Epilogue: Pawns

Deep in the bellows of the Troobain headship, the Terrorcraft, the Emperor of the Troobian Empire, Gruumm, makes his way into the prisoner cells of his vessel. As he passes by several of the cells, the remainder of what was once SPD's famed A-Squad rots away behind their bars. Gruumm pays them no mind, for their minds have been stripped away of any useful intelligence that they may have contained. The prisoner that he has on his mind is one that they had captured well over a year ago. One that they know holds the last critical bit of information that they need to make their campaign against the Earth a successful one.

Gruumm comes to stand before a large rusty, but well guarded cell door. The two Krybot foot soldiers salute their Emperor and stand aside, allowing the Overlord to enter his pass code to open the cell. The large door creaks open, and Gruumm enters. In the middle of the room, a lone figure hangs from the ceiling, his arms bound together by chains above his head. The humanoids long since tattered SPD uniform is nothing more than rags, hanging from his body.

Groaning in pain, the figure painfully looks up at his oppressor. His eyes are filled with rage toward the Troobian Overlord, which earns a chuckle from the Emperor. "So tell me Dru, have you changed your mind yet? On giving me the pass codes which will disable the protective force field from around the Earth that SPD has placed around the rock?"

"Never," Dru Harrington spats out. There is dried blood alongside his face and arms from the ruthless beatings that Gruumm had ordered onto him. After a whole year, the missing B-Squad Officer has yet to break. His loyalty to SPD is astounding.

"How much more must we play this game," Gruumm remarks. "After gaining entry to this galaxy nearly two months ago, my mole within SPD has still yet to uncover the pass codes to disable the force field. My mole does know, that only a few would know of this information, and since you were one of the Officers that were dispatched to activate the force field near the portal to this galaxy from which we emerged and you are in my possession, you would be the best one to give me what I want."

"After all this time… and all the beatings… I have told you nothing," Dru growls. "And I will continue not telling you…"

Gruumm unleashes a bolt of energy from his staff onto Dru. The SPD Officer screams out in agony as his nerves are lit on fire from the raw, dark energy.

"My patience comes with limits Mister Harrington. But it matters not, even if you do not tell me what I need. You see, I have a boy. A mutant boy, who has the ability to teleport not only himself, but any other object wherever I see fit. And while my troops cannot be teleported through the protective force field surrounding the Earth, anything non-organic can be. He has teleported hundreds of Krybot soldiers to Newtech City by my command, and according to my mole within SPD, the heads of SPD are unaware, much less the heads of state throughout the planet. Once the command is given, an attack on the Delta Base will not only disable the force field surrounding the Earth, but as well take out many of your fellow SPD Officers and Cadets as well."

"Why are you telling me this," Dru barks out in rage. He struggles against the chains, as if hoping that they will break and free him.

"Well, after all the good times we shared, I just thought that you would like to know that in less than twenty-four hours, your adopted home world shall be laid to waste. And those that don't submit themselves to my Empire shall be wiped from existence. Ponder on that, as you hang there, unable to do anything."

"I will kill you Gruumm," Dru screams. "You hear me! I will kill you!"

"No. No you will not," Gruumm turns away and walks back out the same way he entered. Dru continues screaming his obscenities toward the Emperor long after the door is shut between them.

xxxxxxxxxx

Several days have passed since Anubis Cruger arrived at Galaxy Command, the large domed space station which acts as the head of all of Space Patrol Delta's operations. Its actual location is kept secret from many, even from its own Officers. For if its location was to fall into enemy hands, SPD would collapse all over the galaxy. Normally, his planned meeting with the other heads of SPD's armed forces would have only taken a day, several of their lead ships which were on an recon mission in following Gruumm's forces were destroyed. This put the entire organization on high alert, especially once the data that their Recon Squad had reported in.

Gruumm and his armies are headed straight for Earth. Which brings the gathering of all of SPD's Commanders and Gunnery Sergeants, to plan for the oncoming onslaught.

"We are all agreed upon that fast action will be needed to protect the Earth," Supreme Commander Birdie Fowler remarks. "It seems that Gruumm is bypassing all other solar systems and planets and has focused all of his fleet toward Earth."

"What is it about the Earth that is so compelling for Troobian occupancy? It is not the largest planet in this galaxy? There are other suitable planets for such in other solar systems," Director Horus, a bird like alien of the same species as the Supreme Commander asks.

"That is irrelevant at the moment," Fowler remarks. "What is, however, is making sure Gruumm's forces do not overtake the Earth. It is the central melting pot of nearly every species in this galaxy right now. If it is taken over, the political structure of the Galactic Republic would crumble."

"Humans and their selfish need to be the center of attention," Sergeant Silverback huffs. "If only they agreed to have the Galactic Republic headquarters be stationed somewhere else than Earth, this could be avoided."

