creek for fifteen years," Chris informed them. "Taught me to become an expert in the twin arts of Duck and Cover."
Tommy shook his head. "Not bad, but what happens if they back you into a corner? Sooner or later, youíre going to have to fight."
Chris sighed, but nodded. Clustering around him again, they returned
to the task at hand.
"So, did you hear about Josh?" Jo McCormick asked her brother. The three children were currently walking through downtown Charterville, enjoying the bright sunshine.
"Just that he passed out on the floor of Zoom Comics," Drew replied. "Roland, how is he, do you know?"
"Well, Nano called the ambulance, and they came and took him to the hospital. I havenít heard anything else, though."
"Weird, huh?" Jo mused. "I wonder what could have caused it?"
Roland shrugged. "Beats me. Drew? What do you think?"
Drew did not answer. Turning, Jo and Roland discovered their friend staring at the window of the local electronics store, his face the color of chalk.
"Drew? Whatís wrong?" Jo asked, concerned. Drew simply turned her towards one of the television sets in the window. Roland followed suit, and all three stood in astonishment. On the screen, the Shadowborg was ripping his way through the Power Rangers, throwing them around like ragdolls. Dimly, they could hear the voice of Bunny Bodelle giving commentary as they watched.
"That was the scene here in Angel Grove less than an hour ago, when the Shadowborg, a monster long thought destroyed by our own Beetleborgs, laid siege to the city and even managed to drive off the Power Rangers. Currently the police have barricaded the area, and we are trying to get some answers to our questions."
The picture then shifted to police milling in all directions. In the center of the shot, a knot of reporters clustered around an Asian man in his early forties.
"Detective Park! What happened here?" a voice called out.
"Are the Power Rangers all right?" cried another.
Trevor raised his hands. "Look, all we know at the moment is this Shadowborg thing appeared out of nowhere and basically ripped the city apart. The Rangers were forced to retreat, but I think we all know the stupidity of counting them out yet. That is ALL we know at this time. No further comments, and get those cameras OUT of my face!" The detective strode away from the reporters, and most were smart enough not to follow him. Vaguely, the three children could hear the detective roaring at the few foolhardy souls that did.
"I like that guy," Roland mused. "Wish somebody on the police force stuck up for US with the press."
"Weíve got to get to Angel Grove," Drew said urgently. "As soon as possible."
"Why?" Jo frowned. "Shadowborgís gone."
"For now," her brother replied. "But you know heíll be back. If heís taking on the Power Rangers, he wonít stop until heís destroyed them. Weíre going to Angel Grove to examine the wreckage, see if we canít figure out whatís new about him."
"Okay, so how do we get there?" Roland asked.
Drew grinned. "Sector Cycles, of course. Go home, get your bike, and meet us at the city limits sign, to the south. Weíll borg there and ride down to Angel Grove in a flash."
"Sounds good to me," Roland replied. "See you there!"
He then ran off in a hurry, leaving Drew and Jo to head back to their house.
"Give it another twenty minutes, you should be ready to fight," Ray Stantz reported, looking up from the readings he was examining. "Not all the way back to normal, but fighting trim."
Franklin winced. Shadowborg had done a real number on their powers. No sooner had they been teleported back into the Power Chamber than their powers had failed them completely, leaving them in their civvies. "Thanks, Dr. Stantz," he sighed. The occultist flashed him a quick grin.
"I told you, Franklin. Call me Ray. But enough about the powers. How are all are you guys?"
"No injuries- physical, at least." Franklin cast a look over at one of the rooms off the Power Chamber, where Peter and Lita had taken Fred to try and talk some sense into him. The Red Turbo Ranger had been seriously affected by the things Shadowborg had said, and also by the incredible one-sidedness of the battle. "I think most of us are all right," he continued. Then he grinned. "Justin sure bounced back quickly."
Ray followed his gaze to where the Blue Turbo Ranger and Egon were deeply engaged in an analysis of their enemy.
"That egghead?" Tasha broke in. "You could drop him in a rat-infested dungeon, complete with every type of vermin known to man, and Rito Revolto as a cellmate, and heíd be happy as long as he had a physics problem to do." Despite her rough words, the affection she felt for her teammate was quite obvious. Winston chuckled.
"What are you guys going to do, anyway?" the oldest of the Ghostbusters asked seriously. "I donít think getting your rears handed to you on the battlefield is SOP."
Rosa snorted. "No kidding. We probably ought to wait for Fred before we start planning strategy, but I think reinforcements are in order."
Franklin nodded. "The question is, where do we get them? We canít
call the Rangers back from space. Weíd better get to thinking- hard."
"Are you the last out of there?" Cassie asked as Rocky left the Megashipís shower unit. He nodded.
"Itís all yours, Cassie. Just remember to change the sign."
Grinning, she moved past him and through the door, flipping the placard hanging on the door from the blue side to the pink side. Rocky chuckled. That had been one of the first questions to arise on a ship full of people- how to work around a unisex shower room? The placard had been his suggestion, adopted from a family camping trip that his father had taken the entire brood on. The only problem had been explaining to Andros the significance of the colors. Apparently, on KO-35, boy babies wore red and girl babies wore green.
Heading back to the room he shared with Adam, Rocky shook his head, thinking about the phenomenal adaptability of sentient beings, and especially Rangers. Many of the team were only children, and the ones that werenít only had one or two siblings. He and TJ were really the only ones who had grown up in conditions something like this, and even they hadnít had twenty-some people crammed into a sardine can like this. Yet barely one day into their trip, everyone had adapted, and it was almost impossible to think of life any other way. _Thank goodness for synthetrons,_ he thought with a grin. _We NEVER could have carried that much food with us._
The teams had doubled up on occupancy, which hadnít been hard because most of the beds grew an extra bunk with the push of a button. Rocky, who had never had much privacy in his life anyway, didnít think much of it, but he could see how some of the others were having to make sacrifices. Luckily, even the intensely private Billy was dealing well with it, in part because he was rooming with Jason. Those two had known each other for so long, Rocky wasnít sure they had ANY secrets left between them anymore.
