Chapter XXI—Eltarian Exodus, Part II: Feel the Pressure

Dustin opened his eyes groggily. The first thing he saw was the beautiful brown hair of Nike Zeta swinging freely in what appeared to be a wind tunnel. There was a purple veil like an 8-foot high dome, and he squinted to notice Nike was keeping it up somehow. He looked to either side and noticed the bodies lying around him, all of them unconscious with sleep or…

"What happened?" he suddenly asked, jumping up.

They were on a barren white field, rocks of all sorts surrounded them under a pitch-black sky of stars and…metal.

"We crash landed on a moon," Nike, the purple ranger, managed to say through gritted teeth. "The teleporter didn't have enough energy to get us all the way to Eltar, so we had to crash land here; the only problem is…" she stopped to suck in a strained breath, "there's no breathable air on this moon."

Dustin frowned, and then clapped his hands in inspiration. "I can make us an atmosphere!"

"That would take way too much energy," Andrea said as she slowly stood from the dusty moon ground. "How far are we from Eltar?"

"Not far," said Zordon, standing with the assistance of Hunter and Dimitria. He was still injured from his fight with the Chrominites on Infernus.

"Do you think we could make it if we called the Titans from Earth?"

"It is doubtful. The Chrominites are already converging on our location and they will destroy the Titans in our weakened state," Natasha informed them.

By now the rangers had all recovered from the loss of their ship, though not all were well. Justin, especially, had been injured in the teleportation to the moon, along with Wes, who had been assisting Zordon.

"We're totally fucked, aren't we?" Zhane asked brashly. "I mean, if the Chrominites are on their way—all of them—then there's no way we'll be able to beat them all; not with Zordon worn out, and Justin out of commission." He took a moment to arrange his thoughts, no one bothering to disagree with him. "Do we even have Battleizer access without Justin?"

"All of us can access it," said Sky, "we just have to know how. Now, we've got to pull ourselves together if we're going to have a fighting chance against the Chrominites."

"Sky's right," chimed in Hunter. "The Chrominites are immortal, but they're not unbeatable; they feel pain, and they can be trumped. We just have to pull together and overpower them."

"Calling the Titans sounds like a good idea to me," said Ryan. "At least that way we'll be bigger and can avoid direct damage."

"No," Natasha cut him off. "The Titans are not just zords you can throw around. They are living beings who are now bound to you by your Cronus Stone shards. Why do you think that when Hunter, Nike, and Andrea were defeated in the Titans that they were powerless? Why do you think my own Titan lost its will to fight when I fell from it?"

She was clearly indignant, and Ryan remembered she had a deeper tie with the Titans than they did. She was actually partly related to them.

"Well, the Titans are off limits, then," Dustin decided. "We'll have to fight them here. I think I might have a trick or two to at least get Justin and Zordon back on their feet, but I'm going to need your help, Hunter."

The team looked at Hunter, who seemed to know exactly what Dustin was thinking.

It was an old Ninja Ritual that involved channeling the energy around them into raw life force and directing it into something else—someone else. The only problem was that the life force lasted twice as long as it normally would, and if it were to be placed upon someone with too little self-control, it would kill him or her.

And so Dustin and Hunter explained to the vessels receiving this energy—Justin, Zordon, and Wes. When it seemed that they understood, the two Ninjas set off by themselves over the rocky lunar terrain to gather energy. Dustin had wrapped Hunter in a small, fitting air-shield that would work just as the atmosphere of Earth worked. It would absorb and convert Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen, so that the supply was never ending. Hunter had to admit, he was impressed.

"So," Dustin said awkwardly, realizing this was the first time they'd had alone since entering the Underworld.

"So," Hunter chuckled.

"How's…having a family again?"

"Weird," the blond immediately replied. "For so long, Blake's been my only family, and now I come to find out I've got these two other sisters—who are awesome, don't get me wrong—and then these two parents who are like…Gods themselves. It's weird."

Dustin remained silent as he searched the lunar surface.

"But they love me, that much I know."

Dustin looked up, grinning. "Yeah, they definitely do."

Hunter was quiet as he searched with Dustin, and then finally spoke. "Is this…weird for you?"

"You're an alien prince…it's kinda cool."

"I mean…me…you know…liking you."

The Silver Ranger glanced over at Hunter with a small smile on his face. "Not at all."

There was a brief pause and Hunter looked downright uncomfortable.

"I…think I might actually have feelings of my own," Dustin continued, causing his Black Ranger comrade to look at him in shock. "I was sorta talking about it with Nike."

Hunter blushed. "So…what does that mean?"

