Rangers in Space: Chapter Ten
Rigel Campaign: Part One
"The Rigel Expanse was ripe with grief and tragedy,
but not even the natives suspected the dark forces brewing within."
— Malthus Zeon, 2104
"The Rigel Expanse:
History and Myth"
The Takian outpost served as the main entry point into the vast Rigel Expanse. The heavily-armored and heavily-shielded outpost was embedded in a large asteroid caught in orbit around the system's primary star. The base itself was equipped with multi-layered deflector shields, twelve missile tubes, and a full array of plasma cannons.
Two fighter wings patrolled the outpost. One wing belonging to the rock-like Sedementarians, and the other belonging to an insectoid race called the Vingian. The Sedementarian Gok-class fighters had curved bows and pincers at the ends of their aft tails. The Vingian Xindi-class fighters were long and slender like daggers.
The Takian occupation force's leader stood at the base's forward viewport. He stood boldly while staring into space, watching the fighter wings fly by on patrol. He was a Sedementarian, and his people had hated the Rigel Expanse for centuries.
To stand at the entryway to the expanse, being given the power to drive off the infidels by Sauron, gave the Sedementarians a great deal of pride and joy.
His expression went from pride to concern as he saw a small group of flashes in the distance, which signified incoming ships.
"What are the infidels up to this time?" he asked himself as alarms stared blaring throughout the compound.
A Triforian capital ship entered the outskirts of the system and headed straight towards the outpost. The gold-and-black armored vessel was a Balyana-class Heavy Cruiser, a long vessel brimming with weaponry.
The ship was surrounded by a Rigellion Coalition fighter squadron. Each fighter was V-shaped with a quad engine assembly. The leader of the fighter squadron was an Avian, a bird-like native to one of the many worlds in the Expanse.
The fighters rolled to starboard and ignited their thrusters, jetting towards the enemy fighters around the outpost.
"Squad, this is Lead," he said over the tactical system. "Launch torpedo barrage on my mark, then break into flights and attack."
The squadron leader waited until the enemy blips on his radar lined up with his cross hairs. "Fire!"
The torpedo barrage streamed towards the enemy fighters with streaks of white flame. The missiles exploded against their targets, scattering the enemy formation as the Coalition squadron moved forward in attack formation.
The Triforian ship closed in towards the asteroid base, and the cruiser's turbo lasers blasted lances of crimson energy that slammed against the outpost's deflector shields. The outpost's missile racks and plasma cannons opened fire on the ship, its shields straining as several explosions erupted across the hull.
A large dogfight erupted in the space around the asteroid as laser and plasma blasts lit up the black void. The Coalition fighters were clearly outnumbered.
A smile spread across the rocky face of the outpost's commander as he watched his superior forces strike back against the small attack group.
"They are foolish," he said to himself.
He watched as the fighter group broke off its attack and started falling back towards the edge of the system.
"Foolish and cowardly," he said.
His expression went from amusement to shock when he saw what happened next.
The Coalition V-Fighters throttled towards the edge of the system with the Sedementarian and Vingian craft in hot pursuit, their cannons blazing.
Space suddenly erupted as two squadrons of fighters speared into real-space, throttling past the V-Fighters and opening fire on the unsuspecting enemy. The villains were unprepared as blaster bolts and missiles tore through their ships. The incoming squadrons were similar in design to the V-Fighters, only each had three wings extending from both sides.
The V-Fighters regrouped and fired their afterburners, changing their course heading back towards the outpost.
The Triforian ship continued to pound at the base's shields while the V-Fighters made strafing runs against weapon emplacements.
Once the shields were down, Spriggan troops would enter the compound and clear away resistance. The base would belong to the Coalition.
The Astro Megaship was in the outskirts of the Rigel Expanse while the rangers monitored the first attack.
"Okay," Tommy said as he watched the outpost fall to Coalition forces. "Have attacks wings Beta and Gamma set up and deploy from Takia. Give Delta and Epsilon the green light to head in. We'll be right behind them."
Kat's fingers danced across her control panel. "Beta through Epsilon are ready."
