Reality shattered, leaving shards of time and space in an endless void. The Ultimate Power Rangers journeyed through this void to learn the secrets of the end of existence. Using Ranger Keys, they unlocked Time Shards to slowly unravel the broken pieces of history.
The Shards revealed this story.
The Astral Plane
The Ninja Megazord, Shogun Megazord and Falconzord spoke to Tommy in unison.
TO REACH THE CENTER OF THE FORGE, AND TO FREE IT FROM CORRUPTION, YOU WILL HAVE TO FACE THE SOURCE OF THAT CORRUPTION. THE SOURCE OF EVIL.
“I’ve faced evil before,” Tommy said. “All my life, actually. I’m not afraid.”
VERY WELL. ALTHOUGH BE WARNED. WHAT YOU WILL FACE IS UNLIKE ANYTHING YOU HAVE SEEN BEFORE…EXCEPT IN YOUR VERY NIGHTMARES.
Tommy’s vision blurred and flared with flashes of light. When he regained his focus, he found himself near the forge once more.
The former ranger took a deep breath. “OK…now…get to the forge…defeat a giant, corrupt Megazord…re-create all the powers lost during the Second Countdown to Destruction. Simple…” He took another deep breath. “Right…”
The landscape shifted. The skies tinted to dark jade, and the ground sprouted with jagged mountains and hills. In the distance, Tommy saw a massive spire, one he recognized all too well– Bandora’s palace.
Evil laughter cut through the air– the laughter of Tommy’s own voice, only distorted, and evil.
He turned to a rocky hillside and looked up to see the Green Dragon Ranger.
The Green Ranger unsheathed his Dragon Dagger.
Tommy sighed. “Aw, man. Seriously? Is this the best you can do, Astral Plane? I’ve fought evil versions of myself at least two dozen times.”
“Don’t be so quip, Tommy…” the Green Ranger walked slowly down the mountainside, like a predator. “I’m not just some illusion or dark shadow. I’m from a world that never should have been. A world born only to die. Although I guess that’s true of every world. Isn’t it?”
“All I know is, I’ve faced my dark side before, plenty of times. You have no power over me.”
“You don’t even know what your 'dark side’ means. Do you truly understand what brought me into being? I didn’t at first…but my Lord enlightened me.”
Tommy didn’t even bother asking about the identity of this 'Lord’ person. “Well, that was nice of him.”
“You still don’t understand what’s happening, do you? What this all means? It’s the Ultimate Secret, Tommy.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes. That phrase, he’d heard it for the past several years, and nothing good ever came from it. “OK, I’m not amused anymore. I don’t care who you are, I’m going through you.”
“That’s the spirit.” the Green Ranger dashed to attack. “Si-kuya!”
The evil Ranger launched a series of lightning-fast punches and kicks. Tommy blocked and pivoted, striking back with a spin kick that bashed the Green Ranger’s helmet.
Tommy pressed forward with a flurry of punches of his own, hammering the Green Ranger’s golden chest shield. He finished his combo with a reverse side-kick that knocked the evil Ranger several steps backward.
“I’ve been stronger than you for some time now, Green Ranger.”
“You may have strength…but I have one thing you don’t have. Loss!” The villain lunged with a jump-kick and round-kick that forced Tommy several steps back.
The Green Ranger continued his assault with rapid kicks and punches, gaining ground with each strike. “I know all about you, how you lost poor little Shannon, your first girlfriend. It’s what drove you to take the Sword of Darkness. That loss drove you to evil.”
The Green Ranger hook kicked Tommy’s head and sidekicked his chest. “But I’ve lost so much more! Teddy! Kimberly! Chelsea!”
The Green Ranger swung a punch. Tommy caught the villain’s wrist. “That doesn’t give you the right to go insane.”
He round-kicked the Ranger’s side and kicked him upside the head.
The blow whipped the Green Ranger backward; he crashed and tumbled across the ground.
His armor powered down with a flash of jade light, revealing his human form. At least, mostly human. His hair looked pale white and disheveled, and his skin was the color of chalk. His eyes were blood red, the same color as the veins that spread beneath his skin.
He looked like Kai, Bandora’s son.
“What the hell are you?” Tommy asked.
The evil Tommy smirked. “There’s the reaction I wanted. On my world, after your Ranger friends killed Kai, Bandora molded me into his image. I became her dear son. Sweet, isn’t it?”
