A Power Rangers Novel
The Power Rangers were beloved heroes, shining examples of the best in humanity. Those days are long gone. The years have not been kind to the Rangers, nor to their once proud legacy. Disturbed by what he sees, an old Ranger ponders a future that looks bleaker every day. What he decides to do will have grave consequences for his friends and allies. The world stands on the brink. Heroes are needed - but will the Power Rangers be enough?
Disclaimer: No financial gain has been made by the writing or distribution of this story. The author makes no claim of ownership to any of the characters appearing within. The Power Rangers, as well as Masked Rider, are owned by Saban. The Ninja Turtles are the property of Nickelodeon. Batman is owned by DC Comics.
Author's Note: Dark Tomorrow is a full length novel involving characters from every season of the show, as of its release in early 2012. I first published this story in PDF format, which is the "definitive" version that I hope you'll read. It contained a variety of images and special formatting that can't be found in a text-only document. The PDF version can be found in the fanfic sections of the RangerBoard and RangerCrew forums. If you're reading this and the story is no longer available on those sites, just ask me and I'll be happy to e-mail you a copy myself. I've posted the story here in text-only format simply to expose it to a larger audience beyond the one that visits the forums.
Chapter 1 - Future Shock
The Phantom Ranger sat alone in the darkness, clutching his head as multiple thoughts swirled inside. The same thoughts that had haunted him for years were urging him on once again.
What have you done?
There's no going back now.
He's gone too far. He must be stopped.
"No..." the Phantom said. Despite his defiance, he knew that time was running out. The prospect of war loomed on the horizon. He had not approached it, out of trust for his fellow Rangers. But like his patience, the Phantom's trust was beginning to unravel. "Enough," he finally said.
"Please work." Hayley exhaled as she brought her finger down on one last key, before looking up at the computer screen.
The new cybersecurity features that she had designed were successfully installed into the Dino Lab's computers. She would have done it earlier had she not been so busy that night. For the past few hours, she had been monitoring the surveillance networks while sending out meticulously written threat updates to Tommy and his associates.
It was a maddening process: checking each signal return in each sensor for each sector of land that she could monitor, fully knowing that the system was not extensive enough to see everything, or that she might not have even been looking for the right signs. Sector after sector passed with a clean scan, which she made sure to report. Whenever something big happened, she had to do things like that to make sure that Tommy's operations ran smoothly. Tommy himself had just left to conduct a personal investigation at the location of the incident. He was only interested in the bottom line, not in the small but necessary intricacies that were always left to her.
While the surveillance system wasn't perfect, Hayley trusted it enough to believe that the recent incident didn't have a more sinister cause behind it. With her work finished for the time being, she leaned back in her chair for a few minutes of well-deserved rest. Her left hand blindly reached for her cup of coffee, which was standing on the same spot that she always left it on. As the warm liquid flowed down her throat, she took solace in the nature of her day job. Most of the Cyberspace's customers were high school students, who usually woke up at the last minute before rushing straight to school. Because of that, she could afford to open very late in the morning, giving herself a few decent hours of sleep even if she had stayed up working in the lab all night.
As she laid her cup back down, the sound of it scraping against the desk came out loud and clear. It reminded Hayley of how quiet things got around there, after Tommy himself usually went to bed. Hayley had nothing more to do for the night, and she would have probably been better off just getting up and driving home for some sleep. But the chair was comfortable now that she wasn't leaning forward, furiously typing away. She wanted to savor that small comfort for just a few minutes more. All she needed was something to break the silence.
Hayley turned on the television. It was on the Global News Network, which was going over the other big story of the day. Dex Stewart, the United Nations space ambassador, had made a big speech that afternoon. It was Tommy's idea, which he had discussed with Dex during a private meeting. Hayley knew all about it. After all, she was the one they had relied upon to put the speech together.
