Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to the Power Rangers. No profit is being made from this work. Justin Hammer belongs to Marvel Comics however the references to his previous endeavours to make his weapons appear to work are based on the situations described in the film Pentagon Wars. The Hydrothermal Generator was taken from the Transformers cartoon. The Task Force Operation does indeed refer to Super Sentai shows created prior to Power Rangers but never used by Power Rangers. J-Force is a hybrid of Jetman and Gatchaman. It should be noted that Turboranger refers to the Sentai show Turboranger and not Power Rangers Turbo (even though the Earth-2 equivalent of the Power Rangers Turbo do resemble them).
The Titanium Tragedy
Throughout history the moment a discovery had been made the question raised would always revolve around its military applications. When man had found a way to fly, the generals had tried to determine if the technology could be used to spy. The splitting of the atom, radio, even the caterpillar trail were assessed for their value as weapons of war. Drugs were in production capable of curing the deadliest diseases, but could not be released until scientists found a way to counter them in case they needed to use biological weapons.
So when the Earth's governments had found definite proof of alien existence on the planet, they had worried more about securing useable technology and weapons than they had about making peace. If Rita Repulsa had only wanted to destroy a part of the Earth there was a good chance the governments might have worked to reach a secret deal. With that in mind it was no surprise that when they had had the opportunity to capture and examine one of the aliens they had seized the chance. That the 'visitor' in question had given them access to technology they had not possessed beforehand made it all the better.
The Titanium Morpher represented over a decade of toil. Even though the urgency to develop the device had only increased a few years before, government agencies around the world had sought to unlock the secrets that led to its creation much earlier. When the Task Force Operation had ended due to the refusal of the project's engineer to continue providing the much needed components, a race had begun to replace the suits that had been such an essential part of the project.
At first they had tried to convince 'guest' to show them how the suits worked, but he had refused. Unfortunately while he was willing to see his designs used in sometimes questionable ways, he had objected completely to the policy of purging users every twelve months and by the time he found out about the policy the Task Force Operation had been running for a number of years. Gentle persuasion had given way to methods that had he been human would have been classified as torture; there were no laws against such methods used on aliens. He had steadfastly refused to give them the secrets or explain how to reactivate the previous suits after their year of active service had expired. Once they had threatened to kill him if he did not comply and failed to follow through, there was nothing left for them to bargain with.
At that point the race to find a replacement for the suits had started. Teams of scientists from around the world worked to be the first to unlock the secrets of powered soldiers. No expense had been spare, no resource had been unavailable. Many of the old suits were destroyed in the process before they found a way around the protections that had been installed. In the end one of the American teams had taken the controversial step of using a hostile captive to decode one of the suits.. The secrets of the suit had been unravelled and used to create the Titanium Morpher. They had even managed to salvage a part of the suit's design template and had used it as proof of their success.
For the military the completion of the Titanium Morpher represented an opportunity to place the protection of the planet into trained military control. The officer overseeing the project had nothing against Lightspeed, but the loss of a team member months earlier had motivated him to find a way to fight the threat to Mariner Bay without putting untrained personnel at risk. Since Lightspeed was at least partially outside of military control, that meant replacing the organisation completely. The Titanium Morpher combined with another project that had recently reported success would mean that a five man team could be replaced by a single operative accompanied by an automated support team.
However despite his pleasure at having developed a workable alternative to Lightspeed, he was not happy. He was a no-nonsense sort of officer. He would have preferred to be arranging the handover of responsibility for protecting Mariner Bay, but the higher-ups had decided that his current assignment required positive media saturation in order to avoid misunderstandings with the public. That he considered the project's success essential to the protection of his country made it feel even more insulting that they had overruled his objection to this farce of an event.
He glowered as the event's organiser took to the stage. He was a patriot, he cared about his country and the people under his command. He wanted to save lives by removing troops from danger while recognising that in any battle there was an element of risk. His aim was to reduce that risk as much as possible. The current speaker was more interested in increasing his bank balance and his public image. There was no doubt that the chance to claim a major defence contract that Stark Industries had refused to accept was a boost to the man's ego.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. It is a pleasure to have so many of our great leaders present and of course the esteemed members of the press. I know that many of you will find what you are about to see difficult to believe, but I promise you will be impressed. Our technicians - all of whom graduated top of their classes from our country's fine universities - are making the final adjustments, so while they do so let me explain a little more about this project."