The villain climbed to his feet. “You know…I guess it’s kind of funny when you think about it. Isn’t it? Loss drove me to become what I am today. The same thing happened to Bandora, when she lost Kai the first time.” He laughed. “I mean, she sold her soul to a devil after she lost her poor little boy. Aw, man…that kind of loss…it drives people, Tommy.”
Tommy tightened his fists. “It does…” He thought of Shannon, struck down by Goldar. He thought of Kimberly, and all the heroes lost during the Second Countdown to Destruction. And he thought of every scene of devastation and destruction caused by his Ranger battles, destruction that took away family members, loved ones, and friends.
“But it doesn’t have to drive you to evil. I take my loss, and I use it, to fight against psychos like you. So innocent people won’t have to go through what I have.”
“And how’s that been working out for you?” the evil Tommy asked. “Your world is in the middle of the actual Apocalypse, and that’s not even the worse thing happening.”
“Thanks for that reminder…” Tommy stepped into a fighting stance. “I’m going to set things right. But first, I need to go through you.”
Tommy charged to attack his dark counterpart. They exchanged spinning kicks and punches, dodging and parrying, blocking, and countering.
The evil Tommy swung an elbow towards Tommy’s face. Tommy blocked, ducked and elbowed the villain’s ribs. He followed with a sidekick that bashed the villain backward.
Evil Tommy hit the ground and quickly rolled to his feet. He thrust his hands with a TK burst that nearly knocked Tommy backward, but Tommy countered with a burst of Ki.
“Like I said…” Tommy tightened his fists. And within his right fist, he felt a warm glow. “I’ve fought evl versions of myself. You’re nothing new. Nothing I haven’t already overcome.”
“That’s just the thing…I’m not something you overcome and get over just once. This battle of ours…it may take different forms, different times…but it’s never going to end.”
“Fine by me.” Tommy opened his hand, revealing the Green Dragon Coin. With a flash of golden light, a morpher formed around the coin. Instinctively, Tommy thrust the morpher forward.
“Dino! Buckler!” He snapped the morpher open, and it flared with jade energy. “Dragonzord!”
Green energy wrapped around him as he morphed into the Green Dragon Ranger.
Evil Tommy laughed. “Well, well. That look suits you.”
Dragon Ranger lunged and attacked, feeling The Power course through his body. He hadn’t morphed in years and had forgotten about the rush, the constant stream of energy and power. That power surged through his muscles, fueling every strike.
He forced the evil Tommy several steps backward. The villain lost his footing and fell onto his back.
Dragon Ranger stepped onto the fallen villain’s chest and unsheathed his Dragon Dagger.
Evil Tommy laughed. “You’re a fool. You think that’s all this is? Facing an evil version of yourself? You have no idea what you’re up against…But my Lord…he will show you.”
Suddenly, Dragon Ranger’s vision blurred and exploded, swirling and shattering, flashing and dimming.
When his vision cleared, Tommy found himself standing on a vast plain of gray, covered in mist and smog. He looked to his hands– no sign of the Dragon Buckler.
“Great…” he muttered. He somehow managed to re-craft the Green Dragon Ranger powers with a thought, but those powers didn’t remain. Why? Maybe that’s why he needed the forge, for permanence.
Tommy heard footsteps through the mist, along with the clanking sound of shifting armor. A dark figure approached, dressed in a cloak that billowed as if from wind– although the air was still.
Tommy noticed more details as the figure came closer. Beneath a midnight black cloak, the stranger wore armor that appeared no heavier than cloth, mostly black, trimmed with dull silver. A mask covered most of his face, except for his mouth and jaw. The mask appeared demon-like, with lines of silver and narrow, blood-red eyes. The stranger’s black hair was tied back in a ponytail.
The stranger dropped his cloak and rolled his shoulders. “Hello, Tommy,” he said with a cold, evil voice Tommy recognized all too well– his own. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes. “Let me guess…you’re an evil version of me?”
“You could say that. I’m the only you that matters.” The villain rolled his hands into fists. “I’m Tenkasei Ryo. And I am the Gorma.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes. “Gorma?”
“You remember them, don’t you? You fought them. You defeated them. You denied yourself the power they offered.” He lifted his hands; crimson light danced across his palms. “I didn’t.”
“So you’re a version of me that joined the Gorma?” Tommy shook his head. “That would never happen.”
“Oh, but it did. I was once a fool, like you. I tried to deny my past as Bandora’s Green Ranger. I fought as the Red Dragon Ranger, leader of the Power Rangers. Then I met my father…a Gorma. I killed him, of course, and then took his place. The Triumvirate tried to stop me. I crushed the life from them, and then destroyed their emperor. I’m all that’s left of the Gorma now. All that’s needed.”
