Rescue Rangers XN

Beyond Celestia

Episode 2: The Hunters and The Hunted

By Edward Carlton Baird

I. Clash of the Impossible

Wescott, Tammy and Dale were face to face with the manticore, the gargoyle, and the dragon. Wescott had sweat pouring from his brow. He was in a frenzy of mixed emotions. He was mad at the predicament, sad at his parents painful position, and worried at what the monsters before him might do. He decided to call up Foxglove psychically. He put his hand to his head and thought. “Foxglove, if you can hear me, do something! We’re trapped in a temple, with this weird lion-looking thing, a baby dragon, and this thing that looks like a guy I once saw on some cartoon from this no-name entertainment company. Anyway use a spell, send an incantation, just do something!” Wescott thought. He didn’t even see what happened next. The manticore clubbed Wescott across the chest with its spiked tail. Wescott slid across the slick tiles towards the acid bath below. He raked the tiles with his claws to stop himself from falling into the bubbly green death. He stopped just inches from it. Small stones and bits of rubble crumbled around him, and fell into the acid with a disturbing hiss. This was enough to make Wescott shift his position. Tammy saw this dirty trick by the halfling monster and took action. She reached into her pack and pulled out her machete. She swing it by the lanyard, aimed low, and let go. The machete swished through the air, and cut off the mainticore’s spiked tail. It growled in pain. It began to breathe a short flare of blue flames, with really didn’t help it at all. The gargoyle roared lowly as it circled the elliptic room to find a position it could use to attack the intruders. Dale noticed the scheming brute and yelled to Tammy, whom it was about to pounce upon. “Tammy! Ugly thing at 5:00!” He warned. Tammy looked around her back to see the gargoyle gain altitude just above her, in an attempt to crush her under its talons. Tammy cocked Eater, aimed and fired a point blank shot at the monster, who continued to go higher and higher, unfazed. The gargoyle then began its descent from the top of the temple. Faster and faster it fell, as Tammy stood frozen in fear. Wescott had recovered from his initial shock, and saw what was about to happen to Tammy. He rushed forward, his tail spinning wildly, in an attempt to save Tammy from the falling gargoyle. Tammy looked straight up, unable to move, and began to scream. Wescott grabbed her from her spot, and the two squirrels tumbled to the opposite wall, out of the way of the crashing monster. When they stopped, Tammy grabbed hold of Wescott and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thanks Wes. I owe you one.” She said. Dale ran over to his friends. “Hey, lovebirds, this is no time for kissing. We’re in deep trouble!” He scolded. “You’re right...Look!” Tammy said, pointing at the gargoyle. By this time, the gargoyle could not stop itself, and was on a collision course with the floor. “He’s gonna crash!” Dale exclaimed. “Hit the deck!” Wescott yelled as the three friends jumped to the wall, and covered their faces. The gargoyle screamed as it slammed into the tiles, creating a gaping hole in the floor. A bubbling hiss rose from the tiles. Wescott turned around, and looked into the hole. All that remained of the gargoyle was a skeleton. “Well, that’s a crisp and refreshing sight. I’m sure glad I don’t have to clean that up.” He said, disgustedly.