Presentation was everything. Justin Hammer knew that better than most. Over the years he had sold many wonderful weapons to countries around the world, knowing that many of those weapons either didn't work or were in some way flawed. The heat-seeking missile that had such a badly designed sensor package it had required testers to strap twenty electric fires only the side of a tank in order to make it appear as a target. Even then the missile had failed to explode properly. His biological and chemical weapons had been even more of a disaster. But as long as he continued to present those failures in a favourable light, Hammer would continue to win lucrative defence contracts that would cost many soldiers their lives.
"The world is a dangerous place," he announced, playing a video of various trouble spots around the globe, starting out with terrorist and unfriendly governments before showing the more recent problems caused by alien invasions. "Lightspeed has gone a long way to curb the threat of these invaders, but more needs to be done. Look at Angel Grove, one threat after another because a decisive stance was not taken to deal with the problem. Such threats need to be dealt with by those focussed on the good of our great country."
A black and white film replaced the images of carnage and destruction. It was record of a cold winter night many decades earlier.
"This is not the first time this planet has encountered visitors from beyond," he told the audience although secretly he wasn't sure the footage was authentic. Based on the truth? Possibly. But he suspected the film had been made much more recently. "This is the recording of an earlier arrival, aliens who crashed on our world. Our government in association with others recognised the value of these visitors and the Task Force Operation was launched. Aided by another visitor, this government bravely fielded teams of powered super heroes to protect the interests of our great nation and our allies.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of trust these magnificent suits were given only a short product life and for reasons of security, a purge protocol was authorised. This led to a misunderstanding with our visitor ally and a withdrawal of his services. The Task Force Operation was abandoned."
Now came his moment of triumph, when he proved that allowing his personnel access to one of the nations most closely guarded prisoners had been a sensible step, especially since his attempts to reach a deal with the alien scientist responsible for the suits had been such a colossal failure. It was a moment to remember, when he could graciously accept the multi-billion dollar contracts his efforts deserved and push for several other contracts to be awarded to his corporation's subsidiary companies.
"This was unacceptable! This nation, this planet, will not be held ransom by some alien just because we would rather see a threat dealt with than risk the lives of our loved ones. Our military personnel could escape injury and death thanks to these suits and for that, we needed to be able to create them ourselves.
"Now Lightspeed has done a fantastic job of creating its team of Rangers, but they were starting from scratch and the unfortunate death of one of their team proves that the technology has yet to be perfected. Today you will see the results of successfully unlocking the secrets of alien technology and how it has been successfully used to create a new prototype soldier. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Titanium Morpher!"
He held up the small box with a blue 'M' on the front. This was the the result of reverse engineering an earlier set of suits and combining the technology with the schematics 'borrowed' from Lightspeed. He had insisted that when used, the morpher would create a Ranger more powerful than anything Lightspeed had managed. After all, he wanted to take that contract away from them. He had not counted on the government already having a technological replacement for Lightspeed in place.
"This morpher has passed every test we could devise. Simulated testing has shown that the user will experience enhanced strength, speed and durability while being protected from most forms of weapons. In short he would be a super soldier."
Of course there was one last test to perform and Hammer had wanted that test to be public despite the military's misgivings. The best publicity he could hope to obtain would come from this demonstration.
"Our experts selected the best possible candidate for this test..."
And so Hammer continued to drone on about the work his company had undertaken, building up the public's understanding of how his staff had overcome the technical difficulties they had been faced with to achieve complete success. It was just a shame that for all the simulations and computerised scenarios, there had not been a single test to make certain the results were accurate.
Hammer had managed to keep talking for at least an hour, covering every possible topic that the press could want to cover, taking the opportunity to ensure that it was understood how his company had been responsible for the success of the entire project. He had gone to great lengths to discuss the qualifications of their test subject, a man the military overseers had initially rejected. In short what was supposed to be a simple new briefing to reassure the public during the transition from a team of human Power Rangers to a single operative assisted by five robotic units, had become a farce.
"... without further ado, let me introduce you to the first part of this spectacular new force: the Cyborg Rangers!"
The spotlight shifted to highlight a collection of robots at the back corner of the stage. Five of the cyborgs stomped forward as the cameras flashed and took up position in the marked spots. Each stood around seven foot tall, had been manufactured from some of the strongest and most expensive materials that could be produced and had been programmed using the combat data of the Lightspeed Rangers. Each was equipped with advanced and powerful weapon systems that could in theory slay a demon instead of merely slowing it down and could act both independent and as directed by their lead operator. However it was the ability to alter their appearances using a combination of shifting components and electronically generated illusions that caused them to flicker and then assume the familiar forms of the Lightspeed Rangers.
"And now the moment you have all been waiting for, the first transformation of the Titanium Ranger. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome our volunteer, Earl Grier!"
