War of the Echelons

(Ok.. another disclaimer to write. As with all my fanfictions, I do not claim any legal rights, or any hand in the creation of certain well known Disney characters. Those would be Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monterey Jack, or Monty what ever you call him, and Foxglove, Zipper.. all that good stuff. The idea of the Echelons is my idea, but there again it's not important enough to go through the legal channels of copyright operations and all that stuff. It's just a story, I'm not making any money off this, I'm not asking to. It's just to be read for FREE and for fun. If you want to copy it and post it, then do so. Don't even ask for my permission, you already have it. After all you really can't control what happens to something after you throw it out on the net. )


            A dark stormy mass of clouds. Purple thunder strike. The two Echelons squared off in the gas planet. There was no obstacle here to shield them, all that mattered where their abilities. Both of them almost identical save for color, and the nose that tipped their snouts. They were of the same being, yet antipodes. They were neither bat nor mouse, but something of the two with their wings on their backs holding them aloft as they squared. One of them who's inner wing, a bright fire orange, with shadows of red, and eyes like blood filled globes. His nose was an arrowhead tipping his snout, with his dark brown hair pulled back tight, and in a long thick braid. The other who's inner wing was a pale pale icy blue and his eyes white as bleached bones. His white hair was let to shag, falling down his back in a matted mass. His nose was but two bumps on either side of his rounded snout. They had made the pact that ever should they meet again but one of them would leave their place of their intersection alive. One of them a former angel of despair, the other a wraith of winter still, yet both of them were chosen by the Order of Ishvu to become Echelons of the Order. But even still they warred.
            There came a sudden burst of violence and they began to spin into a dive circling one another into the dense core of the gas giant. Their wing beats ushered forth elemental embodiments. Fire, and crystals of ice, scorching waves of heat, and gusts of freezing wind. Closer and closer they spun together, until at last their wings locked and they spiraled deeper still into the planet's center of gravity trading blows with their arms. Just before the pressure became too great to stand they broke free and both escaped into a climb.
            First came the fire Echelon splashing through the first layer of clouds like emerging from water, and then followed the Echelon of Ice, and in the upper most layers of clouds they turned again to face one another. Echelon of Fire acted first pushing his wings around him, and curling them together in a tube. The inside of his wings flashed, and ushered forth fire projected in a beam like column. Echelon of Ice took it hard in the face, and chest as Echelon of Fire dropped down spewing the beam of fire. He quickly pulled out and began to push back up as Echelon of Ice fell past him.
            Echelon of Fire dove in pursuit. He glided right into the spray, a ray shaped shower of tiny darts of Ice, misshapen crystals that flew tip straight true, and they struck Echelon of Fire out of the dive. He fell wings folded around him. Echelon of Ice pulled out of the feint and hovered for a moment to see if Echelon Fire would recover. Suddenly a force struck him from behind. A huge solid orb of fire, no, a small star had smashed into him. Then another struck him from the left side. Echelon Ice dropped and as he fell the arching bolts struck him as he tumbled into the core past Echelon Fire who had thrown those deadly missiles.
            For the moment he was unconscious but the pressure woke him, and he held himself just before he reached the maximum depth limit of how far into the core he could fall. He sailed back up in a mighty swoop, his right fist catching Echelon fire hard on the chin causing him to tumble backwards and fall in a spinning mass. Echelon Ice stopped and dove down to move in for the kill, but saw a faint red beacon begin to grow there in the dark depths of that planet. Before he knew it he had flown down the exact center of the beam of fire. His body turned a bright yellow glowing brilliantly as to light the entire dark thunderous planet of clouds to a light gray marble of yellow. He fell ever closer to Echelon Fire until just at the moment where they would collide Echelon Fire spread his wings wide and caught the defeated Echelon Ice. Ice's body turned white and began to shrink pulling into a ball as he was absorbed by Echelon Fire. Then it was done, and with the destruction of Echelon Ice there came a great and loud explosion, a sudden flash and mighty boom. Echelon Fire suspended in the force of the clap, his wings and arms thrown back as the remnants of Ice's ethereal make up flowed into him via his inner wings. Ice and Fire were among the oldest Echelons and their powers rivaling that of Echelon Void the only remaining original Echelon. With the collapse of Ice the massive gas planet was rocked and the clouds caught fire. The entire core began to burn. Jets of plasma spraying out past the atmospheric envelope as the planet began to explode from within. As the matter forming the fragile balance of the planet began to dissolve it began to loose stability around Echelon Fire until it swirled in onto itself collapsing into a tiny dense bubble. It then exploded with a great report leaving only the slightest residue from it's carbonaceous atmosphere. The Void Jewel had been destroyed.
            Echelon Fire drifted where thrown by the massive collapse of the great gas giant Evander, the Void Jewel. Light pulsed beneath his folded wings quivering and throbbing with bursts of intense white light. Then in a moment it was over. Echelon Ice's strengths were his own, and while an Echelon could only control the elemental force they were assigned upon creation, absorbing other echelons of differing powers would raise their resistance to that power. Echelon fire had devoured many in his time in the lifeless universe. But now it was over. What was once black starless void became a great thundering chaos, bright golden, too powerful to look at, and then Echelon Fire knew. It was there with an authority so great it needed no voice.
            Echelon of Fire had Erred. For this offence there would surely be punishment. He hurtled down into the space where there are stars, passing like streamers until there was no black at all only a solid sheet of bright white. Then almost in reverse streaks of black began to grow in the sheet of white and then suddenly they became dots, and those dots moved slowly as he passed a tiny planet turned on it's side. Soon after more planets was a planet with rings, being over loomed by a huge brown gas giant like the one he had destroyed. More planets and then a small blue and white orb circled by a lonely gray satellite of a moon speckled with impact craters. Echelon Fire was not being punished for absorbing power from Echelon Ice's demise, but rather for destroying the jewel of the void space. In all of the eternal distance where the Order resides there was but one orb in those heavens. One body of physical material in all of the universe of incorporeal void. The Onyx globe of purple flashes, the planet where the Echelons were first formed from those worthy of that authority. And now here Echelon fire was poised to begin his task of toil chasing, and destroying twelve runaway souls who had fled here to the space of living beings. Only the destruction of these twelve by his hands would break this curse of physical mortality.

The first of twelve

            In Echelon Fire's journey here his body was transformed into one that could exist in this place where things were physical. But in that transformation he had lost most of the powers he had, and though he could become incorporeal for a needed burst of his full abilities, he could not sustain that immaterial form. All around the planet streaked the twelve runaway souls. They swarmed the planet like flies, and for the moment Echelon just watched them from a distance. The weakest of the twelve was but a lowly jester sprit, a poltergeist, a beacon of annoyance. Echelon had always hated these spirits of aggravation, and suddenly swooped on it. For this moment he was neither physical nor incorporeal, but a paradoxical combination of the two, but only for the time required to enter this planet's atmosphere. He dove toward the planet's surface burning through the upper atmosphere in a ball of orange flame. Down through the dark clouds and cold driving rain, a flash of pale lightning every now and again tailed by a rolling roar of air collapsing. And he swooped down to the ground in the cold weathered night.

