Rangers in Space: Chapter Three
"The body's reaction of panic and anxiety can't tell the difference between falling off a 200-foot cliff and a trigonometry test."
— Dr. Sue Boothby, 2005
"The Truth of Phobias"
Astronema walked between rows of computers lined with flashing blue lights and holographic data projections, and Eclipter stayed two steps behind her to her right. The planet Halcaron was known for its extensive database and surveillance systems.
Astronema had learned that the Astro Rangers were on their way to the planet, so she beat them there to set up a trap.
She stepped up to a raised circular platform where a group of Quantrons was holding down one of Halcaron's archivists. His skin was pale blue, and the skin along his bald head was ridged, almost as if folded.
"Please, please I beg of you," the scientist said. His name was Bracidese. "Our planet is neutral. Our archives are for anyone. We meant no disobedience to Sauron. We don't wish to oppose him. Please don't harm me."
"Quit your whining," Astronema said. "You are a traitor to your people. The Rangers contacted you two intervals ago. You planned to allow their filth here to aid them in their quest for domination. For this, you must be punished."
The man shook his head and bowed. "No please I beg you."
Astronema grinned. "I'll spare your life on one condition."
"You will help me lure in the Rangers so I can crush them," she said.
"But, but...I can't."
She looked to the Quantrons. "Kill him."
He shouted "No! Alright, I will!"
Astronema smiled. "I knew you'd see things my way."
Chris opened the locker in his quarters and pulled out the gray jumpsuit that would fit over his black t-shirt. He slowly pulled the sleeves on and zipped the jacket up halfway to his chest.
He sighed to himself as he looked in the mirror of his locker. Behind him, he could see lines of stars zoom by as the ship blasted through hyper space.
"I still can't believe this," he said quietly to himself as he took a deep breath. "Be calm be calm be calm be calm be calm..."
He adjusted his collar and took another deep breath. "You're fine." Chris had learned shortly after their first take off in the shuttle that he had a large fear of space and alien worlds. He hadn't told any of the others about his fear and tried his best to hide it.
Luckily, time spent on the simudeck and in the galley did alleviate his anxiety, but they were only temporary solutions.
Chris took his third deep breath and left his quarters. He started walking towards the turbolift as Justin came up behind him.
"Hey, hold up!" Justin said with a smile as he caught up with his friend and slapped him on the back. "Ready for another day at the job?"
Chris forced a smile. "Yep."
"Good deal," Justin said as they entered the turbolift. The doors closed.
Chris and Justin entered the bridge and moved towards their posts as Tommy spoke.
"We're almost to Halcaron," Tommy said as they took their seats.
"We saved you a seat," Ashley said to Chris as he sat down.
Chris forced another smile. "Morning."
The ship stabbed back into real-space and entered a high orbit around the planet, which was covered with swirls of brown and green.
"Kat, get a hold of the surface," Tommy said.
"Right," Kat said as she opened a channel. "I have them on the viewer."
Tommy was slightly taken aback by the appearance of the four-eyed Halcaron native on the view screen. This Halcaronian was green faced, so Tommy knew it wasn't his contact.
"This is the Blue Voyager," Tommy said. Justin had developed the alias for the Megaship to use as a cover when dealing with other planets or stations. A holographic image was superimposed around the ship, a disguise developed quickly and efficiently by Ashley, who combined certain simudeck systems with the hull plating systems.
The green-faced Halcaronian would also not see six uniformed human teenagers, but a crew of Eltarian cargo haulers.
"Bracidese is expecting us," Tommy added.
The green alien's face was quickly replaced by the image of Bracidese.
"Blue Voyager,you are clear to dock at station 7 on the planet's dark side," Bracidese said. Their connection was ended by Bracidese quickly afterward.
"Are they always that brief?" Justin asked.
Cy shook his head. "I don't know."
"Oh," Justin said.
The Megaship maneuvered its way into its space port on the dark side of the moon.
"We'll go down on our Cyber Sliders," Tommy said. "I don't want to risk putting too much distance between the ship and the shuttle for too long."
Although Cy had assured Tommy they were well out of the area known as the Wastelands, Tommy was still being extra cautious.
"Let's go say hi," Tommy said as the teens started filing out.
"Hey Tommy," Chris said. "Ummm...do you need me really? I mean, one of us should stay on the ship with Cy. Keep him company. Help him guard the ship."
"It would be best if the five of us stuck together," Tommy said.
"I can always slide down there if you run into trouble, but...ya know...what about the ship?" Chris said.
Tommy sighed. He was being waited on and didn't want to risk angering the planet's inhabitants. "Alright."
"Thanks," Chris said as Tommy turned and walked off. He did not seem happy...
