Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever holds that copyright. I also do not own Doctor Who, which belongs to the BBC.
Lightspeed: The Titanium Heist
26 September 1998
"Captain Mitchell, thank you for returning. We would like to resume from where we left off."
"There have been a number of concerns raised about the continued existence of the Lightspeed project. The cost has yet to be fully justified and we have seen very little progress made in recent month. Could I ask how you justify the continued use of resources on a threat that has to date not been fully defined? I'm sure the taxpayers would love to know why their dollars are being spent on such a low priority operation."
Captain Mitchell sighed. He hated these hearings. Every few months it seemed that some ambitious senator would try to push for the ending of Lightspeed and the reallocation of its resources for military operations. And as usual he would be making the exact same argument he had made the previous time.
"Firstly, Senator Stern, the only taxpayer dollars spent in relation to Lightspeed is for limited oversight of General McKnight's office, the processing of incidence reports and the money spent on these hearings. Lightspeed is privately funded and has been since its inception. We are independent of government agencies and intend to remain so. We also source our materials privately, providing jobs and investment in over two hundred businesses and their suppliers."
He took a sip of water, allowing the senator time to adjust his questioning given that his arguments about value for money were effectively dismissed.
"As to your point about our continued operation, I admit that I am as disappointed as you on that matter. Unfortunately it seems that the demons are just not willing to show themselves."
"I beg your pardon?"
Captain Mitchell sighed. "As you will know from previous hearings, Lightspeed was set up in response to predictions made regarding the return of Queen Bansheera and her court. Unfortunately those predictions were not as accurate as we first believed. The demons have been released earlier than predicted and those we have encountered so far have been the weaker members of her court. To date no members of the royal family have been located, ad we believe they are currently still trapped. AT this point we are attempting to contain the threat of the minor members of her court and locate the prisons of the more powerful demons. If we can locate them we hope to seal them away before they can be unleashed, preventing a need for our continued operation."
"I'm sure we can all agree that the outcome you describe would be desirable," Stern said, "which raises the concern about the sale of Lightspeed assets to foreign governments. Lightspeed is not a licensed weapons supplier and you Captain Mitchell have no authority to negotiate with foreign powers."
"Once again Senator, I draw your attention to what the reports actually say," Mitchell answered. "Lightspeed does not, never has and due to its treaties created long before my time, never will supply equipment to any military force or government body. That includes all power foreign and domestic. I'm sure that the outcome of the few cases where governments have attempted to seize equipment we supplied to private organisations have been released to the committee. In all cases the seizure of Lightspeed equipment caused the activation of a safety protocol rendering all equipment inaccessible; the purchasers were also reimbursed and compensated as a result.
"So far Lightspeed has provided small, medium and large scale rescue equipment to twenty-three organisations around the globe. Those organisations run under a similar charter to Lightspeed prioritising the rescue and preservation of innocent lives over all other considerations. All products sold have been heavily redesign to remove any combat potential. While I'm sure you'll agree that a fire axe can be used as a weapon just as easily as it could be used as a tool, I ask you to accept that we are merely providing the means to deal with emergency situations."
He had expected the protests over Lightspeed's decision to effectively franchise its operations around the world. The Japanese organisation had been especially busy in recent weeks and there was no question that the advanced fire-fighting equipment had been helpful in saving lives. He knew at the very least the protective suits had saved workers from harm.
"And rumours of off-the-record activities being undertaken by Lightspeed employees?"
"Are just rumours," he assured them.
"Really?" Senator Stern asked. "I have here a record of several persons later linked to Lightspeed engaging combatants in cities around the United States... Perhaps if you are unaware of what is going on inside your organisation Captain Mitchell we should provide additional oversight."
"As I said Senator, those are just rumours. The reports you refer to were provided by Lightspeed as part of our reporting procedures. All encounters were conducted by authorised Lightspeed personnel. At no point have outside agents or agencies been used. Lightspeed is not limited to using Rangers to carry out its task; we have worked side-by-side with NASADA, UNIT and the GSA for decades."