“I just finished this dance with-”
“Enough talk,” the Gorma snapped. “I look at you and see nothing but weakness. I will eradicate that weakness, the same as did the weakness within my own soul.”
The villain thrust his hand with a wave of energy daggers that shot towards Tommy. Tommy dove and rolled aside, but the Gorma hurled another volley of the blades.
Tommy rolled into a crouch and slapped his right fist against his left palm. “Ki!”
His Kiryoku blocked the daggers with bursts of spark, splashing against an invisible energy barrier.
Tommy shot to his feet and hurled an invisible blast of power. But the Gorma knocked it aside and thrust his hand, summoning waves of fire that erupted around Tommy. Tommy lifted his right arm, took control of the fire and hurled it back at the Gorma.
The Gorma swatted the flames aside. “We could stand here and throw power at each other all day. Or…you could face the truth, and submit. Submit to me, your better in every way, and let me end your miserable existence.”
Tommy rolled his hands into fists. He hoped to summon his powers, the powers of the Red Dragon Ranger, the same as he’d summoned the powers of the Green Ranger. But nothing happened.
The Gorma took notice. And he laughed. “What’s the matter, you little misfit? All out of juice? Pathetic…”
The villain hurled a bolt of crimson energy that slammed Tommy’s chest and knocked him backward. Unrelenting, the Gorma summoned another wave of energy daggers, and bursts of fire that erupted from the ground.
The blasts tore at Tommy, slicing through his skin and clothes, knocking him to the ground as blood splattered from his wounds.
The Gorma used his Ki to pull a chunk of earth from the ground, shape it into a column, and bash it onto the fallen ranger’s back.
Pain shot through Tommy’s spine, burning every muscle and tendon throughout his body.
The Gorma lowered his guard and stalked towards his fallen opponent. “I suppose this never happened to you. But it did happen to me, when I faced my father. He beat me, the same as I have beaten you. But I cast my weakness aside, and joined him.”
Tommy groaned, barely able to lift his head, and unable to move without pins of white-hot agony shooting through his limbs.
“There’s no way I would have joined the Gorma.”
“No? No way you’d grow tired of being helpless? A victim? Don’t you remember when you lost your powers as the Green Ranger? You were…useless. A joke. Why would you ever let yourself feel that way again? Why would you let yourself feel that way now? You could claim the power that is your birthright, rise to your feet, and strike me down. You are the Dragon, the one who broke free from the strings of Fate. The very cosmos could bend to your will! But instead…you whimper. You choose your weakness.”
Tommy clenched his jaw. Despite the pain, he started to climb to his feet, slowly, move by move. “You think you know me? Do you have any idea what I’ve been through since the Gorma? How much I’ve grown since then? That was…what…15, 16 years ago?”
Tommy channeled The Power and let its energy flow through his body and soul like a refreshing current. “What’s weak is to give into darkness. It’s quick. It’s powerful. But it’s the easy way out. You’re nothing but a coward. You want to eradicate weakness so bad? Take a look at yourself.”
“I…will kill you,” the Gorma hissed, shaking with anger. “Slowly…”
“Bring it on.”
The opponents charged at one another and exchanged fierce blows, each strike ringing with thunder. The Gorma’s every kick and punch and ebbed with crimson energy, as did Tommy’s.
Neither gained the upper hand.
So Tommy hopped backward to gain distance. He formed a bolt of crackling Ki energy between his palms and hurled it at the Gorma.
The Gorma caught the blast and siphoned its energy, strengthening his muscles. The villain slapped his palms together and pulled them apart, forming a whip of crimson energy. He snapped the whip at his opponent.
Tommy grabbed it, tightened his grip, and pulled, snapping the Gorma off his feet. He lunged forward and swung his fist, punching the Gorma in the face.
The Gorma’s mask shattered into pieces, and he staggered backward. The villain looked up, blood trickling down his forehead near his third eye, the trademark of the Gorma. The evil Tommy’s face looked twisted into a permanent scowl.
“You’ll pay for that, Ranger. No one sees my face. No one!”
“Pretty sure I just did, freak-show.”
Tommy snapped into a fighting stance. Red energy circled around him as his chi ignited and drew from The Power. For a moment, he thought he would morph. But that flood of morphing energy didn’t come.
Instead, Tommy focused his power on his attack.
