Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, they belong to their respective copyright holders. The concept of the Rescue Machines and several other ideas are taken from Tomika Rescue Force.
Author's note: When considering the Rescue Machines, kindly imagine that the machine that hauls them into battle is just small enough that it can fit down a street and only just scrap the buildings on each side
Nancy Cooper's Rough Ride
If there had been one effect of Rita Repulsa's release and the subsequent attacks on Earth from various villains that rarely got a mention in the press, it was the effective ending of space exploration. With numerous villains based on the Moon and orbits close to the Earth, the risk of sending up a new shuttle was deemed too great. And so NASADA, the United States' Space Agency, having combined the workings of NASA with several other agencies, had pushed their budget towards developing new and better methods of launching and landing shuttles within the Earth's atmosphere. The theory was that when it was safe to venture to space once more, they would have the shuttles ready to do so.
Nancy Cooper would never claim that she was an astronaut, despite having flown higher than many humans ever managed. Nancy was a test pilot for NASADA's Space Vehicle Development Program. Practically fearless within the confines of a cockpit, Nancy had achieved more flight hours than any other test pilot and had earned the right to be the first to test the new shuttle design in a special flight from NASADA's Headquarters in Angel Grove to the recently constructed Flight Innovation Centre at Mariner Bay, in Washington. Although only a short distance, the trip had been plotted to allow for an orbital manoeuvre that would see her circle the planet three times before landing, pushing the shuttle's retro rocket system with a series of complex turns.
The take-off had gone without a hitch. The shuttle had launched exactly as expected and had performed just as the computer simulations had suggested. The first orbital loop had been performed easily within the time that the flight directors had wanted and the second loop had been locked into the computer. The shuttle responded well to the controls as Nancy made a few small adjustments to allow for a slight drift problem the engineers would need to investigate later. She looked forward to spending more time in the cockpit in the months that followed, pushing the expensive craft through its paces.
It was during the transition from the second loop to the final rotation that something went wrong. Whether it was an unexpected weather front or some object that Air Traffic Control had failed to warn out of the area - although how such an object could be high enough to fall into the shuttle's path was unknown - the shuttle collided with an unknown object. In the collision part of the left wing and stabiliser structure was damaged and the mission suddenly changed from routine to deadly.
Nancy struggled to regain control as the shuttle pitched and rolled uncontrollably. It appeared that the entire rear section of the left wing had been vaporised one of the wings had been damaged by the impact and that a majority of the shuttle's electronics had been rendered inoperable by electrical feedback. It was only through hours of simulated scenarios that she was able to calmly restore the shuttle to level flight, using the right wing to compensate for the deficiencies of the left wing. But with the electrical systems knocked out it was impossible to lower the landing gear, raising the question of how on Earth she could hope to land? And given the shuttle's experimental fuel cells, a crash landing was out of the question.
High above Mariner Bay there was a scientific impossibility. Dark storm clouds had been gathered there for months and had done nothing. There had been no change in the size or composition of the cloud and despite how dark the cloud appeared, no sign of rain. Had the meteorologists been able to see inside the stubborn mass, they would not have believed their eyes. For the cloud was in reality a dimensional vapour created as a side effect of the magic that kept Skull Cavern floating over the place where Queen Bansheera had once ruled. In her time it had been a magical focus that she had used to spread her demonic power over the Earth. Five thousand years later and it served as the home of her servants.
It had been many months since the opening of a tomb had released a group of demons upon the Earth. And since that time, the threat those demons posed had yet to fully appear. True in the early days there had been a series of monster attacks, but following the encounter with Lord Zedd and the loss of one of their teammates, the Lightspeed Rangers had been on alert, but rarely in action. They had trained daily, learning to working together and alongside Lightspeed's newest operative: Garth Nelson, an escaped government experiment who had been granted refuge in return for his assistance against the demons. But after months of silence the questions were starting to be asked about whether there was even a need for Lightspeed; the US Military was keen to scrap Operation Lightspeed and turn the technology to a more practical use.
If however the humans thought that the threat posed by the demons had passed, they were mistaken. For many months the Rangers of Mariner Bay had been fighting to protect their world from the minions of Queen Bansheera, not realising that Bansheera's most powerful and dedicated followers were still in the process of being released. The mighty Diabolico along with Loki and Vypra were personal servants of the queen. Along with her son Impus and Jinxer, they were her most faithful courtiers.
And now after months, they had finally broken free from their stasis and were less-than-pleased with the scene that greeted them.