            The Rangers had been stuck inside all week. It had been raining fit to flood for days now, and to add to their problems of cabin fever things were getting creepy. Late at night sounds of footsteps in the kitchen, and dishes crashing rousing them from their sleep to find nothing out of order. At first they thought it was foxy, but it had been going on for weeks now, and had happened at times when they were all together to cement the idea that they were not alone in their once humble tree.
"I'm telling you chip this place is haunted! We need to call the ghost exterminators!" Dale exclaimed as a picture not only fell off the wall, but blatantly slung itself across the room shattering on the floor. Foxglove almost jumped out of her fur trying to climb Monty for protection.
            "Th... th.. that's p..preposterous Dale there aren't any such thing as g..ghosts. ... ....Are there Chip?" Gadget stammered unable to take her eyes off of the shattered frame surrounding the picture of Tammy.
            "I d..don't know Gadget.. I'm starting to believe myself." Chip said scooting closer to her. "Somebody pick up the glass before someone gets hurt." Foxy said pointing. "Good idea.. Go Pick it up Dale." Chip said eying him. Dale jumped over the couch and hid. "I'm not going anywhere near that! You go pick it up!" He returned from behind the couch.
            Then when there was a loud and even knock on the door the room lit up with shrieks and hollers of fright, and they all jumped behind furniture. Chip was the first one to look toward the door, and there against the inky black in the window he could see but two round glowing red eyes. "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!" He erupted like a firework and fled in his room the door slamming in Dale's face who struck the door deflecting off and rolling backwards across the floor. Foxglove and Gadget cowered in a wing enveloped mass shivering like a leaf. "G.. G.. Gadget! What is that at the door!" She screamed at the top of her lungs, and they clung unable to move as Dale struggled with the doorknob screaming every time he turned to see that the eyes were still there. Monty wielded his favorite toothpick like a sword and stood protecting the girls. "Alright you boogie man or what ever in blazes you are! Go Away before you makes me angry!" He shouted at the door. The red eyes blinked and even though they were but glowing silhouettes they showed confusion. Again came the knock long, loud and steady. Dale hit the ceiling and all out shouldered the door in and dove under the bed with Chip.
            Monty slowly took steps toward the door and slung it open holding the toothpick between the inside and what ever it was at the door. In the glow of the lamps escaping past the threshold could be seen a wide cloak of wings, and a oddly mouse like bat, with an arrowhead shaped nose like species of vampire bat. In the flood of light his eyes no longer glowed but were red orbs of solid crimson. velvety black fur with a shine, slick from the rain. His chest puffed with a brown tuft of fur, who's color continued down his belly, even though it were hidden behind his folded wings. He had long hair pulled tight over his odd sharp tipped ears into a thick braid that hung down his back to his waist.
            "Greetings residents of the abode. relinquish you're fear as I am not a forbearer of danger. I am here to help you with you're problem.." He said in a smooth cool voice with some strange unearthly accent, and an air of nobility.
            "Hold the boat now Matey! We didn't call for no help! Who are you? What makes you think that we have a problem huh pal?!" Monty defended as Gadget and Foxglove watched from under her wings. "Ohhh.. What a hansom bat.." Foxglove gasp and at that Gadget elbowed her. "Foxglove! Snap out of it! It's probably some kind of vampire seduction trance or something!" She growled trying to cover Foxy's eyes. Foxy just gave her a nudge and unfolded her wings standing up. "Oh.. Gadget.. I think that's the first time I heard you sound like Dale." She giggled. This was definitely not like Foxy.. then wasn't it? After all she fell for Dale at first sight. "Under the circumstances I believe it's justified!" Gadget shouted throwing her arms around Foxy to keep her from approaching the stranger.
            The odd bat mouse never took his eyes off of Monty, but remained silent for a moment then spoke with that same fluid tongue. "I see I have caused disruption in this abode.. I will cease my attempts to pass the threshold.. But know you, I come with no harm to you.. I only desire to destroy that spirit of annoyance which now calls you're abode it's territory.." He spoke in a single string, never stopping to take a breath or even with any cadence that would show that he spoke with breath. It had an almost mechanical fluidity to it, and ran in one even string of words from beginning to end like a recording. They had never heard anything speak with that tone or form. He then backed away slowly and dropped off of the branch. Monty quickly shut the door with a slam.
            "Wait.. Where did he go?" Foxy stammered watching the door shut. She squirmed and wriggled out of Gadget's grip and dashed past Monty and out the door before any of them could stop her. "Foxglove NO!!!" Gadget screamed grabbing at her and falling onto her knees. Foxglove beat her wings hard in the dark stormy night calling, but there was only a dark silence. Then after what seemed like an eternity of flying she saw those glowing beacons in the night, those two lighted rubies gently bobbing in a hover. She broke off her glide in front of him and hovered. "Hello there." She smiled. Echelon returned the smile only vaguely understanding that it would comfort her and knew no meaning behind it other than this.
            "I see you have answered my call. Lass I must convince you to grant me permission to enter the abode. I must seek the runaway soul which hides there within the walls." He spoke. Foxy stared blankly into his eyes and nodded with an open mouth. She turned and dove back toward with the black bat following on her heels. They landed with soft thuds on the branch. Just as Foxy began to open the door the dark bobbing form of one of Gadget's newest flying machines rose behind them.
            "Get away from foxglove you.. Demon." Dale shouted. "Foxy! Fly away! Get away from it! Fly away please Foxy!" Gadget pleaded. Suddenly in the trance Foxglove threw herself in front of the black bat creature spreading her wings like a wall.
            "Don't you touch him! I love him!" She screamed. "Foxglove you don't love him! He has you under some sort of spell!" Chip yelled to her over the thundering shower.
            "Listen to me physical creatures. This one who you know as Foxglove does indeed love me. I have cast an allure about her, as I could only force you to allow my entry into you're abode if one who you loved was keeping you from stopping me." He spoke over the rain, that same steady unemotional string of words that ended as abruptly as they began.
            "What in heavens do you want to go inside our house so bad for!?" Monty called. Echelon blinked slowly. "It is as I have attempted to explain before. There is an entity of annoyance living in you're abode. I must destroy it." He said in a string, Foxglove walking with him as he turned and entered their empty house. Gadget suddenly pulled the helicar into a dive and returned to the vehicle garage, and they all fought their ways up the stairs in a mass spewing out into the living room in a group. The furniture had been pushed against the walls, and the bat creature was knelt in the middle of the floor wings draped behind him in like a cloak, his other pair of arms drawing symbols on the floor in chalk as he hummed a vibrating string of single syllable chants. They separated and combined and separated again each syllable having it's turn of being paired with the other, and in between they were all pronounced separate. As the rest of the Rangers entered the room Foxglove quickly swooped down from the ceiling and blocked them.
            "You will not approach the one I love!" She screamed in their faces and would not let them pass. "Dale grab her!" Chip shouted as he pounced on one side of Foxglove. Soon they had her pinned and Monterey Jack leapt over her in the direction of the strange four armed chanting creature. Just before that final footstep brought Monty on him there was a rumble in the entire tree and a sorrowed laugh. From the ceiling came a orangish globe of light which seemed to struggle and stretch as it was pulled down in front of the coal black bat. Monty stopped in his tracks and watched the orange ball of light descent from out of the ceiling until it was right in front of the odd hybrid looking creature. In that instant he spoke all seven syllables together in a string as he clapped his wings together on the orb. Light poured from inside his cupped wings as the runaway soul was torn to pieces and absorbed. Monty stood rubbing his eyes blinded by the bright flash of light, and slowly the creature stood, and turned to them. He strode evenly over to the pile of the three Rangers holding Foxglove to the floor. He waved a wingtip across her eyes.
            "You will love me no more lest it be the truth of you're heart." He spoke, and Foxy's eyes faded and closed, and she fell limp no longer struggling but rather sleeping as she lay. "It is done. The jester spirit is no more, and you're abode is no longer inhabited." Echelon spoke as he moved out the door and flapped off into the night. With the morning the rain parted, and showed a slightly overcast sky. The Rangers had not slept the entire night, and red eyed and heads throbbing they tried to figure out just what had happened to them. Foxy of course sat up with a big yawn and a stretch of her wings. "Gee I slept like a log.. How about you guys?" She smiled picking herself up. Gadget, Chip, Dale and Monty all looked at her blankly. Foxglove blinked and turned her head around to them looking at each one. "What's the big deal guys? Why is the furniture all pushed around? Why are you looking at me like that?" She asked confused.
            "You mean to tell me that you don't remember a thing?" Dale asked in shock. Foxglove blinked. "Remember what?" She asked innocently. "Foxglove you were possessed by some sort of ghost bat.. or mouse with bat wings.. Golly to tell you the truth I have no idea what it was! But you thought you were in love with him and you let him inside!" Gadget explained. Foxglove gave her a confused look, and then laughed. "OK.. You guys got me.. what really happened?" Foxy asked giggling.
            "Gadget love is right Foxy. You were under some sort of mesmerization. Don't you remember the creepy noises we've been hearin all week?" Monty asked. Foxy scratched her head. "Sure I do, but I didn't hear anything like that last night.. maybe it's gone." She shrugged.
            Chip jumped up from the floor, the strange markings were gone as through they were never there. "Foxy! We are not joking with you! Something very strange happened last night! And not even Gadget can explain it! We haven't been to sleep all night!"
            "CHIP!" Gadget groaned. "Stop yelling my head is about to explode!" She continued with a harsh growl.
            "Ghosts or no ghosts! I'm going to sleep!" Dale announced with authority to the house as he walked through the door hanging on one hinge to his room.
            "Daley has the idea. What ever that thing was it left on it's own.. Maybe it won't be back like it said." Monty offered as he slumpt off toward his room. Chip bowed his head, and followed Dale.
            "Gadget.. What is going on?" Foxy asked sitting down on the couch which was pushed against the wall blocking the bathroom. Gadget gave a sigh and retold the events of the previous night to a baffled Foxglove.
            "You mean I really thought I was in love with that thing? And I protected it?" She stammered. Gadget nodded. "Yes you did. But when it was all over he said something about not loving him anymore and you went to sleep. I can't explain it.. Hypnosis maybe?" She asked herself more than Foxglove who only offered a shrug. "Foxy could you do me a huge favor.. rearrange the furniture since you're probably going to be up even through it's daytime.." Gadget began but was cut off by foxglove's astonished cry. "It's daytime! Now I know you guys are telling the truth!" She gasp. Gadget only nodded wearily and retired to her room.

            Echelon of Fire had found that in that instant when he destroyed the jester spirit the remaining twelve hid themselves in between the fabric of the physical space, and the immaterial space where he could not get at them. Because he was physical he could not access limbo, and now after the hours which has passed he was weak. His mind control abilities and resistance to extreme heat were all gone. With every hour he was more and more a mundane mortal with none of his former abilities. He feared that soon he would be helpless, unable to shred the runaway souls even if he tried. For the moment he had no choice but wait them out, and like hiding under water, eventually they must emerge back into the physical world. As runaway spirits they can not pass completely into the immaterial space, but must remain in the physical world. It would be then that he would be upon them. Ironically he found the limits of this physical body like a suit of weights. His wings had never grown tired before, but now they did, and after barely carrying him any distance at all. If only he could shed these physical chains he could be anywhere he wanted just by a whim, and pounce any of the remaining eleven just as they surfaced into the physical world, but no.. This was a task of punishment, and so this was his burden, to carry the limits of a physical body. Furthermore the longer it took to complete this task the longer he would dwell in this physical form. Slowly he was becoming more and more mortal, and soon he would not be able to make the transformation back to his former self without physical death. But he had died his physical death long ago, and so now physical death would be complete destruction, rather than a transformation into a new being. Echelon Fire had not felt fear in thousands of aeons, but now those icy fingers were crawling up his spine like spiders. He was filled with a sudden urgency, and swore at the renegade souls for their cowardice. He beat his wings until they were numb, and could no longer carry him aloft, and he fell to the hard ground with a thud.
            Echelon picked himself up and cursed his physical body for being so limited. Now for the first time he felt regret, he felt sorrow for destroying the Void's Jewel, and knew that there would always be another Ice Echelon, just as with his destruction a new Echelon of fire would arise. But so many years, so many millions of long years in existence he did not desire to end it over such a simple task. Echelon of fire had laid waste to galaxies. He had been the scourge of those who denied their obedience to the Order of Ishvu. And now! NOW he was but a MORTAL! With every moment he felt his vast memories fade. Every minute another hundred years was gone, and with them their experiences. Echelon fell to his knees. He felt his mortal body growing old all around him. He felt it dying right out from under him, and when it finally took it's last breath he would cease to be.
            In desperation Echelon threw back his wings and let out a cloud shaking howl of sorrow, he had been so long since he had felt the drawn out mortal degeneration that it came to him as a debilitating torment, and collapsed he slept there where he had fallen.. Sleep.. such a mortal need, but here after so many millions of years he required it. This mortal sleep overcame him, and he lay there in the sun with no protection from the elements, but his wings to shroud him, and slept, the mortal sleep.