Foxglove, Gadget and Chip were in the worklab, continuing work on the RangerMechs when Foxglove received the message from Wescott. She took action. “Guys! The others are in trouble! Wescott told me he was trapped in a temple with some weird things chasing him around. We have to help them. I’m going after them. Who wants to join me?” Foxglove said. “Let’s go!” Gadget and Chip responded simultaneously. Remembering how the other three got there in the first place, Foxglove flew up the stairs to Wescott’s room. She opened his closet. She was confronted by the same portal that Wescott, Tammy and Dale went through. Chip and Gadget were astonished. She felt inside the portal for Wescott’s location. She then explained to Chip and Gadget what happened. “Okay. From what I understand, Wescott, Tammy and Dale all went through this portal. However, they have moved from where this portal leads to somewhere well to the South of it. I’m going to try a little experiment. Hold on.” Foxglove waved her wings in front of the portal for a few seconds with her eyes closed. She then reopened them. She looked at the portal and it turned red. “I’ve found Wescott. He’s still in the temple, and I sense some bad stuff around him. I set the portal to take us to where he is, so we shouldn’t waste any more time.” Foxglove entered the portal. Immediately she was gone from sight. Chip looked at Gadget, and she looked back at him. They both shrugged their shoulders. “Rescue Rangers...away?” They asked each other, before walking slowly through the portal. Soon all six members of the Rescue Rangers were inside the temple, with the manticore blocking the two groups from becoming one. “Golly and three quarters, Chip! We’ve stepped into another world! That portal must have opened a hole in the Time/Space Continuum!” Gadget exclaimed. The manticore decided to go after the Bravo Team, and was about to pounce on Wescott when Foxglove burned its back with a firebrand spell. “Chip? Can you hear me from over there?” Wescott yelled at the leader chipmunk. “Yeah. What is it?” Chip responded. “I thought maybe it was time for a Justice Sandwich tactic.” Wescott suggested. “That’s a good idea, Wescott. I’m surprised I didn’t think of that one.” Chip said. Chip conferred with Foxglove and Gadget, while Wescott told Tammy and Dale of the plan. “Ready whenever you are, Chip!” Wescott saluted. “Weapons up, Rangers!” Chip said. Everyone brandished their own personal weapons. Gadget unsheathed her dirk. Foxglove produced her ton-fans from her pouch, and held them up. Chip pulled out his trusty bullwhip from his imitation leather bomber jacket. He straightened out his fedora, to show that he meant business. On the other side of the temple, Wescott twirled his bo menacingly. Dale pulled his nunchaku chains outward. Tammy loaded Eater, and set it to kill. “Let’s dance.” Wescott taunted the manticore. “On three...” Chip said. “Three!” The team shouted, as all six teammates joined in the call. “RESCUE RANGERS RALLY!!!” They whooped. Each member took turns methodically attacking the huge beast. Chip wound up and lashed the manticore across the rump. As this was happening, Gadget gained a boost from Foxglove and the two of them jumped up on the back of the monster, smacking it rapidly with their weapons. Chip and Tammy worked like clock work next. Chip threw Tammy directly at the Manticore’s face, where she bolted it smartly on the nose with her fists. Wescott took this opportunity to go under its belly and cuff the manticore’s ribs unmercifully with his bo. Dale ran around the sides of the beast, dealing hit after hit to its paws. Soon, the manticore was tiring out from the repeated attacks. As it couldn’t take much more. It backed up with the Rangers advancing on it, and fell backwards into the same hole that the gargoyle left. Soon it too was gone completely. Wescott and Tammy gave each other a high-five. “Two down, one to go.” Tammy said. All this time, the dragon, had stood motionless on the altar of the temple. Now it stretched out its wings and screeched a horrifying wail. Without much ado, it flew up, and smashed right through the roof, leaving only the night sky to cover the Rangers. “That was easy enough.” Dale remarked. Wescott flew up to the spot where his parents were. He untied them, and helped them to get back on their footpaws. “Thank you Wescott. You really do have my blood in you, don’t ya?” Guy said, putting his hand on Wescott’s shoulder. Tammy joined Wescott, and was followed by Foxglove. Soon, Chip and the others had climbed up, and were standing next to Wescott and his family. “Well, we’ve gotten one problem done, now what do we do about the way out of here? The front door’s been sealed shut.” Chip said. Wescott reached into his pack and produced a rope shot. He fired it straight to another ledge high above them. “We make a way out.” He said, reassuringly. Chip patted the resourceful squirrel on the back. “I have to hand it to you Wescott, you have got some good ideas today.” He said, proud of his friend. The Rangers and Wescott’s parents started their ascent, paw over paw up the rope. When they reached the next ledge, Wescott reloaded the rope shot, and fired again at the roof. There was a spot there for them to land on. Once again, the friends climbed up the rope to the next spot. Soon they were on the crumbling roof of the temple. “What do we do now?” Dale asked. This time it was Tammy’s turn to be resourceful. She took the rope shot from her pack, and loaded it with the remaining rope from Wescott’s shot. She fired it at a tall tree just on the outside of the temple. “All we have to do is slide down this rope, and we’re outta here!” Tammy explained. “See, not only are you resourceful, son, but your girlfriend is smart, too!” Guy commented. The group shimmied down the rope with ease. At the tree, everyone climbed down, and they were off of the temple grounds. Wescott scratched the scruff of hair on his neck. He felt good to have gotten out of the temple, but one thing still bothered him. Yatru Spinga had escaped, and so had the dragon. Both signs didn’t bode good for any of them. “Well, now that that’s over with, what do we do now?” Dale asked. “First we have to get out of here, and get help. Dad, can you get someone to pick us up?” Wescott asked his father. “I have a radio, but I don’t know if it’ll work this far from the city. I’ll give it a try, though.” Guy said, turning on the radio. “Come in Blue Falcon, this is Gray Cloud, urgent, need pickup, over.” Guy said into the radio. For a few minutes, there was nothing but static. Then, when no one was paying attention, a voice was picked up over the receiver. “Roger that, Gray Cloud, sorry for the delay. State location.” The voice said. Guy snapped up, and reached for the communicator. “I’m outside the ruins of the main temple in Coaxan Park. Danni, is that you?” Guy said into the radio. “Yeah it’s me. How the hell’d you get all the way out there, Guy?” “Yatru, that punk captured me and held me hostage here. My son rescued me.” “No kidding! You found Wescott?” “Yes, but I’ll fill you in later. Right now, you’ve gotta pick us up.” “We’re on our way, Guy.” “Okay, Roger and out.”