Chris didn't expect his friends to run into any trouble, so he didn't feel entirely guilty. I just can't. I can'tsurf through space...and into a planet's atmosphere?He didn't know how the other four would be able to handle it.
The four teens walked with Bracidese through the central corridor.
"Now, what is it exactly you're looking for again?" the Halcaronian asked.
Tommy refrained from rolling his eyes. Three times, he had told their host what they needed.
"Information on Sauron's past, his current movements, and possible places he's hiding Zordon," Tommy said.
"What about Astronema?" Kat asked.
"Her too," Tommy said.
Bracidese nodded as he hobbled along. "Yes, yes."
"Actually," Ashley cut in, "didn't you say you'd have a disk of information compiled for us when we got here?"
The Halcaronian made a clicking sound Ashley assumed was the equivalent of an 'Um.'
"There were a few...setbacks," Bracidese said.
"Is everything ok?" Tommy asked.
"Oh yes, yes," Bracidese said much too quickly. "This way."
The teens followed Bracidese into a side chamber. Rows of data disks lined the walls, and a cluster of computer terminals sat in the middle of the floor.
"Here is where you'll find what you need," the Halcaronian said as he lingered in the entryway and motioned the rangers inside.
The teens took only a few steps inside before Bracidese ducked outside and the door slammed shut.
"Hey!" Tommy shouted as he banged on the door. The computer cluster in the center of the room sent out an electric pulse that sucked the four teens inside the computer mainframe.
They found themselves surrounded by darkness with dull glowing shapes marking the sky above them and ankle-deep fog on the ground.
"Where are we?" Kat asked.
"I'd say some kind of digital pocket dimension," Ashley said.
"I can't believe that little creep did this to us," Justin said.
Tommy tried to contact Cy and Chris, but his communicator wouldn't work. "Our digitizers aren't working."
They heard a booming laughter behind them as they turned to see a transparent image of a large monster's head. The creature resembled a chameleon.
"What the..." Justin said, just as the creature opened its mouth, and a torrent of flame poured out.
The docking clamps around the Astro Megaship tightened and threatened to crush the hull as their holo-cloak dropped.
"Alert," DECA reported. "Hull breach immanent."
"What's going on?" Chris asked.
Cy shook his head. "It's a trap. The docking port is trying to crush the ship."
Chris tried to contact the others, but he was answered only by static. "I can't reach Tommy and the others."
Chris was nearly rocked from his seat as the docking clamps tightened again. "Can we blast our way out of here?"
Cy shook his head. "No. The laser turrets were crushed before the hull plating was polarized."
Chris closed his eyes as the deck rocked again. This can't be happening, this can't be happening...
"Chris...Chris!" Cy shouted as he walked down to the ranger's station and shook him by the elbows until he snapped his eyes open. "Did you hear me?"
The ship shook again, and a station in the back exploded.
"We're going to form the Megazord," Cy said.
"What? How?" Chris asked.
"Come on," Cy said as he dragged Chris away.
Fire roared around the four rangers as the image of the chameleon's head opened its mouth and whipped the them back with its long tongue.
Chris and Cy entered the cockpit of the shuttle.
"When the ship transforms into the Megazord, it gives off a lot of power," Cy said. "That, along with those modifications I made to the hull plating recently, should be enough for us to snap out of this docking bay."
Chris nodded as he took his station.
"Astro Megazord, online," Cy said as he activated the fusion switch.
The bow of the Megaship screeched as it started to split open and push against the docking clamps. Small explosions rang out across the hull from the stress, but the transformation managed to rip through the docking clamps.
"Yes," Cy said.
Cy quickly converted back to ship mode and blasted away from the crumbling docking area. A small group of four Velocifighters, the mecha of Astronema's army, trailed the ship with guns blazing.
"What are you waiting for?" Cy asked. "Get to the surface and find the others."
"Can't we take the shuttle?" Chris asked as Cy swung the ship into a barrel roll to avoid enemy fire.
The ship was rocked, and Chris fell to the ground of the shuttle's floor. He tightly closed his eyes, wishing to be somewhere else. "I can't do this. I'm not cut out for space."
"You're a Ranger," Cy said as he continued evasive maneuvers. "Space fright is normal, dammit, but you can't let that jeopardize the lives of your friends. They're down there and they need you!"
Chris remembered his friends on the surface: the pep talks Tommy had given him when he first signed up with the Zeo Rangers, hearing that the other Rangers could get just as frightened as him, learning to face those fears together, learning what it meant to be a hero.
Chris ran from the shuttle cockpit and made his way to the morphing tubes.
Chris closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm coming guys..." he hopped down the tube as it triggered his transformation into Astro Black. He shot from the ship on his Cyber Slider as he made his way towards the planet's atmosphere.
"Whoooooooa..." he shouted as he slid through space on his slider. He pushed his fear deep into his gut and zoomed through the atmosphere as heat crackled around him.