The Echelon of Chaos

            The evening came without any events, and it was a grateful break from the ever present footsteps, or sounds of things breaking. Chip was the first awake, and yawned sitting up and throwing his legs over the edge of the bed. Scratching his sides he smacked his lips. "No funny sounds keeping me awake.. Wow.. that's new." He yawned as he stood and walked into the kitchen to start a pot of Folgers. The smell soon roused Monterey who came in almost floating. "C..c..c.c.c.c.Caffeen!" He chuckled. Chip poured him a big cup O' the Jo. "You didn't hear anymore of those sounds did you?" He asked sipping the rich black coffee. Monterey scratched his head in a thoughtful pose. "No Pal can't say as I have.. Maybe that thing was telling the truth about wanting to get rid of our ghost problem." He offered. Chip thought for a moment. "Yeah but why? The entire night is just a blur. I'm not even sure it happened."
            "Hey guys, what are you talking about." Gadget asked unusually cheerful as she walked in though she knew exactly what the topic was.
            "Mornin... er evenin Gadget Luv. We were just discussing the matters last night, and how it's been unusually peaceful around here since." Monty explained just for posterity. "Yeah, I have noticed that. I slept like a baby, and what's more. Not a peep from what ever it was making those disturbing noises." She exuberate.
            "Well... When you think about it.." Chip examined. "He did say that he had come to destroy the ghost.. and he never made any move to harm us.. I mean even Foxy is back to normal.. Maybe he wasn't an evil demon or what ever.." He pondered sipping coffee. "By the way where is Foxy?" Monty asked looking at Gadget. She shrugged. "I don't know. I think she's...." Her sentence fell short, and she rushed out of the kitchen and began checking rooms. As it is when you look for something it's always in the last place you look for it..... but then that makes sense.. you don't keep looking after you have found it. Foxglove hung upside down from a support rafter in Gadget's workshop snoring peacefully. Gadget gave a sigh of relief as Monty and Chip moved in behind her looking over either shoulder.
            "Boy you would think after sleeping all night she would still be up. I guess her nocturnal nature is stronger than excess sleep" Chip shrugged. Gadget nudged through them. "Well at least she's OK." She said quietly as she sat down in a large armchair. Chip and Monty fell into the couch. "At least the sun is out.. Hey.. I wonder if that guy with bat wings had anything to do with that too?" Chip rambled just to be making conversation. Monty chuckled at the comment. "I wouldn't take it quite that far Matey." He laughed. They all laughed, probably for the first time in weeks. For the moment things were back to normal. So many adventures, so many stories to tell, but this year had been so quite, so boring, at least until the recent incident, and as usual it was a foreshadowing, and they all knew it. But for now they were happy just to sit, and flip the channels on the idiot box, never really watching anything, but going through the motions of browsing even though Chip had been through them three times already, and knew there was nothing on worth watching. Still it gave him something to do. At least it was quiet. Then again as soon as you're settled down something rears it's ugly head.
            There came a sudden confusion. It was an odd feeling to say the least, an instant feeling of complete loss of thought process, you did not know where you were or even who you were. That moment was fleeting, and as it faded he appeared. It was another like the black visitor the night before, but he was different. His hair was short, and spiky, black as coal, as was the fur on his chest and belly, and inner wings. However the rest of his coat was of many colors. Blotches of gray, and brown and reddish. There was no pattern or organization to them, each color varied in shades of lighter or darker, and no one patch of fur was the exact same color as another. He didn't float in, he didn't fade into visibility, he was just there suddenly standing wings curled around him as a shroud. His eyes were dark green, and his snout tapered, almost sharp at the end with a similar arrowhead nose, except it was split in the middle and either half angled away from the other in a V.
            Gadget fell over in her chair, and both Monty and chip jumped over the back of the couch. "Not again!" Gadget screamed, more anger and aggravation than fear this time.
            "Fear not mortals. I am not here to end you're existence." He spoke in that same emotionless, spiritless tone.
            "What do you want? The other guy already took the ghost away. If that's what you want then you're a little late." Chip said standing with his hands on his hips. The hybrid smiled a bit. "The other guy. You must speak of Echelon Fire. That pleases me, as I know he has visited here. And I see he has destroyed the first of twelve. Hmm yes. I am eager to face him as a mortal, this should prove interesting." He grinned as he strung the words like on a chain one after the other in a steady, and deliberate cadence.
            "Echelon Fire? I thought an echelon is a rung on a ladder or a step." Gadget questioned. The multicolored being turned to her no motion in it's body, but instead it seemed to spin in her direction as if standing on a turn table. "That is correct. But echelon as most words has many meanings. For our purpose it is a level of authority in a hierarchy. But I have gotten away from myself. I am not here to explain the workings of the higher order to you, but only to seek the Echelon Fire, and having established that he is no longer here I regress. But should he return to this place please be so kind as to pass on the message that Echelon Chaos is here to destroy him." He explained with a noble grin, and in the same momentary flood of confusion he was gone. Not that he faded, but that he just was not there in a sudden instant. The three of them looked at one another as if to ask "Just what is going on here?"
            "Guys.. I think something very unusual has come to our peaceful little part of the universe.. These.. Echelons.. they have all the characteristics of angels and demons, but... Who is evil and who is good? Both of them acted the same.. and from their names.. I can bet that there are a lot more than just the two of them." Gadget struck the idea.
            "Too right Gadget luv. I don't know much about ghosts, and spooks, but appearing out of nowhere, glowing eyes, and catching poltergeists.. I don't know what to make of it." Monty shrugged.
            "Between the three of us, I hope that neither of them come back. I have seen some pretty kookie capers in my day, but this one takes the turkey." Chip added.
            "So what do you suggest we do about it?" Monty asked looking around. There was a round of shrugs and a momentarily silence. "Well.. since they seem to come and go as they please my solution would to hope it doesn't happen again." Chip offered. "Looks like that's the only solution we have.. unless you want to go looking for them? But how can you look for something that just disappears?" Chip continued. "Well the first one didn't disappear. He left through the front door. Didn't the most recent visitor say something about him being in a mortal body? If he's a mortal like us then he's probably not too far from here. He couldn't have flown that far could he?" Gadget pondered.
            "I'm not so sure that would be a good idea Chipper. After all I don't know much about dealing with spooks. And I definitely don't want to go chasing after them. Even if the black guy was a mortal the multicolored on definitely wasn't. Since we know he's looking for the first guy where ever he is the other is bound to be nearby." Monty replied. "Monty is right, we still don't know what these things are, and from what we've seen already they seem to have a control over things that we don't.. I'm not sure I want to try to outwit a spiritual being. Especially one that can take over my mind!" Gadget concluded. Chip nodded for a moment. "Good point. I just feel really uneasy. On one hand these things don't seem to be something that we can track back to a hideout like Fatcat, but on the other hand I'm not really sure I want to just wait around for them to come back." Chip explained.
            "And another thing! If one knew the other was here, and considering that there are probably more than two of them, it would stand to reason that we could expect more visitors in the future. What if there are a whole bunch of them and they are all looking for the black and brown furred guy?" Gadget exposed. Monty rubbed his chin for a moment then shrugged. "Well at least they are polite." He added.
            "They were both unusually polite weren't they? You wouldn't expect that from a demon.." Chip added to the mix.
            "Now, chip... We don't know that they are demons.. We don't know what they are. For all we know they could be aliens with such advanced control over the universe through their technology that they can produce effects that appear to be magic. As a matter of a fact.. Since we're on the subject.. Up until last night I was trying to work on a ghost trap and some people would mistake that for magic but it is really based in science. I was almost finished when we had our little visit." Gadget elaborated. "That's fine and dandy Gadget Luv, But I'm not sure what good it will do us now.. Our little poltergeist problem seems to be gone." Monty said shifting on the couch. He had been sitting on his tail, not it was asleep. Pins and needles.
            "No Monty. I think Gadget has a point here. If her ghost trap thingy works, then maybe we can catch one of those guys and find out what they are doing here." Chip exclaimed standing up.
"That was my plan exactly Chip. As a matter of a fact I think we should put this plan into action without delay! I get the feeling our vacation is over. It's about time we had another case to solve!" Gadget grinned as she leapt out of the chair. She rushed to the door to her lab stopping just as she grabbed the knob. "Chip! You wake up dale and Foxy, Monty you go start the Ranger Copter. This will only take a second." Gadget ordered before snapping in the door and shutting it behind her. Now being of scientific mind she had never believed in ghosts until the past week, but when it makes sure that you know it's there it's hard to deny. So curiosity abound in her and she did some research. Most ghost activity could be seen through electromagnetic fields, and temperature changes. The basis behind the ghost trap was an electromagnetic vacuum filtered to pull in abnormal patches that don't have the same electromagnetic signature as the area surrounding them. Even with that, there was no way of knowing if what you had captured was a ghost or just some anomaly that occurred naturally. At the time she was willing to give anything a shot just for some peace and quiet. But now one last screw and it would be functional.. At least in theory.
Gadget returned from her workshop with what looked like an old 50's model hand vac. Big, bulky and made of metal with a wide funnel on one end. That lost wax casting book had really helped out. She looked around the den, but the hum of the helicopter she had made from a remote control corvette told her that the others were ready to go. It was definitely a nice vehicle with an actual metal body, and a helicopter prop that folded into the trunk. It could drive on land or fly in the air, and made the rangerplane and rangerskate almost obsolete. She made haste into the vehicle bay, and jumped into the back seat.
            "Chip you'll have to drive. I need my hands free to work the ghost vac." She said buckling in. "Would someone tell me what all this is about?" Dale moaned still half asleep.
            "We had another visitor Matey.. Called himself an echelon.. or something like that. Apparently he was looking for the guy that came and got rid of our ghost the night before. So Gadget thinks that we should get a head start and find out what it going on before anything else weird happens." Monty explained. Dale rubbed his eyes and yawned as he spoke. "Well if we go looking for ghosts I can guarantee something weird will happen."
            "But Daley.. If we just sit around doing nothing, there's no telling who or what might show up next." Foxy yawned. Dale shrugged and put his chin in his hands. "So we're going ghost hunting? Wow sounds like that movie 'I was a teenage Exorcist'." He yawned.
            "Is everyone buckled in?" Chip asked, and with the answer yes, he hit the throttle and peeled rubber out of the tree. As the candy apple red car raced down the sidewalk, the truck opened like any convertible would, but as the roof raised it was obvious that there was a telescopic roader attached, and the vehicle lifted into the air to circle the city in search of anything unusual. While everyone else looked with naked eyes Gadget peered around through the magnetic scope of her newly devised ghostvac.