The TV showed Dex standing behind a podium, clearly trying to contain his emotions before proceeding with the speech. "People...I stand before you as a fellow citizen of Earth. This world has been very good to me. It gave me opportunity, fame, and prosperity. But most importantly, it gave me a place where I could live and love again after the destruction of my homeworld. I proudly adopted Earth as my home, and I will do all that I can to defend it. To that end, I urge the governments of this world to seek closer ties with the intergalactic community. This world must not be an island. Should it face its darkest hour, I want Earth to have allies it can depend on...something Edenoi didn't have."
Dex suddenly ducked, as a tomato flew up from the crowd. "Go home alien!" someone screamed.
"Independent Earth!" someone else yelled. "Resist alien occupation!"
Hayley sighed as she watched Dex put up his hands, futilely trying to calm the crowd as they shouted him down. He didn't utter another word, but the look on his face said it all. Hayley quickly changed the channel. It was just too painful to watch. All that work, wasted, she thought. Tommy would surely bring up the speech's failure, after their other current problems were taken care of. But Hayley couldn't bear to hear anymore about it. At least not for the rest of the night.
Flipping through the channels, she looked for something light, something stupid to get her mind off things for a while. She settled on a rerun of that evening's Entertainment Insider, one of those fluffy shows that hyped upcoming movies and went over who was currently dating who. Hayley frowned when she saw more protestors screaming about the Masked Rider, assembled outside the EI studio. But there was something different about these people. They were fans, shouting "Bring back Dex!" and holding up signs like "No reboots." These people were clearly passionate, but they made no mention of Dex's real life troubles.
The TV switched to an interior view of the studio, zooming in on a pretty blonde host. "Hey everyone!" she said, smiling brightly. "Nikki Miller here, and boy do we have a show for you tonight! EI is here to give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Masked Rider: Xtreme Evolution, starring Power Ranger Dax Lo. People everywhere are just buzzing with excitement for this movie, which will surely be amazing."
"Well, I guess you found what you were looking for," Hayley said to herself. A feeling of relaxation had just begun to settle in when Hayley heard some footsteps coming down the stairs behind her.
She quickly spun her chair around to see who it was. "Tommy. I thought you left for Angel Grove already."
"Came back to check one last thing."
Hayley stood up and approached him. "Anything I can help with?"
"No. Just a little thing that's been bugging me."
Hayley sighed as he walked past her, turning his head from side to side as if he were searching the room. He's shutting me out again, she thought.
"I'll pass things along now to Matthew Bryant, our correspondent on the set of Xtreme Evolution," Nikki Miller said. "Matt, why don't you tell everyone what a super awesome experience this is?"
The TV switched to Matt, who quickly rolled his eyes back down as he turned to face the camera. "Yeah, well, it's days like this that make me glad I was dropped from the evening news," he said.
Hayley felt a tinge of embarrassment. Entertainment Insider wasn't the type of show that complied with the image that she had cultivated over the years, toward Tommy and the rest of her friends and colleagues. She was thinking of a line to brush it off with, when Matt said something that managed to catch Tommy's attention. Not surprising, Hayley thought, given the big story of the day. It was the type of scandalous story that found its way into gossipy celebrity shows, as well as the actual news.
"Now, before my Masked Rider interview, I'd like to talk about an important development concerning one of Dax's former teammates. Angel Grove was stunned this morning when Will Aston, the Black Overdrive Ranger, led police on a high-speed chase through the city's streets. Aston had been wanted on suspicion of stealing from one of his clients, after complaining about the amount of money being paid to other artifact recovery specialists."
Hayley shook her head as the TV showed crushed civilian cars and overturned police cruisers. She turned to see Tommy's reaction to the images, finding a face twisted with disgust. "You okay Tommy?" she asked.
His reply was terse, thinly veiling an intense anger. "What a disgrace."
Matt Bryant continued. "After evading the police for twenty minutes, Aston was mysteriously found unconscious and without his morpher near the wreckage of his HoverTek Cycle. The investigation is still ongoing, but the event has already sent shockwaves throughout the nation. A few hours ago, I tried reaching out to Andrew Hartford, billionaire mentor of the Overdrive Rangers."
The show switched to some earlier footage, of Matt sticking a microphone in Andrew's face as he followed him down a street. "Mr. Hartford, what is your reaction to Will's arrest?"