"What has happened here?" Diabolico demanded. "Why can I not feel the great power of Queen Bansheera?"
"It's the humans, Diabolico," Loki moaned. "They've destroyed everything we left behind and allowed the power to fade. They've taken the palace, our lands, everything, and turned it into their world."
"Then we will take it back starting with this city of Mariner Bay." He paused and looked at Vypra. "Are you certain this is where the palace stood?"
The winged female nodded. "Yes Diabolico. This is where Queen Bansheera had her palace. That whole city would be her throne room."
"Then we will start by purging the humans from this place and rebuilding the palace ready for when Queen Bansheera returns."
This was how it should have been done from the start. But for some reason Diabolico and his companions had not been the first to awaken following their release. Others had tried to take on the task and had failed miserably. It had taken much longer for Diabolico and the others to fully recover, a sign of how drained their powers had become thanks to the humans.
"This place used to fill us with power," Diabolico grumbled. "Now it barely sustains Impus."
Indeed most of the latent magic around them had been channelled towards Queen Bansheera's son. It was not enough for him to truly feed upon; he would not grow more powerful until the source of their power was fully restored.
"These humans appear quire adept at destroying themselves," Vypra mused as she stared off into the distance. With a wave of her hand she conjured the image of a badly damaged space shuttle thundering toward Mariner Bay.
"Perhaps we should help them along," Diabolico mused before pulling a card from somewhere and handing it to Jinxer. "Make me a monster that will turn that shuttle into a disaster; something that will blow Mariner Bay off the planet."
"Tornado winds, blow from the East, transform this card into a monstrous beast!" Jinxer intoned, waving his arms around as Diabolico explained his plans to make any rescue an impossible task.
The shuttle was in trouble and the Lightspeed Rangers had been placed on high alert. While not the type of emergency they really wanted, they agreed that a crash on that scale would be a disaster for the city. They were already running through possible rescue scenarios, using the many non-Zord machines that Ms Fairweather and her had designed. For the authorities had decided that funding the building of new Zords was not a priority and had decreed that any Zords that were completed were only to be used where there were clear signs of demon involvement and not for everyday rescues. Unless clearly stated as a Lightspeed Rescue, the Rangers were acting unofficially and the use of Zords was absolutely forbidden.
Fortunately Ms Fairweather had found a way around that instruction by simply designating her creations as Rescue Machines. Smaller than the standard Zords, the Rescue Machines had the ability to combine and extend their capabilities. It was a system that Captain Mitchell was already considering sharing with rescue organisations around the world. Providing of course they could find a way to ensure that all the tools utilised by the Rescue Machines could not be used as weapons.
"Kelsey, Dana and Chad will control the three Elevator Rescues," Carter said. "Joel will provide air surveillance and I'll be standing by for fire control."
The others nodded and stood ready to move off to their stations. They had a little time to prepare, providing the pilot could keep the shuttle under control. If they were very lucky they would be able to dictate the landing ground.
Before they could do so an alarm sounded.
"Sorry people, things just got more complicated," Captain Mitchell told them. "Looks like demon activity down town; the shuttle is now second priority. Move out!"
With that the Lightspeed Rangers raced to the Lightspeed Rover and began the process of leaving the Lightspeed Aquabase and heading toward Mariner Bay.
Nancy pulled the flaps to full deployment, using her knowledge of the shuttle's heat shielding to position the vehicle in such a way that it could burn off a little speed. All the while she hoped that whatever had damaged the wings and had not shattered the heat resistant tiles on the main fuselage. One crack and the shuttle was in danger of burning up before it slowed.
From the moment the Rescue Rover emerged from the Mariner Bay end of the tunnel, it was clear that they were in for a difficult time. A full force hurricane had appeared from nowhere and threatened to sweep the city aside. As they had been instructed the Rangers knew that the lives of civilians took priority over property damage, and after locating the most secure places, the Rangers set about guiding the citizens to safety.
The unnaturalness of the storm became more and more evident as the winds seemed to change direction in an instant and actively work to prevent the Rangers from completing their mission. Kelsey found herself blown off her feet and would have crashed into a wooden shack had she not fired a safety line from her side arm. After that the Rangers made certain they had a strong anchor should they need it and a safety line rigged to fire at a moment's notice.
Only when the immediate area was clear did the Rangers have the opportunity to see the damage the storm had caused. The waterside area was a wreck and the Mariner Bay Docks now housed more than a few sunken wrecks. Overturned cars, uprooted street lights and broken street furniture were the obvious signs of damage. The smashed shop fronts and partially demolished buildings showed how much damage had been caused by the storm, which for some reason had suddenly calmed.