“Star Fire!” He thrust his hands and fired a comet of energy.
The fiery blast smashed against the Gorma with massive bursts of spark, hurling him backward as secondary explosions tore through his cloth armor. The villain crashed and skidded backward, smoke rising from his wounds.
“You done?” Tommy asked.
The Gorma said nothing. He squirmed on the ground. And he laughed. “Done? You have no idea. I am strength. I am power. And I won’t be done until I’ve turned you and your pathetic world to cinder.”
Tommy’s vision snapped inward, into a pinpoint, then exploded outward with flashes of light and sound, and spinning fre…
Tommy collapsed to all fours and shook, his body reeling from the experience, the shift, the…
“What the hell was that…?”
“Ah, there you are.” The voice sounded deep, like gravel. A clawed hand grabbed Tommy by the throat and lifted him up. “Hello, Tommy.”
Tommy looked into the red visor of Lord Zedd. But beneath the visor, Tommy saw the faintest color of eyes. His own eyes.
“Yeeees.” the villain said, his voice thick with amusement. “You understand now, don’t you?” Zedd tilted his head back and laughed. “Welcome to my nightmare!”
Zedd threw Tommy through the air. “Oh, Tommy, I’ve waited years for this. I never grow tired of destroying you!”
Tommy hit the ground and rolled into a crouched stance. When he looked up, he realized he was in Zedd’s palace. Zedd appeared the same as he had years ago, but the metal across his body looked sharper than Tommy remembered, and more polished.
The villain held his Z-staff in his left hand, and stared with an evil, intense gaze that gave Tommy chills. The ranger’s skin prickled, and his hair stood on end.
“Zedd…” He said the name with a whisper.
“Yes, Tommy. Lord Zedd. Emperor over all I see. And right now, I see a frightened child, trembling with terror.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes and swallowed his fear. Slowly, he rose to his feet and faced one of the most terrifying villains of his entire life. “What is this? Am I supposed to believe you’re me?”
“Yeees, Tommy. Do you think I would ever let you defeat me? You destroyed my body. But in turn…I infected yours.”
Tommy tilted his head. “What…?”
“I forced myself upon you. I took over your entire being. And now, we are one. My ultimate victory!”
Tommy started to speak, but his breath caught in his throat. What could he say to that?
Zedd aimed his staff at the ranger. “Yes, Tommy. Feel your fear. Let it wash over you and lead you to where you belong: On your knees, at my feet.”
Tommy tightened his hands into fists, narrowed his eyes, and charged. “Si-kuyah!”
He snapped a volley of kicks and spin kicks that Zedd twirled his staff to block.
“Are all those 'ki-yah’s’ really necessary, Tommy? Very well, I can do some too. Ooo-Oooh. Ooo-Oooh…Ha!”
Zedd snapped his staff with a burst of power that hurled Tommy off his feet.
The villain twirled his staff and fired again, sparking streams of electricity that poured against Tommy. The blasts sent waves of pain through the ranger as he struggled to break free. But the stream of power held him in place. The pain intensified, more, and more, and Tommy screamed.
Zedd intensified the blast. “Yes, scream, Tommy, scream, but no one can hear you! You are alone, and powerless before me!”
The villain fired a final burst of power that blasted Tommy through a wall. The ranger tumbled into the next room and rolled to a stop, his body sizzling with electricity from Zedd’s attack.
Zedd stepped into the room and looked down upon the fallen ranger. “You have failed, Tommy. You have failed everyone you have ever loved.”
The villain walked to Tommy and lifted him by the neck. “I suppose we are alike in that way. I never did tell you, did I, Tommy? I was a champion of my world, much like you. But I could not save it. Plagued with failures, I watched it burn.” He pulled the ranger closer. “I vowed to live a life free of attachment, free of emotion, to never know such failure again. Through this, I found power, the power to make the universe my own. The power of conquest.”
Zedd turned towards his balcony, which gave him a view of the blackened earth in the distance. “Do you know which of your friends I killed first, Tommy? Precious Kimberly, of course. She tried to reach you, to reason with me. So I ran her through. Slowly…A pity she was pregnant at the time. And to think, you watched it all happen through my eyes. You held the weapon that killed your lady love and unborn child. I-”
Tommy grabbed Zedd by the arm and flipped backward, kicking the villain upside the head and breaking free from his grip. Tommy landed and pressed forward.
“Burn Knuckle!” His fist ignited with fiery energy and smashed Zedd’s faceplate, shattering his visor, revealing his eyes.