II. A Night At Mutata.

It wasn’t long before a rescue craft found the group lying under the trees near the temple. Danni personally escorted Wescott, his parents, and their friends into the craft and from there, they left for New Malacom City. Danni could not believe that Wescott had been found. “So this is the famous Wescott Vance Atticas you always talked about, Guy?” Danni asked. “Yes it is. These are his friends, the Rescue Rangers of Earth.” Guy responded. “So Wescott, what about your friends?” Danni asked. Wescott introduced his friends in the same manor as when he talked about them at Guy’s Skyrise before Yatru destroyed it. When Tammy’s name was mentioned, Wescott went into multiple details about how he found the girl of his dreams, how he courted her, and how she grew to love him. Tammy blushed. Wescott wasn’t afraid to admit he loved Tammy in every sense of the word. After he finished talking about her, he gave her a long, passionate kiss on the lips in front of everyone. Tammy was stark vermilion. She knew everything he said was true. Soon, the team-including Wescott’s parents-were safe within the sturdy walls of the K.L.O.S.E.T. complex in New Malacom City. Danni approached Wescott, who was removing his pack. “I’m sure glad you came here, Wescott. It seems that you are a key player in this battle, and when you rescued your dad, It proves that you have what it takes to be a member of the K.L.O.S.E.T. team. Would you like to join our ranks?” She asked him. “Well, actually, I’m a Rescue Ranger. I earned my rank here first. I can’t just leave my friends here. I don’t know what I’d do without them. They were my first true family. However, I’m willing to help you in any means possible to defeat Yatru Spinga. I want that loser destroyed!” Wescott slammed his fist into the metal walls, leaving a sizable dent. Danni just stared at the awesome lust for revenge that glinted in Wescott’s ocean blue eyes. He had just the same kind of die-hard fight in him that his father had. She had to break it to Wescott as gently as possible. “Well, I hate to say this, but we can’t find Yatru on any of our scanners. We’ve looked everywhere. The only thing I can suggest is that we just cool it over at Cafe Mutata while the scanners search the area. Is that okay?” Danni suggested, calmly. “I guess that’s alright. I need a break, anyway.” Wescott agreed. Guy approached the two of them. “Did you say Cafe Mutata? Now that I can go for. I’m paying!” Guy said. Guy and Danni rounded up the crew. Chip, Dale, Gadget, Foxglove, Wescott, Tammy and Charlotte all agreed to Guy’s idea, and so they all gathered into two hover-cars and left the K.L.O.S.E.T. complex, and headed further into town. The city was like Times Square, only three times brighter and even more lively. The sky far above them was a bright pink. Tammy patted Wescott’s shoulder. “Wescott, this has to be one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I’ve never seen a bigger city with brighter lights than I have tonight. I don’t even know if this is all a crazy dream or not. And what makes it all even better is that I’m with you, Peanut.” Tammy kissed Wescott lightly on the lips. Wescott held Tammy’s left paw in his. “I’m pretty sure that it is all real. But if this is a dream, please don’t wake me up.” He said. Chip stared out at the giant billboards of the happier side of Corada Avenue. They flashed in a brilliance that he had never seen before. “This is all too intense. Dale, How could this be happening?” He asked his lifetime friend. “I dunno, Chip, but it sure beats the heck out of Sunday Night Wrestling!” Dale said excitedly. Within minutes, the hover-cars were parking in front of the massive cafe. It was a shiny metal building, with a shaded two-story patio. A huge neon sign blinked in the front, declaring that this was the famous Cafe Mutata. Guy whistled for the group to follow him. “Let’s go in and get a table.” He said. Inside the Cafe, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of beasts, eating, drinking, having fun, playing games, watching the latest match of Kill Puck on the giant V-wall, whooping and hollering, basically having a good time. Wescott was curious and decided to make the most of his experience at Guy’s watering hole. “Come on, son. Have a mug of Red Witch with me.” Guy offered. Guy hailed the bartender as Wescott, Danni and Charlotte bellied up to the bar. “I don’t know, dad. I’ve never really been one to accept strong drink from a place I’ve hardly ever been to before.” Wescott said nervously. “Nah, don’t worry about it. It won’t bite.” Wescott gulped down the concoction. Within seconds, Wescott started sweating profusely. His tail began to twitch uncontrollably, and his pupils constricted into two small discs. His face became red as a ripe tomato. This continued for a few minutes until Guy patted his back hard. Wescott gulped again, and returned to normal. “Ah...You swallowed the mite, didn’t you?” Guy chuckled. Wescott gasped for a few seconds before regaining his senses. “That’s it. I’m never going after strong