Reaching the door to his room, Rocky palmed the switch that activated
it. As it whooshed open, he saw Adam and Tanya, sitting on Adamís bed and
talking. They looked up as he entered, and he grinned. "Donít mind
me," he told them innocently. "Too bad we donít have a doorknob,"
he continued, ignoring the glare Adam was feeding him. "You could
put a tie on it, tell me to keep out." Ducking the pillow that Adam
pitched at him, Rocky grabbed the book he had come for and made tracks,
laughing to himself. No doubt about it, this was going to be an adventure.
Peter sighed slightly. Heíd been fairly flattered when Lita had asked him to help her talk to Fred, but he hadnít realized just how bad the kidís condition could get. The boy was simply sitting in a heap, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. Lita, however, seemed to have seen this sort of thing before. Walking over to him, she gently turned his head so that he was looking directly at the two adults. Peter winced at the expression of utter emptiness in the boyís eyes.
"Fred?" Lita asked quietly. "Whatís wrong? Come on, please, talk to me."
"I failed. That thing just- swatted us like flies. If Dr. Spengler and Ray hadnít pulled us out, he would have stolen our powers, and probably killed us. And itís all my fault."
"How could you know how powerful that thing was?" Peter asked, coming forward. "Itís not like you could just wave a PKE meter at it and say ĎClass seven, big trouble.í And you didnít rush in there or anything. Iíd say you showed a pretty healthy respect for what that thing might be able to do."
"But he could have- he almost KILLED the rest of the team. I should have been able to stop them. It was my responsibility."
Lita sighed. "Being the leader of the team does not mean that everything that goes wrong is your fault, Fred, regardless of how Jason and Tommy behave. Shadowborg caught you off guard, but that happens to everybody. Whatís important is that you learn from it."
Fred still refused to meet her eyes, and Peter frowned. Heíd seen that look on Egonís face a time or two, and he knew what it meant. "Thereís more to this Ďfailureí thing, isnít there? You feel like youíve always got to be the one to protect everybody? Why?" the psychologist asked carefully. For a minute, Fred looked as if he wasnít going to answer. Then the words burst from his throat in a torrent.
"Look at me! Iím the smallest on the team- a head shorter than either of the GIRLS, and no muscles to boot. Franklin and Justin are both beginning to hit their growth spurts, but not me. Iím just a shrimpy little bundle of sticks."
Light dawned behind Peterís eyes. "So thatís what this is about." Lita shot him a look, so he explained. "Think about it. Tommyís what, six foot one? Six-two? And Jason, he may be short on the grand scale of things, but heís still an inch or so taller than anyone on the Morphin Warriors- well, except maybe Skull. Besides, Jasonís got them all beat in muscle mass. Red Rangers are supposed to be the most imposing, but Fred here- heís the one whoís most obviously a kid. Iíd imagine he tries to make up for that by being the best leader he can be." Turning, the Ghostbuster caught the gaze of his patient once again. "You know, if I didnít know better, Iíd think you were buying into what that chrome-plated nut said about Franklin."
Fredís head shot up. "What? No way! If thereís anybody I know who WOULDNíT scheme behind my back, itís Franklin Park."
"Oh, I know that. Most loyal kid Iíve seen in my life, and considering who he hangs out with, thatís saying quite a bit," the psychologist continued easily. "But if youíre such a lousy leader, why else would he still follow you? Canít be because he respects your decisions. So he must be running the whole show from the background and letting you take the fall, huh?"
Fred opened his mouth to protest, and then began to laugh. "Youíve got a point, Dr. Venkman," the boy admitted. "And I need my head examined for listening to Shadowborg."
"Hey," Lita grinned. "Thatís what weíre here for."
He nodded, getting to his feet. "Thanks. I appreciate it."
"I think Iím gonna be sick," Platinum Purple whispered. The three Beetleborgs, now clad in their armor, were exploring one of the buildings that Shadowborg had brought down with a few shots.
"Not inside your helmet, youíre not," Titanium Silver retorted. "Just take a few deep breaths, itíll go away."
"Can we stay on the task at hand?" Chromium Gold sighed. "Roland, what do you make of this?" He pointed at a beam that had been sheared completely in two.
Titanium Silver whistled. "Load-bearing member, hardened steel. He blasted all the way through it with one shot. See, one clean edge. Iíd say his powerís doubled, at least."
"Great. Nukus has outdone himself this time," grumbled Chromium Gold.
"May I ask what the three of you are doing in here?" a voice asked pleasantly. The three armor-clad heroes whirled. Standing behind them was the police detective that they had seen on the news. Detective Park, Platinum Purple remembered.
"Oh- Weíre the Beetleborgs, from Charterville," Chromium Gold replied.
"Weíre checking out the damage, trying to get an idea of what improvements have been made on Shadowborg since the last time we crossed him," added Titanium Silver.
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "Youíre planning to take him on all by yourselves?"
"If we have to," acknowledged Chromium Gold.
Platinum Purple added "But weíre not looking forward to it."
"Do you think the Power Rangers would be willing to help us?" Titanium Silver finished. Trevor grinned.
"I donít know. Let me ask." To the surprise of the Beetleborgs, Trevor slid the sleeve of his jacket back to reveal a strange looking wristband. "Trevor Park to Power Chamber, come in."
"Power Chamber here," Ray Stantzís voice replied. "Whatís up, Detective?"
"Iím here talking to the Beetleborgs. They want to know if the Power Rangers want to join forces."
"Do we ever!" a high voice broke in. The Beetleborgs exchanged looks. Despite their relatively small size, it had never crossed their minds that the Power Rangers might be young teens as well. "This is the Red Ranger, and if you guys are willing to help us out, weíd love to have you. Mind if we teleport you to the Power Chamber?"
