“My dad always said ‘Ryan, something’s in life aren’t necessarily set in stone. Things can, and often will, change when you least expect it to.’ Me and my friends were unaware of it, but we were about to see firsthand what changes could occur.”
In the news offices of Underground Voice Daily, Ryan Steele and JB Reese had been called by their friend and fellow VR Trooper Kaitlin Starr. “Alright Kaitlin, what’s so important that you had to call us here?”, Ryan asked.
“Ok, you guys. I’ve been doing some research into Grimlord’s past targets and seeing if there was any connection between them.”
JB seemed intrigued by this idea. “And did you find anything?”
“Indeed I did.”, was Kaitlin’s response. “Some of his targets, such as the forest and the football stadium, they’re areas that Karl Ziktor’s wanted to tear down in the past. But whenever we defeat the monster that was targeting that area, Ziktor Industries has abandoned that project.”
“You think that Ziktor has some connection to Grimlord?”, JB asked.
“No, I think I get what she’s saying.”, Ryan stood up. “I think that the evidence is suggesting that Ziktor IS Grimlord.”
In the high-rise offices of Ziktor Industries, Karl Ziktor was fuming to his secretaries and his iguana named Juliet. When he had first set out to conquer the world, he had been having fun at what he assumed would be succeeding where so many others had failed. But as he battles with the Troopers had become ongoing, his sanity had been thoroughly eroded.
“Those meddlesome Troopers have been a thorn in my side for far too long now.”, Ziktor growled. “And now they’re positioned to find my identity and stop my plans once and for all. I need to think of a way to deal with them once and for all.” His secretaries took the hint and left the room without a word. Ziktor then turned his attention towards Juliet. “You know Juliet, if only I had more competent and powerful lackeys than the useless nincompoops I’m stuck with, I’d be able to destroy those Troopers’ powers.”
“Then perhaps you should try and ask for my help.”, a female voice came from the iguana, much to her owner’s surprise. “Oh you didn’t think when you pulled an evil force from the Box of Isis, that you weren’t getting your powers for free, did you?”
Ziktor, for the first time in… ever… was scared for his existence. “What do you demand of me, Forces of Darkness? I will do anything if it helps me achieve world domination.”
The possessed lizard tutted. “Let’s dispense with the informalities, shall we? You can call me ‘Nefaria’. If you pledge allegiance to me, I shall provide you with a new virtual avatar and alter your usual troops into new warriors to command. I will also assure that your connection to Grimlord will not stand up to scrutiny. To begin with, simply travel to your virtual dark fortress, as usual. Then I will take things from there.”
Ziktor nodded, placing his hand on the prism full of Tyler Steele’s impressive knowledge of Virtual Reality, mixed with the same dark power Nefaria had been providing him with all this time. His skin began fluctuating and disappearing. “Forces of Darkness, empower me! Take me back to my virtual reality!” Ziktor’s visage was then replaced with that of his alter-ego Grimlord, a mottled cyborg creature in armour. He was then teleported to his Virtual Dark Fortress, wherein the whole room had been replaced with an entirely different looking one in his absence. He also saw all his minions floating in the air, immobilised like living statues. “What is the meaning of this?”, Grimlord said with his voice, which had changed to a much raspier version of his regular one. “You promised to dispose of my old minions.”
“Not quite.”, Nefaria’s voice echoed as she manifested inside a black ball of dark energy. “Yes I promised to remove your old minions, but I have no desire to leave behind any waste.” Three of the 5 Vixens were surrounded with a blue aura and pulled together, with Nefaria’s black energy form flying into the centre of this forced fusion. When the light cleared, a new female figure descended to the ground. She had white hair, and wore a pink under suit with a black breastplate, large hips and a golden headband and shoulder pads. Finally, she had some reptile-like skin on her face. When she spoke, the voice of Nefaria came out. “Ah, that’s better. It feels good to have a body of my own.”, she declared. Then she turned to the remaining Vixens. “But don’t worry my lovelies, I won’t waste you two.” She then hit them with the same energy, conjuring up two near-identically dressed female bodyguards, one red with black highlights, the other black with red highlights. Both had large shoulders made of white fur, and detailed masks. “You shall be my attendants, Doom and Gloom. You will devote the rest of your existence to serving me.”
“Hail Empress Nefaria.”, the two said as they bowed.
