"Is this what death looks like?"
He was alone and scared, marooned in an empty white place without a physical form. To his surprise, an answer was granted. There were no words, just a flash of images in his consciousness.
"I'm still alive. I remember now."
He understood what happened to him. He remembered the two soldiers who destroyed his perfect world and exiled him to the void. He recalled the fear and pain he experienced as they took his life, along with the lives of all those he saved. But here he was, reborn in this strange place, connected to the Earth itself. He felt different. He felt real, like he could turn intention in to action. He was so much more now.
"Yes, this is the power I've longed for!"
At his command, black feathers swooped around and converged to rebuild his body. And so he began his journey anew. He resolved to find the six devices, six keys to the Earth. If he could obtain them, he could turn the world in to a new Frozen Forest. He emerged in the corporeal realm, no longer bound to the minds of augmented humans, who were now lost forever to the clutches of death. There were still billions who needed his protection and supervision. To break the perpetual cycle, he would connect them in that place, preserved for eternity.
Their tails sprung up, detecting a disturbance in the woods. The four Zyumen severed from their home. Sela, the assertive intuitive. Leo, the chivalrous loudmouth. Tusk, the observant bookworm. Amu, the excitable optimist.
They followed their instincts with their human comrades following their literal tails. Kazakiri Yamato, the crazy biology fanatic. Mondo Misao, the chronically depressed.
Despite their quirks, the six of them together were an unstoppable team of justice-loving superheroes: Animal Sentai Zyuohger!
Unbeknownst to them, they were about to face their greatest trial yet. The Zyumen's tails trembled more and more as they approached the source. Eventually, they arrived at a clearing surrounded by tall trees. "It's here." said Sela. They searched around but couldn't find anything.
"Have your tails deceived you?" asked Yamato.
"I'm not sure. This sensation is seriously strong." said Amu anxiously.
"Salutations, chosen guardians of the Link Cube!"
They heard the loud deep voice. It seemed to emit from various points in the vicinity so they couldn't track it down.
"Show yourself, coward! Come here and fight us like a man!" shouted Leo. Sela covered her sensitive ears, as their competing voices were giving her a headache.
"Uh, hey, guys.... Look at the trees." said Tusk.
They observed the branches and saw an army of black-feathered birds. Yamato used his enhanced sight to identify their species. They had tuft on their beaks and a metallic blue shine. Their cold white eyes stared back like they were looking at tasty worms. "Ravens. You can tell by the color of their fea-"
"Why are there so many?" asked Misao, interrupting him before he bored them with another biology lecture. The pack of heroes stood in a circle formation covering each other's backs from whatever ethereal force was about to strike.
The birds started to gronk loudly and fly around them. From the ground perspective, they were moving counterclockwise. One by one, they broke from the swirling vortex and dived down. There were feet, then thighs, then a torso and arms. Finally, a head. Before them stood an intimidating humanoid lifeform! It looked just like a Zyuohger, one of them, but he wasn't on their side. This one was black. The gloves and boots were still white but the cuffs were the same shiny blue as the birds' reflective coats. A white outline of a diving raven decorated the chest and the skull of one adorned the front of the mask. A long split cape made of feathers wavered on his back. His icy visor met the gaze of his quivering opponents.
"An evil black Zyuohger!" said Leo. Misao was suddenly overcome with depression as he fell to his knees.
"Micchan, are you okay?" asked Yamato.
"That used to be my title." he lamented.
The new Strongest Dark Ranger chuckled. "I am Corvus." Just then, he started to consider that his current form had surpassed his creators' conception and thus warranted a unique moniker. "No, that was my old name. I am the Champion of the Eternal, Zyuoh Raven!"
Sela raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "What do you want?" she asked.
He presented a cube-shaped golden object in the palm of his hand. "Lost anthropomorphic creature, I want to accumulate these!" It was the Zyuoh Changer Final.
They looked at the cube in shock. "That belongs to Bud. How did you get that?!" demanded Yamato.
"The bird man put up quite the fight. Alas, I had to beat him up to loosen his grip. He's my prisoner right now."
Their eyes opened wide, concerned for the eagle Zyuman they just grew to trust. If this evil character could make light work of an experienced veteran guardian like Bud, they knew not to underestimate him.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way." said Zyuoh Raven.
One way or another, he wanted their credentials. They hesitated, considering the consequences of both options. They needed to know where Bud was so they could rescue him, but giving such invaluable artifacts to someone with bad intentions was probably not the best idea.
"We swore to protect the planet with our lives. So if you want them, you'll have to defeat us as well!" said Sela with a firm grip on her Zyuoh Changer. The others stood by her side in agreement. They weren't willing to sacrifice the safety of their home. Yamato and the four Zyumen pressed the corresponding buttons on their Zyuoh Changers.
"If you're black, then I'll be gold!" said Misao as he turned the cube on his Zyuoh The Light to the Crocodile picture.
"Does your color really matter?!" complained Tusk.
"Eagle!" "Shark!" "Lion!" "Elephant!" "Tiger!" "Crocodile!"
They rotated their Zyuoh Changers to complete the change picture and Misao pressed the button on the end of the grip against his thigh. "Honno Kakusei!" Spinning cubes of light summoned their Zyuman Power while a heart-pounding battle cry sounded in the background!
"Champion of the Skies, Zyuoh Eagle!"
"Champion of the Rough Seas, Zyuoh Shark!"
"Champion of the Savannah, Zyuoh Lion!"
"Champion of the Forest, Zyuoh Elephant!"
"Champion of the Snowfield, Zyuoh Tiger!"
"Champion of the World, Zyuoh The World!"
"Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger!"