Chromium Gold shrugged. "No, go ahead." Suddenly a strange
tingling feeling swept over him and he felt himself dissolve. Trevor Park
watched in amusement as three columns of light streaked towards the sky.
One was blue edged with gold, one green edged with silver, and the third
red edged with purple. Chuckling, the detective turned around and headed
back towards the rest of the investigation.
The Astro Megaship rocked again as Chris and Ashley raced onto the bridge. "Sorry," the Yellow Astro Ranger apologized. "The turbolifts are down, and we had to come up six decks on the ladder."
"Find a seat and start shooting," Andros ordered. "Chris, come over here and help me fly this thing before somebody puts a hole in it."
The Silver Astro Ranger did as ordered, smoothly taking over the steering controls. "So, did we hit a speed trap, or is somebody just having a bad day?" he asked, trying a few maneuvers.
"We were just flying along, minding our own business, when bam! These guys decloak and start firing on us!" Carlos replied. "Maybe they donít like our bumper stickers."
"Theyíre Dianth Clan pirates," Andros replied shortly. "I caught sigils on the crafts shortly before the shooting started."
"Dianth Clan? Who are they, exactly?" asked TJ.
"And should we try to outrun them or out-shoot them?" Cassie added.
"The Dianth Clan are the worst pirates in nine sectors of space," explained Andros. "Youíve met already met one- Divatox, although sheís a bit of a disappointment to the Elders. If we run, theyíll chase us until weíre all dead in the water. Our only choice is to fight."
"Donít look at me!" Chris growled. "This thing ainít exactly Veritech, you know. Iím lucky I can dodge HALF of what theyíre shooting at us."
"Weíre SERIOUSLY outnumbered," Ashley announced.
"Carlos, TJ, lock on Mega lasers," Andros instructed. "At the very least, we can take most of them with us."
For long minutes, the battle raged on, the gargantuan Megaship against the smaller, more agile Dianth fighters.
"Andros, weíre getting our rears fried here!" Carlos cried.
"Tell me something I donít know!"
"Thereís a HUGE ship moving in from heading 0-45!" Cassie called.
TJ looked up towards the main podium. "What does that mean?"
Andros sighed. "Either weíve been rescued- or theyíve called for reinforcements."
The question was answered as the newcomer opened fire on the Dianth ships. Outclassed and outgunned, the pirate fighters quickly turned tail and split.
"Andros," Cassie called suddenly, "Iíve got a call coming in over the subspace frequencies."
"On screen." The screen suddenly flared to life, showing a handsome humanoid male, seemingly in his late teens.
"Greetings, Astro Megaship. I am Jíneth, Captain of the _Starlight._ Are you in need of assistance or repairs?"
Andros nodded. "Both- and information. Permission to dock?"
"Permission granted. I look forward the this conversation." With that, the screen winked out. Cassie raised an eyebrow. "Who was THAT?"
"That was Jíneth, current Fleetleader for Clan Starrunner."
Andros took a deep breath. "Another pirate clan."
"Mmmm." Josh Baldwin slowly opened his eyes, blinking a few times as the world swam into focus. What had happened? The last thing he remembered was falling to the floor of Zoom Comics, and everything going black.
Opening his eyes further, he realized he was lying in a bed in some sort of room. The walls were of an appalling shade of pale blue, leaving only one conclusion. "Iím in the hospital?" he asked the room at large.
"Well, I see youíre up, Josh." A man of about twenty, dressed in nurseís scrubs, entered the room armed with a clipboard. "You gave us all quite a fright."
"How long have I been out?" he asked, wiping the last of the sleep from his eyes.
"Almost a day now," the nurse replied, pulling out a penlight. After testing Josh for pupillary response and memory loss, he stood up.
"Your parents are at home, if youíre wondering. We werenít expecting you to wake up so soon. Iíll have somebody contact them immediately."
"Thanks," Josh replied. "Hey, can I use this phone?"
"If you want," the nurse grinned. "Just remember, itís charged to your bill." Then he left.
Settling back on his pillow with a sigh, Josh turned on the television. Flipping through the channels, he quickly found Bunny Bodelleís latest newscast from Angel Grove.
"And it seems that Chartervilleís own Beetleborgs have come down to Angel Grove to deal with this menace. Not ten minutes ago, our armor-clad heroes were seen talking to Detective Trevor Park in the midst of the damage caused by the Shadowborg." The broadcast went on, but Josh didnít hear it. The Shadowborg? Alive? This was the stuff of his worst nightmares. Clicking off the television, Josh fumbled for the phone. Quickly, he dialed a number that he was surprised he even remembered.
"Hi, Mrs. McCormick. This is Josh Baldwin. No, Iím fine, really. Is Drew there? Heís where? I see. No, Iím just bored and I wanted to talk. Thanks." Hanging up, he tried another number.
"Hey, Nano. This is Josh. What? Well, I feel fine, thanks. No, I didnít hit my head or anything. Listen, Nano, I was wondering if Roland was there. Out with Drew and Jo? Okay, thanks. No, I just wanted to talk. Bye."
Setting the phone back on its cradle, Josh began to think. He needed answers, but who else could he call? Hillhurst didnít have a phone- as far as he knew- and he certainly couldnít sneak out of the hospital and go in person, even if his civilian powers were back. Who else was there that could possibly get him some answers? Suddenly he smiled and picked up the phone again.
"Art Fortunes speaking, how did you get this number?" Josh couldnít help but laugh. It had been a while since he had seen the semi-reclusive comic artist, but he sounded just about the same.
"Mr. Fortunes, this is Josh Baldwin. White Blaster Beetleborg, remember?"
"I remember. How are you doing, Josh?"
