Actions

Work Header

Sharpening Steel

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Private Datacom Entry of Brody Romero:

 

 

 

o0o0o0o0o0o

 

 

My name is Brody Romero. I am a Terran human, born on the planet Earth about seventeen years ago.

 

And I am a slave.

 

Ten years ago, I was young, happy and free... My mom had passed away when I was still a baby, but I had Dad and my big brother Aiden with me. Dad was training us to be real ninjas, like him. That was one of my three major dreams. The most important of which was to become a Master Ninja someday, just like my Dad. He was everything I wanted to be. He loved us more than life itself. He was kind, but firm. He did everything possible for me and Aiden to feel loved, even though we lost our Mom. He had trained under a wise Ninja Master in a secret school for ninjas when he was very young, and had become the best of his class. After mastering the skills of his training school, he had gone out into the world to learn more about the ancient martial arts and discover different disciplines to help him become an even more skilled fighter. People everywhere thought that he was the best ninja who ever lived. Aiden and I were so proud of our Dad, and we trained hard to become like him. Everything was perfect... And then it arrived.

 

I don't really know exactly how it found its way to us; but one day, there was a loud noise and the earth shook. We were all in the barn, and Aiden and I were thinking it was an earthquake. We were wrong, it was something much stranger than that. Dad looked outside once the tremors stopped, and saw something half buried in our backyard. When he went out to investigate, that's when he discovered it. The Ninja Nexus Prism. Of course, at the time he had absolutely no idea what he had discovered. All he knew was a strange crystalline shuriken (a kind of throwing star) that emitted a purple glow was somehow in our backyard. As he investigated it, he discovered that parts of it was covered in a strange metallic crust, a metal unlike anything ever seen on Earth. He managed to chip it off bit by bit, over several days until he had a large pile of the metal shavings. He started melting some of them down and molding them into shurikens, though he never could explain exactly why whenever Aiden or I would ask. All he would say was that it came to us for a reason. He decided to make it his mission to discover what that reason was. As he tried to figure out what it was, he discovered something even more incredible. He discovered a strange artifact which contained several strange shapes and colors, inside of the crystal prism. Somehow, Dad was able to reach right into the solid crystal prism and pull out the strange artifact. When I asked him how he managed to pull that out, all he could say was that it somehow called to him.

 

We had no idea about the awesome powers locked inside that strange glimmering object. We had no clue about it's legend and the true worth of both it and the prism that housed it. We were soon to learn about the cost of keeping such a valuable artifact with us...the hard way.

 

 On the day my world fell apart, I was outside, about a couple of weeks after Dad discovered the Prism, training. Dad had just shown me a new kata and I wanted to master it so I could impress my Dad and big brother. That's when everything changed. The first clue that I had that something was seriously wrong was the sound of hard plastic being crushed under someone's foot. I thought that maybe my brother had accidentally broken my toy dump truck and I turned around to yell at him, only to be greeted by a scene out of a nightmare. I saw the fulfillment of the second dream that I had back then. I had always wanted to meet a real life alien, like in 'E.T.' Well, my dream was fulfilled. But it turned out to be the worst sight that I could have witnessed. The most terrifying creature that I've ever seen, anywhere was standing right behind me. As he yanked me to him, I could see the sharp talons, and spikes which adorned his armor. He look like a demon shogun. Naturally, I screamed bloody murder for my dad and Aiden to help me. The sight of my dad rushing out, katana in hand to save me is a memory that I have treasured for years. I knew, that my dad wouldn't let this monster hurt me.

 

The next several minutes that followed were so incredible, that even now I can barely believe that it actually took place. Two other armor clad monsters had appeared next to the one that had grabbed me, surrounding my dad. When Dad demanded that the monster let me go, it laughed and obliged, a fact that terrified me even more as he said that there was no where to hide. My heart was beating so fast, I thought it would burst out of my chest. I was so glad to be tucked securely under my dad's arm as he held me close to him. Even though we were surrounded by evil aliens, I felt sure that somehow, Dad would make it better. When the monster introduced himself as Galvanax and demanded the Ninja Nexus Star, I knew that somehow, doing that would be the worst thing that Dad could ever do. I begged Dad not to do it, as I saw him pulling it out from where he had hidden it. Then that demon pointed his massive blade at Dad and I and shot a sickly, purple light at us. Dad pushed me away and held up the Ninja Nexus Star as the light slammed into him. I was so scared that Dad was going to die, I was totally overwhelmed when my Dad, suddenly transformed and fulfilled the third dream that I had as a little boy, to someday meet a real Power Ranger!

 

It was so incredible watching him fight off that monster, Galvanax as a Power Ranger. He moved so fast! He was a glowing red blur as he rained blow after blow on Galvanax. He easily dodged everything that Galvanax threw at him, and pushed back even harder. He was beating him...he would have beat him... If it wasn't for me. Just then, another monster, this one with a weird face that looked like it had been split in half, grabbed me and started dragging me away. I screamed out for Dad...and distracted him. When he ran to save me, Galvanax had an opportunity to hit his exposed back. I watched helplessly as my dad flew through the air, before smashing into the ground. Hitting the ground caused my dad to return to normal in a flash of red light, and the Ninja Nexus Star that he had battled to protect from the monsters flew away, hitting the ground far from his grasp. As Galvanax picked up the Star and started glowing with a red light as he somehow drained the Star of its powers, I had a chance to escape. The monster that had grabbed me, had let me go in the excitement of watching his master's victory. If I had been braver, or smarter...I could have gotten away! But all I could do was stand there, frozen in place by my fear. I watched as my dad, his eyes blazing with determination, leaped at the glowing Galvanax and sliced at the Ninja Star with his katana, shattering it. When he did that, there was a big explosion of light that knocked all of us back... When the smoke cleared, my father, Dane Romero was gone along with Galvanax. And the Ninja Nexus Prism was standing there in their place. I watched, shocked by my dad's disappearance as the broken pieces of the Ninja Nexus Star transformed into six separate Ninja Stars, each one of them a distinctive color and shape. I could feel one of them...calling to me. Urging me to pull it out of the prism. I reached out, but was knocked back by the monster with the split face who tried to break through the crystal surrounding the six Ninja Stars. His attempt was a complete failure. That's when my life turned into a living hell. He took the Prism and returned to his spaceship. And he took me too.

 

I screamed and screamed for Aiden, but he never showed. Dad must have told him to run with the strange metal and hide. I never saw him again. To this day, I have no idea what happened to him. For all I know, he could have died...but no, I can't accept that. I have to believe that somehow, somewhere, my brother is out there. I have to believe that, or I'll turn completely crazy.

 

Ever since that day, for the next ten years my life has become the stuff of horror shows. I've been exposed to so many alien beings, most of them as horrific and evil as Galvanax, if not as strong as him. He made me into a slave on his ship. For ten years I've had to serve him, and his general Gabi Raizo. Raizo has become perhaps the one being that I hate and fear more than even the memory of Galvanax. The things he has done to me... .If not for the faint hope in my heart that someday I'll find my brother again, I'd probably kill myself just to get away from the shame and the pain of being tortured by Raizo, sometimes for days on end, being forced to do the most degrading and despicable things for his pleasure. But no matter how he tortures me, no matter how much my skin and muscles tear as he uses me like trash and attempts to break my spirit, I'll never give in. I will find a way to escape. And when I do, I'll finish what my dad started. I will take back the Ninja Nexus Prism and find a way to get back to Earth. I will find my big brother. I will never give up...

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Romero Family Residence, Farm

Summer Cove, TX*

Fall, 2007

 

 

 

 

Brody huddles near a darkened corner of their family barn, too upset and ashamed to walk into the main house where he knows Dad and Aiden would ask too many questions about why he looks so messy and bruised. Tears trickle down his slightly pudgy face, and he swipes at them violently with mud encrusted fingers, leaving dark tear tracks down the sides of his face. Ducking his head underneath his arms, he rocks back and forth, as he recalls the taunting and name calling that he had been subjected to when he confronted Iggy Reynolds over taking his notebook from his cubby without his permission. Barely resisting the urge to scream, he clenches his trembling hands into tight fists as he continues rocking. It wasn't fair! He was the one who had his book stolen! He was the one who had been wronged! His dad was the greatest ninja in Texas, maybe even the entire world! How come he couldn't take Iggy and his annoying friends on in a straight fight? Why was he so weak?

 

He's so lost in his raging thoughts that he jumps, startled when a large, warm pair of hands settle suddenly on his shoulders. He wheels around in a panic, only to meet the concerned gaze of his Dad, as he crouches down next to him in the barn.

 

"Brody?" whispers Dad, a faint note of shock and dismay in his voice, "what happened to you? Look at you, your clothes are ripped and you have mud all over yourself. And your face...baby, what happened? Did you get into an accident walking home from school?"

 

 Blood rushes to Brody's face as fresh shame coils in his stomach, and he drops his gaze to the ground, unwilling to meet his dad's concerned gaze. Sniffling, he shakes his head in the negative, as he firmly stares down at the ground. He can't see Dad's face, but he hears his rumbling sigh and feels him press closer to his side as he sits down next to him. The warm weight of his dad's arm settles around him once again, and he doesn't resist being tugged into a one-armed hug, a small smile threatening to break across Brody's face even in the wake of his misery as he inhales the Old Spice cologne that his Dad wore and felt the rough cloth of his training uniform against his cheek. Calming down slightly, Brody lets out a breathy sigh of his own. He feels safe. No matter what, he knows his dad will always be there to help him, to protect him. 

 

"So, I guess you must have gotten into a fight today," says Dad quietly as he gently rocks Brody. "And the outcome wasn't to your liking? Can you tell me what happened, son?"

 

Brody really doesn't want to, but haltingly he explains to his dad what happened with his missing notebook and his discovery of the boys who had swiped it from his cubicle while he was helping Mr. Bremmer with cleaning up from their Crafts class and used it to make fun of him. He shares about how angry he felt when one of those  boys stuck his foot out and caused him to trip on his way outside.  Of how they ganged up on him after school was over and made fun of him again and again until he couldn't think clearly and jumped on top of Iggy, to make him pay for his mean teasing. How his act prompted the entire group to retaliate, holding him down while Iggy punched his face, his stomach and arms until he grew too tired to continue. 

 

He doesn't mean to, but he finds himself crying again after he ends his story. He doesn't lift his head to meet his dad's eyes, half-convinced that he'll see disappointment and shame in his eyes. Why wouldn't he? He was the world's greatest ninja! He'd be ashamed of himself too if he was anywhere as good as his Dad. 

 

But that's not the case. Gently, but firmly his Dad grasps his chin and lifts up his face to meet his father's eyes which do after all have a bit of disappointment, but even more compassion and love.

 

"I wish that you had chosen a different course of action," says his Dad quietly. "Fighting shouldn't be the first thing we think of doing when we find ourselves in conflict with other people; no Brody, it should always be our last resort when every other alternative methods have failed. I don't blame you for what happened and I'm not upset with you, but I need you to look at this as a important lesson that will be a critical cornerstone of your life when you've grown up. Whenever possible, choose the less violent path."

 

Shocked, Brody stares at his dad in confusion. Not fight? But how does that make sense when bad people, like bullies kept trying to target you? His expression must have revealed his thoughts, because his Dad's lips twitch before breaking out into a wry smile.

 

"I know it must seem strange for a Ninja Master to say that fighting isn't best," he admits with a shake of his head, "but ideally we wouldn't need to resort to blows just to solve our problems. The world would certainly be a safer and saner place if we all endeavored to attain those ideals. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. And more unfortunate than that, a lot of people exist in this world who want to hurt those they think are weaker than themselves, want to take advantage of others and subject their victims to incredible misery. And son," he stresses, squeezing Brody's shoulders, "that is when people need to stand strong. Even when the odds are considered overwhelming, if you possess willpower as firm and resistant as steel, a determination not to be broken by the cruelty of others or give in to their warped desires and the nobility of spirit to not just defend yourself, but protect those far more vulnerable than you? Then even the physically weakest man can topple the mightiest opponent to the ground."