"No comment," Andrew said without even looking at the reporter.
"Really?" Matt asked. "You have nothing to say at all? You don't feel the least bit responsible for this?"
"I said 'no comment!'" Andrew stopped walking and looked directly at the reporter. "Look, I know what you're trying to do. You're setting me up. Trying to get me to say something stupid."
"I'm just asking you some questions," Matt replied.
"You're just like the rest of the media, you know that?" Andrew said. "You guys have been hounding me and my team for years. Writing all those negative stories. Spreading those awful rumors about me. Rumors which are completely untrue." With that said, Andrew turned away from the camera and took off in a huff.
The show cut back to Matt standing on the Masked Rider set. "We'll report more information as the situation develops," Matt said. "But for now, let's get on with the interview." The camera panned toward Dax and an older, middle-aged man sitting in chairs. "Here's Dax Lo and Brad Kelly, director of Xtreme Evolution."
"Oh, this should be good."
What's going on, Tommy? Hayley thought. Those words had sounded so bitter. She looked at him again, seeing him roll his eyes. He seemed particularly negative tonight, even hateful. Hayley thought that she should say something to ease his mood, but she was at a loss for words. She quickly turned back to the TV before he could notice that she was staring at him.
"Hi Dax, good seeing you again," Matt said as he sat down next to him.
The Blue Overdrive Ranger sat there with a cheerful, clueless grin on his face, apparently excited about getting the publicity. He managed to reply with a brief "Hey Matt" as he momentarily suppressed his giggling.
The reporter leaned forward, taking a serious tone. "Dax, I'm sure you've heard the news about your former teammate Will. What do you have to say about it?"
"WELL, I guess this isn't good. I mean, Will got himself into a LOT of trouble, right? But I don't really know too much about this."
"I'm sure you don't." Hayley was taken aback as she heard that sharp retort directed at the TV. She was now very worried about her companion's persisting anger. She tried but she still couldn't think of anything to say, for she had long settled into their relationship. Always available, whenever Tommy had a problem with equipment, weapons, or computers. He didn't talk to her about other things.
The interview continued, and Hayley knew that the two of them wouldn't like it. She wanted him to turn around and tell her what was going on. Instead, he remained glued to the TV, watching the interview intently as if he was waiting for it to match his worst expectations.
"Have you talked to the other Over-"
Brad Kelly, who had been sitting there looking annoyed the whole time, suddenly interrupted. "Hey, can we just talk about the movie already?"
Matt gently raised his hand to calm him, before apologizing. "I'm sorry sir. I do have some questions that you can answer as well. Now as the director -"
"Director, writer, and producer," Brad said.
"Uh huh," Matt said. "Anyway, as everyone knows, the original Masked Rider was loosely based on the real-life experiences of Dex Stewart. Recently, Dex has been involved in some very important work as the UN space ambassador. Does your movie have anything to say on the subject of human-alien relations? Or opening yourself up to new things?"
"Um...uh..." Dax just sat there with a blank expression on his face.
"Next question," Brad said. "Next question."
"Okay...well, a lot of fans are concerned about your bold new direction to reboot this franchise. They think that it's gone away from everything the Masked Rider is all about. Do you want to say anything to address their complaints?"
Dax threw his head back and laughed, dismissing the criticism. "Yeah, it won't be the same Masked Rider as before. But I think they need to watch this movie before judging it. This new direction of ours is gonna be awesome. The action's so bloody and brutal. And our story will be a really, really dark."
"Look, I don't care what a few super fanboys are saying," Brad said. "We know the majority of Rider fans out there are excited about this."
"Alright, alright," Matt said. "I understand you're going for a darker take on the character. But in light of what happened with Dax's teammate Will, do you really think that your work is setting a positive example for future generations?"
Tense sound effects played as the camera zoomed in on Brad Kelly's stunned face. The show suddenly cut back to its host, Nikki Miller. "Wow Matt!" she said, as her eyes and mouth opened wide in surprise. "Looks like things are getting HOT in there! Stay tuned to hear more of the tough questions only on -"
Hayley saw the TV screen suddenly flicker and turn black. The interview wasn't over yet, but Tommy apparently couldn't stomach watching any more of it.