"Good," Tommy said. "We're out..."
Cy activated a few controls on his console. "Going to Hyper-rush nine."
The Megaship blasted into hyperspace towards the Expanse.
Deep within the Expanse was a rocky planet of black clouds and red skies. Its dominant species evolved from insectoid life and were all but extinct. They lived underground in secret, unknown to even the inhabitants of the expanse. That was about to change.
A young man shrouded in black robes knelt before a large humanoid creature whose body appeared to be made mostly of insectoid legs.
"He's coming," the young man told his master. "I can feel it..."
"The dark power has grown in you," his master said. "Are you prepared?"
The young man nodded. "With each planet conquered in this Expanse we have grown more powerful. Sauron's forces still aren't aware of our presence. Nor is the Coalition."
"Excellent," the insect creature said. "Go then. With the death of the Rangers by our hands, our power will grow even stronger."
The young man, Raisik, rolled his hands into fists. "Dragon Ranger..." he said with venom in his voice.
An assault force of Sedementarian and Vingian capital ship's amassed in the red-dwarf system known as Alagron. The attack group was made up three copper-colored, Grokgrn-class Sedementarian battle cruisers and two smaller Nieav-class Vingian assault ships.
The assault group was preparing for a jump to the Takian Outpost to drive off the Coalition before they gained a significant foothold in the Expanse.
The Megaship speared into real-space along the assault group's exit vector. The rangers sat in the shuttle cockpit, with Cy back on the main bridge.
"Polarize the hull plating," Tommy commanded. "Astro Megazord, online."
The shuttle shot from the port bow as the Megaship began transforming into its warrior form.
"Chris," Tommy said. "Pinpoint those ships' weak spots. Look for engines and weapons. Justin, get ready to fire with everything we've got."
The Astro Megazord finished its transformation as Tommy pushed his control sticks forward. The Megazord's back thrusters activated as the Galaxy Mega shot towards the five enemy ships.
"Fire the beam cannon," Tommy commanded.
"With pleasure," Justin said as he brought the cannon online.
The Megazord aimed its beam cannon forward and fired a massive stream of energy that cut along the five ships, causing explosions along their hulls and deflector shields.
"Their shields are weakened," Chris reported.
"They're calling for reinforcements," Kat said.
"Jam their frequencies," Tommy said.
The Galaxy Mega continued its advance and opened fire with two head-mounted vulcans that stabbed energy against the ships' hulls.
The enemy vessels returned fire with a volley of plasma discs and missiles, but the Megazord slid across space to avoid the blasts.
One of the smaller enemy ships was consumed by a ball of white hot flame as its engines overloaded and exploded.
The enemy fire intensified, and it became harder for the Megazord to dodge.
"Arm the shield," Tommy said as he watched the massive volley of enemy blasts shoot towards the ship. "Ashley, get the fold gate ready."
The Megazord activated its disc-shaped shield and used it to absorb most of the plasma discs, but some blasts managed to shoot past the shield and explode against the Megazord's armor.
Justin triggered the beam cannon again, using the second blast to focus on two ships. He held the beam against the remaining saucer ship until its forward armor melted away and its hull buckled, then he shifted the line of fire to one of the larger ships. The Sedementarian cruiser was more heavily armored and didn't sustain as much damage.
"The fold gate is online," Ashley said.
Tommy activated his Battleizer. "Delta Mega, Install!"
Rapid fire from the head vulcans ripped through the damaged saucer ship, and its hull breeched with a final massive explosion. Only the three Sedementarian ships remained when the Delta Megaship blasted into real-space from the enemy's flank.
The Delta Mega opened fire with pulse cannons while aiming towards the damaged cruiser. Lances of yellow energy stabbed through the cruiser and caused massive explosions to erupt along the hull's spine. The Galaxy Mega fired head vulcans on the damaged spine as the Delta Mega moved to its next target.
The view of the three enemy ships nearly filled the entire forward viewport as the Megazord blasted forward.
"Download, Galaxy Megazord Saber," Tommy commanded as the saber appeared in the zord's hand.