 

Brody frowns reflexively as he tries to understand everything that his Dad is sharing with him. How does not fighting back equal having willpower like steel?  As he frowns again, he sees his Dad smile fondly at him as he reaches over and grasps him by the shoulders and stares earnestly into his eyes. 

 

"Son, you have an inner strength greater than you know," whispers Dad as his eyes burn with an unnameable emotion that rivets Brody's attention. "Remember when you face impossible odds, never give up. Never let yourself be broken. Your true strength isn't in your body, but in your inner spirit. Keep that strength alive, and no one will be able to stand against you."

 

"Never give up," echoes Brody faintly, captivated by the determined look in his father's eyes, "never let yourself be broken."

 

"You got it champ," says Dad, and suddenly the spell is broken as he smiles and ruffles Brody's head unrepentant as Brody groans and swipes at his hands in a vain effort to keep him from making his hair messier than it already is. Then Dad freezes and tilts his head as he stares thoughtfully over Brody's shoulder into the distance. 

 

"You know," he muses thoughtfully, "it's been awhile since I've accepted any students to train with me besides your brother of course. Think you'd like to let your old man teach you about the art of the Ninja?"

 

Brody's eyebrows shoots up and his mouth drops open in shock. "You—You really want to train...me?" he asks breathlessly. 

 

He squirms under the intensity of his dad's gaze as gains that strange light in his eyes that seems to freeze Brody in place. His calloused hand cups Brody's cheek tenderly as that intense gazes seems to burn right through him. 

 

"With the possible exception of your brother Brody, there's no one else who I'd think of training instead of you."

 

Then with a slight groan, the spell is broken again as Dad heaves himself up and stretches out his hand. Excitement bubbling in the pit of his stomach, Brody grasps the outstretched hand and pulls himself up to his feet. They head towards the door, Brody nearly skipping to match the long strides of his Dad as they head towards the house, so excited he spares only a quick glance at the carefully polished trophy won by his Dad long before, when he was a teenager in high school. 

 

Dad's going to train him to be a ninja! Silently Brody promises himself that he will become the best ninja who ever lived someday, just like his Dad...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

)0( )0( )0( )0( )0( )0(

 

 

 

 

 

The Devastator

Unknown Quandrant

Deep Space 

 

 

 

 

 

Brody...can...you...hear me...

 

 ...his body has sustained damage...no human...bear...

 

...brain waves...active...heart rate...too sporadic...

 

....possible...arrest...

 

...think he's responding...external stimuli...

 

...Brody, buddy...Kanic...Redbot...me...

 

...Brody...

 

 

"Brody?"

 

 

Chocolate colored eyes snapped open, wincing at the offending brightness surrounding him. Quickly squeezing them shut again, Brody gradually reopened his eyes, squinting as he slowly adjusted to the cobalt glare that surrounded him along with a deep resonant hum of machinery. The glaring lights oddly enough seemed to waver sharply, and as he began to fully come to his senses, Brody saw the distorted reflection of transparisteel. Eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, Brody made to push himself to an upright position...only to find himself unable to move his arms and hands. Alarm bells sounded in his mind and he attempted to lurch himself up, but couldn't move. His entire body was bound by an invisible force.

 

Panic set in, and Brody made to shout...only  to find himself unable to utter anything more than muffled groans as he finally registered the feeling of an elongated foreign object obstructing his esophagus, his nose and mouth covered by a nanofilter, which his brain belatedly associated with the only room within the vast spaceship where such a device would be present on him within the confines of the ship.

 

A furious surge of bubbles erupted as Brody began to give into unabashed terror as he vainly attempted to move even a centimeter of his body. His vain efforts at freedom served at least to alert one of the two sole occupants beside Brody in the last place where he wanted to be at, and with a sharp whir of servos, a red and white colored automaton appropriately styled 'Redbot' by Brody moved quickly to his side.

 

"Suffering circuits!" Brody heard Redbot exclaim as he began to tap furiously at a small pedestal that held the sequencer for the machine restricting Brody's ability to move or speak. "Brody's regained consciousness. Mick! Mick! Come quickly! He's awake!"

 

Even through the distortion provided by what Brody's slowly awakening mind now realized was the liquid solution utilized by that damn machine he hated to find himself in, Brody had no trouble recognizing the protracted wail that echoed throughout the chamber as a plump, soot covered figure with wild salt and pepper hair rushed over to Redbot's side and burst into noisy tears, vainly trying to stem them by swiping at them with a grimy sleeve of his service jumpsuit. 

 

"Brody!" wailed the Li'raian humanoid, Mick Kanic, "you're awake! I thought that maybe this time the Master had been pushed too far into one of his rages and decided to scrap you entirely! What in the six moons of Jyfreghal were you thinking? Why do you insist on defying him?"

 

Brody struggles to move renewed with earnest as the liquid he was submerged in began to recede and the energy containment field fizzled away. His throat burned as the nanofilter's breathing unit was withdrawn from his mouth. Loud, hoarse breathing echoed as he found himself able to speak at last. Focusing his eyes on the pale, withdrawn face of his partner, he attempted to grin although it became more of a grimace as he registered his throat's irritated state. 

 

"You know that I've always had trouble following," he croaked hoarsely. "It's not in my nature."

 

 "You should stress yourself Brody," said Redbot as he began to read the information on the console. "You woke up too soon. Your healing isn't complete. I recommend another cycle of immersion in the healing chamber. You're body is suffering from--"

 

"No, Redbot!" hissed Brody in agitation as he collected his strength to push himself upright. "No more healing chamber! You know how much I hate being stuck in--!"

 

His words broke off and he gasped as lightning bolts of pain stabbed all about his body. Brody clenched his teeth together to prevent the agonized wail that bubbled up from emerging from his mouth. Everything hurt. Waves of nausea hit him and he fell back with a grunt as he tried to fight through the pain emanating from his legs, his chest, his arms, his back, his hips, and even an even greater sensation of pain that he could feel within his stomach and lower regions. His fingers curled into rigid claws as he trembled under the overwhelming sensations. 

 

"Oh my circuits!" fretted Redbot above him, "you're still suffering from multiple fractures along your arms and rib cage. You have severe internal damage affecting your respiratory, muscular, digestive, and excretory systems. If Mick and I hadn't been summoned by the Master when we were, I fear that you wouldn't have survived your injuries."

 

Squeezing his eyes out in a vain effort to somehow keep the agony from overwhelming his senses, Brody tried in vain to recall what could have caused him to suffer such injuries. What had he been doing? The last thing he remembered, he had been ordered to take that under aged Cyskosti to the holding cells of the contenders for Raizo's stupid intergalactic competition, Galaxy Warriors as a 'prize' for Xymak, a notorious smuggler and criminal from the F-34 quadrant who had been rising rapidly through the qualifying rounds to determine who would be considered a contender for the coveted title of Galaxy Warriors champion...and who had a preference for savaging children in order to sate his voracious appetites. He had refused and Gabi Raizo had...he had--

 

Brody's eyes went wide and he stopped breathing, an ashy pallor spreading across his face as fractured memories of the horrific and savage punishment Raizo had subjected him to began to play in his head:

 

 

The feeling of utter horror and helpless rage as with one impossibly fast slash, Gabi Raizo decapitates the Cyskosti youngling in front of him, the youngling's severed head hurtling through the air until it smashes against his chest, a purplish colored ichor and bits of gore splattering across Brody's face and jumpsuit before gravity pulls it towards the walkway with a dull thud...

 

The overpowering desire to kill the despicable creature in front of him with his bare hands as Brody screams and leaps at the monster in front of him, only to be effortlessly slapped into the wall three meters away, fire blossoming against his jaw as blood spills from the jagged cut across his face...

 

The sickening 'crack' of bones as the hardened scales of Raizo's barbed and armored forearm smashes against his upraised arms, the feeling of fire traveling from his arms to his brain as the creature savagely rains heavy blows across his face and all over his body as he beats Brody furiously for his stubborn defiance...

 

The fire that leaps throughout his nerves as he's struck by blast after blast of energy, the smell of burning flesh causing his stomach to roil in sharp protest...

 

The sensation of liquid filling his damaged lungs as he is impaled by the sharp katana wielded by Raizo, unable even to scream as his throat is slowly being crushed in the iron grip of his torturer as he lifts him with one hand and marches towards his private chambers...

 

The terror that fills him as his meager clothing is ripped from his body and he's thrown face first into the cold metallic flooring, then pain as his hands are impaled by the twin blades, pinning him in place...

 

The sensation of Raizo's hands throttling his neck from behind as his heavy weight slowly crushes him, causing him to sputter and choke blood and fluid as he's now unable to breathe, fear flooding his entire being as he instinctively knows the punishment that awaits him for his latest act of defiance...

 

The sharp pain as Raizo's barbed member forces itself past his clenched anal ring and a savage thrust rips his insides as Raizo begins rutting in his body, hot fetid breath falling on his neck as deep grunts emerge from the space general as he takes his pleasure from Brody's subjugation...

 

The sharp sting as the salty tears trickling down his cheeks mingles with the multiple lacerations and cuts on his face, a mocking parallel to the intense agony as he feels liquid spilling down his thighs as Raizo's thrusts become sharper and more frenzied as he hammers into his body, jagged claws tearing at his shoulders and back. The pain is unbearable and Brody senses his will to deny the azure and crimson creature what he truly desires from from him; him begging him for mercy, finally submitting to his control. But Brody refuses, biting down on his lips so firmly that the coppery fluid bubbles around his mouth as he mentally chants his guiding mantra, the words that his father taught him so many long years ago...

 

'Never give up, never let yourself be broken... Never give up, never let yourself be broken...Never give up, never let yourself be broken...'

 

A sharp stab of fresh agony as sharp fangs rip into his neck and Raizo ruts into his broken body at an inhuman pace until with one last thrust that causes the blades pinning his hands in place to wrench forward, ripping through bone and nerves and muscle as a flood of hot liquid sears his insides as he spends himself in Brody's bowels...

 

The dark chuckle of that monster as he whispers into Brody's ears as he swims in and out of unconsciousness: "You can't defy me forever rat bait. I will break your spirit, and make you long for death. I am your Master, your god; you have no hope of escape, and no where to run..."

 

Retreating into the void of his mind as one name slips past his ruined lips as he falls gratefully into oblivion...

 

"Aiden..."

 

 

Weakly, Brody turned his head to the side as he gave into the nausea and began to retch bile as he recalled what had occurred in his last encounter with Gabi Raizo. A loud howling sound reverberated throughout the chamber, and it took Brody several moments to realize that the source of that sound was his own wails as he succumbed to the terror and agony of what he had endured. He vaguely could register Redbot and Mick trying to still his thrashing body in order to prevent further injury, but all he could do was cry as he shattered into thousands of little pieces. He strained against their arms as he tried in vain to curl up into a ball and shut out the outside world. It was too much, he felt defiled and filthy in a way he never had since his first experience of being forcibly mated to Gabi Raizo three years ago as a new form of punishment for his consistent and deepening defiance against the powerful general.

 

 

He needed Aiden. Where was Aiden? He needed him, he needed Aiden, Aiden could make it better; Aiden could make the pain and shame go away; Aiden, he needed Aiden, he needed his brother, he needed him, he needed him, he needed him, he needed him, he needed him, he needed him, he needed him--

 

 

His howls rose in pitch as a sharp stab at the side of his neck had him swinging his head to face Mick who's reddened eyes glistened with tears as he held up a thin nano injector. In seconds he felt himself slip away, the room spinning in dizzying circles as blackness encroached him.

