Morph Fifteen: Sappho's Perfect Plan, Part 1
The voice hummed lightly in the darkness.
The Dark Sapphire Ranger could not see in the dark. Unlike the PKM Rangers, those weak fools, Dark Gem Rangers could not amplify themselves with additional skills like heat vision or x-ray. He had to rely on what he could hear, what he could see with his own ears and his own eyes. The Sapphire Scimitar, his favorite toy, hung casually in his left hand, his fingers gently caressing the hilt. When his feet crunched against the unkempt floor, he heard the sound vibrations travel through the air, displaying to him his surroundings.
He was in a warehouse.
More specifically, he was in an abandoned warehouse. Around him stood empty shelves, dozens and dozens of them. He walked through the rows, his voice humming naught but a merry tune with his breathing. Again his voice echoed, like a child's laughter, and his hand grazed the edge of one of the shelves. Dust lingered on his fingertips and he glanced at it as if it were some kind of new, foreign thing he had never seen before. He wiped his hand on his sword and continued along his merry way.
"Oh, Maxy-poo…" he murmured, almost cooing. "Come out, come out, wherever you are." He twirled the scimitar, a small whirling noise issued so he could get a better sense of where he was. There was no light, it was bad for his new partner's training. Max could see perfectly fine, but he needed to be able to do more than that. Their foes could, after all… "Oh, Maxy-poo, I'm gonna kill ya…"
A sound issued somewhere above him, and he heard a footstep, like someone leaping from shelf to shelf over his head. He stopped, and looked upwards. "Maxy-poo?" he asked the darkness. A growl replied, up and to the left of Sappho's current position. It was savage, that a feral Pokemon might make when approached by a trainer. "Oh, that's not how you get on my good side, Maxy-poo." He giggled and leapt upwards, bouncing off the shelves towards the upper levels where Max was hiding.
Even in the darkness, it was quite easy to tell where the Dark Emerald Ranger was. His body glimmered in the slight, translucent light that came from cracks and chinks in the ceiling and walls from the outside moonlight. The jaded body, the dark helmet that looked like a wreath of darkness… Max snarled, and flexed his arms against the wrought-iron chains that bound him.
Sappho grinned, his little apprentice was getting better and better at controlling himself. In their first combat run, Max had attacked like a ravaging monster, too disorientated to do any damage other than a few shots that were more a result of luck and laziness on the Dark Sapphire Ranger's part than any actual skill from Max. Now, however, he was calm, poised, despite under the control of that vengeful spirit that the Dark Emerald was using to control Max. But now the influence was being used properly, like a guiding hand. Max moved tactfully, not haphazardly, in the direction of his prey, using the guiding voice of his Dark Gem to find his way through the darkness towards Sappho.
But the Dark Sapphire Ranger was quite prepared. He listened carefully, using his own Dark Gem to cheat just a bit, pick up the frequency of the Dark Emerald, just for a peak at his foe's plans. He dodged, just as Max threw a fist towards him and slashed with the scimitar. Max growled and blocked with his arm. The chains and sword gnashed violently with one another, and beneath Sappho's helmet a look of disappointment fell over his face. Max's chains were wound so tightly around his arms that sometimes the shielding felt a bit unfair. The Dark Emerald Ranger growled and dug his fist deep into Sappho's stomach, forcing his mentor back with a slight groan.
"Very good," murmured Sappho, as Max leapt back to a comfortable distance. "I see you're getting better at controlling yourself. Come on, try to down me. If you can, I'll send you off to play with some friends…"
"Laaaaade," replied the jade monster. He liked the idea.
Max looked to the gauntlets on his arms and his chains began loosening into long coils beside his body. He glanced up and launched towards the Dark Sapphire Ranger. This time, he would be the winner of the game. He ran forward, across the rows of shelves, leaping over several, and whipped his chains forward as he struck. Sappho brought up his sword, causing the coil to wrap around it, and twisted Max down several shelves. Just before he hit the floor, Max retracted his chain, forcing Sappho to force against the strain of supporting him as he climbed through the air, throwing the second chain out to curl around the Dark Sapphire Ranger's neck. He bounced off the shelf, tugging at Sappho's neck.
The evil ranger lost his balance to the jade monster and tumbled off the shelf he had been standing on. As he passed Max in the air, the monster pounced, slamming down on Sappho to heighten acceleration. Both hit the ground hard, but Max cushioned himself with his mentor's body. Releasing his grip on the sword, Max had his second chain wrap itself along Sappho's neck just like the first, and tightened his grip.
He lifted Sappho's head and leaned in. "Gallade," he muttered, claiming victory.
Sappho laughed. "Good work, kiddo," he replied, admitting his loss. "Okay, let me go." Max did not lessen his grip, as though his Dark Emerald was whispering new instructions to him. The faceless wreath of Max's visor left no clues as to what he was thinking. "Very funny, Maxy-poo. Let me go before I hurt you…"
Finally, Max seemed to understand, and retracted his chains before getting off his mentor. He extended his arm and Sappho took it as he regained his composure. "Ready for your first mission?" The Dark Emerald Ranger nodded his head vigorously. The evil ranger laughed and produced two things from his belt: a slip of paper and a syringe.
"You're going to go bring Golden Boy's girlfriend to me," he murmured and Max growled at the mention of the paladin. "This is the address to go to, and the address for the warehouse I want you to bring her to." He gave Max the paper, which was read quickly then disregarded. "Understand?"
"Gaaaaaal," replied Max with another nod of his head. Sappho chuckled, his little slave was quite eager. He handed him the syringe.
"Carry that with you." Max did so. "That's for when you find her. Inject her with that and it'll be easier to bring her. Understand?" Max nodded, so Sappho pointed to the door. "Get going then! Giddy up!" The Dark Emerald Ranger roared, then bounded to the door and vanished into the darkness of the night.
Alone, Sappho listened as a small noise issued in the darkness. It was a catchy tune, like that of a ring tone. He put his hand to his belt and retrieved a cell phone from one of the pockets. The caller-ID was unmistakably his employers, so he flipped open the tiny phone.
