Disclaimer: I do not own and make no claim of ownership to the Power Rangers. They belong to their respective copyright holders. This is a fan work and no profit is being made from it.
Timeline Note: These events take place at the same time as those in the last few stories. It should be noted that Andros is not on Earth and that a day is not necessarily the same as it would be on Earth or Kerova.
A Tale of Unfortunate Events
It seemed to Andros that luck was definitely not on his side. His journey to Onyx to find information surrounding the devastation of KO-35 had been cut short not long after it had started. The Astro Megaship's navigation array had needed to be reconfigured following repairs and Andros had programmed in a number of small trips to align the Megaship with the makeshift space dock he had been using.
Andros had not expected to emerge in the middle of a fire fight. He had deliberately set the coordinates for an uninhabited region of space. However when the ship had re-entered normal space he had been forced to change course abruptly to avoid colliding with a large - no massive - vessel. It had not taken long to realise what he had stumbled upon. A number of small craft that had likely been launched from the larger vessel were attacking a single ship. The attacking ships were of similar design, but the larger vessel was not something he had expected to encounter, especially when it was adorned with such a distinctive flag.
"Dianthe!" Andros had moaned as he skilfully avoided an incoming vessel.
The Astro Megaship's defences managed to lock onto the attacker and fire, blowing the craft to pieces, but drawing the attention of the other vessels. As he engaged the enemy in a vicious dog fight, Andros wished that he had another Guardian to help him; DECA's ability to work the weapons was incredible given how much difficulty the AI had had integrated with the ship's systems, but Andros and and his teammates working together were far more capable of space combat, especially since it allowed DECA to monitor for threats.
"Project shield three meters from hull," Andros ordered. "And then hold it at that position."
"Projecting the shield away from the hull will reduce its effectiveness," DECA warned, but complied anyway.
"Fire all forward weapons!" Andros ordered as he pushed the Megaship onward.
The moment the vessel emerged through its own shield, caught the pirates by surprise. Andros was annoyed that he had wasted such a move against the smaller vessels.
"Warning, incoming fire!" DECA warned, overriding pilot control long enough to evade the worst to the broadside. "Port shielding damaged."
To his dismay Andros realised the vessel that had been under attack when he arrived had vanished. Had it been destroyed in the cross fire? He wasn't sure but he hoped not.
"Andros, I am detecting power fluctuations from the attacking vessels," DECA warned.
Before Andros could ask, a series of images flashed across the many screens.
The smaller ships had linked together and then transformed, gaining the extra parts from somewhere to turn into a giant robot similar to a Megazord.
"DECA, what are our chances?" Andros asked.
"Enemy Megazord carries a high complement of weapons. Our shielding and weapons are limited."
"In other words: not very high," Andros guessed. "Time to be creative then. DECA, start charging the energy cells and direct the power to the main turrets. I am taking us in."
The Megazord shot forward, spinning in all directions to avoid the barrage the Megazord launched. As he did so Andros hoped that the machine in front of him was not a true Megazord. If it was a simple giant robot capable of turning into a pirate galleon there was a chance he could win their confrontation -- for some of the Mega Ships used to defend Kerova had had a similar abilities to change modes. If however it was a true Megazord connected to an energy source like the Morphin Grid, Andros realised he had very little chance of survival.
"Energy interlocks located," DECA reported.
"When we're in range fire the Ion Cannons," Andros commanded.
DECA obeyed and the Astro Megaship opened fire. The result was all Andros had hoped it would be. With the energy interlocks disrupted, key sections of the Megazord shifted back to their original form, allowing Andros to fire upon its torso component using the main guns. Two fly pasts allowed Andros to strafe the pirate vessel while it was jammed between modes.
"Warning: larger vessel has raised shields and is pursuing," DECA said.
Until now the large ship had been a sitting target, but once it started moving, Andros was amazed at just how agile it was. And while it could not lock on to fire its weapons, DECA seemed incapable of breaching its formidable shields.
"Attacking ship has initiated tractor beam," DECA warned. "Engines will not be able to escape."
"Are the weapons fully charged?" Andros asked as he put the ship into a tight turn.