 

 

"Sorry Brody," whispered the older being apologetically. "I know you won't agree, but you need to get further treatment to heal as fast as possible. The Master is already furious and allowing you this necessity. There's no telling what he'll do if you aren't ready to report for duty by rotation's end..."

 

 

"You...why Mick...know I hate...thi—" slurred Brody as he once again fell into the welcoming arms of oblivion... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

)0( )0( )0( )0( )0( )0( 

 

 

 

 

When he came to, Brody was surprised to find himself lying on his threadbare, stained pallet in the corner of the slave quarters that he shared with Redbot and Mick. He instinctively tensed, attempting to brace himself for the onslaught of fresh pain, but was surprised when he felt...fine. Hardly daring to believe it, he gathered himself and forced himself into an upright position, relief surging through him as he realized that he was completely healed from his punishment. He took in several deep breaths, luxuriating in the passage of air that he had been denied for Mkkiyk knew how long. He glanced down and found himself clothed in the rough jumpsuit and thin undershirt that all humanoid sentient beings wore as slaves upon the Devastator, the flagship of the General of the Kangetsu Space Ninja Corps and the site of the popular universal omnicast, Galaxy Warriors. 

 

Inexplicably he found himself beginning to chuckle, softly at first, but gradually rising in pitch until he was nearly bellowing in unadulterated glee as he flopped back against the pallet and stared up into the murky ceiling above. Somehow, he had managed to survive the personal 'attentions' of one of the most powerful creatures in the army of the Kangetsu Overlord, Galvanax. And he hadn't been broken. He hadn't given Gabi Raizo what he wanted most from him, his surrender. He had somehow, impossibly managed to hang on to his will to never give up...just like Dad had taught him long ago. 

 

As quickly as it had crept upon him, his hysterical laughter quickly faded as it morphed into broken, heaving sobs as he curled in on himself and bawled his eyes out. 

 

It was several long moments before his pitiful sobs tapered off and he hugged his knees into his chest as a familiar ache began to throb in his heart and mind.

 

"Aiden," Brody whispered into the darkness as he tightened his hold on himself. "Where are you? Why can't you hear me? I need you, so much."

 

Shifting out of his curled up position into a seated one, he crossed his legs and straightened his spine in the way his dad had taught him when he told him once about the esoteric art of communicating mind to mind which certain ninjas were able to achieve in their training. He forced his breathing to slow and began to take deliberate breaths, holding them for a count of six before releasing the inhaled air to a second count of six before starting the cycle again. As the minutes passed, his rapid heart-rate slowed and a feeling of calm stole across him as he began to form in his mind's eye an image of his brother as he remembered him; dark eyes flashing with vibrant laughter when they would spar together under their dad's watchful eyes outside the barn, darkening with anger when he came across Iggy and his goons trying to push him around again and proceeded to furiously beat each and everyone of them for daring to lay a hand on his baby brother; the way his eyes had flashed with rare defiance when Dad had grounded him for using his ninja training to beat those boys up and glimmered with an unnameable emotion as later that night he snuck into Brody's bed and had curled around him as he promised to always be there to protect him and keep him safe... 

 

 As his image of his brother solidified in his mind, Brody began to visualize a iridescent tendril of light form just at the center of his forehead and willed it to shoot out into the void of space speeding through millions of lightyears towards the shimmering sphere of Earth and dove through the atmosphere falling like a bolt of lighting as it raced towards the older boy of his memory who was his protector, his first best friend and most precious companion apart from Dad, Redbot and Mick. He visualized the light striking Aiden's forehead establishing a mental connection. Then he willed his thoughts to travel through that tendril of light and flow into his brother's mind.

 

 

*Aiden? Can you hear me? If you're getting this message, then I really need your help right about now. It's been ten years since I've seen you and I miss you so much. I'm trying to stay strong, really I am, but I don't know how much longer I can stand up to Gabi Raizo. He's killing me Aiden; a little bit at a time. I nearly died today because of his latest 'punishment'. I know that I'm not alone, because I have Redbot and I have Mick. They've helped me so much, and I owe them everything. But Aiden, I need you. Please, if you can hear me, find a way to help me escape. I need to get away from this place; the next time I have to face Raizo, I don't know if I'll have the strength to stay strong. Aiden, I love you...I love you so much. I need to believe, that somehow I'll be able to find my way back to you...

 

 

With a grunt of frustration, Brody opened his eyes and glared furiously down at his clenched hands. Nothing was working! No matter how many times he tried to make contact with his brother using his dad's ninja technique, he never heard anything from him. Why was he such a failure as a ninja? 

 

Shaking his head in resignation, he looked at his wrist where his Datacom, a portable communications device connecting all prisoners to Data, the AI of the Devastator rested securely. Activating the console, he noted the time and sighed heavily. Most of the slaves on the Devastator would be spread out throughout the ship by now, cleaning and repairing the ship as the clock ticked down to the next omnicast of Galaxy Warriors. He knew that his absence from his post would be noted and reported to Raizo, and the last thing he wanted was to be anywhere near that beast's vicinity. Clambering to his feet, he headed off towards the the Communications Tower where he would find Mick and Redbot busy at work ensuring that the communications array of the ship was in top condition. 

 

Hugging himself to the shadows and corners of the vast ship, Brody managed to successfully make his way towards the communications room without any encounters with the Kudobots, the grunt force of the Kangetsu Space Ninja Corps or any of the various contestants and aides to Gabi Raizo. Heaving a sigh of relief, Brody began to turn into the final corridor leading to the lift that would bring him to the communications room when the sound of the hyperlocks on the lift releasing as the opened up caused him to scramble to a shadowy alcove where he would be able to keep the mysterious occupants exiting from noting his presence.  

 

Seconds later, he was especially glad to have found a hiding spot when the object of his terror, Gabi Raizo and his mysterious minister, Madame Odious walked out of the lift.

 

Pushing down the thrill of terror that surged through him at the sight of the creature that had so nearly killed him, Brody strained to pick up the sound of their rather agitated debate, the powerful General clearly in a foul mood.

 

"—years, ten years Odious! And yet still, the power of the Ninja Nexus Prism eludes our Master's grasp! For ten years I have followed your thrice damned advice to search the most cruel, dangerous and powerful intergalactic combatants! Ten years, we have used the Galaxy Warriors omnicast to search out possible candidates to break the seal blocking us from seizing the Ninja Power Stars! And still, nothing! Well? What explanation do you have for your consistent failures?!"

 

Heavily cloaked, the lupine figure of Madame Odious bent in low obeisance to her General. 

 

"Forgive me my lord," said Odious as she bowed. "I have no explanation for the constant failure of potential candidates to break through the seal of the Prism, save for the fact that I have clearly failed in finding the most skilled and deadly warriors to aid us in accomplishing our Overlord's goals. I blame myself for this failure. Rest assured master, I will redouble my efforts to secure only the best potential candidates to prove their worth before you and the leadership of the Kangetsu Space Ninja Corps." 

 

Raizo sniffed dismissively, but withdrew his hand from the hilt of his katana, the Supreme Fang. 

 

"See to it that you do so, sorceress." growled the horned General menacingly as he towered over her submissive form. "I have indulged your whims for far too long. I expect results. Continue to fail me, continue to fail him and you'll quickly find yourself ejected into the nearest black hole!" 

 

"You are most merciful my lord," murmured Madame Odious as she slowly straightened herself while keeping her eyes cast towards the floor. Raizo grunted and resumed his strides past the shadowy spot where Brody had pressed himself as far back as was conceivably possible, a sweaty palm clapped against his lips so no sound would betray his presence. Nevertheless his entire body began to tremble as flashes of his latest torture at the hands of Gabi Raizo made their presence known in his head. He could feel himself beginning to hyperventilate as Madame Odious proceeded to follow Raizo at a far more sedate pace...only to halt suddenly just out of sight of his hiding place. Fear coiled in his belly as the deceptively fragile looking sorceress slowly turned her masked face until she was unwittingly staring straight into Brody's eyes, could she but pierce through the darkness of his hiding spot. His fear spiked as her eyes gleamed golden in the gloom.

 

"Master!" Brody heard her call out to the retreating figure of Gabi Raizo. "An intriguing possibility has just occurred to me!" 

 

Brody's fingernails dug into the flesh of his face as he tightened his grip over his mouth. The bubbling fear had become a raging torrent and he now found himself completely frozen as he saw Raizo halt, slowly turn his head as he waited to hear what his minister had to say.

 

Had that fox-like witch caught sight of him? Would she betray his presence to Raizo, who hadn't seemed to register his presence as of yet? How would escape the near certainty of a severe punishment that might finally lead him to breaking under the torture that Raizo was keen on bestowing upon him in his efforts to stamp out his defiant spirit?

 

"Well?" rumbled the irritated voice of Raizo as he glared at his subordinate. "Out with it, witch!"

 

"It occurs to me Master," said Madame Odious, "that in the interim as we continue our search for a potential candidate to free the Power Stars from the Prism, we strive towards gaining more deposits of Ninja Steel. You are of course aware my lord of the rare properties and potential of any artifact forged from that most rare material. Alas, there hardly seems to be any significant deposits of that material left throughout the breadth of the territory under Lord Galvanax's control. The last known deposit of Ninja Steel was the ore that once covered the Nexus Prism before the Accursed Ninja unveiled the limitless prize hidden in it's depths. Perhaps it might be prudent to return to the location where that priceless metal has been hidden. If we can seize the deposit for our Overlord, with his great powers of darkness he would be able to create his own Power Stars, perhaps ones more power than the ones embedded in the Prism itself."

 

For a long moment, all three figures were frozen in silence. Brody's mind raced as he pieced together the implications of what Raizo's chief aide was insinuating. If they were going to find the last known location of the Ninja Steel...that would lead them to Earth! That would lead them home...lead them to Aiden!

 

The silence was suddenly broken by a low chuckle that quickly became a booming roar of mirth from Raizo as he swung around and stalked towards Madame Odious.

 

"Well played, sorceress!" he praised the robed and masked figure. "You always were a cunning one! Yes...the Ninja Steel. We did abandon it on that filthy, backwater, pisshole of a planet, didn't we? Yeesss...if we were to obtain that Steel, then Lord Galvanax would be able to infuse his own powers into the Steel...maybe even restore himself. And we're only five hyperjumps away from the star system where thrice-damned Ninja called home. We could even use the surface as a special stage for a new Galaxy Warriors tournament. Very well, summon the Kudabots and instruct them to set a course for the X-79 galaxy! I want to be orbiting that fetid planet in no more than a half cycle! Once we get there, we can up the stakes for our champions to be with the Shadow Shuriken...it's been too long since they have seen use in the Master's service."

 

Brody frowned at the unfamiliar term. But he pushed it to the back of his thoughts as he saw Madame Odious step back in shock at her superior's pronouncement, visibly pausing to collect herself before speaking up once more.

 

"My lord, it would be my pleasure to have the Kudabots direct the Devastator's course to the planet known as Earth, but I must urge caution. To use the Shadow Shuriken, we have so few of them in supply and are in such need of Ninja Steel...would that not be unwise? Reckless? If Lord Galvanax were to learn that we utilized such a precious resource so frivolously, it would only serve to seal our destruction!" 

 

In flash, Raizo's blade was in his hands and aimed at Madame Odious' neck. Brody's eyes widened in sharp surprise. Gabi Raizo on the other hand growled menacingly, his own eyes beginning to glow an alarming amber as he pressed the sharp blade into the material covering her neck from being exposed to the Supreme Fang. 

 

"Have a care Odious," he murmured, all sense of levity and mirth gone. His voice was cold as he stared his aide down. "Know your place. Do not dare to question my commitment to the goals of my Master. I am the first Blade of Lord Galavanax, General of the Kangetsu Space Ninja Corps! I am well aware of the scarcity of the Shadow Shuriken and intimately aware of our Lord's assessment of their use. He trusts me to utilize these resources for his purpose. I have never failed to fulfill our Lord's commands. Do not presume to lecture me on what resources are best suited for my Master's purpose! I and I alone, will determine what resources will be spent in our efforts to regain the Ninja Steel, and break that accursed seal preventing my Master from absorbing all of the powers of the Ninja Nexus Prism and its Power Stars! Do you understand?"

