Chapter Eight

"...Three, two, one," counted Brendan, as the surge of lightning struck down from above, dancing over the camp buildings and striking the ground around the fallen monsters. A sudden explosion obscured our view, and seconds later, Nightmare and Panthor rose out of the cloud of smoke, rejuvenated and standing over fifteen storeys tall. The two monsters blinked and looked to each other for a second before glaring down at us.

Teresa turned to me. "Can we take two at once?"

"We don't have a choice," I said, and the six of us lifted our arms to the sky and raised our voices.

"We need dinozord power now!"

The ground began shaking, and a roar that echoed along the Gold Coast announced the arrival of the six mighty zords. We all turned to look as the colossal mechanised beasts came powering through the city towards the campsite, the orange Stegozord leading the charge and the Brontozord and Dilophozord immediately behind it. Following them, the Velociraptor was agilely darting from street to street, leaping over houses and cars with its head held low alongside the low-flying Rhamphorynchus. Finally, completing the charge came the silver Iguanodon, thundering towards us with its red eyes flashing and tail swaying through the air behind it with every enormous step.

"All right guys," I said, "let's go!" And we tapped our communicators and teleported into the approaching zords. I materialised in the Stegozord cockpit and immediately logged on. "Stegozord, online! Battle sequence, now!"

In a flash of light, the zords began transforming. The Stegozord's back and front legs contracted against the zord's body, and once the plates along its back had folded down, the orange and silver body rotated vertical to rest on its chin. Beside the Stegozord, the Brontozord's forelimbs pulled together, and the silver neck sections sank down into each other, lowering the zord's head to ground level. Finally, when the tail flipped back and the zord's hind legs drew against its body, the zord's body rose vertical. Racing towards the two smaller zords, the Dilophozord lightly took to the air, its lower legs folding up at the knees, its forearms pulling close to its body and its head dropping down behind the chestplate. As the Megazord's head was revealed, the zord descended down onto the two other transformed mechs.

Behind the Megazord, the Velociraptor leaped into the air and split in half, the legs, forearms and head collapsing against the body and tail segments folding back. Both halves connected to the Dilophozord, giving the Megazord arms. Finally, Sarah angled the Rhamphorynchus down towards us, and the purple zord was drawn against the Megazord with a crackle of electricity, giving the mechanised warrior a chest-shield and stylised body armour. The five of us were instantly seated in the Megazord's control room, staring out across the camp towards the two monsters.

"Megazord, power up!"

The Megazord soon joined the Iguanodon standing on the sports field beside the camp. It was the first time we'd formed the Megazord since battling Ultramarine, and the zord looked more powerful than ever, its head having undergone a significant redesign. A thin strip of orange ran around the Megazord's chin, and above that, a silver plate covered the lower half of the face, while a thin vertical strip accounted for the nose. The cockpit sat behind the Megazord's two golden eyes, and a silver v-shaped design ran up over the brow. Aside from a small silver crownpiece, the back, top and sides of the head were all covered in aqua armour plating. The Megazord looked both majestic and powerful.

"Ian, you all set?" I asked, speaking into the radio.

The Iguanodon took a step forward and roared. "Ready to roll," Ian replied with a smile. "I, uh, think."

"Right then," nodded Scott, "let's rock!" And with that, the two zords turned to Panthor and Nightmare and began powering across the battlefield towards them, shaking the ground with every titanic step.

Tightening his grip around his staff, Nightmare took a giant step towards the approaching Iguanodon, eagerly anticipating a rematch with the Grey Ranger. But suddenly, Panthor raised his hand and halted the monster's advance.

"Let's see how well they play on our turf," Panthor growled. Turning back to the approaching zords, the monster held his arms wide, and the sapphires on either gauntlet began to glow. Without warning, the blue sky, white clouds and bright sun all disappeared in a flash of blue light, replaced by a solid purple-coloured haze. The beach, campsite and road, indeed, the entire city was gone - we were all now suddenly standing on a wide featureless plain ringed by jagged blue mountains, the peaks the same colour as the earth beneath us.

"Whoa," said Teresa, "what happened? Where are we?"

Scott turned to his sister. "Back in Panthor's home dimension, from the look of it."