            Among the fourteen Echelons it was well known who allied themselves, and Echelon Chaos had long been known to side with Echelon Ice. Some would say that in life they had known one another. Of course any Echelon knew that in becoming this new authority, all of their mortal memories were lost, only the memory of once being mortal, and of the mortal death. All other life experiences were wiped clean leaving them with a personality without memories. Of course fables never pan out. But now Echelon of Chaos was discovering that tracking the new mortal Echelon of Fire was more of a task than he had hoped. His mortal body did not give off the overpowering signature of one of the fourteen ethereal Echelons. That primitive tree abode had held his signature only because for a brief moment when Fire used his powers to shred that poor spirit of annoyance he had made a temporary transformation from his mortal body, back into his former self but only a split second. Even so like the flash of a camera it permanently fused his ethereal image into that room. That had left a mark on that point in space and time, and that was how Echelon Chaos knew that he was here. As for those mortals residing within that abode.. no more a concern than ants. The lowest of the Echelons.. a newborn Echelon Ice would still be above them, and Chaos was of the five oldest Echelons. Then so is Fire, but in this mortal form he should be no problem to destroy. His mortal body had time to settle and begin to take control, exacting it's mortal limitations on Fire. The destroyed Ice was Chaos' friend. Neither one of them was sure why or how, but it was so. Echelons did tend to align themselves with others, sometimes based on power, but often not. Yes Ice and Fire were antipodes, but their quarrel was not a result of this. Echelon Ice had once destroyed Echelon of Cosmos, whom at the time Echelon of Fire loved, and so their conflict began that moment. It had finally come to a head with the destruction of the Void Jewel, the only physical body to reside in the place where the Order of Ishvu existed. But Echelon of Chaos found he was not the ruler of the skies that day. Mortals, in one of their physical machines. Why must they be so curious in matters of the Ethereal Beings. Seeking to find the truth behind their mortal existence. Echelon of Chaos knew all too well who they were, and what they sought, but no matter. Their toils in his affairs would bring no distraction. They are only mortal, no closer to him than microbes.
            In an instant where the Rangers had been circling above the multicolored hybrid he was no longer there. Just as he had disappeared from their home he had disappeared from their chase.
            "He's gone! Where did he go?" Foxy exclaimed looking around. "How are we supposed to follow a guy that can disappear?" Chip grumbled. "Now guys let's not get discouraged.. He had to go somewhere. We just have to keep looking." Gadget said looking through the scope.
            "Gadget! There he is!" Foxy pointed with an exclamation. Everyone turned their heads at the same time. "Where Foxy Love I don't see the piebald fellow." Monty said leaning out the window. "Piebald?" Dale asked quizzically. "It means something that has patches of differing color." Gadget explained searching through the scope. Foxy shook her head vigorously. "No, not that one, the other one. The black and brown bat thing that came into our tree the other night. He's just above us!" She shrieked leaning out the window and pointing. Chip pulled the gyro-corvette into a sharp upward climb until they were level with the Echelon. He glanced over at them. He had managed to hide from Chaos and now these mortals, whom he had helped were searching for him? He scowled slightly and pulled into a steep dive.
            "After him Chip! And keep it steady so that I can get a direct shot with the ghostvac!" Gadget exclaimed leaning out the window with the bulky machine. They both dove toward the looming ground, flat green becoming mottled and finally the texture of grass. "CHIP!! pull up we're going to crash!!" Dale screamed gripping the front seat. Chip had to pull up as the black bat swooped the ground skirting the surface only missing impact my an inch, grass clipping his wings as he followed the contours of the ground. The rangers followed on his heels the tires of the corvette-gyro grazing the ground.
            "Great flyin Chip! I'm almost in range! Let's nab this guy!" Gadget shouted over the whistling wind trying to find Echelon Fire in the scope. "Darn it! The scope isn't working! He must not be a ghost!" Gadget shouted. "Keep following him I'll try the.." she began but before she could finish her sentence there was a collision on front of them. That piebald Echelon had appeared right in front of the black Echelon of Fire and they slammed together with a loud smack both tumbling across the ground in a ball. "Take her down chipper! I think we got em! Two for the price of one." Gadget exuberated as the vehicle came in contact with the ground landing much like a jet as the gyro began to pack itself back in the trunk. Chip swerved the car to a stop only a foot from the tumbling ball or wings. The two creatures were locked in a ball of conflict, their wings locked together as they traded blows from their balled fists.
            "WOW!! A fight!" Dale exclaimed jumping out of the car and trying to find the best angle to watch. "Gracious those two are really going at it." Foxy muttered climbing out behind Monty. Chip pulled up beside Dale, Foxy and Monty to watch. "Wow.. What do you suppose we should do?" He questioned. "Do you think we should separate them?" Foxy asked quietly. "NO WAY! This is better than wrestling!" Dale exclaimed jumping up and down with excitement. Chip smacked him in the back of the head. "This is serious you clown!" He growled. Gadget had been watching through the scope, but she could only see the multicolored bat, and through the scope it was pretty comical to watch him roll around fighting with an invisible foe. "I can only see one of them through the scope.. I can't get a lock on him because they are moving around too much" She said peering through the scope on the side of the ghostvac.
            Suddenly there was a flash from inside the ball and both of them were thrown back. The Echelon of fire soared over the Rangers crunching in the hood of their newest vehicle. "Oh great.. Now I'm going to have to get a new hood.." Gadget groaned. The rangers scattered as the piebald Echelon rose up from the ground a lot like you would expect Dracula to rise from his coffin, and began to float toward the group grinning white teeth. "I knew you would lead me to him. Thank you for you're assistance even though you could have had no idea that you were helping me. Your time comes now Echelon Fire! That mortal body has weakened you. I will absorb you as you did my friend Ice." He laughed in a thunderous deep and growling voice, not at all like the cordial, fluent and almost soothing tone he had used before.
            "I got him!" Gadget exclaimed as she flipped the switch on the ghostvac. The first thing that happened was that it smoked, and began shaking, but then after a moment it quieted down and began to work properly. The Echelon of Chaos began to slow his approach to the Echelon of Fire who was just now setting up on the hood of the car. Chaos growled. "What pulls me!" He boomed turning an about face to Gadget. "You foolish mortal! You are nothing to meddle in the wars of the ethereal! I will destroy you!" Echelon of Chaos thundered as be raised his wings, a tiny speck of light growing inside the cupped wing tips.
            "Gadget! Look out!" Chip yelled tacking her and rolling with her to get her out of the way of the obvious attack. The Echelon merely turned adjusting his position, but now his back was to the recovering Fire Echelon, who slid off of the hood, and also raised his wings. The bright orange red began to pulse and slowly lit up like a light, and he thrust them outward in front of him curling the tips into a tube. That familiar weapon used, the column of blue fire twisting and swirling as it shot from the Echelon's wings like a cannon striking the Echelon of Chaos full force in the back sending him hurtling forward as the beam of fire shrank and dispersed. Chaos Echelon tumbled end over end coming to rest in a heap on the grass. "It's now or never Gadget Luv! Get em!" Monty shouted trying to position himself between the other Rangers and the Echelon of Fire, who had fallen to his knees, wings limp dropping forward just barely able to catch himself with his arms. Gadget rolled out from under chip and turned the ghostvac on full power. The motionless mass of colors seemed to stretch and flow like smoke slowly becoming less and less opaque until he was no longer there. The Ghostvac's quantity meter read dangerously full. "He's in! I got him! It worked! I can't believe it.. Well I mean I was sure it would work, but! This is soo exciting!" Gadget exclaimed "WOWIE! We're the real ghost busters!" Dale laughed. Chip picked himself up. "But what about the other guy?" He questioned gesturing to the black and brown Echelon knelt over in the grass taking heavy labored breaths. Gadget scratched her head. "I don't know.. The vac wouldn't register him.. so that must mean he's not a ghost.. and besides.. It's already almost too full." She said walking over to the other Echelon followed by the others who were now surrounding him.
            "Are you OK Mister?" Foxglove asked quietly, but there was no answer. Monty rubbed his head not sure what to do. This person was definitely no threat to them in his shape. He had been in his share of scraps, and he knew what it was like to barely make it out of one. Gadget raised the vac to peer at him through the scope, adjusting the sensitivity in hopes to get an image of him. Suddenly his head jerked up and he looked her dead in the eyes. She didn't even have time to jump back before those wings snapped shut around the vac as well as her hands like a steel trap. She shrieked and let go staggering back and falling on her posterior. The rest of the Rangers quickly joined Gadget and made some distance between them and the odd creature as it reversed the flow of the vac. As the trapped entity poured out into the Echelon Fire's wings he began to absorb him. Bright white light began to grow within those clasped wings. Brighter and brighter until it compressed in a loud clap like thunder. The shock forced the ground to cave in a concave crater around the creature, who fell as the ground pushed down from under his feet. He dropped into the crater which grew under the Rangers causing them to fall clinging to the gently sloping sides. Then the thunderous roar was gone, and all was still and quiet. The black Echelon of Fire lay in a heap, wing tips barely clutching the undamaged ghostvac. A pulsing red glow rose and fell from his inner wings like the glow of dying embers.

The Pact

            The Rangers picked themselves up and made their way down into the crater where the Echelon of Fire lay. Gadget quickly reached forward retrieving her Vac. "It's empty." She gasp with shock. "Gadget.. I want to get out of here.. This is giving me the creeps." Foxy said quietly moving up behind Gadget. "Foxy is right. I've been around the block a couple of times but this has definitely been the strangest evening I've ever hand.." Monty said edging Gadget and Foxy away from the motionless heap of wings. The glow had subsided but still he made no move, nor breathed. "Do.. you think he's dead?" Dale asked.
            "He's a ghost dummy! Ghosts don't die." Chip snapped. Gadget shook her head. "No.. No I don't think he is.. First of all I couldn't get a lock on him with my scope, and It definitely works.. And second off, that other guy said that this one had a mortal body.. I.. I think he's alive like us.. Well maybe not quite like us.. but still alive." Gadget explained.
            The black pile gave a sudden heave of breath, and slowly picked itself up, rising to it's feet, wings pulled around it like a cloak. "Yes.. I am alive." He said in that same even cool tone. The Rangers scrambled backwards tripping and falling into a sit from the incline behind them.
            "Why are you afraid? Did you not offer help to me? I appreciate you're aid in the destruction of the Echelon of Chaos." He said with a blink as he watched them. Chip picked himself up. "OK.. Hold the phone! We didn't help you.. It just sort of happened that way. Just who are you anyway?" He asked taking a step closer.
            "I am an Echelon. We are the servants of the Order of Ishvu. We are the highest in the authority assignment that the Order has created." He said simply as if they knew what he was talking about. "Who are these Order of Ishvu guys? I've never heard of anything like that. In fact I can safely say that none of us have." Monty said stepping up beside Chip. Echelon of Fire took a deep breath. "That which we do not know created all there is. It was the beginning then. But this creation grew fickle and no longer wished to trouble itself with all of the problems of the Void Universe, but rather enjoyed concentrating on the Physical Universe. As a solution to this it created the ethereal Order of Ishvu to watch over the Void Universe. But this order, like the Creation grew tired of toiling in the troubles of others, and so it created fourteen Echelons. I am the Echelon of fire."
            "Wait a second here.. That doesn't make sense. You're telling me that there is another universe out there where things aren't made of physical matter?" Gadget questioned as she Foxy and Dale made their way beside Chip and Monty. The Echelon nodded. "Yes that is correct. Physical matter, and mortal beings only take up a small portion of the universe. While these two universes exist in the same space, they are so far separated that no mortal being no matter how great their technical knowledge could travel from the physical universe to the Void Universe." Echelon Fire explained. "Wowie! Talk About secrets to the universe. What about God?" Dale asked excitedly. The Echelon gave him a confused look. "I am not familiar with this word. God. I only guess it is you're reference to the first creation. I have no knowledge of the first creation. My masters are the Order of Ishvu, and I only answer to them. I suppose if the Great Creation has some task for them, they will relay it to the Echelons so to save themselves the effort." He explained.
            Foxy shyly reached out and touched the Echelon. He shifted and moved away. "Yes. I am physical. I have already clarified that." He said as he stepped away from the group though still facing them.
            "I'm really confused. You just said that no physical being could travel between the Void Universe and the Physical universe. How did you get here?" Chip asked. The Echelon looked down with a sad expression.
            "That is quite a story. I was once non physical as was the now destroyed Echelon of Chaos. Long ago the Echelon of Ice Destroyed my love, the Echelon of Cosmos, and for that I hated him. You see we Echelons are not bound to peace among ourselves, but rather have the authority to choose which ever suites us. Some are friends while others bitter enemies. My destroying the Echelon of Ice resulted in the destruction of the only physical entity within the Void Universe, a planet, a gas giant, known as Evander the Void Jewel, and for that I was given a task of punishment." He began to explain. "I was sent here and given a Physical body, and I must find and destroy twelve runaway souls in order to serve my time. However this physical body is a burden, and I only have a limited time that I can live in this physical body before I am trapped in it and it's limitations. And it's inevitable death." He explained.
            "So you're saying that you're some sort of fallen angel?" Monty pondered. The Echelon seemed to think. "If by that you mean a once ethereal being now cast into the physical realm as punishment for an err. Then yes. I am a fallen angel."
            "Wow.. I've never met an angel before." Chip blinked. "You look more like a demon to me." Dale sarcast. The Echelon looked at him. "Angel? Demon? One an ethereal being of positive nature, and the other of negative nature. Yes they exist, but there are countless varieties of ethereal being, and appearance can not be the judging factor on their demeanor." He explained.
            "So you mean you're not bad, you just look that way?" Foxy asked. The Echelon shook it's head. "No.. I am an Echelon. I am above good and evil. My actions are above judgement. However I tend to attempt to solve my problems without destroying the security of others." He explained.
            "This is unbelievable.. I mean I was never too spiritual before but if what you say is true, everything I thought about God is either wrong or more complex than what we were told." Gadget said shaking her head. The Echelon looked at her. "If you believe you know something about the Divine Creation, I can not tell you it is wrong. I have never met this fabled Highest Echelon, and so I can only say that it is most likely true that you were just told the parts of the story that you need to know. Other than that I can give you no explanation."
            "Well I guess that clears that up Gadget Luv." Monty chuckled giving her a pat on the back. She nodded a bit. "I guess so.. But Maybe I was looking for some confirmation.. I guess he can't give me one because he just doesn't know." She said looking at monty.
"So.. Echelon Fire.. These Twelve runaway souls.. Uhm.. Our house was haunted, and it was by one of them?" Chip asked. The Echelon nodded. "Yes. Forgive me for my methods of gaining entry. I did not want injury to come to you or me, but I had to gain access to you're abode to capture and shred the spirit." He explained. Chip grinned.
            "Oh. No harm done. After all you did get rid of the ghost." He smiled. Echelon nodded. "That I did. But now the other eleven know my intension, and they are hiding in a limbo where I can not reach them. I can not access them because of my physical limitations, but I can not wait for them to emerge on their own. While eventually they will have to, if I stay too long in this living body I will be bonded to it." He said actually showing emotion. Apparently his physical body was beginning to take over. "So what happens if you're physical body dies?" Chip questioned. The echelon looked down. "Then I will be destroyed, and another worthy soul will take my place as the Echelon of Fire." he said grimly.
"Echelon.. Maybe we can help you. Gadget made a vacuum that sucks up ghosts. So I'm sure that she can make something to help you get the hiding ghosts." Foxy said stepping up in front of him. He looked down at her. "That possibility had crossed my thought as I absorbed the Echelon of Chaos."
            "Yeah! That's a great Idea! Imagine how much we could learn from studying a ghost! I can't wait to get to work!" Gadget exclaimed as she began to climb out of the pit. Echelon of Fire suddenly gave a flap of his wings and propelled himself straight up into the air.
            "Hey wait! Where are you going?" Chip called looking up and shielding his eyes from the fading rays of the sun. "I'll Catch him!" Foxy beamed as she took off into the air in chase of their new acquaintance Echelon of Fire. Finally she caught up with him.
            "Hello there." She smiled as she circled him. "Greetings." He said simply. "Where are you going?" She asked as she dove around him. Echelon stopped his ascent into the clouds and bobbed there in the sky. "I am not certain. For a moment I thought I felt the presence of another Echelon, and I believe I began to feel the emotion of fear. I am weak and so I wanted to flee incase it was another Echelon who would seek to destroy me." He said. Foxy bobbed in front of him. "Do all of the other Echelons want to kill you?" She questioned with concern. Echelon shook his head. "No. I am allied with some of them. However those allied with the Echelon of Chaos, will now be searching for me to exact their revenge, and I can not afford to be in conflict with them in this mortal body." He said grimly. Foxy gave a frown. "But we can help you. We're the Rescue Rangers. It's our duty to help those in trouble. If another one of those Echelons comes to fight you Gadget will just suck them up with her ghostvac." Foxy beamed. Echelon of Fire gave a blink. "And you willingly accept the risk in becoming allied with me?" He asked canting his head to the side. Foxy nodded vigorously. "Of course we do! We're Rescue Rangers!"
            The whirring of a prop grew louder as the corvette-gyro lifted up beside the two. "Come on guys! I want to get back to Ranger H.Q. Before it gets too dark to see!" Gadget called from the pilot seat. Foxy looked at Echelon. He nodded a bit. "You go with you're allies. I know where you are going. I will be there shortly." He said calmly. Foxy nodded and flapped over to the flying car turned helicopter and climbed into the back seat through the window, and they whizzed off. Echelon Fire watched them go. When they had moved off to just a speck in the distance, he let himself drop and just before the ground met him, he gave a few strong flaps and landed softly. There was a sudden commotion and she was there. The Echelon of Rebirth. Her fur was golden with hair, and markings a paler shade of blond, and eyes blue as the skies. With every step she took the grass beneath her feet grew as if sparked to life in a sudden instant.
            "Rebirth! You have found me." Echelon of Fire gasp. The enchanting Echelon gave a smile crept across her rounded snout tipped in two rounded separated nostrils. "Yes. I heard of you're peril from the Echelon of Illusion, and I have come to give my aid." She smiled. Echelon of Fire dropped to his knees shrouding his wings around her feet. "Oh Rebirth! This mortal body is such hell. I can feel it dying all around me. And it pains! It grows tired and it is bound! Please Rebirth! Help me!" He plead. The golden Echelon knelt in front of him covering him with her wings, her arms on his cheeks. "Fire.. I can only heal the injuries of you're physical body. I can not stop it's limitations, or defeat it's drawbacks. But I hope that you will accept this from me." She spoke softly as her inner wings began to glow a brilliant golden. Echelon of Fire's body began to tingle but as he knelt before his strongest Ally he began to weep, Mortal sorrow. Finally Echelon of Rebirth stood. "Fire.. I can not bare to see you like this. It pains me so. Having done this favor to you. I must go from here swiftly and with regret. The Echelon of Metal is searching for you. I will try my best to distract him, but I feel that I can not defeat him. Fire.. you were always the strongest next to Void. but I can not dissuade the feeling that your time as an Echelon has come to a close." She said with a sad tone. Fire stood and embraced her, pushing his wings around her. "Please do not let Metal destroy you.. Flee from him Rebirth! Flee! I swear you.. I will overcome this. I will return to the Void." He said with a burning determination, and then just as she were there Rebirth was gone, leaving Fire there embracing nothing.
            Now he knew that Echelon of Metals was coming for him, and luck kept him alive in his tossle with Chaos. Had that mortal being not been there distracting him, it would have all ended in that instant. Fire could not fight with the powers he once had. Transforming into a incorporeal form to use one of his techniques of attack or defense drained him dangerously, and he could no longer afford to engage in the higher level of conflict that the other Echelons could release on him. Chaos has made the mistake of trying to toy with him, and draw out his suffering. Had he just unleashed his full ability on him then there would be nothing but oblivion for him.
            Even though Rebirth had healed the wounds in his body, he was still so tired. Then thoughts moved back to those mortals. He could not allow them to be caught up in his struggle with the other Echelons. Metal was not natured as he. Chaos was by their definition evil, but Metal was immeasurably more so. Echelon of Metals would stop at nothing to destroy him. He would destroy anyone or anything that got in his way. And Illusion? Illusion would not help him. No Echelon of Illusion is new as an Echelon, and newly allied to Fire. The previous Echelon of Illusion was destroyed by Echelon of Seas, and then a new Echelon of Illusion was created. He is still much too weak to conflict with Metal. In alerting Rebirth he had done his favor. As for Rebirth, she was not a fighter. She could not tackle with Metal and survive. She would help him however she could but could not allow herself to conflict with Metal. Even so, now he knew that he could not seek help from the mortals. Wings took him into the air, and he fled from that place fast and far beating up into the sky into the clouds, and as far and fast in the opposite direction of that mortal abode as he could.