beverages again. Give me a cola, on-the-rocks.” Wescott said. “Cola? What’s that?” The bartender asked. “Oh no. You’ve never heard of a cola, have you? Just give me the mildest thing you have.” Wescott said, burying his head in his arms on the bar. “Ah. Going soft, eh? Try this. This’ll perk you right up.” The bartender passed a suspicious-looking beverage in front of Wescott. The bartender chuckled slightly. Wescott refused it. “I told you, I’m not going to drink another strong drink!” He protested. “But it’s the mildest thing I have, like you asked!” The bartender said. “Alright then. I just don’t want any funny stuff.” Wescott accepted. He took the drink and gulped it down. It was cool, crisp and refreshing. It was unlike any sort of drink he had ever had. It was soothing and sweet, like a hot chocolate, light and fruity like a Sheer Fizzer, but it was energizing and eye-opening like an espresso, all rolled into one. “WOW! That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted! What is it?” Wescott asked, impressed by the beverage. “It’s the water that flows from the Shulanti Falls in Coaxan Park. It’s a very interesting drink, I think. It’s mild but flavorful.” The bartender commented. Chip and Gadget had gone off to look for something fun to do. Chip noticed that there was a tall vixen, brandishing a whip, similar to his. As Chip watched, the vixen snapped a wooden ball in half that was resting on the head of a short mole. A gathered crowd around her was clapping. Chip clapped with them. “That’s a very interesting talent you have there. I myself can do some cool things with my whip. Chip produced his bullwhip from his imitation leather bomber jacket. Spotting a mug of exotic-looking juice on a table nearby, Chip lowered his head to level with it. He winked one eye to get the aim, and let the whip fly. Instantly, the whip snagged hold of the beverage. Chip yanked back on the mug, and it soared through the air, flawlessly landing in his paws. He handed the mug to the vixen. “Here. Have a drink.” He said, smugly. Rounds of thunderous applause arose from the crowd. The vixen had been outdone. She smiled at Chip. “Smooth shooting, Tex. Even I’m impressed. My name’s Teresa. What’s your handle, so to speak?” She asked. “Chip. Chip Elmwood. I’m the leader of the Rescue Rangers.” The proud chipmunk said. “Chip, don’t show off. You know what happens to showoffs.” Gadget warned. “I’m afraid I do. They get lame jobs on late night television.” Chip remembered. Dale and Foxglove were off trying a very interesting form of entertainment. In the corner of the upper floor of the building, there was a simulator game. On it, there was a visor with headphones, and two gloves, one for each paw. Dale was in the game, swinging his fists at an imaginary foe. In the visor he was toe to toe with a knight in green armor. Dale landed a hard right hook to his fake opponent. The enemy retaliated by lashing out an uppercut, which cut Dale’s virtual jawbone, confusing him a bit. Finally, the knight planted a roundhouse kick square on Dale’s hipbone, sending him sprawling to the pretend floor. In big red letters the words GAME OVER appeared in front of Dale. Dale removed the visor, and stepped out of the game area. “I guess I need more practice.” He moaned. Tammy was off exploring the cafe. She had nothing better to do, and it seemed like she would be bound to find something interesting, the cafe being the size it was. She walked up the stairs to the second floor of the cafe, and found Dale and Foxy, sitting at a booth. She approached them. “Hi, guys! So, what have you two been up to?” She asked them. “Well, I just got my butt kicked at that game over there,” Dale pointed to the game machine into he corner. “Whatever you do, don’t play it. It’s not worth the humiliation.” He warned. Foxglove had her say. “I’ve just been kicking back and watching Dale. This is a very nice establishment, one of the most friendly bars I’ve ever been to.” She said. Suddenly, all of the V-walls on the premises began to flash red. All of the occupants turned their heads towards it. Wescott was confused. “Dad, what’s goin’ on?” He asked. “It’s a special bulletin. Something’s happened!” Guy said. A newscaster appeared on he screen and began his speech. “We interrupt our regular broadcasting for this special bulletin. We have just received word that dictator Yatru Spinga has been spotted in the vicinity of Shores City, and is currently attempting to set the city on fire. We advise all residents in or around Shores City to remain calm as panic will only make the situation worse.” The broadcast ended. Chip, Gadget, Foxglove, Dale and Tammy joined Wescott and his parents as they prepared to leave for the fight. Chip decided to take action. “Okay. I have a plan. Wescott, you go with your dad, and take Tammy and Gadget with you. Dale, Foxglove and I will go to K.L.O.S.E.T. with Danni and Charlotte. We’ll be there if you need backup.” Chip said. “Ok, that’s a good idea. Let’s do it!” Wescott agreed. The two teams split, and went their separate ways.