"Iím in the hospital. I passed out on the floor of Zoom Comics, and I think I know why. Turn the television on, Channel 17."
There was a click from the other end of the line as Art did so, then dead silence for a few minutes. Finally Art spoke. "Oh my GodÖ I didnít think even Lester could do something like that."
"Tell me about it. Could I have gotten my powers back? Is that why I passed out?"
"Hmmm." Art thought about that for a minute. "Well, you probably have the civilian powers, but you wonít be able to borg. Your White Blaster powers were based on a sort of matrix formed by the other three. With those powers destroyed by Nukus, you have nothing to borg into."
"Great," Josh sighed. "Anyway, I tried to call the others, but I couldnít get a hold of them. Do you think you could head up to Hillhurst and get some answers for me?"
Art chuckled. "Sure, why not? Itís been too long since someone stuck me between two slices of bread anyway. You just relax and try to recover. Youíre going to be a bit woozy from the power transfer for a while."
"Okay. Be careful."
"You too." Hanging up the phone, Josh lay back against his
pillows once again. He did not like the way this was headed. Not one bit.
A light footstep behind her caused Chelsea look up from the screen she was engrossed in. Turning, she saw Ecliptor standing in the doorway of the data library, watching her.
"You donít startle easily, do you?" he asked, an amused tone in his voice. She chuckled.
"After Putties, Tengas, Cogs, Piranhatrons, and Quantrons popping out of the ground in front of you, you come to expect surprises. What can I do for you?" She didnít trust Dark Specterís henchman any further than Trey did, but she saw no reason not to be civil about it.
"I heard noises in here and wanted to check it out. Never know what can be hiding in the depths of a ship. What are you looking for? Anything in particular?"
"Just history texts. All I know about the galaxy is what was in Pyramidasí computer banks."
"Most of this was written by members of the Alliance of Evil," Ecliptor informed her. Chelsea shrugged.
"All the more reason to read it. If you want the whole story on ANYTHING, you have to read both sides. The forces of Good do occasionally re-write history to serve their own purposes."
"Not words Iíd expect to hear from someone who spends so much time in the company of Rangers."
She laughed. "Actually, Tommy taught me that, a long time ago. History is written by the victors- but the losers usually have more truth to tell."
"Rather a cynical view for one of Zordonís chosen," the crystalline warrior mused.
"We grew up in one of the nastiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Cynicism is a survival trait there. You know, in a strange way, becoming Ritaís Green Ranger was actually good for him. It was so easy to look at the world around us and think that there wasnít any good or evil, only winners and losers. Tommy was definitely not a loser. He had a hunterís instincts, which is why Rita chose him. But in a way, that showed him what the end of that path would be like. Then he joined Zordonís Rangers, and the rest is history." She cocked her head. "You know, youíre a great deal like him, especially when he was Green. Pain, anger, all locked up beneath an emotionless surface. A hunter who only takes joy in the hunt, because anything else might break his self-control." Then she chuckled. "But I donít think youíre all that flattered by the comparison."
"I know the spirit in which you meant it," Ecliptor replied. "In some ways, you remind me of Astronoma. Capable, intelligent, completely unwilling to take no for an answerÖ"
"You like her, huh?" Somehow, Chelsea had never thought of villains as having that type of feeling for each other, but everything from the wistful tone in Ecliptorís voice to the set of his body reinforced the idea.
Suddenly a quiet cough from the door startled them both. "Iím not interrupting anything, am I?" Trey asked, in a tone that suggested heíd better not have.
Ecliptor chuckled, rising from the table. "Sheís not my type," he shot back, pushing past Trey and walking out the door.
"What was all that about?" Trey asked. "You two looked like you were getting pretty cozy."
Chelsea regarded him in amusement. "I know youíre not dumb enough to be jealous, Trey." Despite her smile, the warning was quite clear. "After all, Iím NOT your property."
"Iím not jealous," Trey insisted. "Iím just worried about you. This guy is Dark Specterís right-hand man! Heís responsible for the destruction of innocent worlds all across the galaxy."
"Maybe so," she acknowledged, "but right now heís the
one giving us a ride. I want to stay on his good side, donít you?"
Trey had no real answer for that.
"Wow," Titanium Silver breathed, as his component molecules re-assembled themselves. "This place is fantastic!"
"No kidding," Platinum Purple agreed.
While the other two Beetleborgs were sizing up the Power Chamber, Chromium Goldís attention was occupied by the people in it. He didnít get a feeling of threat from any of them, but he examined them anyway, out of habit. Four of the five grown-ups in the room, the four men, looked awfully familiar, but he couldnít exactly place them at the moment. Then one of the kids stepped forward.
"Iím Fred Kelman, Red Turbo Ranger," he announced. "These are the other Turbo Rangers: Franklin Park, Green; Rosa De Santos, Pink; Tasha Young, Yellow; and Justin Stewart, Blue. The guys in the corner are our friend and team psychiatrist, Dr. Lita Kino, and the Ghostbusters, who are temporarily helping us out in the support staff department."
"I thought you guys looked familiar," Titanium Silver blurted.
"Well of course you did," Peter preened. "Weíre famous." The other Ghostbusters just rolled their eyes.
"We trust you with our identities," Fred broke in, returning the Beetleborgsí attention to him. "You can trust us with yours."
After exchanging glances with his teammates, Chromium Gold nodded. "Backblast!" In a flash of light, the Beetleborgsí armor evaporated, leaving Drew eye-to-eye with Fred Kelman, who still stood in front of him. Fredís mouth quirked.
"Man, I canít WAIT Ďtil Tommy gets back," he chuckled. "This is the last time Iím going to get a lecture on being "too young for the job."
Drew shrugged. "Iím Drew McCormick, and this my best friend, Roland Williams, and my sister Jo." He extended his hand, which Fred shook firmly.