            Gadget pondered in her workshop for hours and still no sign of Echelon Fire. She had already increased the sensitivity range of the scope, but wasn't sure if this help locate these spirits Fire was searching for. All the while she could hear the pondering and ramblings of the others in the den. Ghosts, angels, demons God. What are these Echelons? What purpose did they serve? It was the feeling of getting just a tiny speck closer to understanding the universe, and yet not understanding at all. This void was so far from what they called the universe that to measure the distance would be impossible. Then Echelon of Fire said something about these spirits phasing out of this realm, somehow Gadget had to understand what he meant. Were they somehow in between the space that we call physical reality, and some other place? Then how could her vac work at all? They would have to manifest themselves here in this place before she could suck them up. If only she understood the science behind their existence. All things had to exist of something. Just because it wasn't made from physical matter didn't mean that it couldn't be made of something else. Did that make them any different from us? How did she know that they were not the same in many ways, only existing of a different form?
            By the time Gadget began to fall asleep slumpt over on the table in her workshop she had come to the realization that Echelon had no intension of allowing her to help him either because he did not want help, or because in giving her the information needed to create a better ghostvac he would be revealing some forbidden secret that she was not supposed to know. She didn't hear the other Rangers talking anymore. They had most likely decided to turn in, and forget about the four armed bat. Just when she was about to go to her room herself she got the strangest feeling that she was not alone. She turned around and came face to face with a huge Echelon. Gadget gasp and lurched back against her work table. The echelon had dark brown fur all over with no mismatched color markings on his chest or hair. His eyes were a dark blue almost black, but the oddest thing about him was his inner wings. They were transparent, but not clear like glass, it was more like looking through waves of heat where everything behind him could be seen through the insides of his wings, only smeared and distorted, yet the backs of his wings were the same opaque brown as the rest of him.
            "W..Who are you? Wh.. What do you want?" She stammered inching toward the door. The giant Echelon shifted floating across the floor blocking her from the door. "Do not react in fear. I have come to aid you." He said in the typical fluid unemotional Echelon voice. "Help me? Why? Did the Echelon of Fire send you?" She asked stretching her neck to look up in his face. He had no nose! He had no ears His head was almost void of detail other than his hair which protruded strait up like a stove pipe haircut, and his tiny eyes. He shook his head. "No. Echelon Fire does not know of my presence here. I am newly his ally, but more importantly than that Echelon Metals is one who I wish destroyed. However I am only the Echelon of Illusion, and I can not match Metal in combat. Echelon Metal seeks to destroy Echelon Fire, and I have plans to aid Fire in the destruction of Metal. Through you." He said smoothly. Gadget shook her head and blinked. "Through me? What are you going to do? What are you planning?" She asked a little taken back. "Echelon Fire is trapped in a physical body.. However catching and shredding the runaway souls will refresh him. It will slowly defeat the limits of his physical body, and that is the only way that he will survive when Metal finds him." He said as he spread his left wing. "Look." He continued, and as Gadget watched the distorted view of the back of her workshop began to fade to black, and bright green symbols began to appear. At first they had no order, but as they randomly appeared Gadget saw that it was unmistakably a schematic. It had mathematical notes, and design specifications. Gadget's eyes widened as how close it was to her electromagnascope, and yet so different.
            "Those are blueprints... er.. black prints rather.. But.. What are they?" She asked even though she wasted no time in jotting them down. "It is a machine. It will locate, and pull incorporeal entities out of limbo and into the physical world. With this you can trap the runaway spirits in this." He explained as he unfolded the other wing. It contained more equations and diagrams as soon as it was extended to full. "This is the plans for building a magnetic bottle which can contain the entities you capture. Note them quickly I haven't much time here before the other Echelons become savvy to my plot." He urged even though his voice had no emotion, or raise in tone or rate. No sooner than Gadget finished the last pen stroke the Echelon of Illusion threw his wings back around him and was gone as instantly as he appeared. All of a sudden she began to get the impression that the actions of this echelon of fire had somehow started a war among the Echelons, or maybe that the war was always there, but now they sought to use this turn of events in their favor. Something about how they spoke of allies and foes gave her the impression that they were constantly destroying one another, but somehow they came back. It almost seemed pointless. Gadget began pouring over the copied information, and could see it clearly, she could modify the Ghostvac so that it would first pull them out of limbo, and then with a flip of a switch the vac would change over to it's original configuration and pull them in. Then she could just simply spray them back out into separate containers. All of a sudden she wasn't tired anymore and worked all through the night.

When the War comes

            Five of the Echelons had gathered. Among them was the aqua furred Echelon of Seas. The speckled Echelon of Cosmos. The gray Echelon of stone. The brilliant white Echelon of Radiance And the First Echelon, The Echelon of Void.
            "Friction is brewing among us and the Order has taken note of this." Void spoke loudly among the four circled before him. "Those allied with the banished Echelon of fire are attempting to aid him through the mortals who he has been in contact with. While they mean well, they have no way of knowing that their help in Echelon Fire's task will only lead to further punishment. Furthermore those who wish to destroy Echelon of Fire are now closing in on that tiny blue planet, and an all out war will be catastrophic."
            The dark blue and white speckled Echelon of Cosmos was the first to speak. Her voice was bell like in tones ,with the same steady flow as all the others. "What do you wish of us Void? Surely more involvement in this matter can not be advised." She said gesturing with open hands. "Yes.. Cosmos is right. I know that you called us here because we are neither allied nor against Fire, however I do know that the Echelons of Metal, Winds, Darkness, and Storms are all allied and Metal the strongest among them leads their actions." The slender Echelon Of brilliance said Folding his arms.
            "Yes and surely eight Echelons all fighting on the same planet can not be the desired situation. It took but two to destroy the Void Jewel and this Earth is but a tiny grain of sand compared to that Orb." The blue green furred Echelon of Seas Said as she moved up beside her lover The Echelon of Stone. Void nodded. "Yes. This I understand, and so I feel that the only way to save that tiny mortal planet is a call to arms here in Void. We must destroy those four Echelons who seek destruction for Echelon Fire. New souls will be chosen to become Echelons leaving Fire free to complete his task, or fail, what ever fate happens." Echelon of Void spoke. The four echelons all nodded. "Then it is so.. the war has begun." Echelon of Seas said in the same even tone. Void nodded. "Yes, and be aware before it is over it will be likely that all of the Echelons are brought into this conflict. Chaos, and Ice have already been destroyed because of this, and before their positions are filled with new worthy souls, many of you will be destroyed as well. I did not want it to come to this. I hope that it will not come to me putting myself involved for I will surely destroy you all and start a new Before I will allow our actions to destroy the Blue Jewel which the Creator of the Order so loves. For that we shall all surely be destroyed. The Echelons as well as the Ishvu Order." Void spoke and with the fading of his last word he was gone, leaving the four Echelons to begin their grim task of warfare against their fellows. Stone was the largest among them. A massively build creature with only short body fur on his head, and for an Echelon, this was as close to bald as you could get. Then there was the genius and swift Radiance. But the slender and beautiful Echelon of Cosmos was by far the strongest. She was the oldest among them. These echelons' age could not be judged by their appearance, as they were born whole, and they never aged. But Cosmos had been around almost as long as Chaos had before he was destroyed. She, Metal, Darkness, Fire and Void were the oldest of all of the Echelons, but Void was the only Echelon who had remained from the first twelve created. Second to him Metal was the oldest, and then Fire. Even so, Fire with all his ancient wisdom and well earned power could not in his mortal body begin to match even the weakest Echelon. But so many die, and have died. What could it possibly matter if Fire was destroyed? While Void claimed to have equal feelings for all Echelons why then did he favor Fire now rather than letting him be destroyed so that this tiny Blue Jewel would no longer be a beacon for the Echelons to swarm to? They would have no concerns there had Fire not been banished there to serve his punishment. Even so with the others pondering why he had made his decision Void knew that Metal would have the power to destroy him should he absorb Fire. Then there would be no more wisdom, there would be no more order. Metal was not suited to have such power to exact his rule over the other Echelons. He would reign with an iron fist until the Order of Ishvu became weary of his control and destroy all of the echelons indefinitely. Only Void knew that this complete and final destruction was a possibility for them.