The Megazord angled its attack vector towards the ship to its aft, while the Delta Mega continued to fire destruction on the other two ships. The villains' blasts exploded against the Galaxy Mega's armor as the zord continued forward.
"Energize saber!" Tommy commanded as the zord juked to the left, and golden energy surrounded its blade.
The saber punctured through the ship's hull and sliced it open along the side as the Megazord blasted forward. Small explosions erupted throughout the enemy ship as the Galaxy Mega slashed through its hull. The Megazord blasted clear of the ship just as its systems overloaded and exploded.
"We have a problem," Chris said as the other two ships exploded on their port side. "Incoming hostiles on long range scans."
"How many?" Tommy asked.
"Two cruiser analogs," Chris said. "Six frigates, and 32 fighters."
Kat shook her head as she watched the readings. "These ships didn't get a message out. They can't have known we were here."
"It's probably just the second wave," Ashley said.
Tommy looked down to Justin. "Do our mines have enough fire power to take them out?"
"Not all of them, but some," Justin said. "I'd say about 80 percent of the fighters and four of the frigates. The rest would be damaged depending on their entry formation."
"Have Gamma Wing send a force here to clean up whatever's left," Tommy said while looking over his shoulder to Kat. He activated his Battleizer. "Deploy mines..."
The Delta Mega arced through space while deploying several large clusters of octagonal space mines. Each mine was mobile and programmed to lock on target.
Before Tommy could issue another order, a wave of dizziness suddenly struck him. He leaned over in his chair and grabbed the sides of his head while groaning in pain. It felt like white-hot ice picks were drilling into his temples. Images flashed before his mind's eye. Someone was calling to him. Someone was challenging him.
Tommy narrowed his eyes as the pain subsided. "Raisik..."
"Tommy, what is it?" Ashley asked.
"We're changing course," he said. "I know why we're here..."
Macus's Spriggan unit was deployed deeper into the Expanse from Takia. Their target was the Orgolos Observatory, a space station originally designed as a scientific observatory that was retrofitted by Sauron's occupation forces.
Macus was hiding in an air duct as a group of Vingian and Sedementarians walked by the corridor underneath him. The station was on combat alert, suspecting an attack at any moment.
Macus was dressed in dark red undergarments covered by brown leathery pads of armor. He wore throwing daggers along his arms and legs, and had a sleek black blaster attached to each hip. He narrowed his eyes as the soldiers passed by underneath. Sedementarians had slaughtered his parents when he was only a child.
I couldn't stop them then...he thought to himself as he un-holstered his blasters. But I can make them pay for that now...
Macus dropped from the air shaft, slamming his feet against the back of an insectoid soldier, dropping that Vingian to the ground, while aiming his blasters forward. He fired pulses of blue plasma energy that tore through and shattered three Sedementarians before the other soldiers returned fire.
Macus flipped backwards as red energy blasts speared towards him. He somersaulted backwards and landed behind a Vingian, snapping its neck and using it as a shield. He tossed the body aside and aimed his sidearms back at the troops, opening fire with super-heated plasma.
The Megaship was blasting through hyperspace at maximum hyper rush, heading deeper into the expanse.
Tommy was sitting in his quarters, looking over the magick book he was given on Kilwan. His door chimed, and he looked up only slightly.
"Come in," he said.
The doors slid open and Cy barged in. The Kerovian was not happy.
"I was against this campaign in the first place...now I think you've completely lost it," Cy said.
Tommy looked up from his book. "Feel free to be blunt..."
"The course we've laid in is of no significance and goes against our mission," Cy said. "It could push back the entire campaign, which means we'd be stuck here even longer."
"Cy," Tommy said calmly. "Remember what you told me before KO-35? When I showed you my locket?"
"This is different," Cy said.
"It's not," Tommy said. "I believe the reason for us being in this region of space lies deeper in this Expanse. I believe this is important to our overall mission of stopping Sauron and freeing Zordon."
"How?" Cy asked.
"Trust me, Cy," Tommy said. "We've known each other long enough now..."