"If the Republic falls, then Gruumm's Empire shall rule all," Anubis Cruger remarks. "I have already ordered my B-Squad to relocate to the Republic Headquarters with several platoons to guard the Leaders of our free Galaxy."

"And what of the Delta Base," Fowler asks suspiciously. "Who will guard it?"

"I left your Agent Landors as acting Commander until my return," Cruger informs him.

"When will Gruumm's forces be within Earth's range," a feline looking humanoid remarks. He is of the same species of Katherine Manx, a Furlonian from the planet Leslie. He is Leon Sphinx, Commander of the Delta Base on the planet Mercedes.

"Within a week," Anubis remarks. "With Earth's forces stretched as they are, any and all assistance would be appreciated."

"How are they stretched," another Commander asks.

"Earth, despite being one of the smaller planets in this sector, has close to 8 billion life forms on it, a good thirty percent none humanoid. I have ordered placed key numbers of forces to be placed in the higher populated cities that are likely to get hit first. Neo York, Britaina, Neo Japan and so on. Our space armada is already right outside the planet's atmosphere behind the planet's protective force field."

"And the Ranger Squads?"

"As you know the A-Squad went missing nearly two months ago, following Gruumm's immediate entrance to this Galaxy at Gamma 14. I fear that they may already be dead. C-Squad is not yet ready for Ranger upgrades; however they will be assisting your Agent Landors at the Delta Base."

"And your B-Squad," Fowler asks. "Has my Agent whipped them up into shape yet? They could potentially be Earth's last line of defense should the protective force field around the planet collapse."

"They are ready; however, my Yellow Ranger is currently unfit for duty. She recently underwent a second mutation, which amplified her psychic powers. She is more of a liability in combat than she would be helpful at the moment."

"I have another Agent that I can send back to Earth with you. She has worked alongside Agent Landors in the past and knows how he works. She can assist you greatly and will work as a replacement Ranger for you. Her name is Marie Utahime," Fowler replies. "She worked as Agent Landors partner for years."

"Thank you. And with that being said, there is another pressing issue I must bring to the table," Anubis begins.

"Which is?"

"The loyalty of the Agent you sent to Earth, Jack Landors. Or as I previously knew him as Jack Manners. As you recall, he was arrested five years ago and was transported off Earth to a prison facility for those who hold special abilities…"

"You mean him being a mutant," Leon Sphinx adds.

"Yes. Earth still holds much prejudice against humans that were born with… such abilities. The potential they have to be criminals or tyrants is rather high according to the data presented."

"And this questions Landor's loyalty, how?"

"Although they have been encrypted, I have been monitoring his off world communications. They usually occur at late night, and they can't be traced over any official SPD channel. I feel that he may be in cahoots with the Troobians, especially after the disappearance of the A-Squad so soon after his arrival."

"That is outrageous," another Commander yells. This one has a Squid like face, with small beady red eyes. He is Sergeant Porupo, one of the few survivors from the Gamma 14 incident where Gruumm gained entrance to the galaxy. "Landors is one of our best! I may dislike the gnat, but he is loyal to SPD in all the ways that matter! We all have had a hand in his… programming."

"What do you mean… programming," Anubis raises an eyebrow.

Fowler sits back in his seat. "How much of Jack Landor's history do you know?"

"None, other than he was living on the streets when he was first arrested alongside Officer Delgado. There are no accessible files about his past. Anything that I may have come into finding has been locked away. My clearance is not high enough to open said files."

"There is a reason for that," Fowler places his hands together, the tips of his fingers touching their counterparts. "You are quite aware that the mutant population on Earth was born from radiation from the meteorite fragments that was brought to Earth from when the planet Uranus was destroyed, correct?"

"Yes," Cruger nods.

"That is not entirely true. The mutant gene which physically changes a human into looking… deformed was indeed a result from the radiation fallout that eventually made its way to Earth. That gene is simply called the X gene. However, as you know, there are mutants who can pass through a normal day as a regular human, if it is not known that they are mutants. Such as Jack Landors and your prized Yellow Ranger, Elizabeth Delgado. That gene, the M gene as we like to call it, while similar to the X gene, is not a natural evolution that was forced on by the Uranus fragments. That gene was manufactured."

"What? It was created?"

"Yes. And Jack Landors was the first. He is Mutant Zero. While born naturally, he was taken from his parents and placed into the program by a Doctor Sinuku, who is associated with Gruumm. We have learned that his plan was to create a social uprising from within Earth. He implanted the embryo into many expecting parents, which years after the child was born, the mutant gene would become active. Jack was born with his abilities, right out of the womb. There was an inside sabotage within the program by Sinuku's partner, a Doctor Rheas. Once Sinuku's linkage to Gruumm was uncovered by Rheas. Rheas had managed to smuggle Jack out of the program before he was killed, but Jack went missing, that is until the day he was arrested by your Officers."

"How long have you known about this," Anubis barks.