The radio crackled. "Guys," came Ian's voice, "when the monsters grew, Panthor's crystals regenerated. He got his powers back."

"Well," said Brendan, "at least this time, we know how to defeat him."

Across the plain, Panthor turned to Nightmare and smiled. "Now we get them."

Nightmare nodded, and turning back to the Iguanodon, raised his weapon and charged forward. Hesitating a second longer, Panthor did the same.

"Guys," began Sarah, "look out! Here they come!"

Overtaking Nightmare, Panthor leaped into the air towards us, raising his blade and slashing the weapon as he fell, but the Megazord quickly stepped back out of danger. Charging forward, Panthor raised his weapon and swung again, but the Megazord blocked his arm with a metallic clang and struck the monster back with a powerful right hook. Panthor staggered backwards but regained his footing soon enough, slashing out at the approaching Megazord with his claws and carving through the Megazord's chestplate. Showers of sparks fell from the zord's chest, but the Megazord batted away Panthor's claws and smashed its fists against the beast's chest, the blow sending the monster crashing.

Panthor recovered quickly and sprang back towards us. The Megazord caught his blade in a shower of sparks, knocking it aside and landing a punch to the beast's snout. Panthor stumbled to the side but slammed his left gauntlet into the Megazord's chestplate. The Megazord stumbled back, and Panthor turned after us and attacked - the Megazord blocked one swipe and struck away a low kick, but the demon landed three rapid punches to the Megazord's stomach. The Megazord knocked away Panthor's fists, and the monster stepped back and slashed his sword at the Megazord's head. The zord ducked under the blade, and rammed its fists against Panthor's chin as he passed, sending the monster to the ground with a thundering crash. But he soon rolled to his feet.

"We're getting nowhere," said Scott.

"We've gotta smash those sapphires," said Sarah. "That'll weaken him and get us home at the same time."

"You're right," I nodded. "We might as well bring out the heavy artillery."

"We need the Power Sword, now!"

Behind us, Nightmare had charged towards the Iguanodon, raising his staff and sweeping the blade towards the zord. Ian steered the zord safely under the curved blade, and when Nightmare swung again, the zord blocked the blade in a shower of sparks and slammed the monster backwards with a blow to the stomach. Regaining his footing, Nightmare turned to face the zord with his eyes glowing brightly - the laser barrage struck home, and the front of the silver Iguanodon erupted in sparks and smoke. Ian glanced around the cockpit as sparks rained down over him, but confident in the battle machine, he pressed the zord forward. Thundering out of the smoke cloud seemingly unharmed, the Iguanodon struck out at the surprised monster, landing several blows in rapid succession before a powerful kick sent him to the ground.

Nightmare rolled to a stop and climbed to his feet, turning to face the Iguanodon. But beside the Grey Ranger's zord, the Megazord's golden eyes began to flash, and as arcs of electricity crackled around the zord, there was a brilliant flash of light, and the Megazord stood holding the formidable Power Sword.

"All right!" cried Teresa.

"Yeah," said Scott, "it worked!"

Wielding the powerful blade, the Megazord took a thundering step towards Panthor. The beast roared as we approached, raising his own sword to strike. But as he swung the blade on a direct course straight for us, the Megazord slashed the Power Sword towards the descending weapon, and the sword carved clean through Panthor's sword, the broken blade spinning through the air and falling to the ground behind us.

Panthor froze, staring in disbelief at the remains of his weapon. Seizing the opportunity, the Megazord raised the sword again and swung it towards Panthor's left gauntlet, striking the sapphire and destroying it. Panthor stumbled back in a cloud of smoke and fire, and following after him, the Megazord swung again, this time for the monster's right gauntlet - again, there was fiery explosion as the blade struck the sapphire and shattered the jewel into thousands of tiny shards, but suddenly, there was a bright pulse of light...

...and we were right back at Tallebudgera Camp, the Megazord and Iguanodon landing side-by-side on the highway while Panthor fell to the ground on the sportsfield with an earth-shaking crash, landing beside Nightmare in a cloud of dust.

"Awesome!" said Brendan. "We did it!"

Inside the Iguanodon, Ian smiled. "Good job guys."

"Thanks," I replied. Across from us, Nightmare let out a low growl and began advancing towards the Iguanodon. "Ian, heads up."