"Affirmative," DECA replied. "Pirate vessel is too close to fire safely, capture is likely."
He didn't like it, but Andros knew what he had to do.
"DECA when I say now, dump all energy from the weapons systems into the port hull, maximum discharge. Then close down all computer systems for ten hours. If I'm not here, find the closest safe world and set down there."
Andros directed the Megaship into a climb, gaining the precious seconds he needed to put his plan into action. He turned the vessel to expose its port side to the oncoming ship, luring it in.
DECA obeyed, diverting the necessary runtime into a subsystem and closing off the rest of her systems while it completed the task. Electrical circuits throughout the Megaship closed down pitching the interior into darkness as even emergency power was diverted. And then when the energy readings reached maximum, a massive jolt of energy was directed through the hull into the path of the oncoming craft, just as it lowered its shields to activate its tractor beam. Andros was too busy to notice, for while he had been concentrating on the bigger threat, one of the smaller vessels had decided to initiate a capture of its own, ramming into the side of the Megaship a full speed. And as the defenceless Megaship took the full brunt of the impact, Andros was thrown into the wall and knew no more.
While his desperate tactic had accomplished all that he had expected, the Red Guardian still found himself a prisoner. As expected the discharge had severely damaged the large pirate ship. So much so that it was unlikely that they would be moving for a while. On the other hand the hull of the Megaship had been torn open by the unplanned impact, ruining his plan to escape as soon as DECA became functional. Luckily the ship was not damaged to the point where it could not repair itself. It would just take an extended period to do so. He was just relieved the pirates had left the Megaship afloat for their salvage team to plunder rather than dragging it on board.
"You broke my ship!" the vessel's captain growled as Andros was dragged in front of him.
Andros had been hoping that the energy discharge would disable the pirates, but most appeared unaffected. Still considering that the vessel in question was almost a mile long and comprised of heavy armour, he was not surprised.
"Twice!" the captain added before backhanding the Red Guardian. "First you disrupt my wonderful giant robot, and then you almost destroy my beautiful ship. Not to mention those gun ships you destroyed. Consider yourself lucky we caught our prey in spite of your actions, or else I would make you very sorry." He turned away abruptly and asked: "Who is he?"
"Just a Kerovian," Fury, the ship's Quarter Master replied, hardly deigning to look up from the cutlass he was polishing. "One of the system's Guardians if I'm not mistaken."
That drew the attention of a few of the other senior officers although the captain continued to look uninterested.
"Is there anything that makes him worth keeping?" There was no doubt about it, he was bored.
"He's an escaped Astro Guardian, so he's on the bounty list," one of his underlings stated. "He wouldn't fetch as much as a 'real' Power Ranger or anywhere near as much as the prisoner he almost helped escape, but it could be a small bonus. His ship and its computer would trade well on the scrap market. There are a few sections we cannot access that might hold treasure... or perhaps more transformation devices. The computer logs we were able to access show exclusive footage from the battle of KO-35, which somebody will pay for. Oh and he was on a shakedown run. That means he has a space dock somewhere."
"It's not much," the Quarter Master conceded. "Barely enough to make it worth keeping him alive. The reward would be lower, but we could still make something by handing him in dead. Altogether he is worth far less than it will cost to replace the ships he destroyed."
"Or we could find out what his mission was and sell that as intelligence," a female officer countered. "You could always offer him to Crash along with the others."
"I suppose an Astro Guardian template would be of some value too," the captain pondered before smiling. "Seems this expedition has turned into a better opportunity than planned."
He punched Andros again, forcing the Red Guardian off his feet and walked around him, studying the Kerovian closely. In his left hand he carried a decorated pistol and in the other he held a cutlass. Despite his human appearance, Andros suspected that this captain was alien. His eyes latched onto the cutlass as he tried to decide if his odds of survival would increase if he used his mental abilities to snatch it.
"I know what you're thinking," the captain said as he idly cocked his pistol. "You're not the first to find yourself in this position. You're wondering whether you could snatch my cutlass away and overwhelm me before I shoot you. The answer is probably yes; I get distracted and that does grant others the opportunity to take advantage. But I assure you that my crew are far more attentive than I, and if you make such an attempt, they would happily kill you the moment you tried."