III. Assaulted and Peppered.

Wescott once again formed the Bravo Team, this time consisting of himself, his father, Guy, Tammy and Gadget. Together, they would head right into Shores City to face Yatru. First, they had to get some transportation. Guy knew just the place. They took the first hover-car, and sped off to one of Guy’s old friends. Deep in the downtown area, Guy drove the vehicle to an old looking warehouse. Inside he parked the hover-car and punched in a combination on a key pad that was to his left, well hidden on a box. A door opened on the other side of the warehouse, and the Bravo Team raced to enter it. Once inside, Guy hit another keypad, and the door was revealed to be an elevator, and the door closed behind them. The hum of the elevator going down sounded through the car as it fell into the ground. After a few minutes, the the elevator car arrived at its destination and it reopened with a sound from the bell. The team stepped out into the new room. It was a very clean laboratory, with hundreds of workers, tirelessly working on different projects. Gadget was stunned. “Golly plus 32! It’s a secret weapons facility!” She exclaimed. it reminded her of her own worklab, only much, much larger, and more sophisticated than hers. Guy approached an old almost senile feline worker, who was wearing spectacles, and reminded Wescott of the mad scientist, Dr. Jeremy Manniax, whom he helped chase out of Chicago several months ago. Guy tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me Richard. We need some weapons.” Guy said, making the old cat jump slightly. “Good land, Guy. You really don’t need to scare me in the process.” The cat said. “Oh, I see you brought some visitors. You know the rules, NO VISITORS ALLOWED!!!” He bellowed. “Relax, Dick, these are my son and his friends.” Guy said. “I don’ mean you actually found Wescott?” Richard said, astonished. “Yes. Here he is.” Guy replied, pointing to his son, who nodded. Richard approached the Guy’s son. “What an honor this is to actually meet you, Wescott. My name is Richard Libbins, and I am the main researcher here at K.A.R.F.” “K.A.R.F.? You mean there’s another acronym?” Wescott said. “K.A.R.F. is the Kaeralan Arms and Research Force, which is a division of K.L.O.S.E.T. We build the weapons and vehicles that the team uses to fight crime and maintain the peace here on Kaerala.” Richard said. “Ok, enough small talk, let’s see what you have, Dick. We don’t have a whole lot of time. Yatru’s attacking Shores City, and we have to go stop him.” Guy argued. “Alright, alright. first, we’ll need to outfit you with some weapons. Follow me.” Richard said, heading further into the lab. Richard stopped at a wall, tapped a button, and out rolled a selection of menacing guns. The old cat pulled out a long, silvery pistol like device. “Here is our main attraction: the HC-28. This gun has three different modes: the s-mode releases a steady stream of lasers, while the g-mode switches to regular gunning if you need a forceful shot, and the m-mode fires missiles.” Richard handed this gun to Guy, and produced another gun, this one shaped like a shotgun. This one he handed to Wescott. “Next, the KS-109. This pulse gun fires over 100 times per second without recharging. Perfect for riot control.” Next, Richard pulled out two black guns, both shaped like staple guns. “These are two little beauties called the XU-99 and XU-98. Both shoot rapid fire metal bullets, and carry, electrified net launchers.” He handed these to to Tammy, who refused them. “Thanks, but I have my own gun.” She reached in her holster, and showed the crowd her gun. “But I’m afraid that Yatru’s forces will be too much for it. We can make you a new one, based on this one, but with enough firepower to do the job. It will only take two seconds, if you can wait that long.” Richard suggested. “Alright, go for it.” Tammy said. Richard showed the gun to his fellow workers and two seconds later, they came up with a new version. this gun had six barrels. a thumb recharger and instead of metallic blue, like her original was, this new one was silver. Tammy was stunned. She took the new gun with much gratitude. “Thanks! I’ll call it the Eater 2.” She said. “What about me?” Gadget asked, feeling left out. “You, my dear, get the best of all.” Richard reassured. The final weapon on the table was given to her. A huge, triple-barreled rifle, shined to a metallic glow. “This is the big daddy. The KCY-4200, otherwise known as Ultra Finisher. This gun fires charges of electromagnetic force, powerful enough to destroy a wall, one foot thick of solid titanium, with one shot. Be careful, though, it carries quite a recoil, and takes several seconds to reload and charge up.” Gadget held up the huge armament, and smiled. “Alright, let’s choose a means of getting out of here.” Guy said. Richard led them to another part of the underground warehouse. Here, there were several large aircraft. Guy looked them over. “I think we’ll take this one.” He said, pointing to a huge jet. “Ah, the WS-449m Air Nest. Practically impregnable, in the right hands. All the armaments you’ll need to fly from here to Shores City and back in one piece. Even has JD-9s for individual flight apart from the ship if you want to tackle the enemy, one beast at a time.” “Alright then, it’s showtime, kids.” Guy headed Wescott and his friends into the jet, and they fastened in. Guy took the pilot’s seat, Wescott took the co-pilots seat. Above them, the skylight was opening to let the jet pass through. Guy started up the engine. The boosters shot the jet skyward, as they went through the skylight, and into the dawning light. Guy turned the handles, and the Air Nest soared outward, towards Shores City. Today would be a day of revenge.