The villain staggered back. “Very good, Tommy. You still have some fight in you!”
Tommy stepped into a fighting stance, despite the weakness and pain that nearly drove him back to the floor.
“I’ve had enough of you for one lifetime, Zedd. You’re not me. I’m nothing like you. This is over.”
“Don’t tell me when this is over, Ranger! I have conquered your body and soul once, and I will do so again, and again, until the end of time!”
Zedd thrust his staff with a stream of electricity.
Tommy dove and rolled to dodge the blast. He shot to his feet and lunged at Zedd with a jump-kick. Zedd dodged and twisted his grip, swinging his staff at Tommy’s head. Tommy blocked, grabbed the staff, and tore it from Zedd’s hands.
The ranger twirled the staff and speared it through Zedd’s side.
Zedd screamed and staggered backward, collapsing to his knees. He grabbed the staff, partially buried in his side. Black ichor seeped from the wound.
“Well done, Tommy. Now, finish me. Finish me, and I will simply infect you as well. We will become one, once more.”
Tommy shook his head. “I never noticed how pathetic you were until now…”
“Strike me down, ranger. I command you.”
“We’re done, Zedd…” Tommy relaxed his stance. “We’re finally done.”
The landscape shifted, ebbing and crackling with distorted images and sounds that flashed across the eyes of Tommy’s mind.
When the images settled, Tommy found himself standing on the surface of the moon. Rusted metal and discarded technology stretched as far as the eyes could see. The ranger recognized the rusted remnants that surrounded him.
“The Machine Empire…”
“No…” a mechanical voice whispered. “Not anymore.”
Tommy turned to face the voice, knowing what he would find.
The villain looked gray, with blood-red eyes, jet black hair buzzed short, and circuits embedded beneath the skin. Other than these oddities, he looked exactly like Tommy.
The real Tommy stepped into a defensive stance. “Of course…”
Tommy faced off with his robotic doppelganger.
“I suppose you’re some version of me that was taken over by the Machine Empire, right? Cute.”
“Taken over?” the cyborg said with a metallic voice as cold and even as steel. “The Empire saved me. Saved me from my inferiority. From my emotion. From my humanity.”
Through space, Tommy noticed Earth. It looked completely barren, no atmosphere or oceans, just mechanical atrocities across the entire surface.
The villain noticed and tilted his head. “You see. I served as the Machine Empire’s instrument to save the world.”
“Look, I’m feeling impatient. Let’s just get this over with.”
Much like what had happened with the Green Power Coin, Tommy felt a warmth spread within his right fist. He opened his hand, and a red light shined from his palm. The light grew and formed the star piece of the Zeo Crystal. The crystal ebbed and shifted shape, forming Zeonizers that wrapped around the ranger’s wrists.
Tommy couldn’t help but smile. “Much better.” He snapped into a transformation stance. “Ultra Transform!”
He connected his bracers, triggering a wave of power that washed over him, morphing him into the Red Zeo Ranger.
Zeo Red placed his hand over his faceplate. “Star Riser!”
The Ranger’s star-shaped visor flashed red and activated his sword, which appeared in his hand.
The cyber villain extended his arms; his fists transformed into barrels, which opened fire with high-yield blasts.
Zeo Red charged and swung his sword, slicing through the blasts with bursts of spark. He leapt through the air and landed with a chop, hacking the villain with bursts of spark that knocked him several steps backward.
The Ranger pressed ahead and bashed his pommel against the villain’s face.
The Machine grabbed Zeo Red’s arm and punched the Ranger’s side, fists hitting as hard as cannonballs. The villain tightened his grip and flipped Zeo Red overhead.
Zeo Red crashed onto his back and dropped his sword, but quickly grabbed his blaster. “Zeo Blaster!”
He blasted the Machine with bursts of spark that kept the villain back. Rolling to his feet, the Ranger sprang into the air with a flying kick.
“Zeo Power Kick!” His energized kick smashed the Machine with bursts of spark.
The villain staggered backward but kept his ground. He lunged with a volley of punches and back-fist blows, pommeling the Red Ranger with bursts of spark. The final punch whipped Zeo Red off his feet, and he crashed against the ground.
Zeo Red rolled aside, grabbed his fallen sword, and sprang to his feet. He lunged with an upward swing and downward chop, striking the monster with bursts of spark.
The Ranger stepped back and lifted his blade. “Star Riser! Power up!”