"Are these the best heroes we can find? They only care about themselves, even with the world going down the drain."
"We still have heroes Tommy…like you."
Hayley's words fell flat. He hadn't looked at her since he had entered the room. She wasn't sure if he had even been talking to her this whole time.
"Is there something you need to do?" he asked without turning around.
"No, I just wanted to make sure you didn't really need my help."
She knew that she wasn't getting anywhere with him. He was acting strangely, but Hayley figured that she would as well if she had the pressure of leading various Power Rangers throughout the universe. He had the right to be angry tonight, after what Will had done.
"Okay...it's getting late," she said. "I think I'm going home."
"See you in a few days."
"Good night Tommy."
Rage seethed inside of him as he waited impatiently for Hayley to leave the room. He knew that he had work to do, and that enough years had been wasted already.
"Aw man, where is it?" His eyes passed over the stone walls, finally settling upon a small doorway in a dark corner of the lab. Walking over there, he entered a six-digit code into the door's electronic keypad lock. The heavy metal door slowly slid open, inviting him down a flight of stairs into a long, dark corridor. A corridor that did not exist when this place had first been built. It had been constructed after Zeltrax's rampage through the Dino Lab. That event had opened Tommy's eyes to how poor his security had been. Never again would he allow such a thing to happen.
Just moments after he had walked in, the door slammed shut behind him leaving the corridor nearly pitch black. The only light that could be seen came from the computerized displays on the next metal door before him.
Arriving at the next door, he placed his hand on its fingerprint scanner while another device examined his retina. A dozen automated laser blasters were trained on him at that very moment, like silent killers lurking in the darkness. If the incorrect biometric data were to be detected, or if there was an attempt to breach the door, the blasters would fire. Should the intruder survive that assault, the corridor would be flooded with poison gas. Explosives were installed behind the walls, ready to annihilate any beings that didn't need to breathe.
All of those lethal defenses were just for this section of the hallway. He continued on, walking through a series of similarly defended checkpoints where a host of other biological functions were monitored. The scanners were so sensitive that even an abnormal mental state could be detected. That was necessary, just in case Tommy was ever placed under a mind control spell again. He approved of how stringent the security standards were, for he was the only one who could ever hope to breach this system. Not even Hayley, who had designed these defenses, was allowed inside. He had hired numerous contractors to inspect and build different parts of her designs, in order to ensure that things would work exactly as she said they would.
The final door slid open, granting him access to the vault. Within its walls lay some of the world's greatest treasures, collected from Tommy's associates as well as during the course of his own exploits. The room was filled with ancient tools, incomprehensible alien devices, and magical tomes written in languages that had been forgotten long ago. Most of the artifacts were dormant, still waiting for someone who possessed the arcane knowledge required to unlock their power.
In the center of the vault was a large rock topped with a green crystal. The rock was mounted on top of a console, with power conduits linking the entire system into the vault's walls.
What a marvelous artifact, he thought. Although it resembled a crude boulder, the Time Stone was actually the product of careful magical and technological refinement. Connected to the Morphin Grid itself, it could allow its user to see events of the past, the present, and even the likely future. The future was what he had come to see tonight.
He walked up and pushed a button on the console. Electricity flowed into the rock, causing it to glow and come to life. He slowly reached for the green crystal, pausing so that his hand hovered just inches from it. This is it, he thought. His hand fell, clutching tightly on to the crystal.
Energy coursed through his arm and into the rest of his body, almost gripping him into place. His mouth opened wide as the scene in front of his eyes transformed. Everything became a bright blur, and it appeared as if he was being pulled through a green, twisting wormhole. The movement came to an abrupt halt as a beach scene materialized on the other side of the portal. A young couple stood near the waves in the background, fishing.
His eyes shifted to the foreground of the scene as he heard several beeps. The sounds came from a small technological device, carelessly left out in the open along with the young man's red jacket and his picnic food.
A woman's voice emanated from the device. "Jack. Come in Jack. The Rangers are under attack."