Chip and Foxglove were waiting as Dale put on a suit of tough bulletproof cloth. The three of them would join Danni and Charlotte at the docking bay in fifteen minutes as they readied to go after Guy and the Bravo Team in Shores City. “Hurry up, Dale, we have to meet with Wescott’s mother and Danni in just a few minutes.” Chip said. “Alright, alright, just keep your pants on.” Dale finished pulling the cloth around his legs and joined his friends. “About time. Let’s go.” Chip said, and the three of them hurried off to the docking bay. Once there, Danni briefed them on the current assignment. “Okay. The game plan is this: There are hostages being held up by Yatru and his dragon on the beaches of Shores City. He demands 6 trillion credits for their release. What we are trying to do is to distract him from the hostages while Guy and the Bravo team set the hostages free. After that, we’ll subdue Yatru, and try to apprehend him by any means necessary. He is a wanted criminal now. We must stop him now, or he will try to kill more innocent people in his rage.” Once she finished talking, the transport jet was ready to take them to the battle. Chip went in first, followed by Dale and Foxglove, with Danni and Charlotte bringing up the rear. Danni shut the door, and the engine started. Within moments, the jet was out of the tubes and headed for Shores City. Guy was turning on his radar to scan the approaching skies for any of Yatru’s lackeys. Sure enough, up ahead were five small fighters. Guy’s face turned to one of ire. “Alright, boy and girls, looks like we have a confrontation coming up. Wescott, man the main gun. Tammy, Gadget, take the right and left swivel guns. It’s time to rumble.” Guy commanded. “Aye aye, Dad!” Wescott saluted, and took his seat at the main overhead gun. First he got a feel for the controls. He realized that the top trigger was for a pulse fire, and that the index finger trigger was for left and right machine guns. The first jet came head on, and fired a missile at the Guy’s ship. Wescott screamed to Tammy. “Tammy! Take out the missile! Gadget help me and let’s rub out the main jet!” He commanded. “Right!” The two pretty girls responded. Tammy aimed right for the missile, which seemed to almost float through the air like a cloud, but still presented a very real threat to the ship. She pushed the top button and fired the pulse rifles at the missile. The missile exploded harmlessly into the air. “Scratch one missile, Peanut!” Tammy winked at Wescott, who returned the favor. “Alright, now let’s focus on the jets.” Wescott said. Gadget aimed her gun and fired point blank onto the jet, exploding it into a thousand pieces. “Way to go, Gadget!” Wescott proclaimed. Suddenly, Gadget noticed that another jet that was returning fire to the ship. “Wescott! Get that fighter before he knocks us out of the sky!” Gadget ordered. Wescott turned back to the task at hand and charged up the main gun by holding down the trigger. A violet haze began to form in front of the cannon. Wescott got the coordinates, locked on, and released. The fighter could not avoid it, and was blown to bits. “Yee-ha! Lock n’ load and rock n’ roll!” Tammy cheered. However, the bullets pierced the ship, as Guy could not maneuver out of their way in time. “Ahh! We’re losing shield power!” Guy yelled. “I’ll switch to auxiliary power!” Guy flipped a switch on the dashboard, and the craft gained altitude. They flew up to the clouds. The fighter jets did the same, and sped up to meet them. In a flash of speed, the third fighter fired directly into Wescott’s canopy, and melted the gun. Wescott had to duck for cover. “Son, what’s wrong?” Guy shouted back to his child. “The gun, dad! It’s been melted!” Wescott reported. “Ah, sonovabitch! It’s up to you two girls now!” Guy told Wescott’s friends. Tammy concentrated on destroying the third jet while Gadget homed in on the fourth and fifth jets. Wescott decided it was time to use one of the JD-9s. “Dad, open the back bay, It’s time to hunt.” Wescott said boldly. “Okay, son, opening the doors.” Guy said as the back bay opened. Wescott walked up to Tammy and kissed her. “Tammy, wait up for me. I’ll be back.” He said. “Please be careful, Peanut! I love you!” She said. Wescott entered the JD-9. It was a small pod with guns mounted all over it. He hit the engine starter and flew out the bay, right into the line of fire. Guns blazing, He went at the fourth jet and chased it through the clouds. He tried to get a lock on it, but it was to quick for the small pod. “Damn! Why doesn’t this thing maneuver well? I wish I still had that main gun!” Wescott growled. Finally, Wescott decided it was time for trickery. He pulled the pod left a few degrees to make like he was aiming for the jet’s frontside. As he suspected, the jet dodged right, and Wescott nailed it with a guided missile. “Eat that, punk!” Wescott screamed at the downed craft. Back at the ship, Tammy was ready to put the finishing moves on the final fighter. She squinted her emerald green eyes and pulled the trigger, leaving nothing but a cloud of smoke to the jet. She smiled. “That’s all, folks!” She said, proudly. However, it was not all. Guy, who was sitting back at the yoke, Noticed a spark straight ahead. “Hmm...wonder what that is.” He said to himself. “Wescott piloted the JD-9 back into the open bay. “Okay, I’m back. Did we get them all?” He asked, climbing out of the pod. “I think so, Wescott.” Gadget said. Suddenly, the spark burst forth a flash of bright blue light. The illumination was so intense, that Guy had to block his eyes with his arms to keep from being blinded. Just as suddenly as it had begun, the flash of light disappeared, and from it came a huge flying fortress. It was a huge black metal monster, easily over a mile in diameter. It completely dwarfed the Air Nest. Fortunately, it seemed to pose no threat to the Bravo Team. Still, Guy took no chances. He had the others stand at the ready, near the center of the ship. Suddenly, Guy received a transmission from his radio, which he happened to carry with him in his belt. “Blue Stinger to Gray Raptor. Come in Gray Raptor.” Danni said through the receiver. “Gray Raptor here. Good timing, Danni.” Guy said. “Why is that?” “We’ve got a big problem, and I have to say that BIG is the understatement of the century.” “Hang on, we’re only thirty minutes behind you now.” “Roger and out.”