Laughter filled the air as the clouds seemed to shift to reveal a demonic face.
"What's that?" Red Lightspeed asked as he and the others regrouped.
"I am Diabolico," he replied.
"What do you want from us?" Red Lightspeed pressed.
"Your people have destroyed the kingdom of Queen Bansheera. I have come to destroy all that you have done to our kingdom and restore Queen Bansheera to her rightful place. And we will start by destroying this city and rebuilding Queen Bansheera's palace."
"Wait!" Red Lightspeed begged as Diabolico vanished, replaced by a water funnel that swept into the city. "Come on guys, we have to stop him!"
The Rangers chased after the monster, using the helmets to send a constant stream of data back to the Lightspeed Aquabase where Captain Mitchell and his crew could analyse it properly.
"Rangers, there is something inside the storm," Captain Mitchell reported. "Use your weapons to draw it out."
"Rescue Blasters!" the five Rangers called. "Fire!"
They aimed for different points on the tornado and were rewarded when one shot connected with something, causing the tornado to vanish and something to drop to the ground. His name was Whirlin, a demon that drew his abilities from the air around him and resembled a large bat.
"Don't you realise you can't stop me?" Whirlin asked as he prepared to launch another attack.
"Save your breath," Red Lightspeed countered. "My friends and I will stop you. That's a promise."
"Well if you're going to bring friends into this, meet some of mine," Whirling retorted as he summoned a horde of Batlings.
"He's got a lot of friends," Blue Lightspeed commented.
"Yeah, but we have each other," Red Lightspeed countered.
"Batlings, attack!" Whirlin ordered.
"Rescue Blasters, Baton Mode!" Red Lightspeed ordered as he led the charge.
Months of training had made the Rangers extremely efficient at fighting large numbers of lower powered opponents. Using their batons and blasters to strike down their enemies, Green and Yellow Lightspeed used their rescue lines to their advantage.
Eventually as Pink Lighspeed cleared away two dozen Batlings with her Rescue Blaster, the Red Lightspeed Ranger found himself facing Whirlin. The confrontation was brief and the monster won, send the Red Lightspeed Ranger flying. While he assured his friends that he was okay, Whirlin took the opportunity to strike down all five of his opponents with a wind blast.
"Rescue Blasters!" Red Lightspeed ordered and the team fired in unison, damaging the monster.
"Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is the shuttle. Have encountered severe damage and unable to land safely. Request emergency assistance!"
"Ah just what I was waiting for," Whirlin told them as he heard the message broadcast over their communicators. The shuttle was broadcasting on all frequencies, overriding local radio in the hope of getting a response. Whirling reverted to his tornado form and shot off in the direction of the stricken shuttle.
"We have to stop him before he causes any more damage!" Blue Lightspeed urged.
"Rescue Bird Command: Deploy!" Red Lightspeed ordered.
The Rescue Bird was a multifunctional tool that was too large for the Rangers to carry into battle and tool expensive and delicate to be left in the Rescue Rover. So instead Ms Fairweather had found a way to make the construct fly to the Rangers' position.
"Separate!" Red Lightspeed continued, causing the Rescue Bird to divide into its five component parts. Normally the Rangers would use their individual tools to assist during a rescue, but this time Carter had something else in mind. "Unilaser Mode!"
The Rangers clipped the five pieces together, using Red Lightspeed's gun handle to form a firing mechanism. With the other Rangers bracing him, Red Lightspeed took aim at the tornado monster and fired. The shot was accurate and Whirlin fell to the ground in chunks of blackened monster parts. The question was whether they had managed to stop him in time.
"Rangers, the shuttle is still intact, but the storm has caused further damage. At this point the controlled landing you planned would not work," Captain Mitchell told them.
"Oh no, what do we do now?"
"Under the circumstances I am declaring this a Lightspeed Rescue and authorising the use of force," Captain Mitchell continued, "if there is a way to do so safely."
The Rangers lacked Zords, but had a fleet of Rescue Machines at their disposal following their encounter with Lord Zedd. However in order to use them without facing a major inquiry, for any sort of rescue, the Rangers were required to first prove that the emergency had been caused by the demons they were supposed to fight. When Whirlin had attacked the shuttle he had given the Rangers a much better chance of rescuing the shuttle and its brave pilot.
"I can use Rescue Flyer to help regain control," Green Lightspeed offered.
"Computers show you would not be able to control the shuttle enough to make a safe touchdown," Mitchell replied. "I'm sorry Joel, but if we try that we'd risk crashing a shuttle into the city."