The blade energized with red power. Zeo Red twirled the weapon, stepped forward, and swung through a streak of energy. The blade slashed the Machine with massive bursts of spark, ripping a wound through the villain’s chest.
Oil and ichor splashed from the wound, which sparked with secondary explosions. The Machine collapsed to his knees. But instead of toppling over, circuitry and nanites stitched his wounds together, repairing the damage.
Zeo Red sighed. “That’s unfortunate.”
The Machine lunged and grabbed the Red Ranger by the throat. Nanites swarmed from the villain’s hand and spread across the Ranger’s armor. The microscopic machines sparked with energy that infected the armor like a virus.
Sparks exploded across Zeo Red. His armor shimmered in and out of focus, losing its integrity. Strands of energy snapped lose, and his armor unraveled with a final burst of light. Tommy collapsed to all fours; his Zeo Bracers sparked and fell from his wrist, secondary explosions scattering the devices into pieces.
The Machine kicked Tommy upside the head; the blow whipped the ranger backward.
“You were not built to survive here.” The villain lifted Tommy by the shirt, punched his gut, and hurled him aside. “You’re human trash.”
Tommy spat blood and climbed to his feet, pain shooting through his body like daggers. “You’re the one who’s a piece of junk. Care to try that again?”
“Why do you resist? I did too, at first. I tried to fight back. But once they removed the infestation of my soul…once I stepped back and looked at our existence free from the illusion of emotion…I saw the truth. What I am now, what I have brought to the world, is peace”
Tommy shook his head and muttered beneath his breath. Through the corner of his eye, he noticed a fallen spear barely visible beneath a pile of Cogs.
“Like I said before…I’m feeling impatient.”
Tommy rolled across the ground, grabbed the spear, and pounced. He stabbed the weapon through the Machine with massive bursts of spark. The villain staggered backward, so Tommy hopped forward with a kick that slammed the spear, driving it deeper.
The Machine collapsed to his knees once again. This time, Tommy grabbed the spear and ignited it with fiery energy.
“I don’t know what the deal is with you guys, or why you keep popping up. But I’m done with games. I’m getting to the forge, and no nightmare version of myself will stop me.”
The spear flared with fiery power that erupted inside the Machine and burnt through his body.
Tommy stepped back.
And the landscape started to spin.
His vision expanded and narrowed, blurred and focused, twirled and ignited.
Dots of color. Dots of sound.
His vision blurred back into focus, and he found himself standing on the rooftops of a city. Above, a battle fortress floated in midair, casting its shadow across the metropolis.
The fortress fired a green teleportation beam onto the rooftop. From the beam stepped a figure dressed in light plates of gray armor over a black bodysuit. He wore his hair dyed red and pulled into a ponytail, and small black lenses covered his eyes. He carried a gray staff tipped with a delta-shaped spear.
He smiled, a cold grin from a face Tommy recognized as his own.
“Hello, Tommy…” He sounded amused as he bowed low, mockingly. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Astronos. It will be my pleasure to lead you to your execution…”
Astronos leaned on his staff and looked his counterpart up and down. “My, you’re a rather accurate pretender. For the most part, at least. I don’t care for the hair.”
“What the hell are you supposed to be?”
“I told you. I’m Astronos. The real Astronos. And you…are a fake. A copy, meant to show me what I could have been had Darkonda not saved me as a child.”
Tommy sighed. So in this nightmare scenario, Darkonda kidnapped him and not Karone. Wonderful.
“Listen,” Tommy said. “This isn’t happening. I’m done fighting twisted doppelgangers. You can either-”
Astronos lifted his hand; invisible energy wrapped around Tommy’s neck, choked him, and lifted him off his feet.
“Don’t speak to me that way,” Astronos said. “It’s not very nice. That’s really the problem with this universe. No one has any manners.”
Tommy narrowed his eyes and triggered a Ki burst that knocked Astronos back, releasing his grip. The ranger landed on the rooftop and crossed his left arm over his chest.
“You wanna do this? Fine.” Energy wrapped around wrist, forming his Digitizer. He stood in his transformation pose. “Install! Astro Ranger!”
Energy wrapped around him as he morphed into the armor of the Red Astro Ranger.
Astronos scoffed and twirled his staff into a defensive stance. “As if I would ever sully myself with the armor of a Ranger.”
The villain thrust his staff with a burst of crimson power.
“Drill Saber!” Astro Red armed his sword and swatted the blast aside.
The Red Ranger leapt through the air and landed with a chop that Astronos blocked. The Ranger twisted his grip and swung left, and then right, slashing and hacking with a powerful volley of strikes.