Ian squared his jaw and the Iguanodon took a thundering step forward. "Got it covered guys."

As we watched, Nightmare stepped over the fence and onto the road, and was raising his staff to strike when the Iguanodon opened fire, energy blasts exploding from the mechanised beast's eyes. The force of the assault lifted Nightmare off his feet and sent him crashing to the ground. Rolling to a stop, the monster slowly staggered to his feet, and the Iguanodon stepped towards him.

"You know I've never understood what's so scary about nightmares anyway," said Ian, then raised his voice. "So here's a solid dose of reality. Iguanodon Essence blast, fire!"

The Iguanodon held its arms wide as dark clouds swirled in the skies above, and lightning bolts stuck down around the zord, flashes of light illuminating the city. Eyes glowing red, the zord's chestplate began to shine, and the symbol blasted through the air in a burst of energy, smashing into Nightmare and instantly destroying him in a fiery explosion that shook the campsite and sent a plume of smoke rocketing skywards.

"Whoa, nice firepower," said Brendan.

"With one down," said Teresa, "let's take out Panthor."

The radio crackled. "Well done Ian," boomed Zordon's voice. "Rangers, before you destroy Panthor you should know we've just finished reconfiguring the Iguanodon, and it is now capable of combining with the Megazord."

I nodded, but couldn't help myself and began grinning beneath my visor. "All right guys, let's do it," and we all raised our arms to the sky. "We call upon the power of Titanus, now!"

Within seconds, the ground began shaking, and the mighty carrier zord Titanus exploded onto the scene with a powerful roar, punching clean through a row of low hills on the horizon and sending a cloud of debris high into the air. Powering through the city towards us with his eyes glowing red, Titanus's silver armour fairly sparkled in the morning sunlight, and even as the great zord arrived, his twin side cannons were repositioning themselves over the zord's armoured shoulders.

"Ultrazord, power up!"

The Iguanodon's chestplate immediately teleported away and reattached itself to the Megazord. A second later, the Iguanodon's arms folded back to reveal a row of cannons, and the zord's body split in two, each half swinging up horizontally. Hanging over the Megazord for a few seconds, the Iguanodon's head lowered over the Megazord's crownpiece while its body attached to the zord's arms and shoulders to form impenetrable armour plating. Finally, Ian found himself teleported into our control room between Sarah and Teresa, and the combined mass of zords dropped down into Titanus's back - in a blaze of fire, the Ultrazord had formed.

Panthor stood defiantly facing down the towering Ultrazord. "You will never defeat me!"

"But from where we're sitting," I said, "the odds are pretty damn good."

Ian nodded, staring out across the battlefield to Panthor. "Any other superheroes, any other team of champions, and just maybe, you'd have a point." He stopped, and shook his head. "But we're the Power Rangers. You'd lost this fight before you even bothered showing up."

"Exactly," said Brendan beside me. "Haven't you heard? We don't let the badguys win. What do you say guys? Let's wrap this guy up."

Everyone nodded in agreement. "Ultrazord, lock on and fire!"

The targetting systems within the Ultrazord instantly locked onto the demon, and seconds later, an enormous barrage of laser blasts, fireballs and guided rockets roared forth, exploding through the air and smashing into the monster with earth-shattering force, tearing him apart in a cataclysmic explosion that lit up the Gold Coast, sent a huge fireball billowing skyward and rattled buildings all the way down into the next state.

There was a second of silence as the smoke began to clear, and I turned around to face Ian.

"And that's how we do it," I nodded.

Ian smiled. "Hold up, I should probably take some notes."

"Well," said Teresa, "that was certainly an intense start to the day."

"Yeah," agreed Brendan. "A lot more exciting than a jog on the beach, at any rate. Heck, most classes just go hiking on the final day..."

We all laughed. "You gotta admit, he's got a point," smiled Scott. "But I think we should probably head back before we're missed. Shall we go?"

After their escape from Nightmare thanks to the Grey Ranger, everybody had raced into the main hall and taken cover, the Currimundi residents all knowing exactly how large these battles generally became. Everyone, camp staff and teachers included, had gathered together in a close group and held hands, listening to the zords' arrival outside. For a few minutes there was nothing but silence, and nobody dared to get up and have a look, but suddenly there came an almighty crash followed by what felt like an earthquake and two unbelievably loud explosions. Then, for a few seconds, there was silence.