"I have an idea," Yellow Lightspeed offered, "but if I tell you, you'd think I'm crazy."
"It's your call Carter," Captain Mitchell said.
"Kelsey, call the shots," Red Lightspeed instructed.
Yellow Lightspeed nodded and gripped her wrist to access the command pad hidden under the gauntlet. "Rescue Machines, Deploy!"
The shuttle rolled to the right as Nancy struggled to maintain control. The storm had not caused extensive damage, but it had disrupted all of the careful flying that Nancy had used to stabilise the shuttle. And now with less speed and the ground growing closer by the second, she was not sure she could regain control. And even if she could there was still the question of landing. He hand twitched towards the final option, a control that would sent the shuttle hurtling out to sea, dumping its fuel crystals as it did so to prevent a huge explosion. They would have to be recovered but would not post an immediate threat. There was no way that she would survive the manoeuvre, but Mariner Bay would be safe.
It wasn't self-preservation that stopped her from pulling the lever. While she had a strong desire to survive the mission, it was the realisation that having lost so much speed and with the ground approaching so fast, there was no guarantee that the emergency option would get her far enough away for the ship to crash safely. So instead she continued as before, using the working side of the shuttle to try and compensate for the damaged side that threatened to cause the shuttle to crash any second.
While Nancy struggled to maintain what little control she had, the Rangers' Rescue Machines had been dispatched into the heart of Mariner Bay. They were using the Rescue Hauler - a super-sized Rescue Machine modelled after a large fire with an extended trailer to carry the bulk of their equipment to where it was needed. Today they had replaced the enormous ladder it normally carried in favour of being able to hold extra Rescue Machines.
"All right, everybody off; Joel: get up there and stabilise the shuttle!" Yellow Lightspeed ordered.
Green Lightspeed nodded and rushed to obey as the others scrambled to move their Rescue Machines out of the Rescue Hauler. When they had done so, Yellow Lightspeed flicked a series of controls that reinforced the top bed of the Rescue Hauler, allowing it to handle the weight of the shuttle.
"Carter, Chad, I need you two to set up for fire control in case this goes wrong," she ordered, allowing the two Rangers to depart before turning her attention to Pink Lightspeed. "Dana, I need this highway cleared. Use the back of your machine and anything else you need, but I want it free of obstruction."
Pink Lightspeed nodded and soon the various parked and abandoned vehicles were pulled inside Rescue Aider. Where there were drivers in the vehicles, Dana arranged for them to be stored safely in the upper section of the machine's massive cargo bay, while empty vehicles were crushed in below.
"Road is clear," Pink Lightspeed reported after a while, just as Green Lightspeed confirmed that he had managed to attach the grappling devices to the shuttle and was now in control, albeit only in control of a shuttle that was still heading toward the ground.
"Okay guys, this is what we do," Yellow Lightspeed announced. "I'm going to drive along the highway and Joel is going to land the shuttle on top of me. We're going to run two Rescue Elevators to support the wings, but you're going to reverse thrust to slow me down because I doubt the brakes will work. Position the Rescue Turbine further along the highway and we can use it to create an air brake."
"Are you kidding?" Nancy asked over the radio; Joel had established communication with the shuttle earlier and had left the frequency open so that she would know what to do. "This is crazy!"
"Crazy is my middle name," Yellow Lightspeed responded.
There was a long pause before the pilot reluctantly agreed that this was her only chance and put her life in the Yellow Lightspeed Ranger's hands.
What followed was a demonstration of why Joel Rawlings was so highly regarded for his piloting skills. Using the massive thrusters of Rescue Flyer, he managed to position the shuttle directly onto the roof of the Yellow Ranger's machine. He quickly detached the magnetic clamps from the shuttle and used them to connect to his teammate's vehicle. He then reversed thrust, slowing the Rescue Machine just before it ran out of highway. In the end it was a very close, but successful rescue.
As the Rescue Crane was helping to move the shuttle onto the ground where a mass of rescue personnel and technicians waited to access the stricken craft, Jinxer appeared on top of a tower. He threw a card into the monster's remains and then started chanting.
"Demon of wind, demon of bats, pull yourself together and defeat those brats! Rise Whirlin', rise and destroy!"
The spell had power and soon the demolished remains of Whirlin transformed into bats and started to reform at an even bigger size.
"Guys, we've got trouble," Joel warned as the now giant Whirlin blasted whole buildings out of his path as he stalked towards the Rangers.