The use of Power Rangers was a new approach to the problem. It did not hurt to remind those present that Lightspeed had been demon hunting long before Rita Repulsa had made an appearance. He also didn't add that Lightspeed had willingly placed itself under the authority of those organisations when required.
"Surely you can understand the concerns of this committee that allowing unenlightened persons to control powerful weapons that could be put to better use defending our national interests is both wasteful and a security threat."
"And I remind you again that Lightspeed is an independent organisation and that it is located in this country purely out of convenience. If it is your wish that we should cease operations, we will of course move to an alternative facility in South America."
There was a prolonged silence as both parties wait for the other to give way. Eventually it was the senator that realised that his time was running out while Captain Mitchell had little to lose by waiting. He decided to move onto another subject.
"Captain, Lightspeed was recently asked to examine the equipment used in the Titanium Project to determine why it failed. Have your staff been able to reach a conclusion on the matter?"
"They have." There was a pause as Captain Mitchell retrieved his copy of the report, well aware the committee had copies. "While there was evidence of inferior components being used in the manufacturing process and that there were some design flaws, there were no design failures that would have led to the deaths of those attempting to use it."
"Thank you Captain."
"My research team did however identify one of the safety features in the design had been disabled during testing and that had they been engaged the outcome would have been very painful for the operator, but not fatal. At this time it is not clear who deactivated the safety device or what they would have gained from doing so. My staff has suggested tat though deliberate it was most likely an oversight."
While the answer had not placed the blame at the feet of those working on the project, it had not completely cleared them of incompetence. And from the look on Stern's face, it was clear that this was not the response he had been hoping for, no doubt because of the outraged look on the face of Justin Hammer.
"I see. And during their testing of the morpher, were your personnel able to resolve the problems?"
That had been one of the reasons the device had been turned over to Lightspeed, besides General McKnight's insistence that the project was totally removed from Hammer's control. They hadn't asked Lightspeed to repair it, but they had hoped that in finding the fault they would also correct it, saving the government the need for further spending on development.
"They did not," Captain Mitchell replied. "Despite numerous attempts they were unable to sustain a controlled transformation without causing it to torture the operator. They did however conclude that the problem is not related to the hardware; the problem is that the human body is incapable of handling the strain. As I'm sure you can understand we have no way to solve that problem without altering the device."
"It sounds like you are saying the Titanium Morpher is a failure?" Stern pushed.
"If a morpher cannot be used to morph, then I would say it was a failure," Captain Mitchell agreed. "In this case it was a very expensive failure."
There was a lot of noise from those seated behind the captain as they recorded their quotes for the evening news. Suddenly Senator Stern was very eager to end the discussion before anything else could be said.
"I think that would be a good place to adjourn for today. This hearing is adjourned."
The Lightspeed Aquabase had been designed to include quarters for the majority of its personnel. However there were some that preferred to spend their free time on dry land. For those needing transport to and from the Aquabase, it was necessary to either use the transport tunnels that ran beneath the surface of the sea bed or when the tide permitted, hitch a ride on one of the submarines that journeyed back and forth on a regular basis.
However just because transport between the land and the Aquabase was possible, did not mean it was easy. Security was tight due to the sensitive nature of the Aquabase's function. Those wishing to enter required a special token that would unlock the security door. Personnel watching from a nearby room were on hand to make sure that nobody tried to sneak through. Given that demons preferred not to touch the waters of Mariner Bay, the likelihood that they would try to sneak on board the submarine or gain access to the service tunnels were high.
On the other hand security around the submarine was surprisingly lapse. Two men were supposed to stand guard on the dock, but given how quiet their day was normally, they had retired to a small room to drink coffee. They hadn't even noticed the slight fizzing of their drinks as they sipped them. A few minutes later both guards were asleep, unable to stop the masked figure from walking in and removing breathing apparatus from the store room.