He entered the planet's atmosphere and took a deep breath. That was even worse than I thought...
He swooped his Cyber Slider through the techno maze of one of the planet's cities.
"Satellite search," he said, activating his helmet icon as it scanned the area for his friends. His helmet visor displayed their location, a large complex in the center of the city.
"Satellite scan." He scanned the complex and located his friends inside a digital pocket dimension. He also noticed one of Astronema's genetic monsters in the building. The creature was hacked into the complex's computer systems and was the key to the pocket dimension the other Rangers were in.
"I'm coming guys," Astro Black said as he leaned forward to accelerate.
Astronema stood next to her chameleon monster in a corridor outside the computer complex the rangers were trapped in. She spoke to Bracidese as the chameleon stood behind her.
"You've done well," Astronema said. The man simply kneeled and nodded, fearing for his life.
One of the windows of the corridor shattered to pieces as Astro Black smashed through.
"Let my friends go, Astronema!" Astro Black shouted as Bracidese ran away as fast as he could.
"Astro Black..." Astronema said with a smile as she aimed her staff towards him and fired an electric pulse.
Astro Black rolled under the pulse, then dashed to attack Astronema, but the chameleon stood in his way. He hook punched the creature, but the chameleon grabbed his arm and tossed him to the ground.
The chameleon hopped over to Astro Black and bent down, wrapping his fingers around the Ranger's neck. He lifted Astro Black into the air and hurled him through a window. The Ranger plummeted several stories downward and crashed to the ground.
The chameleon jumped down and attempted to crash onto Astro Black, but the Ranger grabbed the monster and rolled backwards while flipping the creature to the ground.
The two rose and began circling around each other. They charged at one another. Astro Black knocked the chameleon's hands away and punched the creature across the face before grabbing him by the neck and flipping him over his shoulder. The monster rebounded off a wall and bounced back towards Astro Black, tackling him to the ground.
Astro Black tried to push the monster off of him, but the chameleon bit down hard on his left arm. He chopped the creature's head with his right hand three times before it backed off enough for Astro Black to kick and flip the monster off of him. The chameleon rolled across the ground, then vanished from sight.
Astro Black rose to his feet. "Where..."
A pile of crates toppled to his right as Astro Black snapped around and assumed a fighting stance. The monster reappeared behind him, grabbed him by the legs, and flipped him over so he crashed to the ground.
Astro Black rose back to his feet, but the creature unleashed its tongue whip and slammed it across Astro Black's chest, causing a small explosion against his armor.
The chameleon walked towards Astro Black and reactivated its invisibility cloak. The Ranger rose to his feet.
"Show yourself!" Astro Black shouted as he rolled his hands up into fists. "I'm not going to let you hurt my friends!"
The creature's claws appeared for a brief moment, just long enough to swipe Astro Black across the chest. His armor sparked from the impact as he collapsed to the ground.
He rose back to his feet. "That's enough of that...satellite search!"
His visor emitted a purple beam as it scanned the area. It flashed and disrupted the monster's invisibility cloak. The monster looked at himself in shock after realizing his cover was blown.
"Astro Sniper!" Astro Black fired lances of energy at the monster, while the chameleon simultaneously fired crimson optic blasts at the Ranger. The blasts exploded against Astro Black and the chameleon.
The strike against the chameleon disrupted the pocket dimension enough for the rangers to snap back into reality inside the computer complex where the trap had been sprung.
"How'd we get out?" Justin asked. "Not that I'm complaining."
"Chris must be fighting that chameleon thing," Tommy said.
"We need to go help him," Kat said.
"Let's go," Tommy said.
Astro Black keeled over onto the pavement as the chameleon monster walked towards him with a hiss-like laughter.
The Ranger was on all fours, trying to get up, as the monster kicked him upside the head. The Ranger rolled out of the monster's way and got back on his feet.
Astro Black moved forward and struck the monster with a round kick to its chest. The chameleon blocked Astro Black's follow-up punch and uppercut the Ranger in the stomach. The monster followed with a knifehand to the back, and the Ranger collapsed.
The chameleon placed its foot and Astro Black's chest and pressed hard. "Your fate is termination," the monster said in deep metallic voice.
"Speak for yourself," Astro Black said.
"Ha!" Astro Red leapt through the air and flying sidekicked the monster off of Astro Black.
The four Rangers regrouped and readied their weapons.
"Astro Sling!" Astro Yellow shouted as she leapt through the air and blasted the chameleon.
"Astro Capture!" Astro Pink shouted as she blasted the monster with rings of energy.
"Astro Tomahawk!" Astro Blue shouted as he spun through the air and slashed the monster across the chest.