"Carter, it's time to step things up a little!" Chad said.
"Right!" the Red Lightspeed Ranger agreed. "Request access to Final Rescue!"
"Final Rescue approved," they heard Captain Mitchell reply. As he finished speaking a board on the side of their cockpits lit up.
Their new machines were not Zords. Miss Fairweather and her team were working around the clock to create something that would replace the Rescue Racer, but it wasn't finished yet. Still even the machinery they had had some surprises. All of the equipment used to save lives had the potential to fire a more intense blast to neutralise threats. It was not as effective as a Megazord, but the threats they had faced were not of the same calibre encountered by the Rangers of Angel Grove.
"Wind spin!" Whirlin cried, pulling his arms in to provide extra speed as he started to rotate.
The Rangers response was to position the Rescue Turbine on top of the Rescue Hauler, creating a powerful wind machine of their own, using the powerful fan to deflect the attack.
"Our turn now," Red Lightspeed told him. "Final Rescue: Engage!"
A jet of flame shot from one of the smaller Rescue Machines and the powerful turbine directed it at the helpless monster. Soon Whirlin was engulfed in flames. And shortly thereafter Whirlin was no more and the city was saved.
Nancy Cooper casually jogged down a sidewalk. It was good to be back in he home town, six months leave to give her a chance to adjust to her ordeal. She had decided to spend the day enjoying the outdoors with her dog, Dorsie.
"Come on Dorsie, you're doing great," she encouraged as the dog ran to keep up.
She paused to tie her shoe, letting go of the leash for a moment. She hadn't expected Dorsie to run off, especially not into moving traffic. She definitely didn't expect it to just sit in the middle of the traffic like a scared rabbit.
With a growing sense of panic, Nancy started to dash into the road, only to be held back by another pedestrian. A crowd was gathering, waiting for the little dog to be rescued or killed by the heavy traffic. And then the moment they all feared as a car headed straight for the terrified dog, the driver unable to swerve in time without causing a major accident.
Something yellow leaped over a parked car and raced into the street. The person snatched up Dorsie and peeled off just as the car screeched to a halt where the dog had been.
"Here you go," the yellow clad girl said as she handed over the nervous but otherwise intact dog.
"Thank you," Nancy said. "You must be crazy to do that."
"Crazy is my middle name," came the reply.
Nancy looked up sharply. She remembered the Ranger that had been responsible for her rescue and the words she had spoken. She also realised that the crowd of interested pedestrians had thinned to be replaced by a bunch of men in black suits.
"Crazy is a good thing in my job," Kelsey told her. "And if you're interested, we'd like to talk to you about your job too..."
"Nancy Cooper," Nancy said holding out her hand.
"I'm Kelsey," Kelsey replied, taking the offered hand. "I think this is going to be the start of an interesting friendship."
Back at the Lightspeed Aquabase, Captain Mitchell reviewed the file one more time before stamping it. It seemed they had found a replacement sixth team member. Once Nancy was properly trained, Lightspeed would be back to full strength.
The battle was over and Miss Fairweather's team was already hard at work repairing the damage sustained by Rescue Hauler. Despite their many breakthroughs, Lightspeed's rescue equipment was relatively easy to damage. The heat from the shuttle had melted parts of its armoured skin and buckled several of the supports. Surviving the weight of a crashing shuttle had never been a part of the design specifications. Combining that with the cooling effect of the Rescue Turbine had uncovered a major rust issue that would need to be resolved as well.
After the shuttle had landed, Lightspeed's technicians had made a full copy of its flight systems in the hope of uncovering what had happened. The results had caused Lightspeed to call a conference of scientists, super heroes and of course the Power Rangers.
It seemed that Nancy had not collided with an unknown physical object as first believed. Energy readings recorded by the shuttle had indicated it was mostly energy and that the damaged parts of the shuttle had not been knocked off due to the impact, but had vanished into the strange mass. It had not taken much work to realise that they were dealing with some form of portal. An air exclusion zone had been put into effect while scientists search for a way to close the portal or at least limit the damage it caused. However more portals had been observed across the world and while they were not dangerous, they had caused enough concern to shift efforts to detecting and avoiding them. So far however none had proven as dangerous as the portal Nancy encountered. And according to scientists, that portal had closed and was relatively harmless.
The Rangers of Angel Grove had been unable to provide any useful information. It seemed that the portals had not been created by magic or machine technology. Most were inactive and posed little threat. However without knowing more the Rangers could not rule out the possibility of another invasion. And not knowing made the portals far more dangerous.