Until One Remains

            Chip and Dale woke to find Monty was the only one up. Of course for Foxy to sleep during the day was only natural, everyone knows that. As for Gadget, well she was prone to burning the midnight oil. She had probably come across some new discovery of vast enlightenment..... as usual. "Hey me maties! Top O' da mornin to ya!" Monty waved cheerfully as he poured a thimble of coffee, and cut off a massive slab of Cheddar cheese cake. "Mornin Monty. Any new news? "Chip yawned. Monty shook his head. "Only old news today." Said going back into the den and plopping himself down in an arm chair conveniently positioned by a table. "I wonder what ever happened to Fire? I thought we were supposed to help him chase down those ghosts." Dale yawned following chip into the den. He just shrugged and sat down to turn on the boob tube.
            Monty watched the flickering image reaching over to his side for the chunk of cake. His hand fell on an empty platter. He felt around for a moment then turned his head to see a bottle cap laden with crumbs. Monty blinked and then looked over to Dale suspiciously. "Alright wiseguy where is it?" He growled a bit. Dale looked at him confused. "Where is what Monty?" He questioned. "Where's my cake?! I know you got it." He growled. Dale looked around and shrugged. "I don't have it. I swear Monty. Maybe the ghost got it?" He offered. Monty eyed him for a moment and snatched up his coffee muttering something about ghosts, and poppycock. He raised the thimble to his mouth but before he could take a sip the coffee level in the cup drastically dropped. In the next second it dropped again, and again until it was gone. After that came a long loud gurgling belch, and a laugh. Mont threw the thimble down standing. "That does it! Where's that vacuum thingy! I'm gonna nab me a ghost!" He growled. Of course this was a spirit of glutany. Opportunistic, and dim witted it figured that this was the last place that pseudo mortal hunter would look, and now for the raiding of the fridge. Monty stormed into Gadget's workshop, she wasn't there, but the ghost vac was, and new and improved, and as seen on TV much less. Chip and Dale were close behind him. "One of you two wake Gadget luv up so she can tell me how this doohicky works! I'm a quite bit cantankerous, and I'ma gonna do sumthin about it!" He snarled as the turned from inside the workshop and back into the den. Chip proceeded to bang on Gadget's door, while a noise from the kitchen brought Monty and Dale in to see the cold box door wide open and random food items disappearing in huge uneven bites.
            "Not my Gouda black bean casserole! I was saving that!" Monty raged as all of his culinary creations began to disappear one by one. "Boy.. that thing has some appetite!" Dale laughed as he watched the food disappear. Gadget opened her door rubbing her eyes. "What's the big deal Chip? I haven't slept a wink last night." She yawned. Chip looked back and forth from her and the kitchen door for a moment. "Uhm.. I think you should just see for yourself." He said pointing toward the kitchen door which blasted out groans of disapproval.
            "No! NO NO!! Not the parmesan pastries!"
            "Please not the cactus guava smoothies!"
            "GADGET! GET IN HERE NOW!!"
            All of course were the voice of Monty's distress. Gadget's tired eyes found a new vigor in her surprise, and her and Chip made quick steps into the kitchen. "Oh no! I thought that thing was gotten rid of!" she groaned.
            "Never mind that just tell me how to work this confounded thing!" Monty growled. Gadget blinked momentarily. "Oh Right! OK! First flip the green switch up, then turn the black knob all the way to the left. OK? Good! Now Look through the scope on the side, and when the red blob of light turns green pull the trigger! But you have to make sure that it's centered in the cross hairs for at least a good couple seconds.!" She explained.
            After a moment Monty pulled the trigger and the vacuum made a slight hissing sound like gas escaping from a leaking line. This was followed by a high pitched nasally voice which groaned. "Awww THIS SUCKS!!!" The vac gave a slight backward kick, and the analog needle on the side swung over a notch toward full.
            "You got him Monty! Great work!" Dale said excitedly. "We're like professional ghost hunters now huh?" He continued with glee. "Too right Daley ole pal! We sure showed him! No one steals my grub and gets away with it!" Monty bragged patting the side of the egg shaped vac. "Hey Gadget can I give it a whirl?" Chip asked. She yawned. "Sure I don't see why not." She said scratching her nose. Monty handed it over and Chip began scanning around with it up to his head like a camcorder. "Hey! Gadget! There's a little red dot over here!" Chip exclaimed pointing somewhere between south and southwest. Gadget yawned. "Adjust the black knob. Either that means it's hiding in limbo, or it's just really far away. I'm not sure which since Monty gave it's first real test run." She explained. Chip began twisting the black dial on the side. "Hmm. Not getting any bigger. What does that mean?" He asked. Gadget shrugged. I'm not sure.. I haven't had a chance to use it yet." She said. "But Gadget, you built it didn't you?" Dale asked confused. Gadget nodded vigorously. "Oh.. Yes I did, but I didn't entirely design it. I was given the schematic by another of those Echelon things last night. And you know.. It's really a little rude if you ask me. Those guys are using us to meet their own personal agendas." She grumbled.
            Dale just shrugged a bit. "Who cares about that. Catching ghosts is fun! Givit to me Chip! I wanna see the ghost too." He said reaching. Chip turned away. "No Way! Wait you're turn! I'm using it now." He protested. Gadget rolled her eyes a bit. "If you're going to fight over it, then none of you will use it. Play nice!" Chip looked at her and sighed handing the vac over to Dale. "Wowie! This is...." Dale paused. "Oh.. this isn't that fun.. Just a little red dot. I thought you would be able to actually see the ghost." He said downtrodden handing the vac back to Chip.
            "Well I'm sorry it isn't more interesting Dale.. But ghosts just don't have any shape like they do on the movies.. and besides, that would take a complex high palette view screen, and that isn't cost effective. It's supposed to be functional not fun." She explained.
            "Hey.. Gadget? Is there any chance you would feel like checking out that red dot?" Chip questioned. She scratched her head and scanned around until she had found that funny little speck. She began to fiddle with the knob, and then when that proved no result she flipped the switch back and pulled the trigger, but there again, no results at all. She let the vac drop to her sides.
            "Well guys.. Looks like it's just far away." She sighed, then handed the vac to Monty. "I'll go get dressed.. Warm up the Rangerplane..." She said as she slumpt off to her room, no rest for the weary.