 

"Of course my master," simpered Madame Odious as once again she bowed low before his presence. "Forgive me for doubting you. I as always will serve you most faithfully and follow your commands to the letter." 

 

"As long as we're clear," scowled Raizo as he lifted his blade and returned it to his sheath. "Do not question my orders again!" 

 

"As you wish my Lord," she replied in response. 

 

With a grunt he waved her off, turning around and stalking towards the opposite direction. Brody didn't dare move a centimeter until he was sure that both Odious and Raizo were well away from his vicinity before he slumped to the floor and panted harshly as his racing heart began to slow to normal speeds. He could hardly believe what he had stumbled upon. They were returning to Earth! Maybe, just maybe this was a sign, a sign that it was time to engineer his escape from his enslavement to Galvanax's general. 

 

It was time to go home. Aiden's life was in danger, and he had to make sure that this time he was the one who protected his brother from the approaching threat not only to his life, but the life of the entire world. 

 

 As quickly as he dared, Brody made his way to the communications array where he was currently stationed along with Mick and Redbot. The communication room itself was bustling with activity as a score of Kudabots chattered as they monitored the going ons of the ship and prepared for the upcoming omnicast that was set to begin soon. Avoiding the mechanical foot soldiers of the Ninja Corps, he waved at Redbot who froze from inputting code as he caught sight of Brody, then turned to Mick and said something that he couldn't catch. Mick's head swung towards the direction Redbot was pointing in and his eyes widened in relief as Brody got within range. 

 

"Brody!" hissed the Li'raian as he bounded forward and grasped Brody's shoulders tightly. "You're okay! Redbot insisted that you were fully healed after the second treatment, but you wouldn't move an inch and I was afraid that maybe there was some internal damage that hadn't healed up properly and--"

 

"Mick, I'm fine!" Brody protested as he hugged the older 'man' briefly before he made his way to Redbot and proceeded to do the same. "I'm still annoyed that you put me in the healing acceleration chamber without my permission...but if you and Redbot hadn't acted when you did, I probably wouldn't be here right now. So...thank you. Thank you both for not giving up on me." 

 

As Mick blushed a furious red and kicked at the ground with his boot, Redbot laid a surprisingly gentle hand on Brody's shoulder. 

 

"We're just glad that the damage wasn't permanent, Brody. You're important to both of us."

 

The factual statement wasn't intended to stir up emotion, but Brody felt his eyes prickle as he considered that in spite of the horrific things he'd experienced at the hands of the Kangetsu Ninja Space Corps, he was lucky enough to have formed a strong bond of friendship with Mick Kanic and Redbot. He'd never truly been alone. Not like Aiden...

 

Thoughts of his brother redirected Brody's attention to the reason why he had rushed to find them. Motioning to them to be quiet, he herded them into a secluded corner of the communications room near a mass of Quirinic fibers. It was close to their assigned communications array, so if anyone came looking for them, they'd be able to pass off the illusion that they were working on repairing or inspecting for any possible damaged fiber cables. 

 

"Brody?" questioned Mick in soft protest as Brody gazed anxiously around in an effort to insure that no unwelcome eyes or ears were in hearing range of their conversation. "What are you doing? You know that we're already three cycles behind in our assigned work because we were trying to save you, right? You just recovered! The last thing we need to do is to draw anymore of the wrong kind of attention on ourselves!"

 

"Shh!" hissed Brody agitatedly. "We don't have time to sweat the small stuff, Mick! I need to tell you guys something really huge that I just found out about. And then...I'm going to need a teeny, little favor from you both?"

 

Mick opened his mouth, a clear verbal denial hovering on his lips, but Redbot tilted his chromatic head in a close human approximation of curiosity.

 

"This sounds important, Brody. What have you learned?"

 

Lowering his voice as close as he can, Brody huddled them closer. "I was just heading towards the communications room to report for duty when..." As quickly as he dared, he proceeded to tell them about the explosive contents of the conversation he unwittingly intercepted between Gabi Raizo and Madame Odious. Mick's eyes grew wider and wider as the events spilled from Brody's mouth and he squeaked loudly a few times before clapping his hands over his mouth to avoid attracting unnecessary attention from the lingering Kudabots or Fiama forfend, a higher authority like the host of the Galaxy Warriors omnicast, the overtly flamboyant Minister of Propaganda, Cosmo Royale. Even Redbot grew visibly agitated by what he was hearing, despite being an automaton and thus technically incapable of showing emotion of any kind at all. Their visible unease and shock only grew when Brody began to outline his tentative plan for their escape. 

 

When he had finished sharing what he had learned and begun to plan, Brody looked at the two of them expectantly. 

 

"So?" he asked, eyebrows raised as he waited for their response. "What do you guys think?" 

 

The Li'raian slave and the automaton exchanged looks before swinging back to face their erstwhile partner and close friend. 

 

"Brody..." began Mick hesitantly. "You. Are. Crazy. This is crazy! You've pulled some crazy stuff over the years before, but this is the most crazy and dangerous thing you have ever attempted to do! Escape to Earth? In what? Steal the Nexus Prism? From under the snout of the most dangerous creature to ascend to power in the Kangetsu Ninja Corps? The same creature that nearly killed you not three cycles ago? And then even assuming that all of that is somehow more than just a fever dream, we need to somehow track down your brother, who has not been in your life for ten Earth years, and find the last known major deposit of Ninja Steel in the entire universe and protect it and the Prism from all of the marauders and assassins that the Ninja Corps will send to claim it for themselves? I hate to be the Li'raian to have to break it to you buddy, but that's impossible! There's no way that we would be able to pull it off! Tell him, Redbot!"

 

He gestured wildly at Redbot who tilted his head back and forth for a moment as he took in everything that was being said by both Brody and Mick. Then he turned his head to face Brody.

 

"According to my calculations," he said, "I'm afraid that Mick raises a valid concern Brody. The chances of us succeeding in these objectives are astronomically low. The likeliest outcome is that we will be caught in the act and forcibly deactivated and scrapped. The logical thing to do would be to keep a low profile and avoid attracting anymore of the Master's anger. That is the best way to survive.

 

However," he said, raising an arm to quell the mutinous reply that was bubbling up in Brody's mind, "I have learned that in some matters, particularly matters of the sentient heart, logic has no place and cannot be trusted as an indicator of the best action to take. And forgive me if I speak out of turn Brody, but I think that this is a matter of the heart for you. You want to find your brother, your family. And you want to escape further punishment from Master Gabi Raizo. And you want to protect lives, just like the stories you told me about your father, the Earth's Greatest Ninja."

 

Settling his mechanized arm on his human companion, Redbot's azure tinted photoreceptors gleamed as he stared into Brody's eyes. "While the chances of success are almost entirely impossible, I know that you have done things that were equally statistically impossible. If we work together, maybe we will succeed, maybe we fail. In either situation, you have my support Brody!"

 

Brody's eyes teared up immediately at Redbot's unreserved expression of faith, while Mick's mouth dropped open in shock as he stared first at Redbot then Brody. Finally he threw his hands up in resignation and gave a small smile.

 

"You're both crazy," he said while shaking his shaggy head, "but I think I'm even more crazy because if you really think you can pull this off Brody, then...I'll do anything I can to help, too."

 

A snort of laughter burst from Brody as he threw himself at Mick and Redbot, enveloping them in a tight group hug. He knew he could depend on them! Maybe, just maybe they'd be able to pull this off after all...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

)0( )0( )0( )0( )0( )0(

 

 

 

 

Depsite being insulated by several layers of thick H'bsk silk robes, Madame Odious found herself shivering as she accompanied her Master Gabi Raizo into the most secure chamber on the Devastator, the private audience chamber where the Kangetsu Ninja Corps General had communion with the Supreme Overlord of the Corps, Galvanax himself. 

 

It was not the first time that she found herself in the Supreme Overlord's presence, having been a part of the hunting party led by the Overlord when he attempted to secure the Nexus Prism ten cycles previously, but she was rarely permitted since that time to behold the visage of the head of the Ninja Corps...particularly in his current state of being. 

 

The overwhelming darkness of the chamber was broken by the sharp snap of Raizo's gauntlet covered claws as the general activated the torches which brightened the room and yet did nothing to quell the thick columns of living shadow that permeated the entirety of the chamber. Surreptitiously, Madame Odious turned keen eyes around the chamber, sensing the barely bridled hostile Power that even now was eyeing them, tracking their every movement. Years before as she studied the events of that disastrous day which saw the Corps loose the ultimate prize, she had studied the primitive culture surrounding Earth's equivalent of ninjas. And while for the most part, they were as savage and pitiful as she had assumed, she was intrigued to note the sharp similarities in the asthetics between the traditional communion chambers and the primitive domiciles erected by a particular tribe among the human spawn, the Japanese. 

 

While the emblems adorning the screens and panels which enclosed the profane space were naturally of a language incapable of being learned by most humans, it looked remarkably like what some on that world would call kanji. It was most intriguing how even worms such as humans could make clumsy attempts at copying the superior artistry and even language concepts of their superiors. It promised to be a source of much interesting study, once final approval for her scheme was given by the Supreme Overlord himself.

 

Breaking away from her musings, she prostrated herself as Gabi Raizo stepped forward several paces until he was in front of a murky pool that glinted with malice and hints of unspeakable power. He dropped to one knee and bowed his horned head, an act of submission that in most circumstances was unthinkable, were one to consider the pride and arrogance of the creature in front of her. However she knew full well that even Gabi Raizo, Champion of champions and one of the deadliest warriors of the universe paled in comparison to the Power that he now sought communion with. 

 

"Master," she heard him say as he knelt in front of the pool. "Hear the petition of your loyal and most humble servant. I crave your counsel and guidance and submit myself once more to you for instruction and true wisdom."

 

Madame Odious shivered again as a blast of shadowy energy abruptly materialized. Keeping her eyes to the ground, she heard the sounds of weeping and agonized howls before she heard the hiss of dark vapour as the mirage of Galvanax materialized, towering above both prone figures, eyes blazing with fury and power as he glared down upon his general entrusted with his campaign to claim the ultimate power of the Nexus Prism. 

 

*Gabi Raizo...* rumbled the specter as he stared balefully upon his general. *What news do you bring to me? What progress has been made in the recovery of the Ninja Power Stars? When will that limitless power finally be in my grasp?*

 

Madame Odious couldn't keep the smile of her face as she heard Gabi Raizo splutter incoherently for a few brief moments before clearing his throat to respond to his Master's demand. Hidden within the voluminous folds of her robes, her hands clenched into a trembling fist. Oh how she longed for the power to make Raizo grovel under her feet! 

 

"My Lord," ventured Raizo, clearly unwilling to offer up bad news. "It pains me to admit that we have not been able to pierce the seal of the Nexus Power Stars as of yet, though we--"

 

His voice trailed off, a sharp intake of breath and then the sound of Raizo choking and gasping for breath. Unable to help herself, Odious' head shot up and she quailed as a thick tendril of dark vaporous energy quickly twined itself around the neck of the fearsome General and hoisted him several meters into the air, as he vainly attempted to prevent it from cutting off his air supply. 

 

*As of yet?!* boomed the specter of Galvanax, *You see what I have become! Nothing more than smoke and shadow, incapable of bringing to bear the power that once enabled me to topple entire planets at will. I have trusted you, my most ruthless warrior to discover the secret to set me free from this loathsome prison and after ten cycles of consistent failure, you dare to approach me with the excuse of, 'as of yet'?!*

 

Abruptly, the tendril choking the life out of Raizo withdrew. The general collapsed to the floor in a thud, groaning as he arranged himself into the posture of a supplicant while Madame Odious watched on in fascination. 