"Hello?" he asked politely. "Joe's Taxidermy: You Snuff 'Em, we Stuff 'Em. How may I direct your call?"
"Is it done?" whispered the mysterious voice on the other end.
"Your order is being processed as we speak," replied Sappho.
There was a slight cackle. "Good, and the other?"
"We are experiencing a slight delay, I had to send an errand boy out to fetch something for you. But I will be taking care of the main order myself, sir."
"Don't fail us."
"Thank you for choosing Joe's Taxidermy, your one stop shop for all things dead." He closed the phone and put it back into his pocket. He stretched his arms and walked out of the warehouse. He stared up at the moon, and beneath his mask licked his lips.
"I'm coming for you, May Birchy," he whispered, and leapt off into the night.
The Golden Ranger did not sleep.
He never slept, of course. The serum that he now depended on to live inhibited his body's sleep requirements by altering his metabolism and various portions of his brain, particularly the hormones produced there, into creating a temporary state in which sleep was unnecessary. But continuous usage like his had resulted in a dependence on the drug, without which he would either die or slip into a vegetative state. In his hand was the syringe he used every forty-two hours, its disposable needle in the trash. But the sun was setting, he had let Serena sleep through the whole day in peace.
"Pi, any news yet about the Dark Gems and Max?" he asked and leaned against the wall. But the Pikachu had nothing, neither Bakaguru nor 415 had bothered to make contact the whole day, and he had been left alone lying next to Serena waiting for action. It was agonizing not knowing what was going on out there, where Max was and what he was doing, whether Sappho had gotten to the Gym Leader yet. "Maybe they should have brought in 1 and 5 for this operation. They would have kept everyone alive."
"You don't know that, 0. Besides, the Red and Pink Rangers wouldn't have been the right call for this mission," the mouse answered. "You have history with them, 0. I don't think they would have handled this mission very well."
0 glanced at his partner. Even though most of her physical injuries had gone away, there was still internal damage she was going to have to deal with before she could return to active duty. "At this point," he muttered, "I think even 415 could do a better job. My partner's wrecked, I lost one of the target's family to the opposite organization, and we've got an evil ranger group on the loose looking for May." He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. "I think Bakaguru was right about putting them in Witness Protection. The further they are from this mess, the safer they'll be."
The Pikachu sighed. "Got that one right," it replied. "0, I've been analyzing some of the specs from the Golden Ranger uniform, and I came across some files about the Synchronization Drive. Would you like to view them?"
0 nodded and raised his morpher. "Sure, go ahead," he said. The morpher's base twisted, and a hologram projected itself in the form of a file.
"Data shows that the Synchronization Drive was originally a project headed by the original Golden Ranger, your predecessor. The prototype was designed and built maybe three to five years ago by the Golden Ranger, but the information was destroyed or encrypted before it could be standardized in the other five rangers."
"That makes sense. Bakaguru said that the old guy did experiments on his own morpher when he was a part of the original R&D team that created the morphers."
"It also details plans for a new type of morpher, codename: Ailed. The new morpher was based off of the original designs for the Synchronization Drive, but the original Golden Ranger must have discontinued the idea after discovering the potential for the Auxiliary Pokemon System through Codename Ailed. But there are perfect blueprints of the new morpher located in these files."
The Golden Ranger whistled softly. "That's interesting, might help Bakaguru make those new morphers he's been wanting to finish. How fast would the new design be to make?"
"I don't have specs to compare it to, but I'm pretty sure that Bakaguru could finish new morphers within a month's time," Pi guessed. "A lot better than the rate he's going now." 0 knew the former Golden Ranger had designed all the old morphers, and had taken the secrets of the blueprints with him to the grave. He hadn't even told Bakaguru anything about how the morphers worked, only allowing the barest minimum so the engineer could help the rangers. "Pi, made sure that Bakaguru gets these blueprints for Codename Ailed as soon as possible. If nothing else, he can use them to speed up new enhancements for the other rangers."
"Sending blueprints now," confirmed Pi.
"Where'd you find these?"
"They were stored in classified files until you activated the Auxiliary Pokemon System," explained Pi. "I suppose that the previous Golden Ranger was paranoid about his designs and sealed them away with a special decryption that activated when we used the Synchronization Drive." It began scanning all the available files, but nothing else surfaced. "Codename Ailed was the only blueprint I could find, there's nothing even remotely connected to a blueprint for the APS or Synchronization Drive. I guess 0 didn't want anyone finding out how to use those."
"I guess," the Golden Ranger conceded. "But if 0 had access to the Synchronization Drive and all that, why didn't he ever use it? He could have destroyed the one Rangerling that showed up in Saffron. Easily. Why did he die instead?"
He could practically see Pi shrug. "Got to remember that that Rangerling had a missile it was going to use, that was a lose-lose situation for him. He put the needs of the many over his life. Or maybe he thought his inventions would be better off with someone else."
"What…do you mean?"
"The data is still encrypted, but from what I can tell it was specifically calibrated for a specific chain of events. I think that 0 planned for the Dark Gems, and programmed the Synchronization Drive to activate when enough strain is placed on the user of the Golden Ranger System. A sort of time bomb, if you will. He might have even been planning to use it himself, but…"
Pi pulled up a set of charts, all of which displayed on the morpher's hologram projector. "These are medical charts detailing the Golden Ranger's stamina, mental status, and physical abilities during the periods of time when he was 0. They are all abnormally high for an individual, well above the spectra of-say Serena-in all areas. I think the scenario he designed the Synchronization Drive to activate in wouldn't work for him, since he would have had to take an obscene amount of stress to activate the weapon on his own."
"And Ranger Form isn't on par with a Dark Gem Ranger, is it? No wonder he killed himself, he couldn't use his own weapon. He had to find someone else who could. Someone like me."
"Probably," the Pikachu said. Another set of charts emerged, displaying the medical charts for the current Golden Ranger. "These are your charts, indicating high levels of stress which would quickly activate the Synchronization Drive without difficulties. You were probably selected for this reason to become the second Golden Ranger."
The Golden Ranger glanced outside the window, to the Petalburg Gym. "How's our target tonight?" he asked, changing the subject.