The Kerovian sighed and nodded. "Alright...but I still don't like this."
Tommy shook his head. "I don't either...but it's what we have to do. Something dark is brewing in this expanse. We have to stop it before it gets out of control and we're left with something even more dangerous than Sauron to stop."
The Megaship was unexpectedly pulled from hyperspace along the edge of a small system in the Expanse. Tommy and Cy walked onto the bridge as the rangers manned their posts. A small world of ice was visible through the bottom of the viewscreen.
Chris's fingers danced across the sensor display. "Some kind of...gravitational anomaly."
"A ship?" Tommy asked.
"No," Chris said as he looked to Ashley.
She shook her head. "It definitely wasn't natural, but I can't trace the source."
The Megaship began to shudder as the alarms started to blare.
"We're being pulled towards that planet," Ashley said.
"By what?" Tommy asked.
"No idea," Ashley said.
"I'm not picking up any life signs," Chris said. "No jamming fields or anything."
"Full reverse," Tommy said.
Cy shook his head. "We'll tear the ship apart. Our engines aren't strong enough to break free."
The rangers were tossed to the deck as the lights sparked off and the ship shot towards the planet's surface, spinning out of control. A blinding light flashed through the bridge seconds before the Megaship crashed through a glacier and started skidding across the icy surface.
Tommy's vision blurred back into focus as he pushed himself up off the ground.
He looked up and found himself in the middle of a forest clearing along with the other five rangers. A dirt path extended down the clearing and led to a nearby temple that appeared almost Asian in design.
Tommy pulled himself to his feet as the others came to.
Justin shook his head as he looked around. "Should I even ask?"
The doors to the temple slid open, and a woman stood in the doorway. She was, simply put, magnificent. She wore long white-and-red, intricately designed robes that covered her slender body. Her skin was like snow, in contrast to the long, dark hair flowing down her back. Her bangs were parted to the left. She had dark brown, captivating eyes.
"I am Gozen," she said in a soft and powerful voice. "I have brought you here."
Tommy slowly took a step forward. "Why?"
"Evil," Gozen said. "Dark arts are being awakened that have not been practiced since before time."
"In the Expanse?" Ashley asked.
Gozen softly nodded as she began descending the temple stairs with such grace, it appeared as if she was floating. "The six of you must quell this evil before it rages out of control and devours the cosmos."
"Is it Raisik?" Tommy asked.
Gozen nodded. "He is a servant. A puppet and leader of a dark clan known as Jakanja. You must stop him."
"Where is he?" Tommy asked.
"You aren't ready to know yet," Gozen said as she started walking towards the forest. "Come..."
The rangers looked at each other with confusion before following Gozen deeper into the forest.
Justin looked around as the noises of unseen insects filled the air. "So where exactly are we?"
Gozen turned to face them as they reached a smaller clearing. "The planet of ice."
"How is that possible?" Chris asked.
"Because I made its so," she said as her eyes glanced over each of the rangers. "What I am about to teach you is an art older than time. All martial-arts techniques across the galaxy developed from this art. It is the art of Ninjetti."
"Ninjetti?" Tommy asked.
Gozen nodded softly. "Ninjetti. Inside each of you is an animal spirit. It is this spirit that empowers your mind, body, soul, and life force. This spirit is symbolic of your total being."
A faint, gold glow came from Gozen's forehead. The source appeared to be a medallion imbedded inside her head.
"By igniting your animal spirits, you will be able to draw upon The Power in new ways. This is how you will defeat the Jakanja."
Her medallion flashed and struck the rangers with a pulse of golden energy, knocking them off their feet as they dropped to the ground unconscious.
A group of Sedementarians and Vingian soldiers manned the circular command deck of the Orgolos Observatory. A viewport wrapped around the command room, lined with red lights that flashed as alarms blared.
The Sedementarian commander snarled from the center of the room while looking over his shoulder to a Vingian. "Where are they?"
The insectoid shook its head. "They evade internal scan. Move stealth."