"Drill Saber!" Astro Red shouted as he thrust his weapon towards the monster like a spear and sent him crashing to the ground.
The Rangers ran to Astro Black's side and helped him to his feet.
"You okay, man?" Astro Blue asked.
"I'll be alright," Astro Black said as he stood.
"Let's finish this guy off," Astro Red said.
"Combine your weapons with your Astro Snipers," Astro Black said.
They did so: "Drill Sniper!" "Rod Sniper!" "Tomahawk Sniper!" "Sling Sniper!" Capture Sniper!"
"Fire!" Astro Red shouted as they fired beams of energy that ripped a hole through the creature and caused him to explode.
Astronema watched the destruction of her creation from the bridge of her Dark Fortress. Luckily, she devised a system that would put her monster back in the game.
"Fire the sata-lasers," she commanded.
A ray from the Dark Fortress enveloped the creature's remains, and the chameleon grew to giant size.
"Astro Megazord, online!" Astro Red shouted. The ship underwent its modular transformation as the Rangers joined in its cockpit. "Astro Megazord, Galaxy Mega!"
The Megazord blasted through the planet's atmosphere while using its shield to resist some of the heat associated with entry.
The Megazord landed and stood with its back to the Chameleon. The monster charged at the Megazord, thinking it had the element of surprise. Galaxy Mega turned at the last minute and slammed its fist against the Chameleon's face.
"Download, Astro Megazord Saber!" Astro Red commanded as the Megazord's saber materialized.
"Saber-whip!" Astro Black shouted as the saber transformed into an electric whip, glowing with golden energy. The whip struck the monster twice before returning to sword mode.
"Energize Saber!" Astro Red shouted as the blade energized and cut through the monster horizontally, causing it to fall backward and explode.
The Megazord left the planet's atmosphere and returned to ship mode before blasting off at hyper-rush velocity.
Astronema glared at the trail the ship left behind.
A few hours later in the Megaship, Chris was resting in his bed when his door chimed. "Come in," he said as he sat up.
"Hey," Justin said as he walked in. "Am I intruding or anything?"
"Nah," Chris said. "I just got done in the engine room with Tommy and Cy."
Justin chuckled. "Those two crack me up. They're probably more of a threat to each other than Astronema."
Chris smiled. "They get along alright."
"Eh, it's just a facade," Justin said as he sat down. "Thanks for coming to our rescue today."
Chris shrugged. "I figured it was my turn to save you guys for once."
Justin chuckled. "Yeah. So why didn't you tell us you had this space-fright thing?"
"I don't know," Chris said as he shook his head. "I just didn't want you guys to think any less of me or anything. I think I'll be ok now anyway."
"Yeah," Chris said. "I mean, when I rode my Cyber Slider through the atmosphere the first time, it scared me and all...but when we all went up to the Megaship after Astronema's monster grew...it was like I didn't even think about it. I had a job to do, and I did it."
"Good for you," Justin said.
"Thanks...so what's the real reason you came?" Chris asked.
"New simudeck program," Justin said as his face lit up.
"What is it?"
"Remember the trench run on the Death Star in Star Wars?"
"Excellent," Chris said. They headed to the simudeck.
Tommy walked into his quarters.
"Hello, Tommy," he snapped around and assumed a fighting stance. He partially lowered his guard when he noticed the Dark Man standing in his corner with his arms crossed.
"How could you have possibly gotten on this ship?" Tommy asked.
"Oh, Tommy, come now," the Dark Man said as he sat down on Tommy's bed. "I can be anywhere."
Tommy pulled a chair out from his table and sat. "What is it this time?"
"This journey is a very important one," the man said.
Tommy nodded. "You've gotten a lot worse at this."
The Dark Man chuckled. "Is that a sense of humor you've developed?"
"Maybe, but I'm still as impatient as ever. What is it this time?" Tommy asked again.
"This journey isn't just about finding Zordon or stopping Sauron. It's about finding yourself," the Dark Man said.
Tommy wrinkled his brow. "What do you mean?"
"Tommy, you have proven yourself time and again, and yet you are still a boy," the Dark Man said. "This is your journey to manhood. To becoming the one you were meant to be."
"And I was meant for?" Tommy asked.
"You will know when the time comes," the Dark Man said as he pulled out a small golden locket with a red ruby in the center. He held it towards Tommy.
Tommy hesitated for a moment, but reached out and took the amulet. "What is it?"
"The starting point for your journey. Farewell, Tommy," the Dark Man rose and left Tommy's quarters. Tommy knew better than to try and follow him. He knew the strange man was already gone.
Tommy flicked on the locket and a holographic image appeared. It was of a family with a baby girl and a toddler boy. Tommy recognized the toddler as his younger self, and recognized his father's face.
"Those other two people... What is this?"
To be continued...Chapter 04