 

*Perhaps*, mused the vaporous being, *it was a mistake to place you in charge of my affairs, if you're accomplishments are as empty and threadbare as that of the meanest Kudobot? Must I search for another, more capable servant to do what you seem unable to do?*

 

"Lord Galvanax," replied Gabi Raizo with an effort, "I acknowledge my faults. However even now we scour the universe in search of mighty champions who could potentially possess the potential to recover the Ninja Power Stars for your consumption. However while we search for such a worthy candidate, would it not be wise to plan for an eventuality should such a warrior not be found? With Ninja Steel, would it not be possible to forge new Power Stars out of your own dark power?"

 

Madame Odious held her breath as the General laid out the plot that she had carefully begun to set in motion. Everything depended on the next, crucial moments. If Galvanax decided that getting access to the Ninja Steel was of little consequence, then all of her carefully orchestrated machinations would have been for naught. 

 

*Ninja Steel...* breathed Galvanax. *An ore most precious. You believe that you have discovered a significant deposit of the Ninja Steel? It has become more precious than gold.*

 

"A significant amount of Ninja Steel remains on that backwater planet we infiltrated ten cycles before," said Gabi Raizo cautiously. "Once the Nexus Prism was covered in the substance, until the Accursed Ninja removed it in his effort to obtain the greater power that lay within. It would prove a most valuable resource for your use, Master."

 

Galvanax was silent for several moments as he pondered the merits of his servant's suggestion. 

 

*A bold plan, General.* he said at last, *A bold plan, yet one fraught with risk. Do not underestimate the inherent danger that the Earth may become if we are not aware. It would be base folly to strike at a world quickly becoming the nexus for a resurgent Council of Light. It is home to a veritable army of wretched Power Rangers, the most densely populated world since the fall of Eltar. Keep in mind that this same primitive world has brought about the demise of the great Dark Specter, the Zangyack Empire, our sundered brethren the Nighloks, and even the forces of one once a member of our corps...*

 

"Lothor." growled Gabi Raizo, eyes flashing amber in rage at the memory of one who had dared to attempt to overthrow Galvanax. It had been his pleasure to force him and his band of woe-begotten creatures from the presence of his Master, banishing the traitorous wretch from the domains under the control of the Kangetsu Ninja Space Corps. 

 

*Then you see, General why I am hesitant to endorse your plan, though it does indeed possess great merit...*

 

"My Lord," averred Gabi Raizo humbly, "it is true that the dangers are great and plenteous. Yet we possess a number of advantages that would prevent this cabal of Rangers from gaining knowledge of our plans and hindering our success. We can be assured that the Rangers and their precious Council do not have knowledge of the Ninja Nexus Prism or the Ninja Steel. If they knew of the power right under their nose, no amount of subtlety would have prevented them from opposing us when we infiltrated Earth ten cycles ago to obtain that power for your ultimate triumph. And we possess another advantage...memory. After the disappearance of the Accursed Ninja, we enslaved his worthless spawn who even now continues to suffer for the sins of his family and his own contemptible weakness. Yet we never enslaved the other child. The older child. He lives even now on Earth and most assuredly will have knowledge of the location of the hidden Ninja Steel. If we find and capture him, then that knowledge will be in your grasp!"

 

Falling silent, Gabi Raizo bowed low and Madame Odious followed suit. Even she was caught off guard by the way the General had argued his case before Galvanax. It appeared that even this murderous brute had unseen depths to him. He was more dangerous than she had foreseen. Would the Supreme Overlord support this endeavor? Too much hung precariously in the balance!

 

Her musing was broken by the sound of Galvanax tossing his head back and roaring with laughter, before casting wild eyes upon his servant.

 

*You are as bold-faced as I remember, my old servant! Let us see if your scheme will present us with victory. Do what you must Gabi Raizo, but get me that Ninja Steel! If I am to continually be denied the Power that I yearn for to be made complete, then I will forge new Power Stars that are bathed in the powers of darkness. I will be restored, and when I am, the universe will tremble before my might!*

 

"As you command, my Lord!" replied Gabi Raizo as the presence of the Supreme Overlord withdrew, and the subzero chill in the room rose to more moderate temperatures. Rising to his feet, the General stalked over to where Madame Odious had persisted in maintaining her posture of submission. Sensing his approach, she quickly raised herself to her feet yet kept her head bowed in the guise of humility.

 

"Begin the omnicast!" thundered Raizo, "and inform Cosmo Royale that the winner of the championship round will be given the opportunity to gain two most desirable prizes! A chance to prove his worth to free the Power Stars...and a special mission to seize the Ninja Steel from the bleeding corpse of the Accursed Ninja's eldest spawn!" 

 

Madame Odious bowed in acknowledgement of his orders and turned without a word to set things in motion. Yet as she was departing, her keen hearing picked up the sharp hiss as Gabi Raizo withdrew the Supreme Fang and held it up in salute to his departed Master.

 

"I swear to you, Master!" she heard him vow, "the Ninja Steel will be yours! And soon even the Power Stars will rest within your grasp!"

 

We'll just see about that, Odious mused to herself as she stalked towards the communications chamber. I'm afraid both the Steel and the Power Stars will soon be...mine.

 

 

 

 

 

)0( )0( )0( )0( )0( )0(

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Cove High School

Summer Cove, TX

USA

Fall, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Another year begins, bringing with it a new set of obstacles and opportunities...thought Dr. Amanda Hastings as she strode briskly through the fairly empty halls of Summer Cove High, soon to be filled once more by hundreds of teenagers of all hues, sizes and personalities. She nodded approvingly as she observed the spotless windows and halls.

 

Official enrollment ended earlier in the forenoon, and it looked liked the school would once again operate at near capacity. Most of the staff had already met with her to finalize plans for their classes that would require her specific authorization. The only blights on a near perfect enrollment period was the fact that she still had not managed to find a metal shop teacher to replace Ian Merchamp, who had left (on good terms mind) for a different type of opportunity for a man of his craft and talents. He had been a very able teacher, but the board had assured her that they would be sending a teacher to fill his spot as early on in the school year as conceivably possible. And the abrupt resignation of the Summer Cove soccer coach, due to a sudden illness. Her lips quirked into a small smile as she marched out of the school and made her way to the soccer field where she had been informed that the new replacement teacher was inspecting the equipment. At least one of her staffing woes was filled.

 

As she approached the soccer field, she observed a sole figure, clipboard in hand busily writing on it while turning his head one way and then another, clearly taking in the equipment that had been spread out for inspection. As a he turned his head to the right, Principal Hastings caught sight of his face. He was a sturdily built man between 5'9" and 5'11", with short wavy dark hair and piercing chocolate colored eyes. He was of Polynesian descent, and looked to be anywhere between his mid-twenties to early thirties. 

 

"Well, it seems that you have already been putting in quite the amount of work for the upcoming new school year!" Hastings called out as she got close enough to be within hearing range. The young(er) man froze for a second, before turning and giving a friendly nod as she finally stepped next to his side. 

 

"Dr. Hastings, correct?" questioned the man, a smile crossing his face as he extended his hand in greeting. "A pleasure to meet you in person."

 

"The pleasure is all mine," replied Hastings, shaking his hand firmly as she surveyed the large amounts of scattered equipment, "I assume that so far, you've found everything to your liking? Were you able to contact our outgoing coach and gym instructor?"

 

"Coach Merchamp?" inquired his replacement. "Yes, he's been in contact with me for a few days now. I am really grateful for his assistance in meeting community sponsors and parents involved with the team. He's given me everything I need to make sure that this transition is a smooth one. Seems like a great man."

 

Hastings smiled a bit fondly as she recalled the older man's winsome personality and connection with his students and families. "That he was. We're sorry to see him go, however we are also very pleased that you have decided to work with us for the next couple of years. I'm certain that the students will warm up to you very quickly."

 

The man grinned abashedly. "Well, here's hoping ma'am."

 

Hastings smiled in return, already at ease with the other man's apparently easy personality. It looked like they would get along just fine. 

 

"Well, thank you again for agreeing to serve as Mr. Merchamp's replacement at such short notice," she said. "I look forward to working closely with you Mr..."

 

Her voice trailed off, and Hastings found herself blushing as she failed to recall his name. Grimacing, she rolled her eyes good naturedly at the other instructor.

 

"I'm sorry," she said with a slight wince. "I've been so caught up with events that I've quite forgotten your name. This a bit embarrassing to tell you the truth, since I'm actually quite good with recalling the names of people who I'm to be working with."

 

The other man laughed at that, and shook his head. "Don't worry about it," he said while he waved his hand dismissively. "I totally understand how that could occur, I'm guilty of the same thing sometimes."

 

He smiled brightly at his boss and winked playfully. 

 

"And for the record ma'am, my name is Shane Clarke. I'm looking forward to getting to know the rest of the staff and community better, and to a very interesting year at this school."

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Dyre-Van Huren Apartments

Summer Cove, TX

Fall, 2017

 

 

 

Your wake up time for Sunday, August 19, 2017 is 6:15 AM. Your wake up time for Sunday, August 19, 2017 is 6:15 AM. Your wake up-

 

Without even bothering to open his eyes, Shane Clarke threw one hand on his side table and slapped over the surface until he hit the 'OFF' button of his digital alarm clock. 

 

Silence reigned for a few seconds, until he broke the still air with a loud groan, opening first one eye, then the other eye. His back arched as he stretched his muscles out, before flopping back unto the bed surface, a dark scowl marring the normally cheerful face. 

 

Today was the last full day that he would be able to continue his search for his missing brother-in-law and his nephew, the last presumably living connection to his long deceased sister, Emilie Clarke. After that, his best bet for tracking down his relatives would be getting access to the student records and keeping an eagle eye out for anyone matching the former ninja master's description. 

 

Pushing himself into an upright position, the 27 year old man sighed despondently as he recalled the facts in the case that had broken his parents' hearts and robbed them of their sole grandchild in one fell swoop:

 

His sister Emilie Clarke, the oldest of the three Clarke children had gotten married to a native Texan who happened to be a trained martial artist practitioner and instructor. He had moved to Blue Bay Harbor to study in the secret Wind Ninja Academy and through the years of training he went through, grew to be the top student of the school at the time, even accepting a post at the Ninja Academy  as a teacher in later years. After a few years of marriage, they gave birth to a baby boy which had thrilled his parents to no end. When his nephew was about to turn two in 1999, his brother-in-law and sister decided to move to the US mainland and left Hawaii*. At first things had started off well, Emilie had gotten a job as a pediatrician at the local clinic catering to women and children in need and her husband had begun running a small dojo in the city, as well as competing professionally at martial arts tournaments. If he looked back, that would be the time that he had begun to show a single-minded interest in martial arts; every time Emilie or her husband would call to talk with the Clarkes, he would eagerly pepper his brother-in-law with questions about the tournaments he was participating in and the opponents he would face in the competitions. 

 

Then a year later, Emilie died. The news nearly destroyed his parents, his dad had nearly suffered a heart attack when the news broke. After being released from the hospital, he and Mom flew to Texas for the funeral. Shane had wanted to go so badly, but they couldn't afford for the entire family to go, so he stayed at home under the watchful eye of his older brother. When they returned to Blue Bay Harbor, Shane learned that Emilie had been driving back from the Clinic in the middle of the night during a rare rainstorm that had hit the portion of Texas that they were living in and had been struck by a truck driver who had briefly lost control of his vehicle when it started hydroplaning. Her death had devastated his sister's husband, and he had fallen out of touch with the Clarkes in the wake of her death. At times he did contact them and give updates about the family, but updates were sparse. 