"All's quiet in the Gym," Pi reported. "Nobody's left the building all day, and the target has been by the phone all day. Records show that she's been making calls to the police department. Doesn't she know you can't report kidnapping until forty-eight hours have passed?"
"Her brother's who knows where," 0 muttered and rubbed his brow. "Makes sense she'd be worried. She in bed now?"
"Good. Let's hope she gets some sleep tonight."
He glanced over to Serena, who was starting to stir from her unconsciousness. She blinked a few times, then tilted her neck to look up at her partner. "Hey," she murmured, then coughed. "How's your day been?"
"Unproductive," was his response.
She sighed. "Too bad. I, on the other hand, have been having some very interesting dreams. Most of them about you, and me, and a hot tub, and some-"
"3!" The Golden Ranger disliked learning about explicit scenarios of which he was the co-star. "How are you feeling? Any better from yesterday?"
Serena glanced down. "Why don't you look for yourself," she murmured, and winced slightly when she turned her head. "My neck hurts, I don't think I can look at my own body…" She pulled off her covers, displaying a sight which instantly caused 0 to avert his gaze and face the wall within moments of its unveiling.
"Use a mirror," he suggested.
"Could you please try to be a bit professional?" Serena asked. "I'm in serious pain here…the least you could do is help me so I could get better." 0 hadn't thought of it like that. "So, can you pull off helping me?"
"That depends," replied 0, "can you pull off professional?"
"Good comeback,," retorted the White Ranger. "Seriously. My skin's healed, but there's muscle damage that needs to be checked." After 0 made it clear he would not be inspecting her naked, Serena begrudgingly covered her chest and thighs with pieces of the blanket. "There, happy?"
"Very much so," he said and got to work. The serum that Bakaguru had injected Serena with was a mutated form of the one he was dependant on. As such, the serum was designed to repair and heal the structure of the body, not prolong its function like his. "Your skin indicates no damage. No breaks or tears. Turn over." Serena got on her front and allowed 0 to inspect her back for damage. "It's clean. I'll check your muscles now."
"Mmm…be gentle," she murmured, as she felt his hands wrap around her calves to test their strength, very similar to how a masseur would handle a customer.
"Upper legs have some tearing," he noted, as his hands moved upward. "Do your bones feel bruised when I apply pressure?"
"That's good." Her upper body, however, had some severe trauma along the ribcage and arms and she winced when he applied pressure on her bones. "Does this hurt?" She nodded. "That's what I thought. There's still bruising in the ribs and tearing in the chest and arms muscles. It's gonna take a bit longer to heal. The serum didn't handle most of the internal damages, so you won't be able to fight…you'll tear your muscles apart from the inside."
She groaned. "Just great," she grumbled. "Is there anything we can do to speed up the process?"
0 thought for a moment. "The serum he gave you is essentially the same compound I use," he said. "Alcohol consumption has been found to extend the lifespan of my serum, it might enhance the effects of yours." He headed for the fridge and retrieved two longnecks. He popped open the bottles. "Can you drink?"
She strained her body and shifted her pillow so she was in a half-sitting position. "My arms hurt," she said. "Can you help me?"
He nodded and tipped the bottle for her. A lightweight, Serena could barely make it past the second sip before she took the bottle out of her mouth and gasped. The Golden Ranger chuckled and drank his own beer. "Come on, 3, take your medicine." Serena gave him a dirty look before allowing him to tip the bottle back into her mouth. "There you go, Snorlax, the whole bottle." When the White Ranger finished the bottle, 0 set it down and enjoyed what remained of his own. "Feel any better?"
Serena smiled. "A little bit, but I don't think it's 'cause I'm healing."
The Golden Ranger's morpher started glowing, and he put his hand to the com-link in his ear. "What is it, Pi?" he asked.
"We have a problem. My cameras are picking up hostile movement in the Petalburg Gym, confirmed to be the Dark Sapphire Ranger. He's going on the offensive."
"Got it," he muttered. "I'm on my way."
"Gotta go play hero, huh?" Serena asked. Instead of answering, the Golden Ranger went over to the kitchen and opened one of the cabinets, pulling out a gun and two clips of ammo. He slid one into the gun's butt, and handed it to Serena.
"In case the other one comes," he said and put the other clip under her pillow. "If he does, just run. You can't risk fighting right now." He clasped her hands around the gun and she hid it under her blanket.
"Come back to me in one piece," she whispered, as he released her hands.
He grinned. "Stay in one piece," he told her and headed out the door. As he did, he lifted his morpher to his chest and the rough clothes that compiled his normal outfit transformed into the PKM civilian uniform, the goggles falling over his eyes as he shut the door.
Sarah Birch yawned. She really wanted to go to bed.
But her mommy wasn't ready to yet. Like a mother bird watching over her nest, she had perched over the phone all day, calling the police about Uncle Max. So far, nothing…not even the slightest hint of his whereabouts. When she wasn't calling the station, she had been staring at the news channel, waiting for some sign of the bad blue ranger that had shown up just before Uncle Max had disappeared.
Sarah looked up from the couch, very much in need of sleep. Her mom was on the phone again, her voice was like when Sarah had gotten lost at a Contest, and had left a match to go look for her. She's really worried, thought Sarah sadly. She was worried about her uncle too, of course, but she also knew that Uncle Max was a lot tougher than he looked. He could handle himself.
"Mommy?" asked Sarah and began wandering towards May. "I'm tired…"
Her mother set down the phone and sighed, before offering a smile and picking up her daughter. "I'm sorry, honey," cooed May and patted Sarah's head, "why don't you go upstairs to my room? I'll be up in a little while, I'm just going to make another call."
"Noooooo," Sarah protested. "I want you to tuck me in…"
May sighed. "Okay, sweetie, let's go to bed." Sarah grinned in triumph as her mother got off the chair and led her upstairs to her bedroom. Sarah practically pranced her way into her mother's bedroom, leaping into the giant, fluffy bed the instant her mother opened the door. The bed creaked from the sudden leap and her mother chided her for it. "Don't jump on the bed, baby girl," she said slightly sternly, "I don't want to have to replace the mattress again."