He twirled the cutlass in an intricate and elaborate pattern, allowing Andros time to reconsider his actions.
"I'm very fond of this cutlass," the captain continued as he ran the blade over the pistol in a practiced fashion. "Most of the crew only get paid in gold, my position allows me to select my method of payment and most of the time I settle for Power Coins. A few of my crewmen have more tailored tastes and some prefer to barter for other things, but I think that's a waste. Why negotiate a reward then have to barter with traders when you can just get what you want to begin with?
"As I said before: I prefer Power Coins and I use them to improve myself and this ship." He leaned in close. "The hull of this vessel is coated with a layer of melted Power Coins. Our engines are powered by the energy we can draw from the hull. Our pistols are enhanced by them and even our cutlasses have a cutting edge honed by their power. And then there's my cutlass, forged entirely from broken coins, giving it an edge that could cut through the armour of a Ranger... or just the uniform of a Guardian. Would you like to try it?"
Andros realised the captain was looking at his morpher. He also knew that transforming would take too long.
"Oh don't worry," the captain reassured him. "I will wait until you are fully transformed before attacking. Never let it be said that Sledge is a man without honour, ey lads?"
The crew laughed and jeered. Not that it mattered. Andros didn't trust him, but a part of him knew that it was his only chance. Transformed there was a chance the blade could kill him; unmorphed, the blade would likely slice him in half.
He had been expecting some form of treachery, one of Sledge's crewmen to act to stop him, Sledge to change his mind... something. Instead he was allowed to full transform before they showed any real interest in him.
"Well?" he demanded, his interest gone as he turned away..
"Got it!" one of the crewmen replied, emerging from the shadows with a datapad in hand. "It'll take a few seconds but the template should be ready soon."
"Do you understand yet," the Quarter Master asked. "You were allowed to transform so that we could copy the template for your powers using this little toy, a helpful little gadget courtesy of the Power Broker." He reached out and caught something thrown to him by the other crewman. He pulled out a device and slotted what resembled a small key into the slot. "Activate!"
There was a flash and where the pirate had stood there was now a perfect replica of the Red Guardian.
"This wonderful device allows the user to map the template of a Ranger onto a personal energy grid. Of course this is just an image, but with a bit of work, the Power Broker can use it to make an exact duplicate of those powers."
"Boss, we have a problem," the Red Guardian's duplicate said as he turned to look at his captain.
"Let me guess: the template scan failed to unlock some of his abilities?" Sledge asked. He smirked when he received a curt nod. "Then we'll have to extract those secrets the old fashioned way. Take him down!"
Andros was quick on the draw, but his opponent was faster. By the time Andros had summoned his Spiral Sabre, his opponent had already struck him three times. On the third strike he had somehow yanked Andros' weapon from him and used it for a double blade strike. There was only so much that Andros' powers could withstand without the constant feed from the Megaship and the final blow proved too much as he collapsed and his powers deactivated. He wasn't sure what the really looked like -- for the display in his helmet had confirmed he was using some form of electronic disguise, but he was certain now he was not human.
"Now the fun begins," the still morphed pirate promised before stomping down on Andros' exposed head with his boot.
Three local days following his capture and Andros knew that he had to escape. The situation had been dangerous when he had been captured, but it had grown more deadly when the pirates had discovered how much damage he had caused to their ship. It seemed the combination of the Ion Cannons and the booby trapped hull had connected with a key area and knocked out most of the flight systems, forcing Sledge to call for help. That meant the pirate would lose face when his superiors arrived and likely lose a large chunk of his bounty on the prisoners.
~Serves them right for using a stolen ship,~ Andros thought.
There was no doubt in his mind that this ship was indeed stolen. So too were the vessels that had been used to create the Megazord. They at least had been modified to take on a pirate theme, but the larger ship still retained its original shape. Andros had easily recognised it from the stories he had read as a youth. It was a Battlestar Class Warship, the type of vessel last seen during the Grid Wars, when large numbers of Power Rangers and the Grid Masters had needed to assault whole planets. It was in effect a giant aircraft carrier with a few high powered weapons of its own. Capable of high speeds and extremely manoeuvrable, he wondered how the pirates had gotten their hands on it.