            They had spent the entire day chasing ghosts, and caught three of them. But now it was dark, and they were all exhausted. What's more was that those runaway souls were getting resilient to the Vac, and becoming quite angry when they were threatened. Chip wore a thick bandage around his head from an ashtray which came crashing down on his head from atop a human inn table. Dale carried a black eye from an unknown shower of slaps and blows while Gadget and Monty were missing hair. A patch from Gadget's head, and from Monty one whole side of his mustache was almost gone.
            "Guys.. I don't think I want to do this anymore.. This ghost hunting business is getting dangerous.." Dale said holding a piece of steak to his right eye. "What I want to know is where that Echelon Fire guy got off to?" Chip said from the back seat. No sooner than he spoke there was a clap of thunder and a flash from above, and a brown mass dropped past them followed by a another streak of gray. Behind that came a streak of golden honey blond.
            "What in blazes?!" Monterey shouted as he leaned over the side looking down. Below them the flash of gold stopped, wings filling with air in a sudden jerk like an umbrella opening and from that drifting Echelon came a golden beam of light which struck the still diving blur of gray. There was a loud pop and that creature opened it's wings and in one flap it soared back up upon the golden Echelon. The instant after the falling brown ball recovered and opened it's wings catching itself just before it hit the ground.
            Gadget made a tight evasive turn as the blond Echelon, and the marbled gray Echelon whizzed by them. "What in heavens?!" She gasp! "Gadget! Take her down Love! We don't need to be gettin caught in a dogfight between these things!" Monty exclaimed. "Roger!" Gadget replied as she took the Rangerplane into a dive. It settled down on the grass beside the brown Echelon of Illusion just as he flapped back up in the sky to continue the fight. From there the Rangers could only watch. They piled out of the Ranger plane, taking turns watching the air show through a tiny spyglass. The Brown Echelon Illusion, and the Golden Echelon Rebirth circled the marbled black and gray Echelon of storms casting white spiraling oval bolts of light from their hands. The Echelon of Storms shrugged them off, folding his wings around him as a shield as the blasts exploded against them. Finally he had about all he could take of the annoyance these two weak new Echelons were giving him, and spread his wings in a quick thrust. His inner wings churned and flashed, an image of a thunderhead filling their surface, and in a loud rolling thunder three streaks of lighting flashed out in an instant. Illusion took the full force of them, and tumbled out of the sky as he began to glow a bright white. The Echelon of storms didn't even bother to give chase to absorb him. He had been so long lived that the Echelon of Illusion had nothing to give him through his death. The Echelon of Illusion exploded in a bright flash like one of those loud report fireworks at the 4th of July show three feet above the ground. There was a shudder in the earth and a crater five feet wide formed below the explosion.
            Rebirth wailed with despair but did not give up the fight, and launched another long bright golden beam from her curled wings. It grazed Storms shoulder knocking him out of his hover only momentarily. He tumbled a few times and then corrected himself boastfully flying into the beam. It erupted in an explosion against his chest, but had little effect. Rebirth had always been, and would always be weak in the role of a combatant, and Echelon storms gave a triumphant laugh.
            "Fool! The day or reckoning is upon you! When we are done here Void will be the next to fall!" He laughed harshly as he withstood Rebirth's most effective weapon. She pulled herself out of the fall and turned to flee. It was a waste of time. Storms was upon her in an instant. swooping up behind her and taking hold of her wings. He held her aloft as arks of electricity came off of Echelon of Storms' wings with each powerful flap. After a moment Echelon of Rebirth fell limp.
            "Oh pretty pretty one...Not even Cosmos held a challenge to us.. We are more powerful than even the Ishvu! What gives you the idea that you and lowly Illusion could ever stop us!" He cackled and with that he stripped Rebirth of her wings and let her drop before he flew off into the clouds attracting tiny arks of lighting as he passed through the clouds. The golden Echelon spiraled toward the ground. She struck the grassy field just a few feet from the awestruck Rangers, bouncing with a thud as her detached wings slowly drifted down covering her like a burial shroud.
            The Rangers rushed to see if she were OK, though it was obvious that she wasn't. Only five Echelons remained now, and the majority of them were purely evil, and sought to control the Void Universe, and eventually the Physical Universe as well. Gadget and Monty pulled the torn wings from covering the unconscious Echelon of Rebirth. She lay on her side in a heap her long hair tattered and covering most of her body. A glowing blue fluid dripped from her jagged shoulders.
            "Oh my gosh! Guys! What do we do?" Gadget questioned sympathetically kneeling down beside the still form. "What are you asking us for? We don't know!" Chip shuddered kneeling beside Gadget. "What ever we do we ought ta do it bloody fast! If she goes out like the last one did we're all mince meat!" Monty cautioned. Gadget pulled the tattered Echelon up into her lap and fanned her face. Her face tightened and her eyes slowly opened.
            "Kind mortals..." She muttered then coughed a huge bubble of the glowing fluid. It ran down the side of her face soaking Gadget's overalls. "Don't talk.. Just be still." She whispered. The Echelon gave a weary smile. "It is not yet my time.. This existence still has plans for me.." She choked.
            "Please be still Luv.. you're pretty beaten up." Monterey said taking the limp golden Echelon from Gadget and holding her in his arms. She was no longer bleeding from her torn shoulders, and they had sealed in ashen white scars. Her head lolled to the side looking at Chip. "You must.." She coughed again and swallowed hard. "Find the runaway souls. Find them all.. Help Fire.. He is the only one.." She signed and then closed her eyes and fell back into unconsciousness.
            "Let's get her back to Ranger H.Q. guys! I think she's going to be OK.. but she needs to rest I'm sure.. We have some ghost hunting to do!" Chip said with a deeply serious tone. Monty carried Rebirth back to the plane and they lifted off. Back at Base Foxy was awake, and reasonably shocked when they came rushing in carrying the motionless body of the Echelon. Monterey gently laid her on the couch.
            "Who's that? What did I miss?!" Foxglove asked excitedly moving around to the group. "OH! Foxy! You should have been there! It was awesome! They were flying around shooting at each other with lasers and lightning! It was all like Boom! Zing! Zap! POW!!" Dale exclaimed. Chip bonked him on the head with his fist. "You knucklehead! This is serious!" He scolded. Foxglove blinked and looked down at the comatose Echelon. "I'm confused.. Someone tell me what happened." She said.
            "We went ghost hunting, after another one of those runaway souls decided to clean out the fridge, and just as we were returning to base we ran right into the middle of a fight between three more of those Echelons.. One of them was killed, and the other got away. This one was left for dead.." Chip explained. Foxy's jaw dropped as she covered her mouth with a gasp. "Oh gosh.. That's horrible.. Do you think she will be OK?" She asked quietly. Gadget put a hand on her shoulder. "Yes.. I believe so.. but we really don't have much time. She gave me that impression before she went out." She said. Foxy nodded. "Well.. What are you going to do guys?" She asked curiously. Dale took the steak off of his eye. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not going anywhere. I'm getting an aspirin and going to sleep!" He grumbled as he walked off to the kitchen. Chip Glared at him. "Fine! You can be a cry baby if you want to! Gadget and I are going to find the rest of those ghosts! Ain't that right Gadg?" He shouted toward the Kitchen. Gadget looked up from the Echelon to Chip. "But Chip.. You.." She began. "We Are GOING!" Chip cut her off. "I've seen about enough of this. We're going to find those Ghosts, then We're going to find that Fire Echelon, and We're going to do it TONIGHT!!!" He growled.
            "Now Chipper ole pally don't be gettin yourself all worked up.. Remember you're blood pressure." Monterey tried to calm.
            "No.. He is right.. You do not have time.. The Echelons of Storms, and Metal are planning to overthrow the Ishvu and take over the universe... They have become disillusioned with their power, and Void will not raise a hand to stop him.. He fears them." The golden Echelon said in a tired voice as she pushed herself up.
            "You're awake!?" Gadget gasp as she rushed over to Echelon Rebirth's side. The blonde creature nodded. "Yes.. I am rebirth.. Healing is what I do.. Storms erred when he spared me.. I am coming with you. I will help you traverse the vast distances of this planet so that you can capture those souls in haste." She said quietly.
            "Are you sure Luv? You don't look like you're in the shape for traveling." Monterey Jack asked concerned. Rebirth looked to him and smiled letting her fingers graze his torn whiskers. They began to regrow until they had reached their normal length. "Is it you who are fragile.. We Echelons are above you in so many ways.. but at the same time just like you." She said with a smile. Monterey's hand slowly reached up to twist his mustache. "My wiskers.. they're back.. Why thank you kindly Luv!" He beamed.
            "Wow.. do all of you Echelons have powers like that." Foxy asked surprised. Rebirth nodded. "Yes.. our abilities are chosen by the Ishvu, and for what reasons I do not know.. We all serve the same tasks.. Possibly they revel in variety.." She said, then turned her head toward Chip and reached for him. "Come little one.. Let me fix you're damage." She said softly. Chip looked at Monty who was grinning as he stroked his new wiskers, then to Gadget. She nodded a bit. "Go ahead Chip.. " She said quietly.
            The Echelon of Rebirth laid her slender hand on Chips head, and in that instant the fracture in his skull was no more. He blinked as he pulled the ball of gauze off his head. "Wow.. Thanks a bunch! I feel good as new!" He exeuberated. Rebirth gave a simple nod. "Guys I think we should get out there and finish this job!" Gadget said with a determination. In the next moment the Rangerplane was bobbing in the sky with the echo of that all known battle cry.
            "Rescue Rangers Away!!!"
            With the last ghost caught the Rangers headed from home. Normally the journey from Antarctica would take them weeks, but the Rangerplane soared through the sky at supersonic speeds. They didn't even ask how. And it wasn't long before they were back at Ranger H.Q. with a full ghost vac. "Golly! That was quick." Gadget said walking into H.Q.. "Too Right Luv. We would have never caught all of those ghosts on our own. Mighty thanks for the help Rebirth Luv." Monterey said giving the Echelon a hearty pat on the back. It was soo strange, these things were not alive like they were, they were not even physical and yet somehow they were still solid, they still bled, and they were effected by universal forces like gravity. The Echelon looked at him momentarily then turned away. "It is not over.. There is still the matter of finding Fire, and receiving him these spirits." She said. Chip gave a sigh. "Looks like we won't be getting much sleep tonight huh?" He muttered. Gadget put an arm around his shoulders. "We'll survive.. After all we can't just go to sleep and let the universe be taken over by rogue angels." She said. He looked at her. "Yeah.. I guess not." He replied. "Well then mates I guess we better his the road. Lots to be done." Monty said beginning for the door.

God I'm Not An Angel

            No sooner than he reached the knob there was a thunderous boom, and the tree shuddered as the Echelon of Fire burst through the wall back first, and slid across the floor. His wing was torn, and one of his eyes blackened and swollen shut. Blood, red mortal blood dripped from his arrowhead nose, and the corner of his mouth. He began to push himself up as the storm cloud textured Echelon of Storms appeared before him, wings curled around him like a cloak. Fire pushed himself up and moved toward him in a swift leap. Storms simply threw aside his wings and caught him, hand tightening around Fire's throat and lifting him off of the floor.
            "Heh heh heh...Fire my brother.. What's wrong?? Are you not so mighty trapped in that mortal body?" He laughed and threw Fire across the room. He thudded against the wall near the ceiling and fell onto a table bursting it. He did not move.
            "Storms! You monster!!" The clipped winged Echelon of Rebirth growled with an echoing tone. Her hands in front of her spaced a tiny gap between them they began to glow a bright blue and sparks sputtered off of them. Storms simply folded his wings around himself calmly. "Oh.. I see it is angry.. Heed you're warning.. I will not spare you this time beautiful Rebirth." He growled. In an instant Rebirth was on him, her hands pushing firmly into his chest. Storms looked down at them and back up to her smiling. "Oh.. that tickles.." He began to laugh. Before he could finish his devilish chuckle there was a blinding flash and he was thrown back smashing through the wall.
            "Quickly Mortals! Feed Fire the runaway souls! I will hold off Echelon Storms as long as I can!" Rebirth shouted as she disappeared.
            "Everyone into my Workshop NOW!" Gadget yelled grabbing Dale who had been woken up by the noise and emerged from his room. Monty grabbed Fire and pulled him into the workshop with the rest of them.
            "Wake up Matey! It's go time!" He shouted as he shook the limp Echelon of Fire. "Come on Monty Wake him up!" Chip urged. Monterey looked over at him. "I'm doin my bloody best!" He retorted and began shaking Fire again. Slowly his head began to wobble and his one good eye opened ever so slowly. "Wha.. I have.. Where?" He gurgled in a weak and confused tone. "Get him on his feet Monty!" Gadget called as she got the Vac ready to release the mass of ghosts.
            "Wake up Fire mate! We caught the ghosts! You have to do you're thing now!" He urged. Echelon Fire shook his head vigorously and pulled himself off of Monty, and tried to stand. His legs buckled and he fell to his hands and knees. Chip and Dale were on either side of him to help him up. He pushed them away. "Be off of me! I am fine! Just receive me the ghosts!" He groaned as he pushed himself up sitting on his knees and pushing his wings behind him.
            "OK! I'm letting them go now! Get ready!" Gadget said then pushed the reverse switch on the ghostvac. The ghosts all came out in one merged mass, and Echelon Fire snapped his wings shut around them and again began that chant of syllables. The white glow within his closed wings began to glow, and at it's apex brightness it seemed to collapse. There came a loud report which threw the Rangers across the room, and Fire back into the wall. He fell to his knees breathing harshly. From outside could be heard the whizzing and crashing of Rebirth and Storms locked in their earthbound combat. Then came that long rolling thunder followed by a giant cracking sound. Rebirth let out a ear splitting screech. Fire's eyes snapped open and he pushed himself up onto his feet.
            "You mortals hide yourselves! You do not want to be involved in what is to come!" He growled and then disappeared.
"He disappeared!" Chip gasp helping Gadget up. "Cricky! He's never done that before. Maybe those ghosts fixed his mortality problem?" He asked picking dale up from the floor then moving to help Foxglove. "That's not our problem now. Everyone down into the shelter now!" Gadget yelled pulling open the trap door to the root level storm shelter.