"Well, weíre glad youíre here," Tasha spoke up. "Weíre SERIOUSLY going to need your help if weíre gonna stop Shadowborg."
"It wonít be easy. We barely stopped him before, and that was before Nukus re-designed him," Roland replied seriously.
Justin cocked his head. "I think weíd better start with a rundown on exactly what the set-up is with you guys. Where you get your powers, your monsters, and who your enemies are. We canít afford to assume ANYTHING."
Taking a deep breath, Drew launched into the story of how the Beetleborgs had released Flabber, the phasm of Hillhurst, who had then given them the power of Beetleborgs. As he went on, Jo and Roland filled in any gaps he left, taking the narrative up to the present day and the reign of Nukus.
"So- these monsters come from COMIC BOOK drawings?" Franklin asked, incredulous."
Rosa shrugged. "Itís no weirder than Lord Zeddís beam that made monsters out of trumpets and cicadas," she reminded him.
"Is there anyone youíve got on support that we should bring in on this?" Fred asked. "Weíre gonna need all the help we can get."
"Flabber," Jo replied. "But he canít leave the grounds of Hillhurst. Heís from another dimension, and he canít manifest anywhere else."
"Ley nexus?" Franklin asked, looking at Justin. The Blue Turbo Ranger nodded.
"Ninety percent probability. The lines of natural magic do cross a lot in Charterville, although not as much as here. Thereís probably a sizable ley nexus under the house."
"Does that mean we can bring Flabber here?" Drew asked, furrowing his brow.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, sure," Justin replied, already half-lost in thought. "Itís just a matter of causing a nexus connection so that he can manifest in the plasma tubeÖ Dr. Spengler? Could you give me a hand with these circuits?"
"Great. So now somebody just has to go to Hillhurst to set up the transfer," Franklin chuckled. "I should do that- I know how Justinís mind operates. Which one of you Beetleborgs wants to escort me?"
"I will," Drew replied. "But youíd better be ready to face the house monsters. They may try to eat you. In fact, maybe weíd better borg- or whatever you do- just to be safe."
Fred nodded. "Good idea. Take Tasha with you, as well. She can scare ANYTHING into submission." The yellow-clad girl blew her leader a raspberry, but she was grinning from ear to ear.
Moving away from the others, Drew, Tasha, and Franklin looked at each other for a moment. Then Drew extended his hand.
"Data Bonder!" A beetle-shaped metal box appeared in his hand. "Input card! Beetleblast!"
"Shift into Turbo!" Franklin cried. "Desert Thunder Turbo Power!"
"Dune Star Turbo Power!"
When the power from their transformations had cleared, the three heroes found themselves on the front porch of an old, abandoned-looking house. Green Turbo held in his hand some sort of device.
"Where did you get that?" Chromium Gold asked, fascinated.
"Teleported it out of storage on our way here," Green Turbo replied.
"Well, donít stand here jawing about it," Yellow Turbo told them. "Letís go inside."
Taking the lead, Chromium Gold pushed open the door and the three of them went inside. No sooner had the door shut behind them than four figures jumped out of nowhere.
"Ahh, lunch has arrived!" the vampire enthused.
"And gift-wrapped to boot!" added the mummy. The werewolf just growled, and the Frankensteinís monster clapped itís hands.
"Me want food! Me want food!"
"Back off, Monster Squad," Yellow Turbo replied. "Weíre here on business. Unless you wanna have a taste of my Autoblaster?" she pulled the gun and pointed it at the mummy. The monsters quickly raised their hands and backed away.
"Guys, theyíre Power Rangers," Chromium Gold sighed. "We need to talk to Flabber. Where is he?"
"In the other room," the vampire replied. "Heís talking to Art Fortunes right now."
The three heroes exchanged glances and moved into the parlor. As they entered, Art jumped up from the couch heíd been sitting on. "Drew! Iíve been looking all over for you! Did you know that Nukus has resurrected the Shadowborg?"
Chromium Gold nodded. "Yeah, the Turbo Rangers have already had one run-in with him. Weíre going to need both of you to come to the Power Chamber to help out."
Flabber, who looked rather like a cross between Jay Leno and Liberace, cocked his head. "But Drew, I canít leave the house! You know that!"
"Not a problem," Green Turbo replied. "This device emits a ray that causes a sort of transmission effect along the ley lines. Weíre currently on one that leads all the way to the nexus under the Power Chamber. We can set you up in the plasma tube, no problem."
"Help the Power Rangers?" Art said, in mild awe. "Why is it every time I turn around, Iím involved with another group of superheroes?"
"Just lucky?" Yellow Turbo offered. "Look, you guys coming or not?"
Flabber and Art looked at each other for a long moment, then nodded.
In unison, they replied, "Yes."
"The Starrunners are practically the opposite of everything the Dianth Clan stands for," Andros explained. "Technically, theyíre pirates, but they have a very strong code of honor, and they usually only attack Alliance of Evil warships. Since the Alliance and the Council are in a constant state of war, their attacks are overlooked by the Council authorities."
"Kind of like Sir Francis Drake, back during the Spanish-American war," Ashley interjected. All the passengers on the ship were gathered in the main docking bay, awaiting the link-up with the _Starfire._
Andros nodded. "Exactly. There are five clans total which have the same arrangement with the Council, but the Starrunners are probably the best known. On most Council worlds, theyíre regarded in much the same way your people regard Robin Hood, especially Jíneth. He was the prince of a small planet called Bariath, wrongly accused of murdering his father to assume the throne. In fact, it was his uncleís doing, but no one was about to listen to him. He fled to the Starrunners, having been warned about "accidents" keeping him from trial. It didnít take him long to make Fleetleader, and he eventually proved his innocence. So now heís technically the king of Bariath, but he prefers the looser life of a Fleetleader."
Jamie raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like a B-grade science fiction movie."
"Real life ALWAYS sounds like a B-movie," Jason replied.