Then again he remembered what he had seen while being dragged through the corridors. The vessel was in serious state of disrepair and one section looked like it had been patched together in a hurry. It was entirely possible that they had found it adrift and had somehow gotten its systems operational.
~These vessels were capable of self repair, so how badly damaged had it been before those repairs started?~
He had also learnt a little about the crew, mostly from their complaining. Sledge was not a high ranking captain in the Dianthe Fleet. In fact he was on the Queen's bad side and had been assigned as far from the action as possible. With few worlds to plunder he had been forced to make a living as a bounty hunter, tracking down those that were even more out of favour than he and handing them over to the Dianthe hierarchy. On occasion he was able to trade a captured Ranger template with the Power Broker, which gained him a small level of respect.
The problem was that the ship was transporting some very valuable prisoners. How they had managed to get two of the highest valued enemies of the Dianthe was uncertain, but the reward for their capture was immense. And since they had sent word they had been damaged by a mere Astro Guardian, their superior had decided to send his fleet to make sure the prisoners didn't escape. Andros would have been surprised to find that Sledge worried that they would take the prisoners and the ship, and leave him and his crew drifting in space.
And it was the identity of the help that caused Andros the most concern. For the most part the Dianthe tried to stay away from worlds protected by Rangers and Guardians. But there were some who had no choice. Their job was to track down Power Rangers and Masked Riders that crossed their path to send a message not to mess with the Dianthe. Since the Grid Masters usually ignored them and left it to the IGPF, the Dianthe leadership assumed the approach worked. And it was that group, who also dealt with other beings that got on the Dianthe Queen's bad side, that Sledge had contacted.
The notorious Captain Crash and his Creep Squadron were vicious when it came to punishing those that angered Divatox. There were rumours that Crash was a cousin of Divatox who had fallen out of favour, and that it was only his record when it came to hunting down enemies of the Dianthe that spared him from sharing their fate. Although some also suggested he was a favourite of the Queen Mother because he continued to annoy her daughter so much.
It seemed Sledge was keen to prove to Crash that he enjoyed handing out their brand of justice just as much as they did and had taken to torturing the prisoners. Despite what they had done to him, Andros knew that the cell's other occupants had suffered more. He had heard the sounds of suffering as each was made aware of Sledge's displeasure. It didn't matter if they had information that could increase their value or not, Sledge and his crew were eager to be seen as ruthless. At the time he had been unable to see his surroundings so had not realised who they were tormenting.
"You have no idea how lucky you are to be here," one of the crew told him as he prodded him with his boot. "You, a mere Astro Guardian from a ruined world in a conquered system, are here in the brig with some of the most notorious enemies of the Dianthe!"
He pulled the Red Guardian by the hair and pointed to the wall opposite where the loudest screams had been heard the day before. He could barely make out through his still swollen eye the mangled form of another being.
"That is Visceron, the data courier who thought he could spy on the Dianthe's allies. And then to make matter worse, he actually tried to escape from the Death Races. Naturally Divatox couldn't just let him go, think of the message that would send to others. Not to mention the damage the information he stole would cause. I bet he wishes he'd just let them kill him in the races now." His voice lowered. "And that's nothing compared to what Crash will do to him when we hand him over."
Andros could just about make out the metal shards emerging from Visceron's battered form. He tried not imagine how they had gotten there since he was certain Visceron was not a mechanoid. It looked as if somebody had forcibly hammered them into some places and wielded them to his skin in others.
"I see you noticed the metal work," his captor said. "It wasn't intentional. The fool chose to press his luck in an asteroid field and crashed. Those shards stayed in place when we cut him from the wreckage. Still, Visceron always claimed his car was an extension of his body, a part of him. Now it is. But if Crash asks... we did it deliberately."
The pirates had come across Visceron completely by accident. They hadn't even realised he was wanted by their leaders until after he had been captured. They had assumed he was carrying treasure and was fleeing to prevent them from seizing it. Not that he was fleeing for his life.