            Echelon Rebirth lay on the ground dimly pulsing a golden glow. Echelon of Storms was slowly hovering toward her. He gave a triumphant laugh. "What made you think that you could ever succeed?" He boasted. "I'll devour y....." But was cut off as a stream of arching stars pumbled him from different directions. Storms was thrown up into the air in an arcking path that took him to the ground with a bounce that left an imprint of his body in the soil.
            "Your time is neigh Storms!" Fire growled as he appeared before the baffled marbled Echelon. "Y..you?! How could you?! You are a mortal!" He growled in disbelief as he threw himself back into his feet. "My task of toil is complete.. but the Ishvu have given me a new task." Fire growled raising his wings. "I am to destroy you!" He yelled as Storms took flight into the sky. Fire was upon him before he knew it, a heavy right hook sending him tumbling toward the ground.
            "You pitiful youth... Clinging to Metal to save yourself from his wrath..." Fire growled as he appeared in front of the Storms Echelon who was slowly pushing himself up onto his knees. "But who's going to save you from me?" He grinned raising his wings high. Echelon of storms leapt up with a mighty flap of his wings each beat ushering forth strikes of white hot lightning. The Echelon of Fire was thrown back, but disappeared before he could hit the ground. In the moment Storms took the opportunity to attempt flight, but as he raised into the air he was caught by the back of the neck. He struggled but Echelon of Fire was so much older than he.. Only with the bounds of mortality could he ever imagine matching this Fire Echelon.
            "Spare me Fire! Spare my forsaken existence! I beg you!" He plead. Echelon of fire gave a quiet growl. "Like you spared Illusion? Or maybe like you spared REBIRTH!" Fire said with a thunderous roar and with those words he tore Echelon of Storms' right wing off and tossed it away like so much garbage. Storms gave a thunderous howl of pain before Echelon of fire lifted him like a rag doll and hurled him toward the earth. A thousand feet to the sidewalk Echelon of Storms tumbled frantically flapping one wing with no result in slowing his hurtling descent. He hit that hard gray stone with such a force that it cracked splitting for feet around the hole which Storms' body drove into down past the layer of concrete and into the soil.
            Fire spread his wings letting himself fall, and those ember glowing inner wings flashed before he snapped them shut sending that white column of swirling fire into the impact hole which Storms was trapped in. There was a huge rumble as the sidewalk split and separated cracks growing and spreading like a spider's web. The beam shrank and dispersed as the ground began to cave in a bowl crater, five feet, seven feet.. ten feet. Then with Storms Echelon's destruction came beams of white light penetrating from the cracked crater. The blinding shockwave grew from the crater's center engulfing it's entire radius then collapsed in on itself with a mighty report sending melted sand into the air as the crater was doubled in size.
            Echelon Fire appeared kneeling beside Rebirth who was soon to be no more.. So many loves he had lost.. Cosmos.. Seas.. all gone and replaced by strangers he barely knew, but this one above all others hurt him. "Rebirth... You can not go.. I will not let you." He whispered pulling her into his lap. She shook her head. "What can you possibly do... You are a worrier Echelon.. not a healer.." She gave a weak smile. "Rebirth no..." Fire began, but she pressed that slender finger against his lips. "No.. No Fire.. not like this.. " She began. Then looked down momentarily and back up at him with a fire in her eyes. "Echelon of Fire.. I want you to absorb me.. Metal has destroyed so many.. You will need my healing strength... Fire please.."
            Fire closed his eyes picking her up and carrying her off into the sky, where her destruction would cause no more damage to this tiny blue marble. He took her power as it burst into fragments of her former self and absorbed them into his wings. But there was something wrong.. There was something that had never been there among the sorrow before.. Tears.. Mortal tears.. How could this be? Echelon of Fire was no longer a mortal. Even so there was not time to ponder this revolution. Far above him beyond this planet's tiny gray moon the remaining two Echelons were locked in combat.. Void had raised his hand. Void had come down from his loft to face Metal. They were leaving nothing back, and Void was not doing so well.
            The two Echelons circled, the silver and blue steel Echelon of metal with his steely eyes and rusted inner wings, and Void who's fur had no color but a hazy ever swirling form of purple smoke like clouds, his inner wings bright as a star and radiating their light as they flapped, flashing. As they circled they spewed forth raw powers from their wings, the distorting waves from Void evaporating the metal darts from Metals before they could touch him. Suddenly this was not enough, and they closed in their wings beating together as they traded blows with their arms. They remained locked like this for what seemed like an eternity but in the end Void was beaten back, retreating to a distance.
            "Void.. you're time in hiding has not done you're skill well.. You are not as worthy a foe as I once thought." Metals laughed harshly. Void did not even reply. He was above such infantile taunts, but instead answered him with his greatest weapon. Behind Echelon of Metals space itself began to warp and pull. It seemed to push against itself until it collapsed into a spinning vortex. The black hole pulled Metals in and began to close around him crushing him. Void held his wings and arms out rigid his entire body tense with concentration. He could have never seen the orb of spitting molten metal emerging from that degenerate star. It loomed toward him slowly, half the size of Earth's moon until it was on him. Before Void could react it splashed around him. How could Metals have such power to defeat the void's vacuum? How could he have grown so strong so quickly? Those were Void's last thoughts before the hollow bubble of liquid metal white and hot collapsed around him.
            At last! Metals had done what no other Echelon could do! He had defeated the lofty Void, and now his prize waited there for him. Those rusty wings collapsed on the white glowing form of Void and he began to pull and shrink into a ball. A moment in that shape before he collapsed before erupting in a great explosion that out shined the star Sol. In the aftermath of that great flash Metals floated his body glowing cherry red like hot steel.
            "Oh.. fire how will you defeat me now? How could the Ishvu defeat me now! I am A GOD!!!" The Echelon of Metals raged as the arks of cherry red plasma snaked around him. Yes, Echelon of Fire had answered that call, and was there before him in an instant drifting face to face with the mightiest Echelon who ever existed.

Born The Echelon Of Balance

            The two of them glared eyes locked both having no emotion but hatred. Yet there was a reverence between them. As a mortal Fire had destroyed two Echelons, a task that should have been impossible, and as for Metals. The consumption of Void was a things greater than any victory ever won in the Void Universe. For any Echelon to defeat the First Echelon was a thing deserving reverence, but even with these victories neither could ever imagine anything other than their inevitable conflict. Both of them spread their wings and readied themselves, but before the first weapon could be drawn there was a great commotion. The Physical universe seemed to flee from them, and in a bright instant of white light they were back in the void. With authority came a voice louder than any sound, too loud to be heard at all.
            In that moment the Echelon of fire convulsed, his chest pushing up and his limbs pushing back. A groan tore from his mouth as he began to lift. His black form began to turn gray, and fade to white, a bright glowing white. Then suddenly that image of himself fell back leaving the black an brown body of his former self, that white image of who he was still drifting down below, pulled into two separate beings, his mind, and his ethereal Echelon body. Fire could see himself slowly descending but had no control, There above him was his body, but it was no longer his body.. What was going on? Had they finally incurred the wrath of the Ishvu? With that last thought Fire only knew blackness.
            Metal watched in horror as Fire was split from his body and cast out into the void and fear above all other fears filled him. Was this his fate? Would this come to him next? Oh no, he was not so lucky. There before him the lifeless body of Echelon Fire began to change. His fur began to loose it's color bleaching white before it began a faint blue glow, no details, no of colored markings, nothing but one light blue glowing shade over his entire body.
            "You wanted to see true power Echelon of metals? Well witness this true power.. a power so minuscule compared to us that it can't be measured.. You are a fool to think that you could ever reach us. This day you're soul is no more."
            And that was the only time the Ishvu ever spoke to anyone. As those words faded the limp and dangling body that was once Fire, but now someone new snapped to life. It pulled itself upright and slowly folded it's wings around it. "Metal. I am the Echelon of Balance. You can not flee, and you can not fight. I will destroy you." Those words came from that glowing Echelon, but no motion was made, his mouth never moved, his eyes never flinched. The words were just there at his will.
            "NOOOOO!!!!!" The Echelon of metals raged and began showering white hot metal darts at this glowing blue Echelon. Those forces never reached him, bursting feet before they were even close, their showers of sparks arcking around him as if he were inside an invisible bubble. The Echelon of Balance slowly began to move drifting toward the Echelon of Metals, who frantically used all of his weapons. His wings raised and snapped in front of him closing just enough to leave eight holes where his wing tips did not fully meet. From inside his wings came a white flash, and a bubble of white energy which engulfed him leaving but a silhouette of his drifting form. It grew and grew until the Echelon of Metal was but a tiny speck inside, and then suddenly it collapsed back into his wings, and as it did streams of white hot metal vapor poured from those openings in his clasp wings. They moved in curved paths closing in on the Echelon of Balance from either side.
            Just as the glowing darts had failed, so did this, the streams splashing and curving around him in a bubble spitting and dripping in all directions as the eight flows met in the middle. Still slowly he approached.
            Metal let go of that, and with a determined battle cry he advanced to attempt to close into striking range. He struck that force field and was thrown back with a thunderous clap and flash. The Echelon of Metals tumbled end over end finally stopping with much effort from his thrashing wings. He turned back to the blue Echelon and there he was so far away that he was but a tiny bright speck. Now there was such a hopelessness within Metals. Not even the mighty Void had shrugged off his Vapor fall. Yet this Echelon was immune to everything. He was invulnerable.. how? Why? Inside himself Metals knew he was a liar, and a fool. How could he imagine crossing the Ishvu? How could he think that he could stand as tall as the Gods who created him?
            In that moment he had a confusion in his mind. He knew now that death was inevitable, and there was no where he could run. There was no point in begging, those pleas would not come close to reaching the ears of the Order of Ishvu. The next thing he knew he was fleeing as fast as he could carry himself, looking back and seeing that tiny blue speck finally disappear. He had outrun him? Had he actually cheated his fate? Yes.. that is what had happened.. The Void Universe was such an endless place. He could run. Grow stronger until he could defeat this glowing Echelon. Yes that's it! That is what he would do. And he actually thought he was right. He thought he was safe, but then that collision that compressed around his throat. Echelon of Metals did not want to see it. He did not want to know what was coming. But he knew it was coming. He stared into those eyes, only eyes because they had the shape of eyes. This Echelon was but one color, and while he looked like the Echelon of fire he was not. The Echelon of fire was gone. Metals shook his head no.. but could not speak a word those fingers tight down to the bone around his neck.
            Suddenly those glowing wings closed around him like the jaws of some monster tight and strong. All of Metal's struggle could not budge them. This Echelon was created as one which could not be surpassed, not even equaled. One final word of authority among the new echelons. One final Echelon to end their wars, and their games. One Echelon to balance. Without even weakening him the Echelon of Balance consumed the Echelon of metals, and grew no stronger as he was already above all other Echelons. With that final destruction the Ishvu gave their solemn sigh and began again searching for new souls to become Echelons. Angels, Demons, and even mortals who had lived a worthy existence. A new pantheon of Echelons would be created. Eventually they would be destroyed, and yet a new would be again. This was the cycle that had been and would be.

But what of Fire?

            One Last Ride

            What had happened? Was it all a dream? No it couldn't be. It was much too vivid. Where was he? Who was he? The black and brown wing shrouded form pushed himself up from the three foot crater where his new existence began. Am I echelon of Fire? No.. No that can't be Echelon of fire is gone? But how can I be here? How can I remember what has happened? All these thoughts raced through his head but there were no answers. He felt himself with his arms and wings. He felt his face, he felt his wings. "I.. I'm a mortal.. I.. I don't understand?" He muttered not even realizing that he was speaking out loud. He looked up into the night sky, blue and white stars pulsing and showing their physical existence. I was the echelon of fire.. But.. before that I was an Angel of despair.. Before that a mortal.. Which mortal Who was I back then? Does it even matter?
            He tried to grasp any memory but they were fading fast. With the morning sun there would be nothing left of his past self. There would be nothing left but the knowing that he was given something for something he had done. Some effort that pleased who ever it was who created him. For that he was given this mortal existence.. but a mortal existence that was not mortal. This new person who he had become never grew tired, and never grew old, or hungry. Death would only come to him through some tragedy. But that was not important. He was not here to put himself in harm's path any longer. He was given one last mortal life to experience something new. A carefree existence without responsibility, and without power. To be a simple person with simple wishes. And when his years of gratitude came to an end, he would die a simple death. A quiet and painless death. For he had already died a death of pain twice over, and that was enough for anyone.

Is it the beginning of the end?
Or just the end of the beginning?

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