"Well, according to Nike," Dustin said, picking up a large crystal from the ground and weighing it, "this is more natural for you. So, as usual, you get to lead."

With a smirk, Hunter stepped forward. "Then can I do this again?"

There was a strange flickering in the atmospheric shields Dustin had erected around them, and they merged into one bubble of protection and tried fruitlessly to regulate the breathing of each ranger as their lips met.

"Now that," Dustin said breathlessly, "was awesome."

Hunter grinned widely as his cheeks heated up in embarrassment. "You can say that again."

"I guess we'd better hurry and get back then, huh?"

Hunter nodded bashfully, tossing Dustin another moon crystal. "I think we've got everything we need now."

Sensing the double-meaning in Hunter's words, Dustin gave him a faint smile before he headed back to the large red dome now held up by Sky.

The procedure didn't take long, though the moon crystals certainly had a lot less energy than either ninja had hoped. It only half-recharged Justin's morpher, though Zordon seemed to be at full energy, and Wes was ambulatory and appeared fine.

"We need to take up positions for when the Chrominites arrive. And we need a place for Wes to hide," Nike was saying as she tore the loose ends from her tattered clothing.

"We should hold off on Morphing for as long as possible," Carter suggested, "that way we'll have more time to wear them down, and then our Morphers can re-energize us when we're spent."

"I agree," Natasha replied, "we must be extremely cautious, however; the Chrominites won't risk killing us again, but they will severely injure us to extract the stones."

"Watch each others' backs, too," Hunter added as he squinted into the space surrounding them. "They'll be here soon."

"Sooner than you imagine, Black Ranger," said Zeus as he appeared from a cloud of static energy. He was standing outside the atmosphere, of course, as he needed no air.

"Ready Rangers?" cried Hunter, as the rest of the Chrominites appeared.

"Let's do this!" came a unanimous response.

Dimitria and Zordon took off before the Rangers, glowing with Green and Pink auras that surrounded them and protected them from the lack of oxygen on the planet. Meanwhile, Zhane, Leo, Ryan, Carter, Natasha, and Skylar hung back inside an atmospheric field. Justin was able to manipulate air particles like Dustin, creating a field for himself, along with Sky, Bridge, Dustin, Andrea, and Nike; Dustin had again lent Hunter a shield of his own.

The Rangers who hung back fired up projectiles; Zhane's fire was useless outside the atmosphere, but Ryan's ability to manipulate any mineral allowed him to hurl massive moonstones at the Chrominites. Leo was combining efforts with Carter to create massive icicles, as water lost its form without gravity, and Natasha and Skylar were stuck emitting energy beams.

On the main front, Hunter had taken on Poseidon, frying him with lightning bolts; Dustin took on Hermes for a battle of speed, Sky began settling his score with Athena, and Andrea and Nike were battling Demeter and Hestia. Hera met her match with Dimitria, who was more than happy to repay her for all the years she'd spent imprisoned. Justin, as a promise to Wes, fought of Ares with intense fervor, and Zordon was at it again with Zeus. Bridge managed to keep up with Apollo, but the fight wasn't going in his favor.

The major problem was that they were outnumbered. No matter how hard they fought, the Chrominites were nearly double their number; all 18 of them against Dimitria, Zordon, and the 13 rangers—half of which were limited to the atmosphere.

As Hunter was thrown backward by the combined effort of Hephaestus and Poseidon, he slammed into a small pillar of moonstone and coughed raggedly. His atmosphere shuddered threateningly.

"It's Morphin Time, team!"

"Ready!"

"NATURE'S FURY, RELEASE FROM IN ME!"

A spectrum of all sorts of colors mesmerized the Chrominites, who had yet to witness the Rangers morph in person—except Belial, of course. It didn't take long for the atmosphere-ensnared rangers to realize their suits provided them with their own supply of oxygen.

"Time to even the odds a little!" Skylar bellowed cockily, leaping forward and kneeing Selene, the Moon Chrominite.

Right behind Skylar was Natasha, bounding forward to take on Hades who had so easily betrayed her. Despite the fact that his fire abilities did him little good, Zhane was able to take on Helios of the Sun, and Carter faired rather well against Dionysus. Leo backhanded Belial into Athena, who was busying herself with Ryan. The brown ranger then quickly took Leo's queue and slammed a rock prison around the two Chrominites.

"Enough of this!" screamed Zeus, loosing an enormous amount of electricity from his body. Several rangers were struck backwards with Hunter too far away to absorb any of the energetic onslaught.

"We're not going to be able to trump them!" Dimitria called above the racket of Zeus's energy and dodging bolt after bolt of it.