Grimlord seemed annoyed by the fact that they were bowing to someone other than he, the Master of the Virtual World. “What about me, Nefaria?”, he snarled indignantly. “You promised to make a new form for me too.”
Nefaria scowled at this, but then replied politely. “Very well then, my faithful servant.” Then with a sickeningly friendly grin, she clicked her fingers, causing Grimlord to keel over in pain. “And I’ll assure you remain a faithful servant for the rest of your days. I can’t risk you trying to overthrow me and regain your former position.”
“You… promised me… a new form…”, Grimlord wheezed, as his back began to burst open.
“Oh no, what I promised was to make a new form for you. Perhaps I should’ve been clearer.”, Nefaria said, her face now serious. “As of now, Karl Ziktor and Grimlord no longer exist. You shall become my faithful servant Krultrax.”
“Curse you!” But the Grimlord’s body split open, giving way to a new creature. This was a more deformed looking, goblin-like creature, with sharp fangs and no lips. His head was covered with cybernetic parts. He wore a variation of the outfit worn by Grimlord’s original avatar, but possessed three-fingered hands. Finally, his eyes were now a blank white, signifying his loss of will. “Hail Empress Nefaria.”, the newly-created Krultrax stated, bowing as Doom and Gloom had. The now-empty body of Grimlord reverted back to Karl Ziktor’s appearance, the hole from which Krultrax had been born being sealed in the process.
“Excellent, my loyal, faithful servant.”, Nefaria smiled. “And now, the small matter of your minions.” She waved her hand again, surrounding the other prone minions with the glowing energy. First, Ivar and Doom Master were merged together into a fanged creature wielding a sword made of pure diamond. “Fangor, the ultimate warrior beast.” Then Icebot and Oraclon we’re merged together into a dinosaur-man with a whip. “Paratron, the master of monsters.” Finally, Despera was bombarded with clumps of matter leftover from Nefaria’s other creations. “Since you are still useful to me, Despera, I shall simply give you a new form.” Despera then fell to the floor, transforming into a black-coloured, demonic creature, wielding a scythe. “Now then my servants, whom do you pledge allegiance to?”
“Nefaria, Mistress of the Augmented Virtual Reality.”, the newly modified soldiers all declared, raising their hands to the air.
“Good.”, the Empress smiled. Then she looked down at the “corpse” of Karl Ziktor. “Despera, return this to the office building, would you dear?”
“As you wish, Mistress.”, Depsera lowered her head. She then zapped the body with her scythe, sending it back.
Nefaria then turned towards Paratron. “Now then, I’d like you to begin working on the first of my new generation of monsters. Could you see to that?”
Paratron raised his arm. “As my Empress commands, so it is done.” He then departed the room.
Finally, Nefaria looked at Krultrax. “I assume you know what to do, darling?”, she asked.
“Destroy… office building.”, the former Karl Ziktor growled. “Remove… evidence.” With that, he teleported out, prepared to begin his task.
Down on Earth, at Tao’s dojo, Ryan had just got out of teaching a class and had retreated to the back room, where his talking dog Jeb was waiting. “Hey, Ryan. You’re running yourself ragged between trying to find out who Mr. Ugly-face really is and covering these extra classes.”, the dog stated. “Maybe you should just throw one of them to the dogs.”
“You know I’d like to take a break sometime, Jeb.”, Ryan said in response. “But with Kaitlin’s lead and Tao going on a trip to the Bahamas this week, I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment.”
“Well you’re just lucky it’s been weeks since Grimlord last showed his face in either reality then.”, Jeb replied. “Because you might just be exhausted.”
As if on cue, the VT (Video Transmitter) that he had received from Professor August Hart in case of emergency began beeping. Ryan picked up and saw that, sure enough, the Professor was on the other end. “Go ahead, Professor. What’s happening?”
“Ryan, Grimlord’s energy signature has been detected downtown, but something’s off.”, came the voice of the digitised human. “Kaitlin and JB are already heading there now.”
“I’m on it, Professor.” Ryan ended the call and held up his Virtualiser. “Trooper Transform! We are VR!” With several flashes of light, Ryan was transformed into his robotic body, a blue-armoured form. He then ran towards the scene of the battle, leaving a slightly annoyed Jeb behind.
Downtown, Krultrax was continuing to wreak havoc as he made his way towards Ziktor Industries. “Must… destroy… city.”, he growled as Kaitlin and JB pulled up to the scene in the former’s car.