"Okay Mommy," she replied sweetly and dove into the covers. She was already in her pajamas, so she waited while her mother changed into her nightgown. Sarah watched, her mother was really pretty. She wanted to be pretty when she grew up too, and May constantly assured her she would be. "Momma, sleepy."
"Coming, baby girl," she answered and climbed into bed. She wrapped her arms around her daughter. "You okay, Sarah?"
The daughter turned around, her dark eyes smiling. "Uncle Max will come back. And those good guys will keep us safe."
With a sound as ungraceful as it was ill-timed, the entire west end of the Petalburg Gym detonated, sending the building shattered to the ground. Support beams gave way, floors tumbled, and the walls caved in as pieces of the Gym began scattering to the ground in massive pieces. May, acting on instinct, assumed the fetal position and tucked Sarah into her body. The ceiling above them groaned, and the mother decided that it was now time to leave.
"Sarah, let's go!" she screamed and pulled her child out of bed. Sarah, still exhausted, barely made it out of the bed before a support beam crashed down, destroying the bed they had only moments ago been sleeping in. "Come on, we have to get outside!" Norman and Caroline were already dashing down the hallway to them.
"Are you alright?" asked Caroline, concerned.
"Fine, just move!" replied May, and the foursome rushed down the collapsing stairs. Norman, the last one down, crashed to the floor when the boards beneath him gave way and groaned. "Dad, are you okay?"
The old man grinned. "Looks that way," he muttered and hauled himself to his feet. The exit was blocked off by debris, but he led them to an emergency door that took them outside into the cold night air. Behind them, the remainder of the building gave a loud grumble, before it went down completely, a giant cloud of dust scattering through the air.
A loud laugh echoed through the surroundings, one which May and Sarah recognized very well belonging to the evil ranger that pursued them.
"Well, well, well," murmured the Dark Sapphire Ranger, as he emerged from a massive pile of debris carrying a giant support beam. "You're faster than I thought, May. Much faster, anyone else might have accidentally gone splat!" He giggled. "Let's fix that!" He gave a loud shout and swung the support beam at the family like a boomerang.
A figure which moved too quickly to be seen leapt over them-only Sarah's eyes were fast enough to track him: a man wearing a dark gold and black suit. He gave an echoing grunt and kicked the beam away using only his momentum and speed. The beam, while it seemed very determined to kill the family, issued a massive ding from the blow and hurled away harmlessly, smashing into what remained of a segment of wall, which folded instantly. He landed in front of them and Sarah gasped.
The dark warrior. He looked almost-no, exactly, like the drawing she had done. Like a picture come to life, his dark hair flowed in the wind, let loose and wild from the speed of his attack. His uniform, while black, had dabs of gold all along it, particularly on the shoulders of the jacket, where a 0 was inscribed on both sides. Goggles concealing his identity, he looked behind at the family, and grinned.
It was the Golden Ranger, the paladin who saved them over and over again.
"Everyone okay?" he shouted in an oddly familiar voice.
Sarah cheered. "We're a-okay!" she squealed with excitement.
"Sarah!" snapped May, before looking at the dark warrior. "We're fine! But my father has been injured!"
"What are you babbling about, girl?" the old man demanded. "I'm fine!" But from the way he was standing, the Golden Ranger estimated he had a few minutes left before the bone broke from the pressure of standing. He put his hand to his ear, where a small cell-phone device was located.
"Send emergency signal to 003 and 415," he ordered someone Sarah couldn't see, before turning around to face Sappho, who was beginning to work his way out into the open. Behind the group a small crowd was beginning to gather from something, and roadblocks were being set up by people in police uniforms. "Now I have to deal with you again." He lowered his head and lifted a watch-like device to his face, as if he were about to time himself for something.
"Golden Spirit, Pokemon Power!"
A bright golden light emerged around the ranger and his armor surrounded him. Pieces of a dark helmet appeared and floated above his head, scattered into five pieces, not including the golden triangle that was his faceplate. The remainder of his uniform, decked in black and gold, surrounded him before it clasped itself on him, tightening and binding with wires and metal. First his arms, then his legs, and lastly his chest and back. His moniker, the Pikachu face, formed on his chest and glowed. Finally, the helmet clamped on and the triangle visor turned upside-down and shut over his face.
The transformation complete, the Golden Ranger extended his right hand and a massive sword materialized out of absolutely nowhere, as large as the ranger himself. "Bolt Blade!" he exclaimed and heaved the behemoth weapon into attack position, its tip pointed dangerously at his adversary. But the Dark Sapphire Ranger was ready and the powerful scimitar emerged from his chains, as if a part of him, and he flexed his grip in his left hand quite easily.
"May Birch," said the Golden Ranger, his voice now synthesized with some sort of computer to make it deeper and more powerful. "Get your family to safety. Your survival is my primary concern." He turned to them and his visor glinted in the light of a nearby streetlamp. "I fight best when others aren't in danger." She nodded and drew her family close to her. Sarah wanted to watch, but was dragged away by her mother and grandparents away from the brawl.
Even from the distance she could see. The paladin roared and moved so quickly that Sarah could barely keep up with his moves. Sappho hardly could either, as noticed by his floppy swordsmanship. The Golden Ranger struck like a lightning bolt, swinging his sword like a mighty battleaxe, slashing at the evil ranger and the ground alike as he parried and lunged for the giant sapphire on the dark ranger's chest. Sappho could barely bring himself to dodge and parry, slashing back with every bit the murderous intent he craved. He screamed bitterly whenever struck by the powerful sword and giggled with triumph whenever his toothpick of a sword stabbed through 0's speed and halted the paladin, however briefly.
"He's gonna win," whispered Sarah to her mother, who had joined Sarah near the police lines to watch the brawl, as had apparently the entire police force of Petalburg. Even Officer Jenny, normally such a calm individual, was eagerly awaiting the outcome, her hand so gently placed on her handgun as she watched with bated breath the titanic battle.
"I hope so," May replied. Sarah could practically hear her mother's heart racing as she looked on at the fight. The paladin gleamed in the moonlight as he dove and struck through the air, bursting in and out of his high-speed attacks to slash Sappho. Both mother and daughter could practically feel the cracks of lighting that issued every time 0 vanished in a bolt of speed.