As the Bravo Team slowly approached the gigantic, floating metal fortress they noticed all of the weapons that were mounted on it. There must have been hundreds of lasers with one central cannon, missiles poised for firing on the front side. Even though it looked menacing, it still didn’t so much as fire a single bullet at the Air Nest. Guy took up courage and decided to pass it, and turned the ship to the black fortress’ left side. The thing suddenly moved to block him! It seemed that whatever it was did not want to harm them, but would not let them go into Shores City. Guy continued to advance to the left. And then it struck. To prove its point it fired four rockets, which headed right for the cockpit. Guy saw them coming, and jumped back into the center to the ship. It was time to abandon. Wescott gathered and distributed the manual weapons to his team mates. Jumping into the four JD-9s, the Bravo Team narrowly escaped as the Air Next burst into flames. Below them was a solitary, two-laned highway, spanning east and west as far as the eye could see. The JD-9s headed straight for it. They decided to follow the road westward to see if it would lead to Shores City. Guy took the lead, since he had been down this road before. The road was cracked with age, and moss covered it in some places. Guy spoke to the others through the Comm Link. “This is the Trident Parkway, or what’s left of it. During the War of the Flags, our troops laid it out both as a supply route between Malacom City and Shores City, and as a backup landing strip for fighters. Now it’s barely ever used, and someone could even sleep on it, and never worry about getting run over.” He said. Just up ahead was a sign. It read, it big green letters on a white background: SHORES CITY: 3 MI. “That’s our stop, kids. We have our work cut out for us!” Guy said. There was no turning back. Now was the time for action! IV. Shores City Ablaze.

Danni had homed in on the wreckage of the Air Nest. She and Foxglove combed the pieces of crumpled metal for survivors but could find hide nor fur of their compatriots. “Omigawd, Chip! They’ve been annihilated!” Dale shrieked, bawling aloud. Chip brought his fist down squarely on Dale’s crown. Dale rubbed his sore wound. “Idiot! They wouldn’t have just died! They had escape pods. Notice anything missing from the wreckage?” Chip complained. “The escape pods!” Dale said triumphantly. “No kidding, Sherlock!” Chip said with biting sarcasm. He was about to strangulate the befuddled chipmunk when Foxglove got between them. “Chip, get a grip on yourself! Dale’s just a little confused, is all!” She pleaded. “He’s been confused since the day I met him!” Chip grumbled. Danni decided to try the radio. “Guy, are you there?” She called into it. Guy responded. “Yeah. We’re about to enter Shores City. I can see the city limits from here. How far are you from here?” “We’re about four miles outside the city. We’ll be with you shortly.” “Okay, Danni. Over and out.”