 

He'd never forget though the last time his brother-in-law had contacted Shane in a letter that among other things, encouraged him to enroll in the Wind Ninja Academy, sometime around 2007* when Shane had been in his sophomore year in high school.  After that letter, all contact with his brother-in-law ended. Months had gone by until his parents had decided enough was enough and called the local TX police to track down their son-in-law. Days later, Shane had woken up to his mother's sobbing in their bedroom and later learned that his brother-in-law had disappeared mysteriously only a day before an important children's tournament was scheduled to be held at his own dojo. The police had conducted an investigation into the matter and had ultimately concluded that some sort of altercation had gone terribly wrong resulting in the deaths of their last links to Emilie. No evidence of his brother-in-law running away with his son was found. 

 

As Shane replayed those memories in his mind, tears prickled at the corners of his eyes as he recalled the words that had propelled him along with Dustin and Tori to join the Wind Ninja Academy:

 

'You have gifts Shane, gifts that could change the world. Every time I remember you as a little kid, I remember your enthusiasm for the martial arts and your uncanny gift for picking up on techniques that would baffle individuals twice your age. The Wind Ninja Academy offers a path to hone those skills and talents, to use these gifts you've been given to protect others and achieve greatness. I hope you'll consider it. It's not an easy path to follow, but if you stick with it, I know you'll become someone to be proud of, even more than I already am.'

 

Sure enough, Shane had joined the Wind Academy and though he and the others weren't by any means model students, they had proven their worth when they were given the extraordinary opportunity to become Power Rangers and use their ninja training to fight off the invasion of Lothor and his menagerie of horrors. After the end of that crisis and their graduation from the Academy, Shane had jumped at the chance to follow in his brother-in-law's footsteps and share what he had learned with the next generation of Wind Ninjas. It had been an incredible and rewarding experience that he might never have known if it wasn't for his sister's husband. 

 

As the years passed by and Shane continued his duties as a Wind Ninja instructor, a Power Ranger, a son, brother and a dutiful boyfriend, he had begun to have strange dreams. These dreams would feature a young teen, with features that looked uncannily like what he imagined an older version of his nephew might look like. This kid would beg him, literally beg him for his help, beg him to come save him. At first they were only occasional, but in the past year they had become more and more frequent, to the point that Shane had quickly become convinced that the investigation had been flawed and that at the very least, his nephew was still alive and in some kind of danger. After meditating on what these dreams could mean, he had turned to Sensei Watanabe who, when he had learned of the circumstances surrounding his brother-in-law and nephew's disappearance, agreed with Shane that the dreams were a portent of someone who was in need. Sensei's confirmation of what he had suspected solidified his determination to get to the bottom of what was quickly turning out to be a complicated mystery, leading him to offer to resign from his post at the Wind Ninja Academy. Sensei granted him permission to take a sabbatical from his duties at the Academy, but refused to accept his resignation.

 

"I've said it many times Shane," the aged Ninja Master had explained when he gave his decision to the younger ninja, "you, Tori, and Dustin have some of the highest potential of any student that I've ever trained in this school. In fact, the only other individual whose potential matched that of you three was your brother-in-law. I made a mistake in accepting his resignation and permitting him to withdraw from the Academy. I mourn that decision every day. I can not, I will not make the same mistake with you." 

 

His candor, normally veiled behind many wise sayings had touched Shane and he accepted the compromise that Sensei offered. He would take a leave of indefinite absence, taking as much time as needed to fully get to the bottom of the disappearances and determine the possible fate of his missing family members. Some of the elder students that Shane had trained were prepared to take on teaching responsibilities, they would serve as interim teachers with the newest batches of students until his return. 

 

The rest of the team had offered their complete support and had offered to accompany him to Texas, but Shane decided that it would be better if he handled this search alone. He had promised everyone, one team member in particular that he would keep them updated with what he had discovered and call them down if it turned out that the disappearances were caused by paranormal circumstances. 

 

A small smile broke out across Shane's face as he recalled the vigorous promise he made to that particular teammate to reassure him that he wouldn't be ducking out of his life anytime soon. As that pleasant memory played in his mind, his cellphone suddenly lighted up as it began to vibrate. Reaching over to his side drawer, he snatched his cellphone and checked to see who was calling him. A genuine smile broke out as he saw the dorky picture of his boyfriend and teammate, Dustin. Noting that it was a video call, he did a quick check to make sure that his face wasn't showing evidence of him sleeping before he accepted the video call. His smile widened as he saw Dustin busy smoothing down his hair, which he had taken to cutting shorter over the past couple of years. 

 

"Hey babe," said Shane. "You're up late. What's up?"

 

*Nothing* replied Dustin as he crossed his eyes briefly before focusing on Shane, a crooked smile on his face. *Just wanted to be your AM wake up call for your first day. You excited?*

 

Shane snorted. "I'm about as excited as a sloth. I know it's already been a few weeks, but I'm already dreading the testosterone from these punks when they start signing up for classes and all that. I don't need to be there until around 10 or 11 actually, but I wanted to take the time to get an early start before checking in at the school."

 

The slightly manic light that tended to animate Dustin's chocolate eyes dimmed and a small frown formed. 

 

*Have you made any progress on tracking your brother down?* he asked a bit hesitantly. Shane's heart fluttered a bit as he noted his boyfriend's concern for a man he'd never met yet, but he couldn't keep himself from reciprocating Dustin's frown as he considered the decided lack of progress that had been made over the last couple of weeks. 

 

"Nothing" he replied shortly. "Canvassed all of the police stations within a fifty mile radius, and none of them reported anything about a possible appearance or clue to a possible location. I'm running low on leads, but I'm heading out to my brother's farmhouse. I'm hoping that something might have been left behind that the police might not have picked up on. I mean, he was one of us, you know? He was shinobi, a Wind Ninja. I just can't picture him skipping town or falling victim to an attack and not leaving any kind of sign or clue. There has to be something there, I just know it." 

 

*I know baby, I know* said Dustin soothingly. His gaze softened at Shane's declaration. *Have you been having those dreams again?*

 

Shane squirmed a bit. He had tried to keep that hidden, but it was pretty hard to keep your boyfriend out of the loop when you were sleeping right next to him every night. 

 

"Yeah, I had another one the other day," he muttered as he began to rub the bridge of his nose, "and I still can't understand what it means. I know that it's connected to this whole situation. I know that, but it doesn't give me any clue on where to look or what direction some clue or evidence could be. It's so frustrating sometimes!"

 

He watched Dustin tug on his lower lip with his teeth and heat began to spread through him, as a certain area of his anatomy began to harden at his boyfriend's innocent but super sexy expression whenever he was thinking deeply about something. It had really been too long since they'd had a chance to be together. It was at times like these that he regretted insisting that Dustin stay behind and focus on his students at the Wind Ninja Academy. 

 

Suddenly on his screen, Dustin snapped his fingers as his eyes lit with excitement. *Dude, I remember now!* he exclaimed enthusiastically. *Last week, I was reviewing some of the scrolls in Sensei's private collection and I saw a communication technique that really stuck with me. What if the kid who's always asking you for help is contacting you through the ether? Like, telepathically?*

 

Shane's eyebrows went up as he stared skeptically at his boyfriend. Dustin held his hands up as he began to ramble on. 

 

*Look babe, I know that it sounds crazy, but come on! We're part of a super secret ninja training academy, we've fought ninja aliens from outer space and we've done stuff that should be impossible in 'normal' martial arts. We can ninja streak! We could jump halfway across the country in a matter of hours if we wanted to. And so can your brother-in-law. You said that he had been trained at the Wind Ninja Academy too, right?*

 

"Well yeah," admitted Shane, head cocked as he tried to see where Dustin was going with this. "He was, but I'm telling you baby, it's not him. It's some kid that kinda looks like what I remember my nephew Aidy looking like, only older. So I'm not getting you." 

 

Dustin huffed as he looked heavenwards before focusing his attention back on Shane.

 

*Babe* stressed Dustin as he stared earnestly at him. *You told me your brother was a Wind Ninja instructor, remember?. What if he taught his son some of the techniques he learned from Sensei, like in case of an emergency?*

 

Shane froze. His mind raced through the different times he had received dreams where a kid was begging him for help. Was it possible? Had all of those dreams been his nephew trying to make contact with him? With family? His mind strained to recall what the teenage boy had been saying in his latest dream:

 

'Can you hear me? If you're getting this message...then I really need your help right about now. It's been ten years...I'm trying to stay strong, really I am, but I don't know how much longer I can stand up to Gabi Raizo... I know that I'm not alone, because I have Redbot and I have Mick. They've helped me so much, and I owe them everything. But...I need you. Please, if you can hear me, find a way to help me escape. I need to get away from this place...'

 

"Raizo..." Shane muttered to himself. He turned wondering eyes to his boyfriend who was studying him silently. 

 

"You're amazing babe," said Shane, a smile breaking out as his mind raced through all of the implications. "I thought that it was just my spirit urging me to take up the search again, but communication...then, maybe it really is my nephew trying to contact me. He mentioned someone called Raizo, Gabi Raizo...and something about a bot? It's kind of jumbled honestly. Could you check in with Sensei sometime whenever you get the chance to see him and check if he has any writings or information on a Gabi Raizo?" 

 

*Sure thing, man* said Dustin. 

 

Shane smiled again and pressing two fingers to his lips, kissed them and then extended them towards Dustin. 

 

"Dude, I love you so much," he said. "I don't know what I'd ever do without you." 

 

Dustin beamed, a dopey smile crossing his face as he returned the symbolic gesture on his end. 

 

*Love you too babe* he said, before a huge yawn burst out of his mouth. Shane rolled his eyes fondly at that.

 

"Look Dustin, go to sleep man. You need to be ready for class. Remember what happened the last time you stayed up all night and tried to teach your students? That little trip up Mauna Kea?"

 

*Dude!* whined Dustin, shaking his head in dismay. *Don't remind me about that disaster. Cam still hasn't stopped giving me grief about that!*

 

"My point exactly goofball," chuckled Shane. "Get to bed." 

 

*Aye, captain.* snarked Dustin with a fake salute, before he grew serious again. *Seriously though. If you need me, I'm there. You know that, right?*

 

"I know babe," said Shane softly. "I'll keep you updated if I learn anything new today. I'll talk to you later. Say hi to Tori and Cam for me."

 

*Will do baby* replied Dustin as he waved. *Later.*

 

"Later." said Shane, waving back before ending the call. As the screen returned to the menu for his Messenger, Shane sighed to himself. Fuck, he loved that goofy boyfriend of his. His dark eyes hardened as he considered the latest possibilities concerning those dreams and his goal to inspect that farmhouse. Hopefully some kind of breakthrough would happen today. And if he was being contacted by his nephew...

 

"I don't know if you can hear me, Aiden," he whispered into the air. "But if you can, then know that I'm coming for you. Just hold on a little longer." 

 

 

 

 

 

)o()o()o()o()o()o(

 

 

 

 

 

Romero Farmhouse

Henderson Woods,

Summer Cove, TX

 

 

 One hour, a quick shower and a ninja streak later, Shane landed a couple minutes away walking distance from the coordinates that matched the location of what the local authorities referred to as the 'Romero Farmhouse'. Turning around to make sure that his arrival didn't attract undue attention, Shane rose to his feet as he laid eyes on the last known location of his brother-in-law and his nephew.

 

The central building was the single story wooden cabin that extended into the brush several yards away. It was rather gloomy in appearance, it's dull greying wooden planks notably worn and in disrepair. It was rather rustic even if it had once been in much better condition, but strangely enough, as Shane pushed open the rotting three foot high fence and stepped into the abandoned homestead he found it easy to believe how the Romero household could be happy living here. 

 

"Emilie always wanted to live in the country," he muttered to himself as he swept his gaze at the main crumbling structure before him. From the worn, yet once vibrant red paint adorning the plank just below the mailbox cheerfully proclaiming this the Romero residence, to the potted plants and now sprawling collection of bushes that were intended for decoration, Shane found it easy to conjure up images in his imagination of his sister stepping out of the house to yell playfully at his brother-in-law as he did training for a tournament or tried teaching little Aidey the first steps of a kata to come in for dinner or something along those lines. A lump formed in his throat, and Shane had to blink back tears as his mind swept back the wheels of time and unveiled a simple home, a happy home. Where did it all go wrong? 