"Download Lightning Laser," ordered the Golden Ranger, and in his free left hand his second weapon materialized. Dual wielding, 0 quickly found himself outclassing the Dark Sapphire Ranger, bursting forward for speedy strikes followed by long-distance blasts with the shotgun. Sappho shrieked and swung his blade down.
0 blocked with his sword, using the massive blade as a shield, before shooting Sappho point-blank with the Lightning Laser. The evil ranger staggered back and 0 pressed his advantage, battering Sappho over the head with his behemoth blade, sending the dark man tumbling to the ground gripping his head in pain.
"That's-that's not nice, Golden Prick," growled Sappho and pushed himself back onto his feet. Again, 0 swatted him down, making absolutely sure that all the fight was forced out of the Dark Sapphire Ranger.
"Think I care in the slightest about your well-being, Sapphy?" retorted the dark warrior. The gun struck the evil ranger's face and sent him flying into a nearby pile of debris. The entire crowd winced from the sheer echo the blow created. The Golden Ranger looked back to Sarah and May, to make certain of their safety, then marched to where Sappho lay, making sure to keep his gun trained on the pile with his sword prepped for combat.
A loud sound, something vaguely like a piece of meat being cleaved, echoed through the battlefield. Sappho, clever and cunning, had his body half-raised, his arm extended like he had thrown something. 0 gasped, then looked down as he fell to his knees. Sticking out of his side was the Sapphire Scimitar, buried almost to the hilt in his flesh. It had passed through the metal and wires of the Golden Ranger's uniform and stuck out the other side of his body.
"Oy…" groaned 0. "This probably isn't good."
Sappho giggled. "Ya think?" He lunged up and drilled the sword in as far as it would go, jamming the sword into 0's ribcage. Another slicing noise issued as the blade started carving upwards along 0's body, heading towards his vital organs. The Golden Ranger grabbed the blade, just before it started on his lungs and grunted from the strain it was inducing. "What's the matter, little golden boy? Having a little trouble with my sword?"
"S-shut u-up, b-bastard," 0 groaned. Little by little the sword was coming out, the Golden Ranger had had to drop his weapons to grab the handle and pry it out. Using one hand he held back Sappho, while the other reached behind his back to pull out a blue Poke Ball. "Auxiliary Pokemon System- Rio Form!"
To Sarah, who had been watching the warrior with horror, the new transformation looked like salvation. Glowing blue lights etched themselves along 0's arms, and extra armor in the shape of a Riolu's paws formed on the forearms and hands, clamping onto his body exactly like the Golden Ranger uniform had. The bottom half of 0's visor turned blue and he tilted his head.
"Time for payback!" he exclaimed and smashed both sides of Sappho's helmet with his fists. The Dark Sapphire Ranger released his grip on the sword, allowing 0 the chance to not only remove it, but drive it into the evil ranger's shoulder. "How's that taste?" Before Sappho could respond, the Golden Ranger leapt up and away, as if he was completely undamaged, and landed near May and Sarah.
"Hey," he said, his breath ragged. "You guys okay?" Blood dripped from his midsection.
"You're wounded!" May exclaimed and pointed to the injury. "You need treatment!"
The Golden Ranger waved off her concern. "Relax, I'll be okay. I've taken damage much worse than this before. Just gotta beat him down until he goes away again." He heard a shriek and sighed. "Guess that's my cue," he grumbled and grabbed his side before leaping right back into combat. The Bolt Blade was in his arms within moments and he tore through the wreckage of the Petalburg Gym searching for Sappho.
"Come out come out wherever you are," called 0, as he stepped over some garbage into a broken room, some of which was still structurally intact. It looked like the kitchen, judging from the pots and pans strewn around the floor. He accidentally stepped on one and the noise echoed through the wreckage. "Lu, where is he?"
"Scans aren't finding anything, sir," reported the Riolu sadly. "Wherever he is, he's playing hide and seek pretty well." 0 switched his vision from standard to heat and the colors changed from the real world to heat signatures. But everything was cold, or charred red on various edges from pieces of fire that flickered from the damage. The Golden Ranger swung his sword through the air, mocking the hiding ranger.
0 went down. Instead of his stomach, this time the sword protruded from his wounded shoulder, creating agony unlike anything he had ever experienced. He glanced down, the sword's tip had sliced through the muscle in his shoulder. The Golden Ranger then felt the boot of his adversary on his back as he fell over.
"That's definitely not good," he groaned.
"Ya think?" asked the Dark Sapphire Ranger, sarcasm dripping with every syllable. He dug the sword in, twisting and grinding against the bone and muscle tissue. Somewhere, there was a scream, and 0 became vaguely aware of a weight lifting off his back. He checked his stats, the Rio Form had taken too much damage, and had powered down to Ranger Form. Someone was lifting him up, he looked up and got the shock of his life.
May Birch was trying to help him to his feet. Nearby, Sappho was flat on his face, quite surprised to have been pushed down by a civilian. "Are you okay?" she asked, supporting him on her shoulders. 0 marveled at her strength, he was much heavier than when he was demorphed. He tried to get her away and stood on two shaky legs by himself, forcing his body in between the recovering Dark Emerald Ranger and May.
"Get outta here," he mumbled. His fingers were weak, but he still gripped the handle of his Bolt Blade and transferred it to his other hand, dragging it along the ground as he proceeded forward. "Need to…need to…"
"You!" shouted Sappho, as he leapt to his feet and rushed forward. 0 was powerless to stop him, the Synchronization Drive wasn't working anymore and Pi couldn't warn him in time. He was thrown to the ground like a rag doll, ignored in favor of a much more virile target prospective for Sappho. "How dare you hit me?" The Dark Sapphire Ranger advanced and violently bashed May across the face, sending her flying into the Golden Ranger.
Sarah shouted out in concern, and almost ran towards the fight, but her grandfather stopped her. "No Sarah!" Norman shouted and forced her to stay. "They'll kill you!"