Guy and the Bravo Team were now flying low over the burnt streets of Shores City. They were appalled to see the horrible carnage that had been unleashed by the evil dictator and his dragon. Bodies of innocent beast had been seared beyond recognition. The buildings had been shattered from strikes delivered by the monster. The entire city lay in burning ruins. The sky was dark with smoke from the fires that continued to blaze on without relief. The local fire fighters were too scared to go after the blazes, because of the risk of getting killed by the dragon. Wescott was beginning to become worried. “Dad, this doesn't look good.” He said. “We’ve got to go on. The hostages are being trapped on the beach, and we have to save them. There’s no telling what that evil person will do if we don’t intervene.” Guy said. Then Tammy noticed a group of soldiers with guns approaching them from the south. “Guys! Soldiers approaching at 9 o’clock!” She said. “We don’t have time to mess with soldiers! Everyone hit the gas, we’ve got to escape them!” Gadget exclaimed, and the team poured on the speed, leaving the soldiers in a cloud of ash that had collected off of the road. Finally, the team made their way to the Shores City Public Beach. Sure enough, the now gigantic dragon had thirty or so innocent beasts trapped in a ring of fire on the beach. Guy and the Bravo Team parked the JD-9s on the parking lot and tiptoed behind a rock to see what Yatru was doing. Yatru Spinga was saddled atop the huge creature, laughing evilly at the helpless victims he had collected in the fiery circle. He taunted them. “Scream! Scream your empty little skulls off! No one will hear you!” He bellowed hysterically. His mad laughter only caused to spark Wescott’s anger. “That slimeball! We’ve got to stop him!” Wescott said. “That’s a good resolve, but how we would go about accomplishing it is a mystery to me.” Gadget said. “We’ll just have to wait for Chip and the others to show up.” Tammy said. Chip, Dale, Foxglove, Danni, and Charlotte were entering Shores City, and going as fast as they could to reach the beach and help Guy and the Bravo Team defeat Yatru. They didn’t realize that a missile was headed straight for their transport. They didn’t know it was there until it hit the craft, sending it crashing into the street. The soldiers teamed around the broken pod as the newly named Nexus Team thought up a plan to escape. “Okay, everyone. It’s going to take a bit of tactics but we can get out of this one. Foxglove, you handle the first wave with a spell.” Chip commanded. “Roger that, Chip.” Foxglove replied, saluting the leader with her wing. “Dale, you and I take the lead and follow Foxglove through the crowd, and Charlotte and Danni will take up the rear.” Chip had planned out the whole thing while they were crashing. Danni passed out the emergency guns located behind the dashboard, and passed them out to the others. There was no alternative. A few of the soldiers began to circle around the fallen craft, guns at the ready. One of them pulled of the back bay door of the ship, and curiously peered inside. All that occurred afterwards was the searing of ten or so soldiers by one of Foxglove’s firebrands. This gave Chip and Dale enough time to move out and start laying waste with the pulse rifles. Soldiers fell left and right as the two irate chipmunks blasted through the massive wave of cronies, opening up a pathway straight to Shores City Beach. Charlotte was working into a frenzy, stinging everyone she could get her barb into, injecting her deadly poison into them, and dropping them like so many flies. Danni was also having a field day of perforating the cronies one by one. Leading the way, Foxglove decided to end the chasing by trying out one of her newest spells: the Flame Shower. She took a piece of parchment from her pouch and threw it at the amassing crowd of soldiers. Then she began to speak her strange arcane language and folding her wings at the approaching troops. Dale noticed this and warned the others promptly. “Guy’s hit the deck! She’s using magic!” He screamed. The group ran and ducked behinds the remains of a parked car. Foxglove, who continued to hover in the air (her magical training had allowed her to do so, as opposed to the time when she first met the Rangers), suddenly shot out a huge battery of giant fireballs from her wings, melting the sentinels to cinders. There was nothing left of them but the melted scraps of metal that were once their guns. All that was left to do was to head to Shores City Beach as fast as their legs could carry them. Once there, they found Guy and the Bravo Team waiting for them. Wescott spoke up. “Glad you could make it. Okay, we’re going to distract the dragon while you all rescue the hostages. Gadget, go with Chip and help him figure out a way to set the hostages free. Got it?” Wescott told them. “Right, Wescott.” Chip affirmed. “Roger Wilfurry, Wes!” Gadget said, and with that, they split up once again. Guy whistled to the dragon to get it’s attention. “Hey charcoal breath! Come get some!” Guy shouted, waggling his tail end at the hideous creature. This not only made the dragon mad, but Yatru was mad as well. “Puffy, attack the squirrels! They must die!” Yatru commanded his ghastly ride. “You’ll have to catch us first!” Guy hollered as he, Tammy and Wescott launched into the air on a wild goose chase to distract the dragon. Up and down, left and right, near and far the three squirrels flew, dodging the fiery breath of the monstrous dragon. At one point, the dragon was flying so roughly that it almost lost its rider. Yatru was struggling to stay astraddle the giant scaled monster as they chased higher into the sky. While all of this was happening in the air, far above them, Chip and the Nexus Team took some sandy metal buckets from an abandoned seaside grill and bar and made a run for the ocean. Each team member carried two buckets and went as fast as they could to fill the buckets and douse out the flames encasing the hostages. Once the hostages were freed, they ran as fast as they could back into Shores City to see if their loved ones were okay. Now it was time to take out the trash. While The three squirrels were giving the dragon and its rider a flight for their money, Danni, Chip, Gadget and Dale jumped into the parked JD-9s. Charlotte and Foxglove stayed on the ground to help protect the remaining hostages. Danni radioed Guy. “Okay, Guy. The hostages are free. It’s time to go into Phase 2.” She said. “Right, let’s take ‘em out!” Guy shouted. While Guy and the Bravo Team continued to trounce the dragon in the air, Dale, Chip and Gadget came from behind and blasted the scaly demon’s ugly rump, making it shriek in pain. The dragon was enough to give the small pods enough time to escape its fiery breath. While all this was going on, Wescott decided to go right for the soft underbelly of the creature. Wescott found his target and began to scratch unmercifully with his sharpened claws. The squirming dragon almost lost Yatru again in the process. After this, he flew up above the dragon and rounded load after load of slugs into the monster’s spine with his new shotgun. “Everybody strafe and shoot!” Wescott exclaimed. Everyone who had a gun begin unloading their rounds into the hideous monster and at the evil dictator, who could not withstand much more pain. Yatru simply jumped off of the dragon, and used his massive cape as a parachute. He barely made it, as Gadget loaded up the KCY-4200, and fired at the dragon. The electromagnetic pulse sunk into the creature, and a few seconds later, the dragon exploded in a burst of blood and entrails. The hissing mass of organs fell to the ground with a sickening splatter. The blood turned the white sand a dark red stain as the remains began to create a nauseating stench. Upon landing on the ground, Wescott saw Yatru and ran at him, hoping to end his life there. However, Yatru had other plans. He simply wrapped himself in his cape and disappeared. “What the...?” Wescott said. “COWARD!!! SHOW YOURSELF AND FIGHT!!!” He challenged. No response. Just the cold whistling breeze of the rapidly descending night sky. Wescott fell face forward onto the sand. He was exhausted from the bottom up. The others quickly found Wescott and gathered around him as he grabbed uselessly at the air, hoping to grasp the evil dictator. Nothing. “Well, he got away again. If only he could be provoked...” Dale said. “He’s obviously got another plan in the works, since he seems to be following a pattern. The only problem is, what is it?” Chip added. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” Foxglove said as the group looked out over the open ocean, wondering what to do next.

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