 

Shaking his head to rid himself of the haunting images that his imagination seemed eager to paint upon the canvas of his mind, Shane turned left and made his way to the larger building just back of the cabin that seemed to be their barn. It was constructed of wood like the cabin, but the wood was had a reddish tint to it and while clearly neglected over the years, nevertheless appeared to be in a somewhat better condition than the house. Sprawling bushes of various plants partially obscured the barn, but the main doors to the barn appeared to be unobstructed and didn't show signs of a forced intrusion at first glance. Yet there was something that was nipping at his senses, buzzing just above his skin...

 

Shane had learned after the many battles with Lothor to trust his instincts, his ability to tap into a level of perception that existed both within and outside of himself. As he opened himself to the scene about him, he seemed to smell a lingering scent of something metallic that burned the air. The currents seemed to be rippled, warped from their natural flow. His skin was prickling with some unknown sense of unease. Something had occurred here, of that Shane was certain. And it was here, not at the house that some as-of-yet unknown tragedy had struck the young family. But what could have been the cause? 

 

As he breathed in the sultry summer air perfumed by the scent of the plants growing wild around the homestead and the adjoining woods and released himself fully to his element, Shane found himself suddenly walking, as if in a trance towards a specific area just outside the barn. Eyes closed, he didn't resist the urge, but relaxed into it, allowing the air to serve as his guide and partner. He walked about thirty steps ahead before his feet slowed, then halted. Eyes still closed, Shane frowned, wincing as the air currents seemed to fluctuate in dizzying patterns before him. Taking in another deep breath, the scent of ozone growing stronger to him, Shane slowly put up the barriers blocking his extrasensory perception and opened his eyes. 

 

Shane found himself staring at a large furrow that had been made in the ground less than twenty feet away from the barn. Shane examined the deep indention, unease rising within. What the hell had his brother discovered here? The air felt warped, almost like something had cleaved the very atoms when it impacted the surface. Dropping into a crouch, Shane reached out a hand touched the earth impacted by the mysterious object that left behind the furrow. The second he did however, Shane seized up as a jolt of energy, fiery and very, very alien ripped through him, mouth open in a silent scream as waves of what felt like red hot knives stabbed up and down his arm. He threw his head back as disjointed images began to bombard his mind:

 

A sharp clap of thunder as something shaped almost like a giant shuriken of some kind slams into the earth, dirt fountaining due to the force of impact, a rose colored yet oddly prismatic energy erupting in a shockwave that rocks the earth around the barn...

 

A man's hand reaching forward, ghosting over the steaming metallic object, light glinting off of what looks to be steel, causing a pair of startlingly familiar blue eyes to widen in wary amazement and in fear...

 

A sense of devastating Evil washing over the entirety of the homestead, and a hazy image of his brother holding up a blazing silver star in his hand, a young boy clothed in a miniature black shozoku huddled protectively behind his back before that fiery energy flares up in response to the Darkness before it, a riot of colors enveloping Dane until only a shimmering outline of his broad shoulders and tall frame can be seen...

 

Gasping, Shane marshaled his connection to his totemic element and with gritted teeth biting back the urge to scream, wrenched his hands from the indented ground and stumbled back several feet until he collapsed on his rear. The foreign mental images disappeared as the burning pain in his hand faded and his eyes saw the rundown barn before him once more. Shane's chest heaved as he fought for breath, and his body twitched as his nerves spasmed due to the unexpected influx of foreign energy. 

 

"Shit!" hissed Shane as his lungs greedily sucked in air and he fought to settle his nerves. "Bro, what the hell did you get yourself into?" 

 

It was now abundantly clear that Dane and Aidey's disappearances were due to something otherworldly. No ordinary conflict with any human assailant could have imprinted itself so inedelibly into the very ground that he was now walking on, the air permeating this farm. Shane silently thanked any kind spirit that Dustin hadn't gotten his own way and insisted on helping him with this investigation. Who knows how he would have reacted to the residual energy embedded in the earth? 

 

It took several minutes for the echoes of those haunting images and memory of the painful lashes of residual force to fade before Shane felt comfortable to try and stand up. Even then he found himself staggering as he made his way to his feet. 

 

So his brother had encountered some type of alien artifact...a weapon of some kind...or maybe even a power source. Something powerful enough to warrant a mysterious adversary to attack his family, and either kill them or kidnap them. Whoever had fought with Dane for the alien power source had to be extraordinarily strong. Who could it possibly have been though? That was the question. 

 

Shane was so caught up in his internal deliberation about the potential base facts of this case that he didn't hear the tug of the rotting wooden posts dig into the earth as the fence was opened, or hear the crunch of grass and dead plant debris as footsteps announced an approaching presence. It wasn't until he suddenly heard the familiar hum of a energy weapon being primed that Shane sensed that a person stood a handful of feet away from him. He stiffened, cursing himself furiously in his head as he attempted to summon his morpher, only to realize with a horrified thrill that he purposely left it behind in the apartment that he and Dustin shared at the Wind Ninja Academy. 

 

"Don't. Move." hissed the person behind him, the hum of the priming weapon growing more pronounced. Despite himself, Shane's eyebrows rose with interest. It seemed his mysterious assailant was a female assailant. Interesting. Her voice was hard and cool, clearly a person used to having her own way in a conflict. Possibly someone with actual skill.

 

Adrenaline rushed through his veins as his hands clenched into fists for a moment before relaxing. This wasn't a situation that he wanted to be in, but damn it had been a while since he'd been in a good fight. Drawing deeply upon the connection that his inner spirit had with the element of Air, he began to gather compressed air towards him. 

 

"Place your hands behind your head, slowly," ordered the mysterious attacker tersely. Instead of responding in any way, Shane continued to gather energy towards him. He was at a clear disadvantage, it would take a healthy dose of luck and every ounce of skill developed since he had become a student at the Wind Ninja Academy to make it out of this in one piece. He breathed in the air and felt his weight lighten as more energy answered his call. 

 

"Are you deaf?" snapped his would-be attacker. "I said, place your hands behind your head!" 

 

Steeling himself, Shane slowly clenched his fists.

 

"Not today."

 

Throwing himself abruptly to the left, the back of Shane's neck grew uncomfortably warm as a sizzling blast of plasma slammed into the ground near him, missing him by only centimeters. Tucking into a side roll, Shane leaped to his feet and allowed his mastery over surfing the air currents to lighten his body as he lunged into the air, twisting and releasing several concentrated blasts of compressed air at his attacker. 

 

The woman dropped into a side roll and successfully dodged his first two volleys, but as she made her way to her feet and aimed her blaster at him, the third blast of air collided into her, lifting her up and flinging her back a good twenty feet. Most opponents would have been knocked out for the count, but to her credit, his attacker to the blast in stride. It only took her a minute to recover her equilibrium, but that minute was all that he needed. 

 

Rolling to her feet, the woman leapt up and began firing off multiple blasts with her energy blaster. Even as he canceled each lethal burst of plasma with air blasts of his own, Shane found himself rather impressed by what he was facing. His attacker was, in a word, stunning. She had blonde hair that extended just past her shoulders and moved with the lethal grace of a predator. Her eyes showed no hint of fear, but rather annoyance as she furiously sent blast after blast towards him, only for him to block them with his powers. She wore all black save for the yellow tank top that she wore under her leather jacket. Really, it was too bad that he was happily taken. She was definitely the type he favored in a woman. 

 

Smirking as her face began to show more and more annoyance as he canceled out all of her attacks with her blaster, Shane drew heavily on his energy reserves and slammed his hands together as he lowered himself to the ground, creating a near-invisible shockwave that threw up sparks and dust as it slammed into her, sending her flying back once more. His smirk grew wider as she staggered to her feet, growling audibly as she holstered her blaster and took off running in his direction. 

 

Propelling herself into the air, his assailant flipped forward three times before landing only a couple of feet away from him, immediately launching into a flurry of punches. Shane's estimation of her skills skyrocketed as he found himself barely quick enough to parry her blows with a series of blocks and feints. It was clear that she was no ordinary fighter, as her attacks held power that even professional combatants would be hard pressed to match. Surging forward suddenly, Shane leapt into the air, showering her with airborne kicks, but even then she was able to block all of his blows. As he landed, she lashed out in a forward kick. Catching her foot, Shane heaved forward with all of his strength, a move that propelled her backward as she was flipped into the air. He discovered his error when she landed and having won some space from him, whipped out her blaster and lobbed several shots at him. 

 

Cursing furiously, Shane focused on thickening the air in front of him, forming a barrier that rippled with displaced energy as her blasts slammed into the makeshift air barrier. Countering each blast sent a flash of pain through his head, but Shane grit his teeth together and drew in as much energy as he could as he released the barrier, quickly performing the kata that triggered a blinding blast of air that collided with the plasma bolt sent from his opponent's blaster. The resultant shockwave sent both of them flying in the opposite direction. Shane landed in a heap, eyes blinking rapidly as he tried to get his bearings.  

 

"Fuck," he thought to himself, groaning audibly as he forced himself to get to his feet. "Maybe I'm getting too old for this." 

 

The air seethed with super-heated particles due to the collision of respective moves. Squinting, Shane was able to focus through the shimmering air as his assailant took a couple of deep breaths before lurching to her feet. Glaring at him through the haze, the woman drew herself into a battle stance, fists cocked and body set the way a boxer would before the beginning of a match. As he settled into what Shane fondly considered his 'Air Stance', he noted the way her eyes tracked his every movement, narrowed in concentration. His respect for her rose up another notch. 

 

"You're good," admitted Shane as he began to draw strength from the air around him to replenish his flagging energy levels. "Better than most I'd wager. So I'm giving you a chance. Leave now, and I won't bother to hunt you down. Trust me sister, this is not the fight you want to have." 

 

"Maybe not," retorted the woman as she began to dance in place. "I may not want this fight, but I'm sure as hell gonna win it."

 

And with that, she shot forward, dashing towards him with startling speed. Releasing his breath, Shane launched himself into a flying punch, but hit only air as the woman feinted and threw a right hook at him only for him to knock her punch off course with a block. Soon they were trading punches, kicks, jabs and everything in between as they attempted to incapacitate their opponent. Fighting this woman was very different than fighting a fellow ninja like say, Tori. Her attacks lacked finesse, but were no weaker for that. She was a brawler, and fought like she was on the streets. When her blows managed to land on him, they felt like hammers and carried the force of them too. Shane was shocked as he ducked under her roundhouse kick and belted her with several rabbit punches to her side, only to have his feet swept from under him as she knocked him on his ass, hard. 

 

Rolling away from her foot as she attempted to stomp on his face, Shane pushed himself to his feet, wiping the trickle of blood that was dripping from his nose after she managed to knock him earlier with a glancing blow. How was she keeping up with him? As she spun into another roundhouse kick, he caught her leg, hands buffered with solidified air and yanked it to the earth, throwing her enough off balance that he was able to land a solid punch across her jaw. Her head whipped to the right, but she surged forward and threw several savage blows at him which he was barely able to block effectively. Nevertheless, Shane finally saw an opening and he grabbed her right arm as she attempted to land another blow on him and used her momentum against her, yanking her forward with his right hand before slamming his left hand on her shoulder blade, forcing her arm into a hold designed to immobilize an opponent by wrenching their arm out of joint if they attempted to overpower them and break free. The sudden move wrung an agonized yowl from her as he began to exert pressure on her shoulder blade, forcing her to kneel in order to help relieve the pressure. 

 

"Last chance," he snarled. "Stand down, now."