Suddenly DECAís voice filled the bay. "Docking maneuvers complete. _Starfire_ crew is preparing to board." There was a soft hiss as the hatch doors slid open, and five figures stepped from the tunnel between the two ships.
Leaning over to her boyfriend, Lillian whispered, "Honor guard?"
"Bodyguards," Tommy replied just as softly. "Just because we say weíre Rangers doesnít mean weíre friendly."
The Astro Rangers, who had been on the bridge, recognized the man in front as Jíneth. The Starrunner Fleetleader stepped forward, coming face to face with Andros. In response, the Red Astro Ranger inclined his head.
"Oh, please, forget the protocol," Jíneth chuckled, offering his arm. The two men clasped forearms firmly, a greeting between equals.
"We are extremely grateful for your assistance," Andros informed the older man. "Those Dianth fighters didnít do a whole lot of damage, but we could use some repair help."
"Not a problem. You said something about information," Jíneth pursued. "What in the name of the Grid could be so pressing as to bring the Power Rangers of Earth so far from home?"
Andros raised an eyebrow. "You havenít heard? Zordon of Eltare has been arrested for violating Earthís interdict."
"Thatís ridiculous! And why wait five years after the violation became public to arrest him?"
"Apparently, the Council was willing to shield him until recently. It seems someone has planted the idea in the minds of the members that Zordon may no longer be fit for duty."
Jíneth made a rude noise. "Iíll be glad to help in any way I can. What information do you need?"
"Iíve been out of the galactic news circuit recently, and what Zordon picks up is only the official stuff. What exactly has been going on in galactic politics that I should know about?"
"That could take some time. Why donít you come back to my briefing room and Iíll tell you everything I can? Meanwhile, the other Rangers and some of my Starrunners can start on the repairs. With so many pairs of hands working, it should take hardly any time at all."
Andros looked back over his shoulder at the other Rangers. Seeing the
nodded heads in the crowd, he turned back to Jíneth with a nod of his own.
"Sounds good to me."
Jo shook her head at the image of Flabber ensconced in the Power Chamberís previously empty plasma tube. "Whatís it like in there, Flabber?" she asked.
"Like being in a big, smoke-filled jar, really," the phasm replied. "A lot of energy, though. I dunno, it feels kind of like- thereís an extra room in Hillhurst, and I just stepped into it and went to the window."
Meanwhile, Ray and Art Fortunes were deep in discussion. "So you just draw whatever the kids need, and Flabber makes it real?" the occultist asked, fascinated. The artist nodded.
"Thatís about the size of it. Although unlike Nukus, Flabber doesnít have an unlimited power well to draw from. He can only bring stuff to life every so often."
"Actually, thatís not true," the phasm interjected. "I COULD bring things out of the comic just as often as Nukus- but my stuff never gets sent back in the first place, so my power goes to maintaining it, not bringing it out."
Drew, half-listening to this discussion, pulled himself away and headed over to where Egon, Justin, Franklin, and Fred were combing the databanks for other possible allies. "Find anything yet, guys?"
Egon nodded. "I believe so. Two candidates, actually. We have a name and address on one- Dex Stewart, the Masked Rider."
Drew raised an eyebrow at Justin. "Any relation?" The blue-clad genius shrugged.
"Not that I know of."
"The other candidate," Fred broke in, taking up the flow of the conversation, "is actually a team. The VR Troopers, up in Cross World City. We donít have as much information on them, but thereís a journalist, a Kaitlin Starr, who seems to have the same arrangement with them as Parker OíNeil has with us. Heís the guy we give all our interviews too," Fred explained for Drewís benefit. "Every interview and ninety percent of the stories about the Troopers have been written by her."
"So somebody should go and get them on our side," Drew mused.
Franklin nodded. "Fred, you ought to go get Masked Rider. If heís met Tommy and the others, as this databank suggests, heíll probably take the offer best from the leader of the Power Rangers."
"And youíre the most diplomatic of the Rangers," Fred grinned. "You should go up to Cross World and see if you canít get the Troopers to help."
Roland, who had been listening to the conversation, felt that this would be a good time to step in. "Not without me. Youíre fresh off a major defeat, your first ever, and youíre walking into a room filled with reporters? Man, they will eat you alive! You need somebody for crowd control."
"Youíre right," Franklin agreed. "Weíd better morph, but Fred, you might have more luck going as yourself."
"Right. I donít want to attract the neighborsí attention to him,
if I can help it."
Fred landed in the bushes of a neatly kept suburban home. Picking twigs out of his clothing, he made his way carefully out of the brush. "Well, I can be pretty certain nobody saw me," he grumbled. Checking the address, he walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.
For a long moment, there was no answer. Faintly, Fredís enhanced hearing could pick up sounds of people running around, as if they were hiding something. Then the door swung open, and Fred found himself facing a pretty Oriental woman in her late thirties.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Um, yeah. Iím looking for Dex Stewart," Fred replied. "Itís a very urgent matter. Is he here?"
"Oh, yes. Please, come in." Fred did as she asked, thinking as he did so that the woman looked slightly flustered. "Dex!" she called up the stairs. "Thereís someone here to see you!"
"Tell Patsy Dex went to Cosmos," a girlís voice called down.
"Itís not Patsy!" The woman threw a look at Fred, who obligingly supplied his name. "He says his name is Fred Kelman!"
"Tell him Iím a friend of Tommy Oliverís," Fred called. There were a few seconds of silence, and then a tall young man with dark hair and eyes came down the stairs.
"You know Tommy?" he asked warily.
"Yeah," Fred replied. "Thatís where I got your name from. Listen, thereís something very important I have to talk to you about."
Dex raised an eyebrow. "Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of my family."
"All right. I know Tommy because Iím a Power Ranger too. Iím Red Turbo. You may or may not have seen on the news how a new enemy handed our behinds to us today."