"We need a new plan!" Zordon hollered back.

Hera had joined Zeus's side now, using her powers of unity to draw from the other Chrominites and feed into Zeus's power. The bolts grew thicker and more spastic, striking several more rangers—Andrea, Skylar, and Ryan—and nearly vaporizing a few others. By now, only Hunter, Dustin, Zordon, Dimitria, and Justin remained.

"The others are losing their power!" Hunter noticed, the sickening glow of demorphing threatening the injured rangers' suits. "They need a force field!"

"On it!" Justin yelled in response, bounding toward the fallen rangers with his arms outstretched.

But a silvery fork of lightning struck him right in the middle of his back, thrusting him forward into a crater with a sickening crack.

"Justin!" Natasha muttered worriedly, trying feebly to crawl to him and check his injuries. His suit was faltering severely now.

"Dustin, go! I'll cover you!" Hunter commanded as he ricocheted another bolt away from his father.

"Hurry!" ordered Zordon as he fired off another round of Eltarian energy.

Dustin was ninja streaking—at least it seemed so—to his defeated teammates and stretched out his hand as he manipulated the energy within his body. It began to manifest, a silvery haze erupting from his hands slowly and covering at least a 10-meter radius until each of the demorphing rangers were protected within the dome.

"I got it!"

"Good, now just hold—" Hunter was cut off as he emitted a cry of agony and surprise as one of Zeus's energy bolts pierced his side—then another zapped his shoulder, before one finally hit home and struck Hunter's visor with a horrifying shatter.

"HUNTER!"

The name was a unanimous and desperate call from Zordon, Dimitria, Nike, and Andrea. But no cry resounded more than the furious howl of the Silver Ranger Dustin, whose atmosphere rippled with pure, unfiltered Cronus energy.

"Battleizer!" noticed Skylar groggily.

"You…you guys know what to do…" Sky groaned as he slowly and feebly lifted his arm to give power to Dustin.

One by one, beams of Cronus energy struck the enraged Cyclone ranger. He began to radiate their energy as it all melted into his suit. The atmosphere he'd created seemed to be feeding into him now, rather than generating from him, and as his boots left the surface slowly, it became apparent the cocoon of energy was ushering in his transformation.

Under the strain of keeping up the air barrier was clearly taking its toll on Dustin's body as his muscles bulged under pressure. Pockets of air burst under the rapid change of stability, and finally, with one indignant roar, Dustin began to shine like his own star. A bolt of Zeus's energy hit him, but bounced off harmlessly. It was too late.

Dustin could feel his helmet changing. The beak over his visor became more curved and jagged along the sides. From the Griffin eyes above the visor, two metallic feathers shot out like a crown, and near his ears, more serrated feathers sprang to life. A few indentations for ventilation now showed along his jawline, and his face mask reconstructed into a better breathing apparatus. On his shoulders, two jagged shoulder plates came forward, stretching forward like spikes and shooting back like wings. On his deltoids, two more serrated plates appeared in a spectacle of silver energy that cooled to a metallic black. Bandages of black leather ran down his arms, and on his biceps, a band with a curving spike that ran parallel to his upper arm materialized along with his metalized, feathered gauntlets. His chest became partially covered on his lower pectorals by a silver plating that bore the Air Rune and Cyclone Symbol on a central diamond, and near his upper abdominals, two compact jet-like thrusters jutted out. The most miraculous thing, though, were the incredible wings on his back. They were jagged and steely, with curvy talons striking backward and a odd handle-like fixtures near the back of Dustin's head.

In the realm of morphing, Dustin opened his eyes as a cold yellow scanner ran across his visor and he felt his body surge with new power. He could hear the roar of winds around him, and he flexed his fist to create tornados of astronomical proportion. Then the realm faded out as he floated in midair on the desolate moon.

Zeus's lightning storm was still raging, but the bolts seemed to avoid Dustin at all costs—like some sort of barrier had been erected in front of him. Only there was nothing there.

He lift his hands over his head like a diver and slammed his legs together, the wings on his back spreading ever so slightly—and then he began to spin like a twister, amassing a large amount of energy and then slamming into the ground. An enormous crater formed under the pressure as he shouted in omnipotence—the very sound particles seeming to quiver in fear—"SILVER GALEFORCE FURY RANGER!"

The rangers stared in awe and appreciation and the amount of detail on Dustin's new armor, and at the power he controlled with unfathomable ease. Only Justin could relate, but even he stared open mouthed.