He walked over to the corner farthest from Andros where not one but two figures had been secured to a metal frame. With an evil chuckle he went to work, lifting a hammer and smashing it repeatedly into the already broken bodies.
"You are indeed honoured to be included in such an elite gathering," Andros was told. "Just think, you share a cell with not only the infamous Visceron, but also the mighty Phantom Ranger."
That revelation shocked Andros. He had not expected to ever meet the Lone Wolf of Space, the legendary Ranger described by many as being indestructible. How had they managed to capture such a powerful Ranger? Then again the figure the pirate was battering hardly resembled the Phantom Ranger he had heard about.
"I know what you're thinking," the pirate said. "You expected the Phantom Ranger to be wearing armour. It seems that he only uses that in combat and we got the drop on him before he could activate it. You see, the Phantom Ranger has been a thorn in the side of the Dianthe for generations. Everytime he is killed he just seems to return. And he has proven a real nuisance recently. Queen Divatox was so annoyed she placed him at the top of the list after the setbacks he caused. I'm not sure if Crash is going to kill him, but I know the Queen Mother plans to toss his worthless remains into the Abyss of Doom and Suffering. Maybe that will help him stay dead."
Another stroke of luck. The Phantom Ranger had actually been taken down by the Elite Raiders, one of the Dianthe's most dangerous mercenary groups. He had been handed over to Sledge and his crew to transport, but then there had been an accident and the Elites had been eliminated. Sledge had shown true leadership and claimed the prize for himself and his crew.
The pirate drove the hammer repeatedly into the Phantom Ranger's body and Andros realised that while it was likely causing very little injury, the aim was to wear down the Phantom Ranger with the persistent assault. There was only so much strain a Ranger's healing could withstand. How long had the Phantom Ranger been forced to endure such attacks?
"He put up a pretty good fight, but in the end we had the skill and the numbers to bring him down," the pirate said. "After the beating we gave him I doubt he would be in any condition to fight right now, but since he hasn't powered down we have no way of knowing. And you can never be to careful with the Phantom Ranger; he's already tried using his powers to fool us into thinking he had already escaped." There was a brief pause. "Ah, can't forget about the other one."
On the floor, Andros recognised the battered carcass of an intergalactic robotic policeman used to support officers in the field. They were known to be good to have at your side during a fire fight, but were otherwise useless. They lacked the more complex artificial intelligence needed to help them solve crimes. This one had most likely been assigned to assist and more importantly observe an agent. He was surprised that the pirate actually took the time and effort to attack the machine.
"I know what you're thinking: why are we keeping this piece of junk active? Believe it or not, he is something new, far more advanced than a normal unit. At some point it has been reprogrammed and upgraded by the nice freelancer over there, quite illegally I might add, turning him into a sidekick as opposed to a mere machine. And then, three months ago they were involved in a raid on one of the Dianthe's spice vessels. They conducted a perfect take down on the facility, but they withdrew when this unit picked up an unknown message. We don't know what the message contained, but it shut down every computer in the vicinity. The facility had to be abandoned due to the expense of replacing all that equipment."
It was later discovered that the signal had deactivated computer systems of tens of worlds and crippled hundreds of passing ships. Divatox had naturally wanted to know the contents of the message and how it worked so she could duplicate the effects. Of course the Space Sheriff had been operating outside his jurisdiction and therefore had left himself open to reprisals.
"We don't know what the message contained, but it caused this unit to further upgrade itself and then to disconnect from the IGPF's Hub. When it decided it would seek out Zordon on Earth we intercepted it. We can't allow Zordon to receive an unknown message, especially one that would make an outstanding weapon. So we decided to investigate." And to charge a great many credits to whoever want to purchase their discovery.
But again he was lying. They had entered the system after receiving a primitive distress call and had plundered the vulnerable planets. It had only been the discovery of the spice ship that had prompted them to investigate.
"What little we could get from the message was enough for Divatox to demand that we keep them alive until she can investigate personally."