"I saw," Dex assented.
"Thatís why we need the help of Masked Rider," Fred explained. "Weíve already got the Beetleborgs, but this guy is so STRONG! We need all the help we can get at this point."
"Where are the other Rangers?" asked Dex, puzzled. "Wouldnít they help?"
"They had to go off to space on an emergency mission," Fred replied. "The Turbos and whatever allies we can muster are all thatís left between Earth and the Shadowborg."
"Iím in," Dex nodded, determined. "Mom, tell Molly, Dad, and Albie that Iím going to have to go to Angel Grove for a while."
Barbara Stewart nodded. "You be careful, Dex."
"I will." Then in two flashes of light, Fred and Dex were
"You were right," Green Turbo muttered. "This place is a madhouse!"
Titanium Silver nodded, although he could barely hear his friend over the noise of the reporters asking questions. The press (pardon the expression) of journalists had completely surrounded the two heroes, who were standing out in the middle of the floor of the Underground Voice Daily newspaper offices. Finally, Titanium Silver whipped out his Data Laser and let a blast off into the ceiling. Instantly the reporters became quiet.
"Hey! We just had this place fixed!" cried a bearded man in a naval captainís hat.
"Itís okay," replied the Beetleborg. "The laserís set on ice. Your ceiling will be fine- once it thaws out."
"Weíre looking for Kaitlin Starr," Green Turbo announced. "Is she here?"
"Yeah, Iím here," a girlís voice replied. Green Turbo turned to see a tall girl with shoulder-length blond hair pushing her way through the crowd. "Whatís this all about?"
"Weíd prefer to discuss this in private," Titanium Silver informed her.
"Well, what are you all looking at?" the bearded man asked the rest of the reporters. "Last I checked, we were putting out a newspaper here! Go on, shoo!" As the rest of the reporters shuffled reluctantly to their tasks, Kaitlin threw a grateful smile at her editor.
"Thanks, Woody," she told him. "Youíre a lifesaver."
Woody just grinned at her, returning to his editing duties. Kaitlin then turned back to her two visitors, still quite aware of the eyes and ears trained on her. "Why donít we go out back?" she asked, pointing. "Itís a LITTLE more private."
The three of them filed out the back door. No sooner had it shut behind them than Kaitlin turned and regarded the two heroes. "Now what is all this about?"
"Well," Green Turbo began, "we know you guys all saw what happened to us earlier today. Shadowborg kicked our buns from here to next Thursday. To make things worse, the other three Ranger teams were called away for an emergency. Weíve teamed up with the Beetleborgs, but weíre afraid that wonít be enough. Thatís why we need you to get in touch with the VR Troopers for us. Weíll need their help if weíre going to beat Shadowborg."
"Why ask me? I mean, what makes you think I know the Troopers?"
"Youíve gotten EVERY interview theyíve ever given," Titanium Silver replied. "Thatís kind of a high percentage for just luck. We figure youíre kind of their press liaison."
"Please, you have to talk to them. At least to set up a meeting. This could be vitally important to the safety of the world," continued Green Turbo
Kaitlin seemed to think about this. "Do you mind excusing me for just a minute?" When the two nodded, she walked around the corner. After a few minutes, she came back.
"The Troopers say theyíll meet you in five minutes in Cross World City Park. Come on, Iíll show you where it is."
"Actually, Iíve got a better way to get there," Green Turbo chuckled. "Put your hand on my shoulders and envision the place you want to go." Kaitlin did so, and before she could so much as squeak, the three of them dissolved and re-appeared in Cross World Park.
"Wow, some ride," she gasped. Suddenly there were two more flashes, this time in strange circuitry patterns. Two figures in armor appeared, one blue and silver, one black, silver, and red.
"Kaitlin, are you all right?" the Blue Trooper asked. His voice was a light tenor, and the warmth in it was unmistakable.
The reporter nodded. "Yeah, Iím fine," she replied. "So- you guys were monitoring all of that?"
The Black Trooper nodded. "Yeah, we were watching you from the lab. Are you two serious? You really need our help?" The Black Trooper was taller than his teammate, and his voice was deeper.
"Most definitely," Titanium Silver replied.
Green Turbo nodded. "What do you say?"
"Weíd be honored," the Blue Trooper replied. From his stance and tone, he was obviously the leader. Green Turbo chuckled as a thought struck him.
"Then weíll teleport the three of you to the Power Chamber with us, since Kaitlin here is obviously the third Trooper."
She laughed. "Youíre very observant, Green Ranger." Then the
five heroes dissolved in a flash and were gone.
"Pass me that soldering iron, will you?" Ashley asked. Christina looked around herself, then picked up the tool and passed it to her friend. Any of the Rangers with scientific or technical knowledge were involved with repairing the engine room, which had been hard hit during the fight with the Dianth clan. Looking around, Christina could see Billy and Carlos working on some of the main engine ports, while Adam and Trini dealt with the computer systems. Meanwhile, she and Ashley were fixing some of the most vital wiring connections.
"Hmmm," the Yellow Astro Ranger mused. "Christina, can you pass me-" she broke off as she felt the wire cutters passed into her hand. Looking up, she raised an eyebrow at the other girl. "Reading my mind, are you?"
Christina shook her head, smiling. "No, but Iíve watched Billy fix enough devices to know what you were going to ask for next. You two are enough alike in that respect that I donít HAVE to read your mind." Looking over to where Billy was working, the White Zeo Ranger abruptly switched topics. "I never would have figured Carlos for a tech," she confessed. "He just- doesnít seem the type."
"Well, heís not like Billy- or even Adam or Trini," Ashley replied absently. "Heís absolutely lousy on theory. Billy can invent things, and Adam or Trini could take one look at the blueprints and explain what it does. Carlos canít do any of that, but heís excellent at jury-rigging anything he gets his hands on."