The silver ranger flicked his fore and middle fingers and the barrier around the rangers enlarged and secured. Suddenly, they felt even safer. In the blink of an eye, Dustin was at Hunter's side, the black rangers atmospheric shield all but failing. With no effort whatsoever, Dustin picked him up and floated him back to the barrier, setting him down softly and whispering he would take care of the Chrominites.

Then, the thrusters on his abdomen fired up as he hurtled toward the Chrominites at breakneck speeds. Zeus's bolts were becoming bolder, but they still seemed like child's play sparklers that merely pinged off the Silver Ranger's invisible barrier. When he reached them, he began to spiral like a corkscrew and tore through their ranks, thrusting Zeus into the sky.

Hera immediately attacked Dustin's right side, but he lifted a knife-like feather gauntlet and sliced her torso open effortlessly. She shrieked in pain and her sister Demeter was instantly at her side, pelting Dustin with moon gravel. But it hardly dented his armor, and he focused a burst of pressurized air into his palm and tossed at it her leisurely. Both Demeter and Hera were flung back like ragdolls, and Dustin quickly averted his attention to Aphrodite, Hestia, and Artemis, who were moving toward him heatedly.

Dramatically throwing back his hands, he brought them forth with the slightest hint of resistance and clapped his palms together, a shockwave of inconceivable power ripping through them—literally. Skylar looked away squeamishly as Aphrodite's entire left-half of her body was cleaved from the other side. Hestia and Artemis were sliced and stabbed by the shear-like winds Dustin had conjured up, and the Galeforce Ranger mocked them with biting hostility. "Not so tough now, huh?"

"But we are!" Ares growled as he and Hephaestus led an offensive with Hades, Eos, and Poseidon.

His reserve almost as steely as his armor, Dustin forced his sword-like wings to spread just a few inches as he took off into the air. As expected, Eos chased, only for Dustin to spin-kick him back into the ground like a meteorite. The ninja then clapped his arms to his sides and pointed his feet as he entered a dive not unlike a falcon, and penetrated the earth so that a ripple of pure energy rippled forth and incinerated Ares, Poseidon and Hephaestus.

Floating up as if nothing had happened, Dustin seemed to grin behind his helmet at his next target—Hades. "You and I have unfinished business."

"Not for long," Hades snarled.

"You're right," Dustin retorted, a metallic clicking sound coming from his wings as he pulled on the handle-fixtures and took off his wings. So they were swords! "Not for long, at all."

If Hunter hadn't seen it with his own two bleary eyes, he wouldn't have believed Dustin could display such brutal cruelty as he slashed at Hades, tearing his forearm right off. Galeforce ranger then stabbed forward with his left blade, impaling the God of the Underworld's abdomen in a sort of swapped déjà vu, and then hacked with his right blade at the immortal's neck.

Hades' head rolled off without so much as a miniscule of resistance, and the God howled in pain. Seemingly sickened, Dustin withdrew his blades and tossed Hades' body away carelessly. He pushed off the ground toward Athena, sliced her in half, and whizzed past Belial—mincing him like onions. He was literally decimating the Chrominites with reckless abandon. Although, the rangers had to admit, he was quite skilled and controlled.

Before they knew it, the Chrominites were withdrawing ever so slightly. Until a ship pulled into view.

"It's Divatox!" Dimitria scowled.

"Reinforcements at last," Zeus gasped, pulling his body back together graphically after being dismembered by Galeforce Dustin.

"Reinforcements…but for whom?"

Zhane looked to Leo as Astronema exited the landed spacecraft with a look of indifference. Behind her, Diabolico, Lord Zedd, Rita, and, of course, Divatox.

"You didn't really think we'd pick a losing side, did you?" Astronema asked, her voice much less villainous than usual.

"No…way…" Justin mumbled.

With a snap of Astronema's fingers, Taylor Earhart and Katherine Hillard appeared—completely unharmed.

"Kat? Taylor!" he cried

"Drone 8472!" Zeus shouted, looking around. If all sources were correct, Tommy and Jason were to have boarded with Divatox and her company long ago.

"Your drones are captured," Divatox answered, unfazed by Zeus's glare. "And you're about to have a whole different kind of problem to deal with."

Zordon was grinning widely at Dimitria, who was still in shock of some sort.

"The Order of the Meledon has reconvened," said the King of Eltar, standing proudly and curving his hands around his chest as he focused.

Dustin stared, but never let his eyesight leave the healing Chrominites. Behind him, a ball of rapidly-color-changing energy emerged between Zordon's hands, and Divatox, Diabolico, Lord Zedd, Rita, and Astronema teleported within touching distance of him. And then the strangest thing happened.