He had commenced driving his hammer into the machine's body, sometimes attaching a drill to increase the damage. As he did so Andros realised that none of those held prisoner could escape, otherwise they would have already done so. The continued torture was not to keep them in place. It was for the pirates' own amusement.
"Amazing isn't it?" the man asked as the hammer landed again and the broken mechanoid emitted a quiet scream. "That message made it capable of feeling pain!"
It wasn't amazing; it was sickening. They were torturing the machine just because it could feel the pain they inflicted upon it. He was certain that torture would not allow them to extract the message.
"It won't allow us to extract the message, but then we don't need it's body to do that. Just so long as the memory banks are left intact we can forcibly decode them later. However we have no guarantee that the message has been stored permanently, so we can't turn it off."
"Because if the message was stored in volatile memory it would be lost," Andros realised.
The grip on Andros' head increased causing him to cry out.
"Which leads us to you. A Red Guardian from a lost world shaking down his ship before a trip to Onyx? What did you think you would accomplish there? Spying perhaps? And then you would discover some information that could be used against the Dianthe and pose a threat... I think you understand how we deal with threats by now. Just think, we're amateurs compared to Crash? I think you're going to have a very short but exciting life ahead of you Andros."
He pulled out a device similar to the one Andros had seen earlier. There was a bright flash as he activated the device, calling forth a costume without a helmet.
"Oh I'm not a Ranger," the silver clad warrior told the confused Guardian. "If you haven't guessed by now, this is a Pan Morphic Transformer, a device created to allow a single being to change his armour to suit the needs of a situation. It never worked with Rangers before because the Power chooses the form of the Ranger, not the user. However thanks to the Masked Rider over there..."
Andros looked to where the silver pirate was pointing and fought the urge to vomit. While the Phantom Ranger and Visceron had remained mostly intact, the Masked Rider had seen better days. If he was still alive, and Andros doubted anyone could look that much of a mess and actually live, he was not going anywhere. The pirates had practically nailed him to the bulkhead, shattering his armour in the process. A large crack ran down the left side of his faceplate. A badly mangled Ecto-Accelerator glowed slightly, suggesting that perhaps there was some hope. The device had been ripped open and deformed by the attempts to learn its secrets.
"Altering these devices to work more like an Ecto-Accelerator was just the first step," the pirate announced. "Building the scanners needed to identify the powers and copy the template took even longer, even with the toys the Power Broker provided. Unfortunately it only copies the obvious powers and not the special abilities locked away inside. We have to map those manually." he grabbed hold of Andros again. "Which leads us back to you, Red Guardian. You are going to morph and demonstrate the abilities the scanner failed to unlock."
"Just so you can use them," Andros guessed.
"Hardly," the pirate laughed. "The Power Broker has found a way to create a single-use version of the Pan Morphic Transformer. When loaded with a template it will allow the user to transform and use the powers of the Ranger they are copying. As you might imagine the market for such abilities is huge. He offered us thousands of credit for each device we create. He'd pay even more to be allowed to view the raw template, he probably hopes to isolate single abilities."
"Why are you doing this?" Andros asked, suddenly aware that the pirate no longer seemed able to read his thoughts.
"Because I am the only one who truly appreciates the powers you possess," he claimed dreamily. "I understand how powerful they are and have become a dedicated collector... see?"
A shoulder shield and chest plate appeared and Andros recoiled in revulsion. The Mounted like trophies on his armour were the misshapen helmets of Rangers he had faced in the past. Some were still covered in blood. When he claimed to be a collector he was not kidding. His collection of Ranger corpses filled the lower decks of his ship. He giggled a little, his body swaying as he lost himself in his fantasies.
Had it been anybody else Andros might have felt some relief at being interrupted. But he remembered the beating he had received from the Quarter Master and wondered whether Curio would be getting his Guardian helmet sooner than anticipated. The Quarter Master wore a blue coat with gold trim, a pair of sturdy boots complete with buckles and a pair of well worn leggings. Unlike Curio he didn't carry a pistol, which Andros realised had been replaced by a three-pointed harpoon. However he held two swords at the ready and Andros had no doubt he could use them.