When the submarine departed, nobody noticed the stowaway attached to the side of the submarine. He remained unnoticed as the submarine docked with the Aquabase and he detached himself. The Aquabase's cameras were obscured as he swam under the submarine in search of the airlock that led to a service entrance. Only when he emerged from the airlock did he encounter security; a knee to the mid-section followed by a blow to the head soon solved that problem.
He carefully made his way through the Aquabase, avoiding the various personnel until he reached the office of Captain Mitchell. He managed to force the lock and sneaked into the empty room. A brief search followed before he located the drawer where the dangerous Titanium Morpher was stored. He looked up at the sound of running as the door opened and security guards entered.
It was obvious there had been an alarm either on the door or the drawer and his actions had triggered it. He weighed the possibilities of trying to bluff his way out, but dismissed the thought entirely when he noticed one of the Rangers in the crowd. There was no way she would be fooled.
With that in mind he reached a decision, vaulted the desk and barrelled into the first two guards. He didn't stop to fight, just punched anybody that tried to grab him before making his way to the exit. By that time the alarms had sounded and the various exits were locked down. Fortunately he had planned for such an event and moved towards the hangar where the Lightspeed Rangers' hummer was maintained. A few buttons raised the connection tube into position and he took off at a run, confident that the guards would not risk gun fire inside the pressurised tube.
He was not surprised when he heard the engine of the Hummer as the Rangers gave chase. He stopped running and refitted his breathing mask. The torture of the last twenty years had revealed a small magical gift that since his awakening he had found himself capable of using. And after experimenting under the tutelage of Diabolico and the other demons, he had discovered a way to use that gift to unleash bolts of focussed magical energy. He didn't aim for either the Rangers or their vehicle. Instead he targeted the walls, breaking the pressure seal. As he was sucked out of the transport tube, water poured in, forcing Lightspeed technicians to activate emergency bulkheads. However, that in turn prevented the Rangers from giving chase. The thief was gone and the Titanium Morpher was missing.
"At least we know he can't use it," Joel commented in an attempt to lighten the moment.
Despite his words he was just as worried by this turn of events as the others. After all if the Titanium Morpher was useless, why steal it? He couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen.
10 September 1998
To the casual observer it was just another monster, although even by demon standards this one was extremely hideous. Vaguely human it was a combination of putrid flesh and stolen organs, soaked in the blood of the innocent humans Curszer had sacrificed.
There were warnings surrounding the raising of the dead, although for those deluded enough to actually attempt such acts they were more of a guideline to success: for every soul returned to the world of the living another soul was needed to take its place was the normal rule intended to provide balance. But that rule only applied in the case of a willing exchange where a person offered their own life so another could live. In the case where there were no willing sacrifices, the ceremony required more souls to fulfil the contract. Curszer had been very generous in his offering and there were many unexplained disappearances that could have been pinned on him.
He renewed his dark chant, using incantations that were normally forbidden in Queen Bansheera's court; even the Hell Goddess had her limits. As he spoke the mass shifted on the stone slab, the many parts merging together to form a single and exceptionally healthy humanoid body. Curszer had been careful to choose the right parts, knowing that his plan required a specimen of exceptional strength. Bright light burst from the living corpse as nature tried to return it to its previous state.
"Soul of the fallen, renewed by my hand, take your form, by my command!"
The soul had been carefully selected for the task and had been pulled painfully from its resting place; it had been subjected to twenty years of suffering in the space of a few months. Curszer with the help of his fellow demons had broken the innocent mind while teaching it what it needed to know to function as an adult. They had also poisoned his thoughts and memories, placing the blame for his suffering on a man he had been taught to hate. And with that hatred he was willing to do anything for revenge, even serve Queen Bansheera.