The Golden Ranger grabbed May, checking her vitals. She was okay, even conscious. "Why did you come here?" he asked her and helped her to her feet. "It's dangerous even for me. Now we're both going to die." He looked to Sappho, who seemed quite excited about the prospect of killing the two of them. "You should have stayed with your daughter." He grabbed his sword and started to climb up it to keep standing.
"I'm not the type to let others do my fighting for me," she retorted and withdrew a Poke Ball from her pajamas. "You need another one?"
He shook his head. "I'm afraid that's not how it works," he replied. "Pokemon need to be registered to me to be able to work with my Ranger System." The sword dematerialized suddenly, apparently to converse energy with the suit, and he stumbled before regaining his footing. "Just great." He grabbed a nearby two-by-four instead and swung it at Sappho, who dodged it quite easily.
"You're done, Golden Ranger," muttered the Dark Sapphire Ranger. "And your little girlfriend is too. She's being taken care of by my new plaything, Maxy-poo."
0 froze at the news. Serena was too injured to do anything to stop a fight, but May gasped at the sound of Max's name. "What did you do to him?" she shrieked at the evil ranger and rushed him. Sappho, to demonstrate his power, even allowed her to reach him, to hit him, to insult him, before finally sighing and punching May in the jaw. Her head snapped back and she fell to the ground, knocked out.
The Dark Sapphire Ranger, against the protests of his adversary, picked up May quite unceremoniously and slung her over his shoulder, taking special care to feel her up with his gloves as he did so. "Been fun, Golden Boy, but I've got to go now. Call me later, we'll do lunch." He laughed and bounded away from the scene, to who knew where. The police, seeing he had a hostage, gave chase, but 0 knew he would escape and remained where he stood, before his legs finally gave out and he collapsed to the ground.
A few minutes later, he heard the sounds of footsteps echoing through the wreckage, and looked up. Sarah Birch was standing over him, horrified at what had been done to him. 0 groaned and tried to cover his wounds to stop the bleeding, but some of it continued to spill out, damaging the systems in his arm and chest. "Sarah Birch," he muttered, barely breathing, "what are you doing here?"
Sarah, acting as though she didn't hear him, ran up to him and hugged him. "Where's Mommy?" she asked and the Golden Ranger heard the fear in her voice. "First Uncle Max, then Mommy… What do they want?"
The Golden Ranger didn't know the answer to that question. "I don't know," he said and put his arm around the girl. "But I'm going to find out, and bring them back to you." She pulled away and smiled at him, though he could see the tears that were running down her face. "I promise."
"You mean it?" she asked.
He nodded. "I do. Hang on…" He opened communications to Bakaguru and 415. "Agents 003 and 415 respond. Emergency."
"This is 003, we read you," answered the otaku.
"Target kidnapped, possibly Agent 3 kidnapped as well. I have the target's daughter with me right now and the grandparents. It's time for them to go into protective custody."
"Roger, we'll be there soon." The communication ended.
"There we go," said the Golden Ranger. "Now my friends are coming to get you and take you somewhere safe. Go to the police, they're already being told about my friends."
"But what about you?"
He chuckled. "Just let me rest a little while, I'll be fine. Keep the cops away, and make sure you hide until my friends get down here."
"Okay," said the little girl. She turned to leave, but stopped and faced him. "Mr. Toby, bring my Mommy back."
0 laughed and some blood spattered on the inside of his monitor. "How'd you guess, Sarah?" he asked. There was no longer any fear of keeping his cover a secret, not with Bakaguru and 415 on their way for the family.
"You looked like Lu when you were fighting," she said. Then she left.
0 looked up into the dark sky and sighed. "Of course," he muttered and lowered his head to let Pi revive the Ranger System.
She was quite beautiful, thought the Dark Emerald Ranger, as he crept down the wall. His chains, shackled to the mortar of the building, helping his scale down to the exact address that the Dark Sapphire Ranger had given him. He growled when he reached the correct window and peered inside.
She was lying down on the floor, resting comfortably upon a small bed-like mat in the middle of the apartment. The quiet, stillness of her breathing excited the voice in the back of his head, as did the soft, silver hair that trailed over the floor next to her pillow and across her face. The dark ranger decided to be quiet, or so the voice in his head lead him to believe. Be quiet, it said, as even in the state she had been beaten into the PKM White Ranger was not someone to be trifled with. He was still a young Dark Gem Ranger, not powerful enough to fight all-out.
He reached for the window with one of his gauntlets and found that it opened quite easily to his touch. Perhaps the paladin had forgotten to lock it, thought the Dark Emerald Ranger through his emerald, and inched it open quietly. Once the space was wide enough for him to crawl through, the ranger squeezed into the apartment and shut it behind him.
His visor did not make him immune to the smells and sights of the world. It was dimly lit in the apartment, he didn't dare turn the lights on. His nose took in the scent of stale booze, probably what the paladin drank… He began walking through the small apartment, his chains clinking only ever so slightly as he stepped nimbly on his tiptoes towards his prey. He reached into his belt and pulled out the syringe that his partner had given him. It was filled with such a nasty little sleeping potion, after all he didn't want Miss Brine to struggle on the way back to their lair. She wasn't to be hurt, those were the Dark Sapphire Ranger's orders, and he didn't dare defy him.
Inject her, whispered the voice. Inject her and let's go. Your tamer is waiting. Not wishing to disappoint the voice that was his master, Max bent over Serena's soft, cool body and placed the syringe's needle by her neck. He had to hit the jugular, failure meant that his mission would be very difficult indeed. He lowered the needle and, just as easy as winking, jabbed the tip into her skin.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Searing pain invaded the Dark Emerald Ranger's chest and he staggered away from Serena's body. Six bullets had somehow found their way into his body, penetrating his shoulder, liver, and stomach through the rough fabric his uniform was made of. Most of the bullets had ripped completely through his body, and the caps were trickling down to the ground against the wall behind him. He gasped, there were holes in both his lungs…
Serena looked up and showed him the gun she had been carefully concealing. "Think I'm just gonna sit here and let you kill me?" she asked with a coy look. "I don't think so." She lowered her weapon, training it on the Dark Emerald Ranger's heart. "0 might think you can be trained, but I beg to differ." She checked her clip, it still had two shots left, so she grabbed a second clip and held it close on standby.