"Don't mess with this planet!"
Zyuoh Raven chuckled once more. "So be it then."
Zyuoh The World Crocodile Form charged at him bravely with his Zyuoh The Gunrod, prepared to strike with all his might. But Raven's body just split in to feathers and converged behind him.
"Huh!" said The World.
Raven laughed maniacally as he launched him in to the air surrounded by a pillar of sharp feathers and punched him across the battlefield with ease. The World reverted to Misao and lost consciousness. It was all over for their Sixth Ranger in mere seconds!
"Misao, no! Impossible! How do we fight an enemy like that?!" asked Elephant. Even their strategist was finding it difficult to imagine.
"Fighting him head on is no good. We need a synchronized attack." said Eagle, taking lead.
Raven waited calmly for their next move. "The World has no credentials, no place in this fight. I only want your trinkets!"
Lion was provoked by his vicious mockery of their important comrade. "Well, you can't have them!" he shouted with his tone becoming angrier.
"Yeah and you can't hurt our friends either!" added Tiger.
"Yasei Kaihou!" The remaining Zyuohgers unleashed their inner beasts!
Zyuoh Eagle flapped his great wings, flying to the dead sky and blasted him with his Zyuoh Buster in gun mode. Raven dodged the bullets effortlessly thanks to his ability to separate.
The next challengers were the vexed cat Zyumen with sharp claws. Lion used lightning melee attacks, forcing him to evade by moving backwards. Tiger tried to hit him with ice projectiles. The combination of heat and cold created a cloud of smoke.
"Where'd he go?" asked Tiger.
"Beats me!" said Lion.
The cloud wasn't dispersing quickly enough. "Stay alert, guys, he won't flee just like that." said Eagle.
Moments later, Lion and Tiger heard and felt the chilling wind of heavy breathing on their backs. "You let your guard down. Big mistake." said Raven.
He sent them rolling away with a shattering wave of destruction and they fell unconscious as well. It echoed through the trees, making the leaves shake and the critters scramble! "Three down, three to go." he said, approaching them to collect the credentials.
"Not so fast!" said Elephant, stomping his foot to make a shockwave that thrust Raven in to the air.
"My turn." said Sela, spinning towards him with her fin.
He phased through her attack and grabbed her fin, throwing her at Elephant like a ricochet boomerang and knocking them to the ground. He dived back down and hit the surface with seismic force, causing an explosion beneath them!
Now it was just Zyuoh Eagle still standing. Or flying in his case. As Raven went to loot the Zyuoh Changers from their idle bodies, Eagle confronted him with his Zyuoh Buster in sword mode even though he figured it was an impossible duel. He wanted to stall him long enough for the others to wake up and escape.
"Don't underestimate the connection between humans and Zyumen!"
"A legitimate human guardian? I sense multiple types of Zyuman Power coming from your body. How rare!" Raven decided to humor him just to show him the fragility of mortals. Whether it was human or Zyuman, he didn't care. He punched him in the face, knocking him out of his Instinct Awakening Mode. "Give up, human. Your defeat is inevitable."
Zyuoh Eagle peeled his battered body off the ground, using his sword as a crutch. "I won't know the outcome unless I fight to my last breath!"
Raven was getting bored with his persistence. Eagle ran towards him and leaped in the air, striking him vertically. But Raven just grabbed the hilt and countered with a gut punch. Eagle clenched his fist, trying to channel whatever energy was still left in his body to stand up again. Raven had enough and picked him up by the collar.
"If you insist." he said, referring to his earlier line.
His cape split in to large monstrous wings and he flew him high up in to the thundering clouds. Eagle gasped for oxygen as the air got thinner and thinner. He tried to speak but the words wouldn't leave his mouth. Raven released his grip and dropped him through several layers of sky. The exhausted Eagle landed with a thud! It broke his suit and rendered him unconscious like the others. However, his injuries appeared to be the most severe compared to the rest of his teammates.
Except when Zyuoh Raven returned to the surface, those teammates were gone, along with their Zyuoh Changers. They couldn't have retreated on their own in their condition, right? Even if they could have, they wouldn't. Not while their comrade was fighting all on his own for their sakes. Raven was vexed but he found consolation in the fact that he had Yamato and his Zyuoh Changer.
"Maybe with you, I can convince them to surrender their credentials as well." he said, dragging him away by the collar of his jacket.
Where was he taking him? What would become of the distant nomad, Bud? Where did the Zyumen go? Would the Zyuohgers survive the Reckoning of the Raven?!
Aboard the Sagittariark, a human scientist was held captive in Cubal's lab, illuminated in an evil shade of dark green. There was an emblem on the shoulders of the labcoat he was wearing, which looked kind of like a blue horizontal hexagon containing a white diagonal '2'.
"Okay, you monster, it's complete. The augmentation surgery has been fully implemented and accepted by her nervous system. Now keep your promise and return me to the surface." said the scientist.
"I'm grateful for your work, so I'll keep my word. But first, I must grant you a clean death." said Cubal.
"What! Hey, I gave you what you wanted, didn't I? You never mentioned anything about killing me!"
Cubal aimed his handgun at the pleading man. "I never mentioned anything about letting you live either."
The scientist put up his hands to show he meant no harm and stepped back in fear. "No, please, don't! I have a family!"
"If only they knew what you did to save yourself. I'm doing them a favor."
Cubal fired and blood spilled out from the fresh corpse as it fell to the floor, an empty husk. The callous alien glanced over at the operating table. Laid on it was a sedated female covered by olivine tarp, exposing only the back of her neck and the metal implant that was grafted to it.
"Now then, shall we start the revenge game?"