"Impressive Curszer," Diabolico commented as he inspected the finished work. He had taken a personal hand in breaking the child, offering a few kind words while directing others to inflict pain. "Is it done?"
"Not yet," Curszer spoke. "The enchantments need to be sealed, or else they will break down in a matter of hours. Once the final offering is made, the process cannot be reversed and he will be alive."
"Then proceed," Diabolico instructed. "I will make certain Queen Bansheera knows of your sacrifice."
Curszer bowed and then gestured to the Batlings to unlock the heavy chains that had held their new warrior in place. As soon as he was released, his body sprang into action, striking at the Batlings, dispatching them with ease before turning on Curszer. The demon did not offer any resistance as his creation's hand slid around his neck. The spell required the shattering of the human's soul to anchor him to his new body. While having him kill a human would have been preferable, it would have lacked the blind rage. Curszer's death tethered the tortured soul and prevented it from moving on willingly.
With a growl the construct tossed Curszer's body aside and froze as it realised what it had done. The wizard's corpse exploded into a swarm of flies, his magical energy seeking out his brother Jinxer while the rest attacked his murderer. In the background a high pitched grinding noise could be heard, but Diabolico assumed it was part of the ceremony.
"Enough!" Diabolico commanded, causing the flies to land on his back where they turned into a sickly black mark. Diabolico ignored that as he addressed the court's newest servant. "You have proven yourself worthy of serving Queen Bansheera. Now, this is what you will do..."
But the human failed to respond, his mind broken by his experience and unable to accept the mindless murder it had committed. The taking of a demon life was not enough to lock the distressed soul in place and after so long without comfort, it chose to retreat into the afterlife.
"That's the problem with soul magic," a voice said from behind. "Equivalent exchange is always greater than you realise."
Diabolico turned to confront the unfortunate soul that that wandered into his domain. The figure wore the hooded robes of a monk from one of the many religious groups that had sprung up around the planet during the time the demons had been absent. He was about to summon some Batlings to feed on the stray when he took the opportunity to study the human a little closer. There was something different about this one, he could sense the taint of magic and a more familiar power. With a growl he realised that this human had at some point been in magical contact with a member of the royal family.
"The Sorcerer!" Diabolico accused. There were few instances when a human would have had the opportunity to encounter one of Queen Bansheera's children. Very few humans had been around at the time when her empire was at its peak and those that were had looked very different to modern humans. But there had been some that had dared to rise up against the demons' rule and of those humans only one had demonstrated the power to stand against a member of the royal family: the Sorceror of the Sands. "You will pay for what you have done to out empire!"
The response was the raising of a pale hand and a placating motion. On closer inspection there was a small piece of parchment held within the palm with some sort of symbol marked upon it. Diabolico found himself unable to take his eyes off the symbol as he tried to decipher its meaning. And the longer he was forced to stare the more difficult it became to concentrate on attacking. The pressure on his mind was incredible and despite being a demon, it was clear this man had the power to almost enthral a servant of Queen Bansheera.
"Enough!" Almost was not enough in Diabolico's case and with a sudden snap, he returned to his senses. The moment his mind had recognised the purpose behind the magic, he had been able to break the spell. "Parlour tricks will not save you."
A power gust of wind knocked the hooded figure off his feet, causing his hood to fall away and exposing his head. It was the sight of the scarred third eye on the human's forehead that made Diabolico to rethink his decision to destroy him. Clearly this was not a normal human.
"Parlour tricks? That technique was one of my most powerful abilities. It is a testament to your power that you were able to break free, despite the power of the seal," he replied. "I am not an enemy of yours, mighty Diabolico. I am one of many that willingly await the return of Queen Bansheera and the restoration of her great empire. I am here to assist you in your endeavours."