 

Her answer came by way of the back heel of her foot driving into his pelvis. Grunting with unexpected pain, Shane's grip on her arm and shoulder weakened enough as he stumbled a few steps back that she was able safely wrench her arm out of his grip and sweep his feet out from under him once more, sending him sprawling on the dry grass. Biting back another curse, Shane leapt back up...only to freeze as he found her standing in a guard stance, brandishing an object in her left hand that Shane instantly recognized as far more lethal and innately powerful than a blaster...

 

...a metallic Tiki head. 

 

Sudden comprehension dawned on Shane on who his mystery assailant must be, why he was having so much trouble subduing her in combat, why she was carrying an energy blaster in the first place. Immediately, he raised his hands in the universal signal of surrender.

 

"Hey, I get it now," said Shane, his eyes never straying from what was clearly a morpher. "Who you are, why you've come here. How you've managed to match all of my moves. You're a Ranger, aren't you?" 

 

The woman froze, eyes narrowed with suspicion as her fingers tightened on the morpher she held in her hand. Yet she didn't move, which gave Shane some hope of defusing this situation as he slowly lowered his hands to his side and relaxed his posture. 

 

"You're from that team from Florida, the one mentored by Gosei, right?" Shane ventured, conviction building when the woman's eyes widened in shock. "Let's see...you're wearing a yellow tank top, but have a predilection for leather jackets. You must be Gia Morgan." 

 

"How do you know all of that?" whispered the now confirmed Yellow Megaforce Ranger, Gia. 

 

Shane smirked.

 

"I guess we never got the chance to team up with you guys, well besides the Great Battle with the Zangyack Armada of course," he said, amusement flooding through him at her confusion. 

 

"We?" questioned Gia, sharply. 

 

"My team," answered Shane, the remaining tension draining out of him as he smiled crookedly at her. "I think it's time we were formally introduced. You're Gia Moran, the Yellow Megaforce Ranger. I'm Shane Clarke...but you probably know me better as the Red Wind Ninja Ranger." 

 

"You're—you're part of Ninja Storm!" exclaimed Gia, comprehension dawning on her as well. She relaxed, replacing her morpher in its place of concealment. "We emulated your powers before, when we were facing against the Armada."

 

"I'll let Dustin know the next time I see him," said Shane. "He'll be stoked to know that a fellow Yellow copied his powers."

 

A short burst of laughter escaped from Gia before she clapped her hand over her mouth, eyes widening again, this time in mortification.

 

"Oh shit! I'm so sorry for assaulting you, I thought that you had some kind of connection to the energy signature that I was tracking and I assumed you were a bad guy. Are you okay?" 

 

A snort of laughter escaped Shane before he could help himself. Shaking his head, he shrugged and massaged his jaw ruefully.

 

"I don't know about okay," he said jokingly, "you sure know how to throw down. But, we're cool. Honestly, I probably would have reacted in the same way if you would have gotten here before me. So, let's just forget about it, k?"

 

Gia smiled. 

 

"Cool." 

 

"Cool," echoed Shane, before eyeing her speculatively. "So, why have you been tracking this energy? What do you know about what was here before?"

 

"Not much," she replied with a frown. "The head honchos at the Grid detected a surge of energy a couple of days ago that was fluctuating on their scanners. They tried to pick up any traces of the energy that they sensed and they managed to track it here, in Texas. Since I was planning on visiting relatives a few hours away, the Ranger Council asked me to check out this area, see if it was possible to find the source. Why are you here? I wasn't informed that the Council would be sending another Ranger." 

 

Shane's mind raced as he listened to her explanation. This only confirmed in his mind that something big went down here. An energy source potent enough to have the Ranger Council send a fellow Ranger to inspect it? It was an affirmation that he conclusion about the potential motive for Dane and Aidey's disappearances were more than a tragic accident. That sense of evil that had nearly overwhelmed him when he had touched the furrow...who had sought for this energy source? 

 

"I didn't come here on Ranger business," he responded slowly. "I came here because my brother-in-law and nephew disappeared here, nearly ten years ago. This is their farmhouse. I've been trying to track down their whereabouts for a couple of months now. I wasn't sure why they disappeared, but now I suspect that something landed here, something powerful. Some entity came here to claim that power and did something to my family. I just don't know what."

 

Gia tilted her head slightly as she took in Shane's explanation. Moving closer to the senior Ranger, she hesitated a bit before setting a hand on his shoulder in sympathy.

 

"I'm sorry Shane," she said, not sure what she could say. The Council couldn't have predicted this twist to their investigation. Shane smiled, appreciatively.

 


"Thanks Gia," he responded. This wasn't a fact that he tended to bandy about in conversation, even with his team. Out of their group, only Dustin and Sensei knew the whole story, for obvious reasons. It was nice that his urgency over this matter wasn't dismissed out of hand. "What get's me is that the Council managed to pick up on this as well. Do they have any clue at all about what this energy source could be, what it could do?"

 

Withdrawing her hand, Gia shook her head in the negative. "No," she said frowning, "the Council doesn't know what this energy is, only that it's powerful and extremely dangerous. In the wrong hands, it could fuel untold devastation. Possibly global extinction."

 

"Shit," muttered Shane. He swung his gaze back to the furrow in the ground near the barn. What the hell were they getting themselves into?

 

Following his gaze, Gia focused in on the furrow that marred the otherwise grassy pathway towards the dilapidated barn. She moved past Shane and pulling out her morpher held it out as the scanners in the device began reacting to the energy that the Council had instructed her to track to it's source. She frowned in confusion as she crouched before the indention in the ground. The energy emitted was definitely a match for the signature sample that the Council had downloaded into her morpher's scanners, but it seemed...degraded somehow. Spent. She began extending her hand to touch the indented area, but found her arm caught in a tight grip. Slightly startled, she swung her head and glared at Shane, only to settle down when he shook his head in warning.

 

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," he warned. "The residual energy isn't lethal by any means, but it still stings like a bitch. Trust me, it's not very pleasant."

 

Nodding reluctantly, Gia's hand was released and she eased herself to her feet. "I take it you must have experienced the effects first hand?"

 

Shane grunted in affirmation. "Yeah," he confirmed, "I don't know if it's psionic in nature or attuned to the ki—"

 

"The ki?" interjected Gia, curiously.

 

"Yeah, it's a term for the life energy, or our inner ninja spirit," explained Shane. "I think that this energy source might be connected to ki in some way because when I touched that furrow, it felt like fire was ripping through my nervous system and I—I think that I experienced some type of vision. I could see...after images of what happened here, ten years ago."

 

Gia arched one of her eyebrows in disbelief. Catching her expression, Shane rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know it sounds crazy," he said irritably, "but trust me, it's definitely more plausible than one might think. I saw my brother, for a brief moment. He found something here, something powerful. And something evil was after it. It attacked him and my nephew, but I think he was holding what  seemed to be a star...and it's power shielded them..."

 

He tried to recall any other details, but shook his head in frustration. "That's all I can recall."

 

"Well, whatever your relatives found," Gia said, "it's back. I thought that the energy signature here was the source of the energy, but it must have just been the trace energy from the object itself. The energy here seems fainter than what the Council detected. I'm not sure, but it's possible that the energy source was taken offworld around the time that your family disappeared. What I don't get is that the energy levels they detected were at least two or three times stronger than what my scanners are picking up now. That tells me that it's somewhere close to our system, or somewhere else in this area? Do you think that your brother would have attempted to conceal it somehow if he could?"

 

Shane frowned thoughtfully.

 

"Yeah...I think you're on to something," he said as his mind raced to put together all of the new variables that were impacting his investigation. "Dane wasn't a Ranger, but he was a fully trained Wind Ninja instructor. He would recognize a powerful artifact when he saw one, and would probably bury it somewhere where it couldn't be easily retrieved. Maybe he decided to take Aidey and go into hiding?"

 

"Aidey?" asked Gia softly, sensing the turmoil in Shane.

 

Shane smiled faintly. "Aiden," he clarified, "my nephew. He was everything to my brother. Whatever he did that day, he would have found a way to try and keep Aiden safe."

 

His voice faltered and silence enveloped the farm as the two Rangers pondered the various aspects of what they'd discovered so far. A couple minutes passed before Gia stirred, an idea growing.

 

"Um, Shane?" she ventured, hesitantly. "I wouldn't dream of interfering in something that obviously super personal to you, but it seems to me that we're both after the same thing, or at least our missions are dovetailing together due to a common denominator. I think...if we want to get all of the facts about this energy source and how it connects to your family disappearing, we need to work together on this. If we pool our resources together, I think we'll be able to get to the bottom of this. This thing...whatever it is, is bigger than what we thought. One person can't figure this all out alone."

 

"I agree," sighed Shane. "When I decided to try and start looking for my brother and his son again, I never imagined that this could connect to what we do as Power Rangers. I'm game. So, partners?"

 

Shane extended his hand out to Gia, who stared at it and then at his face before a smile lit up her face. Grasping his proffered hand in a firm grip, they shook on it.

 

"Partners."

 

 

 

 

 

 

)o()o()o()o()o()o(

 

 

 

 

 

The Devastator

Quadrant X

Three Cycles Before Approaching Jump Point

 

 

 

 

 

 Secure in her private chambers, Madame Odious devoted herself to her daily ablution as she opened herself to the powers of decay, deformation and damnation. Icy-cold, the power surging into her veins burned as she became one with the Darkness, vaguely aware of her physical body hovering above her cushions as she drank in fetid corruption. 

 

For centuries she had waited patiently for her chance to claim the ultimate prize, clawing her way up from the pits of degradation and ignominy as she lied, deceived, murdered, pillaged and seduced her way out of that cesspool planet that she had been born and disposed of in, clawing her way through the ranks of the Overlord's myriad slaves, using the power that sang so easily to her to create further opportunity for her ascension...and her ultimate revenge. 

 

At last...at last the beginning of her most important campaign approached. Finally, she could begin to lower the veil that shrouded her true self, finally she would be free to work unfettered by false loyalties as she aimed for the prize that had been seared into her tattered soul since her spawning. 

 

Basking in the paradoxical spams of agony and pleasure that flooded her frame, Odious sucked in as much power as she could stomach before releasing her grasp on the sublime multi-dimensional energies that powered her and allowed herself to become fully aware of the physical realm as she landed on the cushions that were arranged at the center of her ritual space. Panting harshly, she greedily sucked in air as she re-acclimated herself to flesh and bone, a part of her already longing to cast her spirit aflight once more. Oh how she longed to extend her essence throughout the myriad permutations of reality, imprinting her will on the universe itself! But as she always reminded herself, patience. Subtlety and patience was needed, never as much as at this present juncture when all that she desired lay just beyond her grasp...

 

Her sublime contemplation of Eternity however ended abruptly when the persistent chime alerted her to the presence of a Kudobot just outside her chambers. Repressing a feral snarl, Odious tamped down her irritation at the cyborg foot-soldiers and rose to her feet, canceling the sacred circle with a wave of her claws. Making sure that her mask was affixed properly, she made her way to the entrance, activating the door. 

 

"Report", she ordered tersely to the cybernetic creature, who obediently began to reveal it's purpose for disturbing her. As she listened, Odious could feel her excitement rise at the report, but kept it carefully concealed. While the Kudobots would obey her every command, that was only as long as she displayed perfect loyalty to Gabi Raizo and the Supreme Overlord. They must suspect nothing if her many schemes were to bear an acceptable harvest. 

 

"Very good," she replied once the report was given, "alert Cosmo Royale that the broadcast will begin shortly. Summon the following slaves and instruct them to attend to me at once for their instructions. Dismissed." 

 

Submitting the names of the slaves she wished to summon, Odious looked on as with a salute, the Kudobot marched off to carry out her orders, leaving Odious standing in the hallway as a frisson of anticipation began to build in the pit of her stomach. At last...

 

Behind her ceremonial mask, a twisted smile broke out across her mangled face. 

 

Time to play.