"For about ten years," Fowler remarks. "We became aware of this, after we came across Sinuku's illegal cloning program, in which he successfully created several child clones. One of them that we known of was a clone of the criminal known as Morgana. The other was a clone of Jack."

"Sam," Anubis remarks quietly. It is the name of the small African American child that Z grew real close to not to long ago before his abduction by the Troobian Bugglesworth.

"While still an infant, Jack was implanted with all the knowledge of combat. Of survival. We have reason to believe that Gruumm wanted a batch of Super Soldiers to use against Earth and SPD's forces, especially once we came across a file simply titled the Spartan Protocol Defense program." Fowler continues.

"Can you imagine a cloned army of genetically superior combative soldiers who can control their bodily density? They cannot be harmed if they cannot be touched," Commander Sphinx adds.

"My God…," Cruger takes a step back. "I… I had no idea…"

"This is a war Anubis," Fowler narrows his eyes at the Delta Commander. "And we must win. No matter the cost. If that means that we have to take Gruumm's own genetically born Super Soldier and use it against him, then so be it. Jack is loyal to our cause… even if he hates humanity as a whole for the way he was mistreated as a child."

"But what of those encrypted transmissions," Cruger barks. "That cannot be ignored!"

"Those… were to me," Fowler admits. "I had reason to believe… and still do… that you are the mole within SPD that has been feeding information to the Troobians."

"WHAT!"

"That is absurd!"

"Preposterous!"

"I cannot find the logic in that," Commander Sphinx remarks. "If there is anyone here who is more dedicated to seeing Gruumm taken down, it's Anubis! His whole race was eradicated by Gruumm!"

"Someone from Earth has been feeding the Troobians information," Fowler argues, slamming his fist down onto his podium. "They breeched our protective force field and entered the galaxy, decimated our forces at the galaxy entrance and not only has the Earth's A-Squad gone missing, but we can count up to fifteen other dead Rangers who were placed there at Gamma-14! All of those security codes were known only by Cruger!"

"Earth is my home," Cruger growls. "It's been my home since I first came into this Galaxy after Gruumm obliterated my own! Anything that I have left in my life that I cherish is on that planet, why would I betray that? SPD was my life before my people's extinction, and it is still now! Why would I betray SPD?"

"The only person who could possibly have the data about or ship's force field perimeters and the codes to break through the protective barrier on Earth with that kind of clearance, is you Commander! If you are not the traitor, then whom should we focus our attention on?"

"Gruumm killed my wife! How dare you accuse me of treason," Cruger jabs a finger toward the Supreme Commander. "But… you do bring forth an excellent question Supreme Commander," Anubis Cruger looks at the other five Commanders presented before him. "And you all can vouch for Jack Landors?"

"Aye," the five Commanders respond simultaneously.

"Well then, if not Jack Landors or yourself…," Fowler leans back into his seat, tapping his fingers on his desk. "Then who…"

xxxxxxxxxx

The ebony skinned man who was the topic of the Galactic Council closes his laptop. He had hacked into the database and monitored the meeting from his laptop from his quarters on Earth. From watching the debate between the Commanders and the Supreme Commander, he had finally learnt his true past… what has been kept from him. How he has been used from the moment of his birth from both those who planned the domination and occupation of this galaxy… and now from those sworn to protect it.

His hands clench into fists. He wants to hit something. He wants to break something. Anything to help drain this rage that is growing from the bottom of his heart; threatening to erupt from within.

"Jack… you coming to bed…" a sleepily, feminine voice calls out to him from the darkness of his room. Jack looks over to his bed, where only a sheet is covering the form of the woman he loves. The same woman he fought to protect when they were younger. The same woman he would kill to protect even now.

"Yeah Z, just… yeah. I'm coming…" Jack stands from his desk and makes his way back over to his bed. Elizabeth Delgado, she has been the only positive thing in his life, he acknowledges as he lies down beside her. She inhales deeply as she snuggles closer to his body, drawing on his warmth. He places an arm around her and pulls her closer. He had long since given up on learning his past. He merely focused on the present and future, and since returning back to earth, he has been planning accordingly with Z in mind.

This… this changes nothing… Jack tells himself. He already had plans that no longer dealt with SPD in the near future. All this new tidbit of information that he learned from the meeting that he just spied on will only give him the motivation he needs to push his own plans further into play. I'm going to find Sam… my clone… my brother. And I'm going to find out more about this… Spartan Protocol Defense program, and end it. And then Z, himself and I we'll leave this war to SPD and the Troobians. They can fight this war without me. To hell with Gruumm, to hell with Cruger. To hell with them all.

And maybe that is just what may come to pass. For what is a pawn in a chess game, if the pawn is removed from the board?

The countdown continues…

War is coming…

To be continued in Vertigo: The Series.

Coming soon to FanFiction .Net and Rangerboard .Com