Humans were not the only intelligent life in the universe, Earth was not the only place where humans existed, and those that currently called the world theirs were not the first humans to do so. There had been several great human empires since the Earth had first formed. Most had disappeared completely with no evidence they had existed. He was one of the few that had survived from an older time. He was old, injured and had lost much of his power, but he was a survivor that had witnessed the power of Queen Bansheera and had sworn loyalty to her forces. While he had never been promised a reward, he hoped that aiding her return would restore him to his former state.
"My civilisation was dying when you demons first set foot in this dimension. We welcomed you here and worshipped the children of your queen. We could not prevent their imprisonment, but we have worked for their release."
Diabolico remembered there had been a few humans that had worshipped Queen Bansheera and her family. Most had willingly given their service to her children and were considered as pets while others had worked throughout the ages to undermine the work of the Sorceror of the Sands and his followers.
"And what could you offer me in return for your life?" Diabolico asked, gripping him by the collar of his robes to make certain he could not escape.
"I have knowledge that will assist you; tomes stolen from those that opposed you long ago. I know that no matter how many times you attempt this ceremony it will fail. There is another way to accomplish it without the need to sacrifice Queen Bansheera's loyal retainers."
"And in return?" Diabolico was not foolish enough to believe that such an offer would be made for free.
"Let me take the remains," he answered, pointing to where the construct was starting to strain against the spells. Without Curszer to renew the magic he had placed there, they were starting to weaken. The construct's body started to glow around the edges, a clear indication that the soul within was struggling to break free. The priest waved his hand idly in its direction; the light faded. "The choice is yours of course. I wouldn't dare to tell someone as powerful as you what to do, but time is running out. Do you really want to waste this opportunity?"
If nothing else it appeared that he had convinced Diabolico that he could be useful.
"Perhaps your services will be accepted," Diabolico agreed.
"Thank you. Now I will show you the powers my people possessed..." He closed his eyes and reached out to the dark powers his race had once mastered. Time and injury had made it more difficult for him to feel the flow of the power. But his anger and hatred for the humans that now claimed the world as their own enhanced his senses, allowing him to pull on the weak connection he maintained. And once he found the energy, he instinctively recalled how to use it, his words shape the energy to his will. "Dark Fist, Flowing Reversal!"
Twenty years earlier.
The man drove his car along the twisting road with his two children secure in the backseat. It was raining and the driver lost control. The car spun off the road and over the cliff, crashing down on the rocks below. Shockingly the man and his children survived, but the car's fuel tank had ruptured and the battery had started to short-circuit, causing sparks. With only a limited time the man knew he had time to save only one of his children. He could only release and carry either his son or his daughter to safety.
"Oh dearie my, which one will die?"
The man turned as he heard the voice, shocked and angered to see a demon standing before him. The flames and everything else around him seemed to have stopped.
"What do you want?" the man demanded, his hand moving to a gun he kept in his jacket.
"If I wanted to kill you I wouldn't have slowed down the fire," the demon responded. "I've come to make you an offer."
Seeing that the man was not going to ask, the demon pressed on.
"You can only rescue one child. The other will die. Give him to me to raise as my own and know that he shall live. But which shall you choose?"
The demon enjoyed playing with the emotions of others. It enjoyed the torment it saw upon the man's face as he tried to decide which child he would give up. The demon enjoyed the knowledge that it had won.
"Neither!" the man decided, shocking the demon as he rushed to the car.
The demon laughed as it watched the man struggle, knowing full well that he could not carry one child away and return for the other before the car exploded. He heard the man say something to his son before grabbing his daughter and running. The boy somehow managed to free himself from the car and screamed for his father to help him. And that was when the car exploded. In the heat of the moment the man failed to notice the odd sound or the way that for a moment the flames seemed to freeze in place. He would always remember the mocking laughter as he wept for his lost child.
10 September 1998
The monk groaned as the strain forced him to end the technique. It was not the time travel that was the problem, but the separation of his mind and spirit from his body. The further he travelled and the longer he was away, the greater the pull became and the less strength he had to pull himself back. Just a few minutes was almost too long for him to endure.