"We donít know each other very well, do we?" Christina asked suddenly. The wistful tone in her voice surprised Ashley, who looked up. "The Astro Rangers and the Zeo Rangers, I mean. I remember when I joined the Rangers, everybody was pretty close. Not that I donít think of you guys as my friends, butÖ"
"Weíre different generations," Ashley replied. "By the time we started, you guys had all gone off to college. You were the "old guys," the experienced ones. Heck, the four of us practically thought of you as legends! Itís hard to get to know someone as a person after that. Who knows, though? Maybe this trip will let us do that."
"Iíd like that," Christina replied. "My lifeís always been pretty much perfect, but the friendships that being a Ranger brings- theyíre like nothing else. I have a LOT of cousins and other relatives, almost as many as Rocky, and family is really important to me. I guess I feel like the Rangers are extra family, and I donít want to let any of my family down."
"Donít your parents live in Los Angeles?" Ashley asked. "Did you tell them about leaving?" Christina shook her head.
"No. As far as they know, Iím still in London, sharing a flat with Katya. I just teleport back to the States to be with everyone during the summer. I think thereíll be fewer headaches for everyone that way. Katarina did sort of the same thing, actually." Christina sighed. "I guess if I donít make it back, someone will have to break the news to them for me."
"Donít think like that!" Ashley scolded. "Weíll get back,
donít worry. Weíll all get back." Then she grinned. "In the meantime,
hand me that splicer, will you?"
"Wow! This place is intense!" Once inside the Power Chamber, the Blue and Black Troopers had retroformed, returning to their natural selves. The Blue Trooper was a blond, blue-eyed young man, about Jasonís height but with a slimmer build. His companion was taller, about Tommyís height, and black. Although he was quite slender, the muscles on his arms were quite apparent.
"Okay, listen up, Ďcause weíre only gonna go through this once," Fred declared. "Iím Fred Kelman, leader of the Turbo Rangers. These are the other Rangers: Rosa De Santos, Franklin Park, Justin Stewart, and Tasha Young." Quickly the other occupants of the room identified themselves, from the Ghostbusters to Dex, the Masked Rider. Finally all the attention in the room came down to the Troopers.
"Iím Ryan Steele," the blond introduced himself. "I- guess you could say Iím the leader of the VR Troopers."
Kaitlin punched him in the shoulder. "You are and you know it, Ry," she chuckled. "Iím Kaitlin Starr," she informed the rest of the group.
"And Iím JB Reese," the third Trooper finished up. "Iím the brains of this outfit."
"Welcome to the nuthouse," Peter informed him, with a small grin. "Anybody we ought to be collecting? Support staff?"
"Well- we could probably contact the Professor through one of your monitors," JB mused. "Heís technically a virtual image, so distance isnít a real problem."
"Jeb!" Ryan cried suddenly, slapping a hand to his forehead. Seeing the looks directed at him, he quickly explained. "My dog. There was a little accident in the lab, which is kind of our base, and now he can talk, like an ordinary human. Heíd never forgive me if I left him out of this."
"Heís at the lab right now," Kaitlin mentioned. "JB, why donít you call up the Professor?"
"Then we could teleport your dog here," Justin offered.
"Sounds good to me," Ryan agreed. In a flash, the connection was established, and almost as quickly, Jeb materialized in the middle of the Power Chamber.
"Whoa!" the dog barked, staring around himself with wide eyes. "Ryan, what in the world is going on here?"
Ryan crossed over to his dog and scratched behind his ears. "We
have got a lot to fill you in on, Buddy," Ryan sighed.
Alarms echoed through the corridors of the Astro Megaship. Underneath the blaring sound, DECAís calm, smooth voice was saying, "The Astro Megaship is under attack by another wave of Dianth fighters. All qualified pilots and Rangers who have commanded flying Zords, please report to the main launching bay of the _Starfire._"
Chris skidded into the bay even before DECA began to repeat the announcement. The large hold was a mass of activity, full of Starrunner crew members quickly readying a number of single-person fighter craft. They looked, Chris thought absently, a great deal like X-Wings. Spotting Andros in the center of a knot of Rangers, he hurried over.
The Rangers present were not a huge group. Kimberly, Billy, Tommy, Jason, Rocky, Jamie, and Lillian were the only representatives of the teams. "Reporting for duty," Chris puffed, joining the group.
Andros acknowledged him with a nod. "Most of you here arenít pilots, so the only experience youíve got here is flying a Zord. Now, the cockpit is laid out in much the same fashion, single control stick with laser controls. Youíve got shields, but TRY not to need them. They wonít take more than a little punishment, considering what those fighters are packing. Now, go and get a fighter and letís do some damage!" Seven of the Rangers scattered, but when Chris turned to go, Andros stopped him. "Ashley says you can fly anything, Chris, and from what Iíve seen, I believe it. Think you can fly that?" Andros pointed.
Turning, Chris saw a ship, different in design from the others. It had a raised turret on the back, and was a little longer in the body than most of the other ones in the bay. "Thatís a two-man craft, isnít it? Sure, I can fly it, but where am I gonna get a gunner?"
"That would be me," a voice said behind him. Carlos walked up beside him and threw him a grin. "I canít fly worth beans, but Iím an excellent shot. And youíre at your best when you donít have to deal with anything but flying. I think we make a pretty good team, donít you?"
Chris nodded, although he had a few reservations. Still- Carlos was competent, even if he didnít like the guy much.
"Okay, get going," Andros replied. "And good luck." As the two of them scrambled for the Gunstar, he headed for his own ship, praying to whatever power might listen for every Ranger to come back safe and sound.
"Okay, people!" Chris grinned. "Transform and roll out!"
Rockyís chuckle came over the radio loud and clear. "You watch WAY too much TV." Igniting their burners, they flew out of the bay and into the battle.
To be continued! Duh duh duh!