A sudden flash of light drew everyone's attention, but as one, the group sighed with relief - the six Power Rangers stood framed at one side of the room. Smiling with wonder, Mr Di Certo climbed to his feet and walked over to them.

The Orange Ranger stepped forward to meet him.

"It's all right," I said, resting my hand on the teacher's shoulder. "You're safe now. Both monsters have been destroyed. Everything's okay."

Saying no more, I stepped back, and the six of us reached for our morphers.

In the back of the room, the silence was suddenly broken as one of the students began clapping, the noise echoing throughout the room. And within a few seconds, every single person in the hall was clapping and cheering, throwing their arms up, jumping around and joyfully celebrating the victory.

We all paused, and I glanced from Teresa on my right to Ian on my left, blushing beneath my helmet. The six of us were heroes, and that was the simple truth of it. We suited up, went out, fought monsters and saved the day because nobody else could. But every so often, it was great to be reminded why.

I glanced to my team-mates and nodded, and in six flashes of coloured light, we teleported away.

The six of us materialised safely out of sight behind the building. Demorphing, we snuck back into the hall and joined the celebration within. Once the fanfare had died down, the teachers quickly called the roll and found that everyone was accounted for. After that, it was a replay of what had happened several mornings ago after Pisces' attack. The camp staff called the press and told them what had taken place in the early hours of the morning, sure to include that everyone was okay, and one-by-one, the students were thoroughly checked over by a team of nurses before being let out into the steadily-filling food hall for breakfast.

The topic of conversation over breakfast wasn't what the activities for the day were or what was happening back home, but the battle this morning. The six of us sat together, and Ian blushed every time he heard someone mention how awesome the Grey Ranger had been, which included the five of us.

"You know it's funny," said Scott, as another group of kids came into the foodhall behind us and found seats. "I was actually looking forward to the final beach run of the week. It's a shame we missed it."

"Don't worry," I said, "you wouldn't have missed much." And with a grin, I reached into my pocket and held up Mr Chamberlain's whistle.

Breakfast went overtime, and it was soon nine o'clock. As the last student to be checked out by the camp nurse came in and grabbed something to eat, there was a loud shout from outside, and we all turned to see Mrs Larson and Mr Burgess come charging into the hall.

"Everyone!" shouted Mr Burgess, out of breath. "You have to get ready, the Goondiwindi bus is going to be here in twenty minutes!"

There was a second of silence, as we all realised the exact same thing - in all our excitement we'd completely forgotten it was the last day of camp.

What followed next could only be described as pandemonium, as everyone raced back to their dorms and began a massive clean-up. Sleeping bags were folded, clothes were crammed into suitcases, and everyone began cleaning. In cabin 12, I finished packing and hauled my bags outside, leaving them beside the growing pile of luggage on the grass before heading back in to check I hadn't forgotten anything. Scott was nowhere in sight, and I briefly wondered whether he'd strayed too close to someone and had accidentally been stuffed in a duffel bag, but he soon appeared at the door, mop, bucket and broom in hand.

I made a dash for the door that would've left an Olympic sprinter in awe, but Scott held the mop and broom across the entrance and blocked my escape.

"You're in this too," he said, and handed me the mop with a grin.

I smiled. "But I'm not giving in without a fight," I said. Stepping out of the cabin and using what Brendan had once nicknamed my scary-leader-voice, I shouted, "Ian! Lochlan! Cleaning duty, pronto!"

The boys automatically looked up and jogged over, although I noticed Ian grinning as he and Lochlan stepped into the cabin. My technique still needed work. At any rate, the cabin was spotless and the floor was sparkling within a few minutes. Admiring our work, Scott proudly pronounced the floor as clean enough to eat off, and Petey and Luke (who'd been standing outside watching) actually decided to test the theory, telling us afterwards that the expression was better left as a metaphor.

By now the Goondiwindi bus had arrived and was parked on the gravel driveway. All the Goondiwindi students and teachers dragged their luggage over to the bus and began loading their bags, while the students from Currimundi all gathered around them.