Max felt dizzy, two of the bullet were still lodged inside him, one in his left lung and one that had pierced his liver. "Laaaaaaaade," growled the Dark Emerald Ranger and coughed, blood dripping into the inside of his helmet. The voice inside his head told him not to worry, all would be well. Max's muscles strained in his chest and abdomen, pushing the bullets out by force. The Dark Emerald flashed and two chinks issued as both caps fell from his body to the ground and his wounds sealed up.
Serena groaned. "That's not good," she whispered. The monster began advancing, slowly stepping forward to her, reaching out with his hands. Serena fired off the final two bullets, smashing into the evil ranger's heart with both shots. Max faltered, just long enough for the White Ranger to reload her weapon. "Get away!" All eight shots went off, bursting through his body and forcing the monster down. His body ripped through by multitudes of bullets, the Dark Emerald Ranger went down, gasping for breath, as his lungs had collapsed and his heart was pumping lead through his body.
Serena rose from her bed, ignoring the pain running rampart through her body and backed away from the twitching body. "Open communications with 0," she ordered, raising her morpher to her lips. "0, you there?"
The communicator was scrappy, primarily because 0 was engaged in the heat of combat, and his suit's AI was busy maintaining damage control. "3, kinda busy right now," muttered 0, and the static in the background conveyed that he was smashed across the face and sent hurling to the ground. "What?"
"The green one's here," she explained. "What do I do?"
0's voice stopped. "…You unload the gun?"
"Yes. He's still coming. His Dark Gem seems to come with a healing factor."
"I can't…" The voice was static, with glitches. "You have-away from him-now. He won't-until you're-dead. Move!" The transmission cut off, after a resounding grunt issued from the Golden Ranger as a result of an injury. Serena winced, 0 sounded like he was in a tremendous amount of pain. She gathered the sheets that 0 had left around her body and ran into the other room just long enough to don a shirt, some pants, and a pair of sandals before bolting out of the door.
The Dark Emerald Ranger panted and groaned, waiting for the Dark Emerald to heal his body of the damage it had sustained. His wounds slowly filled up, nowhere near as quickly as he wanted them to. The bullets dripped out of his body one by one and the holes in his chest sealed up again, mending the fabric and his skin into perfect shape. Even the blood he had lost returned to him and the fuzzy haze that was his vision cleared. He took a breath and let out a low growl as he stood up, hunched over from rage, and proceeded to follow his prey.
He tore through what remained of the door, smashing through a piece of the wall in the process. Bodies surrounded him, concerned neighbors who obviously had no idea what was going on. It made Max's job simpler, as they would make a trail that could lead him to Serena. He plowed through them, without any concern for public safety or the body count that might incur from his exploits. He smashed through the crowd, following the breadcrumbs that would lead him to his prey. He rushed down the stairs, following the breathing he could hear from Serena, and before too long he was right behind her.
She turned around once, just to make sure the clinking of chains she was hearing belonged to the Dark Emerald Ranger, before doubling her speed. Yet, even the added burst of distance did little to impede Max, who grabbed her and threw her to the ground. Serena spun and drew out her gun again. The gun clicked, out of ammo, as the Dark Emerald Ranger growled then jabbed the needle into her vein and injected her with the serum. Once the syringe was empty, Serena's eyes fluttered, then clamped shut as she drifted into unconsciousness. The Dark Emerald Ranger glanced over her, making sure she was asleep. When the voice in his head assured him she was, Max lifted Serena up, and hauled her over his shoulder.
There were others in the corridor, children awing at the dark ranger in the corner, women cowering in fear, men with baseball bats waiting for him to lower his guard even for a moment. He snarled at them, scaring them into backing off, terrified of him. He began walking away, out in the direction of the exit door. He smashed through the door, only to find an entire squad of police standing outside the apartment complex waiting for him. One, presumably the leader, stood up from the rest and raised a megaphone to her lips.
"This is the Petalburg City Police!" announced Officer Jenny, her azure hair fluttering in the wind. "Put the girl down and place your hands in the air! You are under arrest!" The voice inside Max's head didn't like the sound of the megaphone, it sounded so annoying and irritating. It didn't want Max in jail, the Dark Emerald had plans that couldn't be accomplished with that. The evil ranger looked upwards, scanning the surrounding buildings. The chains on his arms began elongating, clinking to the ground.
"Gallade," hissed the dark ranger, before he threw his free arm out. The chain connected to it flew up into the air, latching onto the topmost ledge of the building across the street. "Lade, Gallade!" Before Officer Jenny and the other police could draw their guns, the Dark Emerald Ranger retracted his chain, sending his body spiraling up into the air. Making sure his grip on Serena was secured by binding her with some of the other chains, he used his other arm's bindings to latch to another building and swing through the street, never lower than twenty feet from the ground.
Bullets whizzed through the air, they all missed. The Dark Emerald knew they would. The chances of bullets fired from standard issue guns police used hitting someone wearing the Dark Emerald uniform, which was so difficult to spot in the dark, were barely nil. The Dark Gem began whispering to him again, telling him to get away from the light, the light that could be used to trace him… He had to get back to his tamer, then he could be caught. Then he needed to be caught.
After some time he stopped wondering about the lights, he had managed to escape them, and arrived in the warehouse district where his tamer was waiting for him. He dropped to the ground, right in front of a warehouse numbered 435, and the chains retracted into his gauntlets as he walked forward and opened the door.
"Good work, Maxy-poo," murmured Sappho's hideous, giddy voice. "She give you any trouble." In his grunting, angry voice, Max explained his annoyance at the police and the lengthened capture of Serena, along with the bullets he had had to force out of his body. "Well, that can't be all bad. After all, you got the job done." He exited from the shadows and Max dragged himself towards his tamer, bearing his still-breathing cargo. Serena groaned in his arms, so he shook her to make sure she stayed quiet.
Sappho led him up a flight of stairs to another room, one with apparently a better ambiance for whatever it was that the Dark Sapphire Ranger was planning. A rack of chains sat waiting for Serena Brine, which Max helped his tamer chain her up to, placing both her arms in the shackles and raising her up so she was suspended in midair, her head flopping up and down as she swayed.