~The question is: could I morph, fight them and escape with the prisoners before their reinforcements arrive?~
The answer was obviously no. Even if he could get the drop on the newcomer, Curio would impale him before he could escape. And if he attacked Curio, the other pirate would have the time to transform and Andros knew he would be trapped in the same predicament. There was no way he could escape the pirate in his current condition.
~Maybe I should try and slow them down instead,~ he thought, a plan forming in the back of his mind.
Using the mental abilities that were common to his planet, but which the years as a Guardian had helped him develop, Andros reached out an grabbed hold of the hammer. With a mental tug he sent it spinning towards the blue coated pirate before lashing out at Curio. Curio blocked easily and rushed forward with his weapon, but despite his incredible speed, Andros managed to scramble out of the way, allowing his opponent to charge into the bulkhead. And while Curio was distracted trying to free his weapon, Andros too the opportunity to morph.
As he transformed, he tapped the side of his helmet, activating his suit's computer system. He then fired a seemingly random volley of shots around the cell. With a mental shove he pushed himself off the bulkhead as the pirates charged in, leaving them in the cell while he was outside. He fired another shot, at which point the hull tore open and the cell depressurised, sucking the pirates into space.
How they had managed to survive was beyond Andros and he had been pretty pessimistic to begin with. The seemingly random shots and taken out key anchor points along the hull's weakened plating, something that would not have been possible if the ship had been in prime condition, causing it to buckle. While he held on tightly and the other prisoners were firmly locked in place, the pirates had not been so lucky. The hull breach had had a cascade effect, ripping sections from the hull all over the ship. When a hole had opened in the bridge, Sledge had ordered his crew to abandon ship, escaping in a red galleon that was dwarfed by the larger ship.
The pirates had picked up their shipmates and retreated to what they had hoped would be a safe distance when the war ship exploded. Unfortunately for them, the explosion never occurred. Faced with imminent danger, the giant vessel's computer systems finally retook command, activating a heavy metal skin that enveloped the craft completely. Then as the suddenly fully functional vessel accelerated away, it activated its security protocols, dispatching its forces to remove all intruders, Andros among them.
But Andros was unaware of his impending doom as he struggled to release the prisoners from the nearby cells, many of whom had been stored in a form of cryogenic suspension. With their help he had taken his former cellmates to a makeshift medical bay and had left them in the care of an older man. While the man lacked any medical experience, they had been able to confirm that the Phantom Ranger, Masked Rider and Visceron were still alive.
After that relief had turned to anxiety as they had found that the ship was locked down with no means of escape. And although the Astro Megaship had been hauled aboard, its systems were still unresponsive. With a growing sense of dread, those on board realised they were still prisoners and that now they didn't have any means of escape.
"Well?" Sledge asked.
"Just as you said," Curio replied. "As soon as he was given an opportunity he morphed and managed to escape. We now have two of the abilities we needed to map added to the template."
"Marvellous," Sledge declared. "Except in the process you managed to lose him and the rest of our cargo, not to mention the rest of the ship."
Sledge's faced showed the fury he was feeling very clearly. If Crash showed up and he didn't have the prisoners as promised, Crash wouldn't just kill him. If he let all his prisoners escape Crash would likely beat him to the point of death and then revive him just so Divatox could have a go.
"We need to get them back," he snarled. "Prepare a boarding party and set course to catch them. We're going reclaim our ship, even if it kills them."
Curio grinned maniacally, but the others did not seem so enthused.
"Keeping these prisoners is getting too risky. It might be time to consider how much Crash would pay for them dead."
As the crew scurried away to complete their tasks, Sledge wondered what he had done to deserve the command of such pitiful underlings. Oh he knew full well what he had done, and how angry Divatox had been. It had only been his incredible cowardice that had allowed him to continue to live working in such a broken existence.
He looked down at the transformation device in his hand, remember the fierce battle he had faced in order to remove it from the small world of Mobirartay. That had been an interesting day where he had stunned his opponents with his flamboyance and unpredictable actions. Maybe it was time to become even more infamous by doing something even Divatox would never consider and change sides.
End of Part