Astronos twirled his staff without effort, blocking and parrying the Ranger’s attacks with ease. “I refuse to believe there’s any version of me that could be so sloppy.”
He spun and swung wide, slashing Astro Red with bursts of spark. The Ranger stepped back and countered with a high slash. But Astronos blocked and kicked the Ranger’s side.
“I’ve been trained by the best fighters in the galaxy.” Astronos spun and whacked his staff against the Red Ranger’s helmet. “I’ve lived among the Titans, learned from the mages of Eltar and gone to war against the Kilrathi. What are you compared to them? What are you, but a pale attempt at becoming my shadow?”
Astro Red parried and slashed upward, striking the villain with bursts of spark. “Why does every evil me talk so damn much…”
“Evil?” Astronos twirled his staff and attacked with a flurry of blows the Red Ranger blocked and dodged. “I crush evil into fine powder.”
“What, so you think you’re righteous?” Astro Red struck back, and the villain parried.
“I know I am. The galaxy’s no longer a weak joke. Because of me. Because of my strength. I gave the people hope, and they loved me for it. Their lives are more peaceful and prosperous than ever before.”
“So you’re evil and delusional.” Astro Red slashed and kicked. “That’s good to know.”
Astronos laughed and twirled his staff, chopping down hard. Astro Red blocked, but the impact knocked him to one knee. The villain kicked the Red Ranger upside the head, flipping him backward.
“I’m the savior of humanity across the cosmos,” Astronos said. “That’s not delusional, you little shadow. It’s simple fact.”
Astro Red used his saber for balance and climbed to his feet. “Yeah, I think I hate you the most out of all the evil me’s so far.”
Astronos aimed his staff at the Ranger’s faceplate. “You don’t understand hate. I lost my whole family and world to Rangers like you, villains masquerading as heroes. Cowards. Supposed watchers of the people. But in in truth, the enemy of the people. When you’ve suffered as much as I have, then you can speak to me of hate, you little peasant.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Astro Red lunged and swung his sword with renewed speed and energy. Each blow forced Astronos back a step.
The Red Ranger tightened his grip on his sword. “Saber Slash!”
Astro Red slashed through streaks of power, striking Astronos with bursts of spark. The attack shattered the lenses over the villain’s eyes.
Astronos screamed, covered his eyes, and fell to his knees. “You…you irritant!”
“I am done with evil me’s.” The Red Ranger smashed his sword’s hilt against the villain’s head.
Tommy powered down his armor and leaned next to his fallen opponent. “Maybe now that those stupid lenses of yours are gone, you can open your eyes. You’re not good. You’re not righteous. What you’re doing is wrong and violates everything moral and good in the world.”
Astronos laughed. “Do you really think I’ll listen to your lies? You’re just angry because you know I’m right.”
Tommy sighed. “Not in the slightest…”
He stood, and a wave of vertigo washed over him. His mind burst with images and lights and sounds, fragments of memory and worlds, faces he loved and people he never knew.
Then a blur, which resolved into a clear day in Angel Grove.
Tommy found himself standing in the middle of a park wedged between several high-rise buildings. In the distance, he saw himself in a brown suit, with hair cut short, wearing glasses and carrying a suitcase.
Tommy arced an eyebrow. “Okay…” he whispered. “Evil-business me?”
“Not quite,” a voice said from behind. Tommy turned to face himself, the same age, wearing the same clothes. “You’re actually a teacher now. Ancient Civilizations. It doesn’t pay much, but you’re happy. Ashley’s happy…and expecting. It’s a good life.”
“And who are you supposed to be?”
“You,” the other Tommy said. He seemed…happy, and light, like he didn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He nodded towards the distance. “And this world, it’s mine. After the Second Countdown to Destruction…we had a choice. You made your choice, the choice to let the world keep moving forward. I made a different choice. To let the world end. And now…Well, now we have this new world. A world without Rangers or monsters. A world that makes sense.”
Tommy knitted his brow. “You rewrote your world’s reality?”
“Don’t act like you’ve never done the same. It’s all for the greater good.”
“I’d never play god.”
The other Tommy chuckled, all in good nature. “Uh, I hate to break this to you Tom, but you have. Remember when the Jakanja came and destroyed your dojo? All those students…gone. But for some reason, no one ever investigated you, no one came looking for you, their families never questioned you. Why is that…?”
Tommy hesitated. “That’s different.”