Him again. The name immediately drew his attention. Jack was a Ranger whom Tommy had seen only once, during that alarming time travel incident five years ago. As the old Ranger watched the future one, he found the scene to be unbelievable. "What kind of a Ranger is this guy?" he asked. It was incomprehensible how someone could take such a careless attitude toward his duties. What he saw was so offputting that he felt a strong desire to reach into the scene and set things straight with this Jack character.
More scenes flashed by: The Red Ranger arrived at the battle late. He was completely unrepentant about it, actually yelling back when his mentor reprimanded him. The mentor met with another team of Rangers under his command, who betrayed and kidnapped him. Five Rangers – all of them willingly turned to evil.
Take me further, he thought. I need to see more. He needed to see a future that turned out better than that.
Time flashed before him again. Vast mechanical armies swept across the land. Missiles rose from their silos. The world's surface erupted in a series of apocalyptic explosions. Great cities were reduced to nothing but rubble and ashes.
"No. Not like that." He felt his chest tightening up. What he saw was not only horrifying, but was also his fault. He had not ensured that the world would be left in good hands. He had not done what was needed of him.
The visions suddenly ceased as the Time Stone exhausted its power supply. He stumbled back a few steps before his legs gave out, causing him to crumble to the floor.
Tommy Oliver was considered many things. A warrior, a leader, a mastermind, and a hero. To many of his peers, he was the greatest Ranger who ever lived. He had not been great enough. All of Tommy's accomplishments now looked hollow and meaningless to the man lying on the floor of the vault that night.
The future was far grimmer than he had predicted. He stayed on the floor for the next few minutes, staring up at the ceiling as he pondered what he had just seen. He realized that Jack was the harbinger. It seemed so clear to him that he was ashamed that he hadn't recognized it five years ago. The Rangers of Jack's time were not the heroes that the world would need. But that wasn't the extent of their unworthiness. What if their travel back to the past had actually made things even worse? Like a disease, they had contaminated others throughout the continuity of the timeline. A contamination that would spread further as time went on, bringing the world ever closer to its doom. Would the Earth fall to an alien invasion? Or would humanity be consumed by its petty differences, destroying itself in one final war? Whatever the eventual cause, he knew then what he had to do.
Pulling himself back up, he turned to a chest lying on the side of the vault. Saving the world is my mission, he thought. He opened the chest, removing a golden crown and a black jewel.
"And these will be my weapons."
The Corona Aurora glistened in the moonlight as he hurried out of the house. He prayed that he would have enough strength, for he now felt the weight of all future generations pressing down upon his shoulders.
"Well, I for one have better things to do than sit around here and do nothing."
-Ronny Robinson, "Once a Ranger" part 1
'The Cassidy Cornell Show' for Monday, September 7
Global News Network
Read the transcript from the Monday show
Updated 1:37 PM ET on Tues., September 8, 2009
CASSIDY CORNELL, HOST (voice-over): Fears of alien hegemony have put international tensions on the rise. An arms race is brewing in the Far East, as experts fear the proliferation of morphing technologies. What does the future hold for us all?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. WANG HUOJIN, PRC: Our nation will oppose any alien incursions into our territory. We will not submit to the Americans' criticism of our military spending. It is quite hypocritical coming from the country that has opened its doors to the aliens so that it can build its own army of Power Rangers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORNELL: President Wang Huojin of the People's Republic of China had some strong words for the United States during a speech delivered last Saturday. This came two weeks after he shocked the world with the debut of the Dragon Warriors, his country's answer to the Power Rangers. That revelation, along with a massive buildup of conventional forces, has put China's neighbors as well as America on edge.
Meanwhile, Miyazaki Katsuro, the fiery new Prime Minister of Japan, has pushed his government to revise its constitution and abandon the country's self-defense-only policy. Miyazaki attended the public unveiling of the Raiden Destroyer on Sunday, an appearance many believe to have been scheduled in reaction to China's Dragon Warriors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PM MIYAZAKI KATSURO, JAPAN: This colossal tank represents the next great leap in land warfare capability. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are fully prepared to face any threats to our national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORNELL: Defense expert and former military researcher Clark Fairweather is here to discuss these developments.