The commander felt the deck shake beneath his feet, more than likely from an explosion within the observatory. "Seal off the command deck!" he barked to his troops. "All soldiers, fall back to A Deck entry points! Seal off the turbolift shafts!"
A Vingian's antenna slightly perked as he turned from his rear station and looked towards the commander's back. "Commander, the-"
"No Spriggan will advance further!" the commander continued, oblivious to the Vingian's remarks.
"We will drive them off further!" the commander continued. "We-"
The commander turned to face the Vingian, and his face wrinkled with rage and concern at what he saw. A group of six Spriggan were outside the viewport in dark, lightweight life support suits. They aimed high-yield pulse cannons towards the viewport.
The commander narrowed his eyes. "I hate them..."
The Spriggan fired in unison as the viewport shattered and blew outwards. Atmosphere blew out of the command deck as half the guards were sucked into the cold vacuum of space. The Spriggan managed to swing inside the command deck and lock their gravity boots against the floor.
Emergency force-fields shimmered into place, allowing the atmosphere to settle as the Spriggan opened fire. Their blue plasma blasts ripped through the bridge crew as they collapsed to the deck.
The enemy commander took a blast through the left side of his chest as his body whipped around and dropped. He slowly pulled himself up to all fours and looked up to see a Spriggan aiming his pistol downwards.
That Spriggan removed his dark-visor helmet. It was Macus.
The commander laughed while coughing up black, granulated ichor. "Am I supposed to know you?"
"You were there," Macus said. "When my parents were killed...then when Sauron took our world..."
The commander shook his head. "I've killed many people."
Macus shot the arms out from the Sedementarian, and the soldier fell back to the ground.
"I am Macus," he said. "You'll remember me this time...for as long as you live..."
He fired a blaster bolt straight through the commander's head.
As the Spriggan moved about to secure the command deck, a dark mist suddenly started to seep through the floor plating.
"Helmets," Macus commanded his troops to place their helmets back on in case the mist was poisonous.
They heard a cold laughter come from the mist as it surrounded them. It was the last they heard before falling into darkness.
The rangers slowly pulled themselves to their feet as the golden light faded. Their clothing had changed to loose fitting body suits, each resembling a blend of Eltarian and ninja design, and each with a golden coin on the chest.
Gozen looked to Tommy, who was dressed in red with gold trimming over his chest and legs, and white down his arms. "You are the Falcon, with power of air."
Her gaze drifted to Justin, who wore black with golden trimming over his chest and legs, and dark blue down his arms. "You are the Panther, with power of earth."
Gozen looked to Chris, who wore deep blue over his chest and legs, with black running down his arms. "You are the Shark, with power of water."
Gozen tilted her head to Cy. The Kerovian wore dark crimson with gold trimming over his chest and legs, and dark gray along his arms. The coin on his chest was the symbol of a bug native to KO-35. It looked similar to a praying mantis. "You are the Jahvin, with power of shadow."
She looked to Ashley, who was dressed in gold across her chest and legs, and black down her arms. "You are the Scarab, with power of lightning."
She looked to Kat. She wore green garments with gold trimming over her chest and legs, and black down her arms. "You are the Eagle, with power of sonic."
Gozen turned her back towards the rangers and waved her hand through the air, creating a complex holographic vision. A once great city was in rubble. On top of the city was an obsidian castle bearing the symbol of a centipede-type creature.
"Jakanja has already taken the Rigel System. They are not interested in conquering, only increasing their power by destroying planet after planet. You must stop them at Rigel before they spread."
The image zoomed in on one of the castle's upper windows, then swung downward through various floors and ceilings. Macus and his troops were being held in the lower level dungeon, bound in chains.
"You must go to their aid and stop Raisik," she said as she turned back to face the rangers. "May The Power protect you..."
The forest and ground around them began to shimmer with golden light as if fading from existence.
"Wait..." Tommy said. "What-"
Before he could question her further, the six rangers suddenly appeared back in their jumpsuits on the bridge of the Megaship. Their vessel was in orbit around the ice planet below.
To be continued...Chapter 11