“That’s supposed to be Grimlord?”, JB asked. “He looks a lot uglier than I remember.”
“It doesn’t matter what he looks like,” Kaitlin replied “‘cause we’re gonna take him down, whatever he looks like.”
JB nodded and joined her in raising their Virtualisers. “Trooper Transform! We are VR!” With a series of lightning bolts, the two were clad in their armour forms as well, Kaitlin’s being white and JB’s being silver. Both had red highlights.
In her Virtual Dark Fortress, Nefaria laughed at this development. “They’ve taken my bait. Now you simply sit back and watch as the VR Troopers suffer their final defeat.” She then stood up. “As for me, I have business to attend to.” She clicked her fingers and teleported away.
Back on Earth, Krultrax had noticed the Troopers transformation. “So, Troopers come to finish off Krultrax in tracks. Krultrax no like that to happen to Krultrax.”
Both of the present Troopers were confused by this. “So not only does Grimlord have a new face, but a new name too? What’s going on?”, JB asked.
“Grimlord now gone for good. Me Krultrax am born from him remains. Empress Nefaria send Krultrax to destroy office building.”
The Troopers briefly took note of the name ‘Nefaria’, before pushing it to the back of their mind and firing at him with their Blasters. However, Krultrax simply grabbed the two beams and threw them back at their senders. “Man, I guess he traded brains for brawn with this upgrade.”, Kaitlin commented.
“Perhaps, but I’m not beat yet.”, JB declared, running into a fight with Krultrax. However, the resulting fight was short and ended up with Krultrax coming out on top. “I’m not going to step down that easily, Krultrax. Laser Lance Command, now!” JB summoned his weapon and deployed its second blade, lunging at the enemy.
However, Krultrax stopped the weapon before it could hit and threw his opponent over his shoulder. “You pathetic. Me could wipe the floor with you like that.” He clicked his fingers to indicate this point.
“I’ll take you up on that offer.” Krultrax turned around to see Ryan appear and hit him with a punch, which knocked him back. “So you’re Grimlord’s new look, eh? You look even uglier than the last one.”
“Krultrax not fall for taunt.”, came the creature’s response. “Krultrax have mission to fulfill.” He fired a beam at the Ziktor Industries building, blowing the upper sections to smithereens. “Now Karl Ziktor truly dead.”
Ryan was shocked to hear this. “You mean you’re not… never mind. I’ll still finish you off. Laser Saber Command, Now!” He summoned his weapon and thrust it towards his foe.
But Krultrax caught this as well. “You really think that would work?” He then blasted Ryan down with a beam from his fingers. “This been fun, but now Krultrax have to strip Troopers of powers so you no pose threat anymore.” He zapped the three prone Troopers, reducing them to human form. Their Virtualisers fell to the floor and shattered. Krultrax then laughed and teleported away.
Kaitlin pulled herself up. “What do we do now?”, she asked.
“I don’t know.”, Ryan asked. “We should get back to the lab and see what we can still do.”
Elsewhere, at a meeting of majority stockholders for Ziktor Industries, with the majority shareholder absent, everyone was considering an offer given to them. “So you propose to buy all of our shares in exchange for a large sum of money that will ensure we can all retire early, do I have that correct?”, the chairman stated.
“Exactly.”, the potential buyer, one Miss Samantha Garwin, nodded. “After all, this company is going downhill fast. With far too many of its projects actually seeing it through to the work stage. And the ever increasing unpopularity of the current majority holder’s environmentally-unfriendly policies. Can you really say that he is what’s best for this company?”
“No we can’t.”, one member of the meeting spoke up. “I nominate that we go through with this sale and make Miss Garwin our new majority shareholder.”
“Very well then.”, the chairman stated. “All in favour of this transaction, raise your hands.” The entire board raised their hands. “Very well then. Congratulations, Miss Garwin. You now own the majority of the company’s shares. Ziktor Industries is now yours.”
“Thank you gentlemen.”, Garwin replied. “Your money will be in your accounts shortly.” She stood up and left the room. Once out of their earshot, Nefaria removed her disguise and laughed. “Good think Karl left an ungodly amount of illegal accounts for me to pay off those fools. I now control both sides of the plan to conquer Earth.” She then teleported out, laughing all the while.