Good evening, Clark.
CLARK FAIRWEATHER: Hi Cassidy. Great to be on your show.
CORNELL: Clark, what is your view of the current situation in Asia? How did we get into this mess?
FAIRWEATHER: It all goes back to the arrival of the Power Rangers sixteen years ago. While the Rangers have said that they protect the Earth, they've almost always fought in defense of America.
CORNELL: Is that how other countries see it?
FAIRWEATHER: Yes. China and Russia, especially. Places that aren't as influenced by the American media's adoration of the Power Rangers.
CORNELL: I remember the Rangers being very popular throughout the entire world. What changed?
FAIRWEATHER: The Great Invasion of '98 was the turning point. For the first time, people in other nations experienced firsthand what they had only seen on TV before. They looked to the skies for the Power Rangers to swoop in and save them, but help didn't come. They did hear of the Rangers fighting in Angel Grove, as usual.
In the aftermath of the invasion, people were angry. While the alien forces had been destroyed, they saw that as a side effect of the Rangers' efforts to protect America. Other nations began to wonder whether the Power Rangers were really looking out for them at all. They came to believe that they were bystanders to an alien conflict that had spilled over onto this planet, and that America had taken sides for its own benefit. Of course, we didn't do anything to change that perception.
CORNELL: Are you talking about Lightspeed Rescue?
FAIRWEATHER: Yes, as well as Terra Venture, which we only completed with the assistance of our extraterrestrial friends. There's also our increased military robotics research over the past few years. Projects such as these made other countries wonder just how much America has been collaborating with alien powers. And then all of their worst fears were seemingly confirmed by the Rangers' heavy-handed actions during the Infiltrator Crisis.
CORNELL: The government is extremely concerned about the emergence of the Dragon Warriors. How have they altered the balance of power?
FAIRWEATHER: That's a very good question, Cassidy. But first, I'd like to address the sensationalism around this subject. I've worked in Lightspeed Rescue, and I still retain close relationships with a number of people in the military. I can assure you that the Dragon Warriors are not "Chinese Power Rangers." They're men wearing spandex suits and armor padding, driving dressed up tanks and fighter jets. The intelligence community has not found any evidence that the Chinese have mastered the technologies, or tapped into the energy grids necessary to create true Power Rangers.
CORNELL: Are you saying that we shouldn't be worried about this?
FAIRWEATHER: I'm saying that it's been blown out of proportion. China hasn't achieved morphing technology yet, but that doesn't mean that they can't at some point in the future. The CIA does know that both China and Russia have been conducting extensive research into this field. And while the Dragon Warriors are no Power Rangers, they are an undeniable accomplishment for China. We don't know if they achieved their capabilities through bionic implants, advanced steroids, or some other means, but they are clearly a step above normal human soldiers.
The Chinese have also increased the size of their military by thirty-five percent over the past decade. They've launched several large-scale archaeological expeditions aimed at tapping their nation's rich history for magical artifacts and weaponry. These developments have emboldened North Korea, while causing panic in South Korea and Japan. Nations all across Asia and the rest of the world are now ramping up their militaries, trying to preserve peace but instead causing more destabilization.
CORNELL: Yeah, things are getting pretty scary right now. What needs to be done about this?
FAIRWEATHER: We need to communicate, because these tensions stem from a failure to understand each other. We've accepted help from friendly extraterrestrials, but we're not subservient to them, or using their technology for world domination as China seems to think. China is strengthening its military because it's scared. It sees itself as being on the defensive, but its actions have caused the same fears in South Korea and Japan. While I won't dismiss the fact that some people out there would like nothing more than to start a war, I think the majority wishes only to protect their countries.
Of course, things are easier said than done. But at some point, someone needs to step forward and begin the process. Waiting and hoping for the status quo to change on its own will never get us anywhere.
CORNELL: Thank you Clark. Let's hope they do something before it's too late.
I'm Cassidy Cornell, good night America.