A sphere of white energy, hazy like a ghost, seemed to mingling toward them. And Zeus was cursing at it ruthlessly, attempting to blast it.

Dustin quickly interrupted him with a high-powered laser beam emitted from the griffin eyes on his helmet. "Ah-ah-ah," he taunted the Storm God. "It's not polite to interrupt."

The ghastly figure approached Zordon, and Hunter thought he saw tears of joy in his father's eyes. Slowly, the apparition took on a figure. She was a tall, lean woman with frizzy, curly hair, dressed in a leathery, strappy suit that looked familiar to Justin.

"Is that…?" wondered Bridge.

Kat, who had entered the atmosphere, nodded smilingly. "Just wait."

Now they stood in a circle; Astronema, Diabolico, Dimitria, Rita, Divatox, Lord Zedd, the ghostly figure, and Zordon. Their arms stretched out up and toward each other as they formed a circle that Sky swore he'd seen before.

"Is that the…the Circle of the Ninjetti?" he half-shouted.

Andrea and Nike nodded, awestruck.

Dustin had created an impenetrable wall of air that slashed and sliced at anyone foolish enough to try to pass it, and he was continually blasting the Chrominites away with knife-like gusts of wind.

Zordon was uttering something in Eltarian now, his voice getting louder and louder over the sound of chaos swarming around him and his group. But then a beacon of light shot from the center of the circle and seemed to split the heavens themselves. It branched out and struck each of the members surrounding it, and as the light died down, the rangers felt a sense of disappointment.

Nothing had happened.

And then Zeus was through the wall of air, his fist colliding with the side of Dustin's helmet and sending the silver-clad boy into a crater.

"You failed, Zordon!" Zeus spat.

Dustin was back in action, but it was clear he was slowing down. The Battleizer power was fading.

"He's losing it!" Andrea noted.

Hunter gritted his teeth. "Hang in there, bro…"

"Now it's time for you all to die!" Zeus bellowed as he flew into the air and began to rain thunderbolts again.

"Not quite," Zordon boomed, his voice echoing off nothing in particular and an ethereal wind blowing around the troupe of ex-villains. "Ready?"

"Oh, yeah," Dimitria answered.

"We Call upon the Sacred Spirits of the Ninjetti!" all eight of them called surreptitiously.

A pillar of light illuminated Astronema, whose visage melted into the beautiful blond Karone, and was then covered in a purple garb of the ninjetti. In the middle of her chest was a diamond with a coin at its center. On it was an agile-looking bird, sparkling in gold and glowing with purple energy. Her face was covered in a mask, and her head was cloaked with ninja garments.

"Ninjetti—Spirit of the Swan!"

"Ninjetti—Spirit of the Stingray!" cried about Diabolico, who had metamorphosed into an ageless man with blood red hair and dark grey eyes that lacked a pupil. He was quickly swirled in a black wind of energy that left him fully clothed in Ninjetti attire with a golden coin like Karone's in the middle of his chest.

Dimitria now posed as light radiated from her body and pink bursts of power emitted from her. "Ninjetti—Spirit of the Flamingo!"

Rita's tall, witch-hair fell into choppy black locks that hung around her face in an almost disciplined manner, and her youthful appearance deceived just about everyone of her truly ancient age. "Ninjetti—Spirit of the Fox!" she cried, blue garments covering her nearly entirely.

Divatox now transformed into her natural identity that matched Dimitria almost flawlessly—save the rebellious look in her eyes. The woman, whose name was truly Diva, called upon her inner animal spirit and roared "Ninjetti—Spirit of the Tiger!" Her yellow Ninjetti outfit quickly appeared from nowhere as she struck a vicious fighting pose.

Most surprising was Lord Zedd, who dematerialized from his bright red, muscled appearance, to a much more attractive guise with his own fair amount of muscle. His youth restored, the man was positively radiant with red energy dancing around him as he posed in his new Ninjetti uniform. "Ninjetti—Spirit of the Gorilla!"

The woman that had been formed of the white misty spirit was now illuminated more brilliantly than before as she became solid and clothed in white robes of the Ninjetti. Her eyes shone fiercely from under her hood, and as she posed for a fight with all the ferocity of a caged animal, but exuding wisdom rivaling Zordon, she cried out: "Ninjetti—Spirit of the Owl!"

And lastly, Zordon felt his all-too-familiar power wash over him as sparks of energy effused from his glowing body. His own uniform was a bit different, possessing silver rather than gold, and a black belt like the woman in white. In the center of his chest was a silvery coin that displayed a powerful, writing creature, and Zordon posed in the middle of his team.

"Ninjetti—Spirit of the Serpent!"