“Is it?” the other Tommy asked. “You used spells to change their memories, so they’d have no knowledge of the dojo or how their loved ones really died. You changed their realities.”
Guilt nearly choked him. “I had to keep Tyler and Ashley safe-”
“Exactly!” the other Tommy said. “That’s my point, Tom.” He leaned forward and put his hand on his chest. “What I wanted for my loved ones, my family, was never going to happen, because the world was going to hell. I changed all of that. I saved them. Why was that so bad? I had the power to give my world a restart, and I had the responsibility to use that power.”
Tommy lowered his head. A world without monsters or Rangers. No demons. No villains. Of course that sounded great. But…but…
He looked back towards the image of himself in a suit, now talking on a cellphone and laughing. He did look happy, like someone who never got dragged into an eternal war between good and evil, never served Bandora as the Green Ranger. Never met Zordon or Alpha, or journeyed through space and time. Never experienced any of those things.
“It’s not real,” Tommy said. “None of the people in this world you’ve made…none of them are real.”
“Of course they’re real,” the other Tommy said.
“No,” Tommy said. “We’re defined by everything that happens in our lives, the good and the bad. When you changed all that…you took away everyone’s identities. You didn’t just alter memories…you changed everyone, manipulated them.”
“I didn’t manipulate them. I gave them a better world.” The other Tommy sighed with a smile, and shook his head. “You just don’t understand.”
“You can’t take someone and fundamentally alter the core of their being against their will. Especially not on a global scale.”
“And yet…” he shrugged. “Here we are.”
Suddenly, storm clouds passed overhead, blotting out the sun. Lightning flashed, followed by rumbling thunder.
The other Tommy looked up and sighed. “Well…that’s new.”
“My guess? My world is great and all…but your reality, unfortunately, is still the prime reality.” He waved his hand up at the storm. “So all this? It’s your fault. It’s why we’re all going to have to kill you, Tommy.”
Lightning scorched the landscape, burning trees and grass. From the flames stepped the Evil Green Ranger, the Gorma, Zedd, the Machine, and Astronos. An unseen voice laughed from the skies– the voice of the Tommy from Demon World Earth.
The landscape shattered and shot Tommy through a swirling vortex.
His body flailed out of control and landed in the molten landscape of the forge. Groaning, he climbed to his feet, his fingers pressing into ash as he pushed himself up.
“Aw, man…” he whispered. “I don’t even want to know.”
But he couldn’t help thinking, what did all that mean? Those doppelgangers…the visions of different worlds…what did they freaking mean? Were they parallel realities like Demon World Earth? Or something more?
Suddenly, a thundering boom sounded from behind, shaking the entire realm. Tommy turned to see the Megadinozord in the distance, the original Megazord of the Power Rangers– although it looked barely recognizable, covered with magma and blotches of shadow, and eyes that glowed red.
“Okay…let’s see if I can do this…”
He closed his eyes and slapped his right fist against his left palm. Red energy ebbed from his spirit, circling his body. The energy moved faster, and faster, and then circled around his wrists, forming his Aura Changers. The bracers glowed with bright red energy.
The Astral Plane shook, with a shockwave of psionic power that whipped Tommy backward. He felt his vision start to shift, as if the landscape itself would pull away from him, but he fought against that pull. And he focused on his power.
“Oh no you don’t…” He landed on what passed for ground in this odd realm of mind and spirit.
Tommy looked into the distance and stood firm. “Old friend…” he said quietly to the Megazord. “I don’t know how…but I’m going to have to shut you down.”
Tommy stepped forward into an all-too familiar pose.
“Chakra ignite!” He connected his bracers and shouted: “Aura Power!”
The bracers triggered a spark of chi that morphed Tommy into his armor, wrapping him in fire as he became, once more…
“Dragon Ranger! Heaven Fire Star, Red!”
A bright streak of red energy shot downward and landed in the Red Ranger’s hand, forming the Heaven Star Thunder Gem of the Red Dragon Thunderzord.
He tightened his grip on the gem, unsheathed his Star Sword, and raised the blade into the sky. “Red Dragon Thunderzord, arise!”
The Astral Plane rippled with power, a shock wave released by the arrival of the Red Dragon Thunderzord. The beast roared with might as its serpentine form flew through the skies.
Dragon Ranger leapt onto the zord and leaned forward, flying towards the Megadinozord in the distance.
He couldn’t help but smile beneath his helmet. “Just like riding a bike,” he whispered. “OK, Red Dragon. Let’s take care of business.”
—To be continued…Chapter 04