"Good," said Sappho, his visor glistening. "Very good, our second guest is in place." Max looked next to Serena, where another woman was swaying, clasped in midair just like Serena. Her brown hair, the simple innocence of her face… There was no doubt, it was his sister. May looked hurt…her eyes were black, her clothes were shredded, and a small pool of blood sat beneath her, counting the bruises on her body.
Max suddenly-something filled his mind with rage at the sight. He hated how his sister looked. The chains around his body shattered and he transformed back into his human form, breathing heavily from the effects of the transformation. "W-what have you done to her?" he gasped, and glared at the Dark Sapphire Ranger with a face most malicious.
"I?" inquired Sappho with a curious tone. "No, Maxy-poo, it was not I who hurt your beloved sister. It was Golden Boy, the evil paladin, who did this to her. He broke your sister, broke her into a million pieces. Every bruise made him giggle, every bone shattered with a cheery smile. He loved it, Maxy-poo, loved it to death."
With each word, the Gym Leader's fist tightened with rage. His breathing accelerated, his heart rate rose. The Dark Emerald against his chest roared for the Golden Ranger's blood. "You brought her here to help her," he murmured. Yes, the Dark Gem on his chest murmured. That made perfect sense. "So, where's the prey?" Sappho smiled at that.
The Dark Sapphire Ranger seemed to glitter in the hazy light of the warehouse room. "I was hoping you'd ask that, little one," he whispered, and patted Max on the shoulder. "You remember the Petalburg Gym, where Ms. Birch lives, right?"
"Yeah…I am-or I was-the Gym Leader there," Max replied.
The evil ranger sighed with concern. "You see, Maxy-poo, I left our little paladin there and he's still waiting for you to finish the job. I didn't want to kill him, I thought it would be so much more poetically just if it was you who finished him off!" He cackled and the Dark Emerald Ranger grinned at the thought of settling his score with 0.
"I think I can do that," Max said and felt his Dark Gem burn against his skin, wishing to be used. "I can kill him?"
Sappho nodded quite eagerly. "Do what you wish with him," he murmured. "I just want you to have fun with your new abilities, Maxy-poo, and there's nothing better than beating up someone who you hate!" He threw his head back and cackled. His slave joined in with a merry giggle. The Dark Emerald Ranger clasped his hands together in glee, then left the warehouse, wrapping his chain up his right arm, across his shoulders, and down his left almost as casually as if he were slipping on a sweater. His eyes brimming with malice, he practically felt the emerald aura that surrounded him as he pressed the Dark Emerald into his flesh and his voice echoed through the abandoned warehouse district.
"Dark Gem Ignite!"
The transformation enveloped him in azure fire before the armor clasped onto his body, sliding over his chest, legs, and arms before clamping down over his head and covering his face. When the chains were secure, Max leapt up, swinging along his chain to return to the Gym, the very place where the Golden Ranger, the evil paladin, had tried to kill his sister.
As he swung through the city, and landed in the wreckage that was left of the Gym, he thought about all the different ways he could make the Golden Ranger, the one who called himself 0, pay for his crime. Perhaps he would rip the head off the monster, or maybe stab him to death with a nearby two-by-four. Or, just as good, he could choke 0 to death with his chains. All three would work perfectly, whispered the Dark Emerald to Max, and it led him right through the damaged building right to where the Golden Ranger lay slumped against the wall, breath barely audible.
He glanced up through his visor and a groan penetrated the building. "Great," he grumbled, "it's the rookie." After some apparent effort, the Golden Ranger rose to his feet and shouldered his giant sword. "Max, I really, really don't have time to fight you right now. Can we just cut to the part where I beat you, turn you over to my side, and you show me where Sappho took May and 3 in the styling of an old-fashioned good guy/bad guy team up?"
Max roared, which was quite contrary to the evil paladin's plans. "Well, that's too bad," 0 murmured. "Guess I have to beat it out of you, huh?" He heaved up his behemoth sword, but before the fight could really get underway, Max took off. "Hey, get back here! I'm not finished with you!" The Golden Ranger followed in hot pursuit, exactly what the Dark Emerald Ranger wanted.
He led the paladin outside and from there began to swing through the city yet again. 0, not wishing to be outdone, caused a beautiful motorcycle to materialize in front of him. The engine revved and the Golden Ranger took off after him, breaking through the police roadblocks and darted through traffic in order to follow the Dark Emerald Ranger.
Max led him into the warehouse district, just as his Dark Emerald told him, only he led the Golden Ranger away from where Sappho was hiding into another, abandoned-looking warehouse that would serve his purposes perfectly. From what the Dark Sapphire Ranger had told him, 0 lived alone. It seemed fitting that he should die alone too.
He broke into the warehouse window and leapt down to the floor, his Dark Emerald absorbing the majority of the damage sustained from the impact of his feet against the floor. The Golden Ranger was hot on his heels and rammed through the warehouse wall underneath the windows, which caved in and allowed the motorcycle enough room for the Golden Ranger to rip through it. He stopped twenty feet from the Dark Emerald Ranger and disembarked. The motorcycle flared in with a bright light, then vanished into nothingness. A shotgun appeared in his hand.
"This is gonna suck," muttered 0.
Author's Note: I was looking around online and actually read a fan-fiction today whose author mentioned they were tired of the cliches in most fan-fiction today, particularly romantic stories. I couldn't have agreed more with them, since most of what I've been doing with this story is wondering how far this genre can be pushed before it's finally tapped out. I honestly think fan-fiction is a great way for people to get into writing, and it's definitely where I started too. Too often, though, people get too comfortable where they are and never aspire to move beyond the genre. I'll do this fan-fiction, and then one more, but after that I really don't know how I can take the concept of fan-fiction any further, and I'll be forced to begin my original stories.
I guess what I'm saying is you should always keep pushing yourself, otherwise you get too comfortable. It's what led fan-fiction to become what it is today. People got too comfortable. Get uncomfortable, and get thoughtful about how far you can take your own writing.