As a young man he would have brashly tried to force his way back to the day of the accident, something that would have likely killed him for twenty years was well beyond his natural ability. But as he had grown older he had learnt to use other techniques to create stepping stones from which to jump. That made one long journey a series of shorter leaps.
Even so time was very difficult to manipulate. If there was one thing he had learnt it was that the way events were recorded was more important than the record being made. In this case the death of Ryan Mitchell could be subdivided into a sequence of events, some witnessed and others deduced from the evidence. William Mitchell had seen the car explode with his son still trapped within. The incident report had shown that the body of a child had been retrieved from the wreckage but was so badly charred that identification was impossible. Those were the events history recorded and that allowed him room to make changes. That he had been there that night in the original timeline and had encountered his future self meant that he knew the way to play events to his liking; originally he had been there to kill William Mitchell as a show of his value to the demons, but Mitchell had survived.
History recorded that the body of a young boy had been removed from the wreckage. And so he had started with a visit to a morgue in a little town that by his calculations no longer existed. There he had removed the body of a boy that was the same age as the crash victim. He had placed the body at the scene and waited until the moment Captain Mitchell had turned his head aware in despair. Had he waited long enough? Did Mitchell suspect that his son was alive? There was no way to tell but Mitchell had never questioned the declaration that Ryan Mitchell had been killed in the incident. The switch had occurred before Curszer had grabbed the child's soul, leaving Ryan Mitchell alive and well.
"Shadow Play, Dream of Torment!"
Shadow Play was a technique that trapped the victim within a dream state. There they would endure whatever torture the caster desired until they were released. And while their bodies would show the signs of injuries they sustained while dreaming, they would not need food or water while they slumbered. In the past he had used such dreams to break his enemies, but for Ryan Mitchell he had something more ambitious in mind.
His manipulations allowed Ryan to slumber for twenty years, his body shielded from harm. He reshaped Ryan's memory of the accident, making him believe Diabolico had saved him from death when his father had let him fall. The boy would dream of a life spent living among the demons, of pain and suffering while knowing that his sister was safe and cared for. And as the demons taught him to fight and to hate, he would start to believe that they were his family after his father had abandoned him.
And as his mind and spirit returned to the present, the boy was left in the care of his past self as events played out right up until the moment he had called on the powers at his command and travelled into the past. With a flourish, he revealed the slumbering child, now a grown man. As he released the technique, he allowed Ryan Mitchell to emerge at Diabolico's side. Except now he was trained as a warrior to hate humans, despise Lightspeed and desire nothing more than the obliteration of his father and all the man held dear.
28th September 1998
"I have completed my side of the bargain, oh great Diabolico," the warlock said as he regarded the Titanium Morpher in Diabolico's hand.
Ryan had performed the task he had been given flawlessly and the powerful device was now in their possession. It was impossible for a human to use the power contained within the Titanium Morpher, no matter their strength or training. The device had been designed to surpass the Lightspeed Morphers and therefore required a candidate who was physically superior to the other Rangers; twenty years of pain and suffering spent in a hell dimension, something o human should have endured... That Ryan had survived the ordeal was a sign of his suitability to his new rol as the Titanium Ranger.
"And I will keep mine," Diabolico stated, pointing to the body the demons had previously constructed. "Take it and go before I change my mind."
The warlock nodded and left, taking his prize with him. Diabolico had not asked what he intended to do with the rottings construct, but he was sure the demon would be pleased when he saw the results. And when the demons conquered the Earth he was certain that he would be welcomed as one of their trusted servants.
Diabolico watched the warlock leave and then turned his attention to his new warrior. It was time that their servant introduced himself to the Rangers. Soon their obstruction would be gone, Queen Bansheera would be free to return and their kingdom would be restored at last. And best of all, with her children missing, Diabolico was certain that Queen Bansheera would recognise his efforts and grant him his own territory, just as he deserved.
End of part