Brendan, Sarah, Teresa, Scott and I stood together, watching as the Goondiwindi students said their goodbyes to everyone before climbing up into the sleek grey bus. Petey and Luke climbed the steps but turned back and waved to Brendan, Scott and I with beaming grins. The three of us cheerfully waved back, glad to have met the two boys but knowing we'd never play Scrabble the same way again.

With most of the students onboard, Lochlan and Ian wandered over to us.

Smiling, Lochlan shook each of our hands in turn. "It was great to meet you guys and hang out for the week," he said. "I'm actually gonna miss this."

Teresa nodded. "Yeah," she smiled. "We should come back next year."

Lochlan laughed. "Only without the giant monsters next time. At least this was a camp I'll definitely remember."

The five us glanced nervously back and forth. "It was... just a great week all around," said Scott finally.

"Yeah," said Sarah. "Take care of Ian for us."

Lochlan nodded. "Somebody has to," he said, grinning and turning to Ian. "I'm gonna go grab a seat on the bus. You want me to save you one?"

Ian nodded. "That'd be great, thanks," he said, and as Lochlan dashed off, the Grey Ranger turned back to us.

"I don't want to say goodbye," Ian said. "I mean, I know it isn't - I'm like one button-press away from you guys," and he lightly tapped his communicator, before turning to Brendan and I. "But I'm gonna miss you, all of you. You guys gave me the chance to fight alongside real heroes, the Power Rangers, and the one thing I wanted to say before we all left is thank you."

"What for?" asked Scott.

Brendan grinned. "Yeah dude, you're a part of the team now," he said. "We should be thanking you for bailing us out of trouble."

Ian smiled. "It's just, when Zordon gave me the Iguanodon Power Coin, I thought it would be scary, you know, I thought this would be really hard," he said. "But it wasn't - you guys made it so easy, you helped me be part of something bigger. And I don't know how to thank you for that."

Teresa smiled. "There's nothing to say thanks for," she said. "Sometimes you just belong. Exactly where you're supposed to be."

"Yeah," Sarah said. "We're gonna miss you too, a lot."

Ian nodded. "I mean a week ago I wasn't a Power Ranger. And now..."

I stepped forward. "You were always a Ranger Ian," I said. "The only thing different is now we know for sure."

He laughed softly. "Don't tell me that," he smiled, stepping forward and shaking hands with each of the guys. "It'll do my ego no good at all." We laughed, and Ian quickly hugged the girls before stepping back. "So, I guess what I can say is, I'll see you when I see you." And with that, he turned and walked over to the bus.

Ian was the last Goondiwindi student. After he hopped onboard, the door closed with a 'hiss', and the bus driver eased the bus down the driveway and out onto the highway, the bus soon disappearing from sight as we all stood waving it goodbye.

The Currimundi buses arrived two hours later, and we all left the main hall where we'd been sitting after several games of beach cricket, went across to where we'd piled our luggage, and carried it over. The buses were long, streamlined and red, and Brendan pointed out that the school must've won the lottery sometime in the past week to afford them. The week at camp had taken its toll - everybody was exhausted and looking forward to the long, quiet trip home.

The camp staff came down to see us off, and we all walked over to say goodbye, thanking Mr Burgess for being such a cool headmaster and briefly chatting with Mr Potter and Ms Moule about the week. Wishing them well, the girls and Brendan headed for one bus, while Scott and I walked over to the other.

Taking a step up onto the bus, I suddenly wanted to see the campsite one last time, and turning around, I looked over to the main hall and its colourful mural, saw the food hall, the shower block and the line of small cabins, and took a final lingering glance around the grassy field. What a week it had been. Lochlan was right - a week to remember. So much had changed. I smiled and turned back, stepping up into the bus.

And so much hadn't.

I quickly dived into a seat, securing the window-seat to Scott's chagrin, and settled down into it. Then the bus began to move, and we left Tallebudgera Camp behind us, pulling onto the highway and picking up some speed as the Gold Coast flashed by.

Scott turned to me. "At least the ride home should be quicker than the journey here."

I laughed. "Here's hoping."


Smiling, I turned back to the window, shut my eyes and leaned against the glass, and before long, the rhythmic vibrations of the bus had eased me into a deep, soothing, peaceful sleep.

The End.