The conference centre erupted into applause. The press would make this man look like a hero, a lone soldier defending Mariner Bay. They would completely overlook the sixty technicians who even now were scrambling to prepare the initial power up of their new creation.
For his part Earl managed to look dignified as he gave a polite nod to the cameramen and shook hands with the military. Of course Hammer tried to inject a bit of enthusiasm into the event, but it was clear that the volunteer was focussed on the task at hand. He calmly took the Titanium Morpher and then moved to a predetermined spot before waiting patiently as the technicians completed their part of the operation.
"Ladies and Gentlemen for the initial activation of the Titanium Morpher it is necessary to channel a great deal of high voltage electricity into the device. I assure you there is very little current present so you are all safe. However if you would all like to take a step back it would help avoid any unfortunate new hairdos."
At long last the technicians gave the nod that their part was done and the cameras recording the experiment were double-checked to ensure the entire transformation could be reviewed at a later date. Wires had been fitted to monitor his vital signs and after a few checks he was deemed as ready as he could be. The room fell silence as Earl took a deep breath and then spoke the activation code.
And with that the generator came to life, and all hell broke loose.
When an army captain had chosen the location for this press conference it was doubtful he had looked into the history of the site. If he had he might have reconsidered. For over a decade the area had been a major part of Project J-Force, the last group to benefit from the alien technology; he had been able to identify the energy source and had been surprised the humans had failed to grasp such a simple technology. The team had been initially charged with uncovering the actions of a terrorist cell, which had in truth been an alien invasion force. J-Force had fought to protect their world before a climatic final battle that had seen them close the aliens' portal once and for all. The sealed portal had been since covered along with the remains of the base, but the military had not been told that in order to empower the Titanium Morpher, scientists had found a way to tap the portal and use the energy unleashed to drive their Hydrothermal Generator.
The scientist had never really understood the nature of the energy they were trying to manipulate. They had failed to grasp that it was capable of altering the nature of anything it came into contact with. They didn't realise that it could not be contained without a specially built Faraday Cage.
When the circuits were switched to allow the energy to flow it did so, bypassing safety cut outs and surge protectors to freely flow around the miles of electrical cable that ran through the facility. The power surge flowed into the computers and phone lines, causing no harm to the electronics. However as it passed through one of the computer hard drives it encountered a computer virus designed to log and gather information.
The computer was altered by the power surge and the virus gained a small amount of sentience. Falling back on its initial programming it took control of the computer and started to pull information from the facility's network. It accessed huge amounted of data and spread throughout the mainframe. In seconds it was manipulating robotic arms and taking on a physical existence. In minutes it had moved onto more complicated machinery.
The inrush of data gave it a great deal of information and a limited understanding of humans. It judged them based on the information it received and compared them to its own programming. It judged them to be inferior and a threat to its continued existence. Operating more on instinct than actual intelligence, it chose to attack.
By now the virus controlled the Cyborg Rangers, the massive Zord-like machines that had been built to assist them and more importantly: the Hydrothermal Generator that powered them.
Something had gone horribly wrong.
When the Titanium Morpher had been activated it had functioned as expected. The panels had opened to reveal both the control mechanism and the charging circuitry. The morpher had flashed as it ran through its first use protocols, charging itself and then activating the latent energy feeds that would ensure it would be self-charging. The template program stored inside the morpher's control chip was accessed as the device followed the inbuilt pattern to create the personal energy grid around which the uniform formed. The first stages in the transformation completed, the Titanium Morpher switched to the materialisation stage, pulling the suit, which had been compressed within the device, and arsenal of the Titanium Ranger and locking them into place around his body.
It was at that point that things went wrong. A computer virus had been mutated by the unstable energy used to power the complex. It seconds it had taken control of the electrical charge, the controls working the doors and even the elevators. Everything that could be operated by a computer had been overridden; only the Titanium Morpher had escaped infection due to being a closed system.
Within seconds of the Titanium Morpher activating, the generator was adjusted to increase the current, sending a potentially lethal current into Earl's body. There was a loud scream as nearby equipment exploded from the electromagnetic pulse. Lightning flashed out of control from the morpher, striking the robotic Rangers.
Earl cried out in agony as he was electrocuted. His half-formed suit provided him with some protection, but it was nowhere near enough. His muscles clenched uncontrollably in response to current. And then the morpher detected the fault in its power sequence and closed down, leaving him fully exposed.
In the meantime the robotic Rangers had been damaged, causing them to initiate their damage control protocols, software that had been altered by the virus. The changes caused the robots to see the electrical discharge as an attack and to react accordingly, while removing the protections installed to prevent them firing upon humans. The result was the brutal slaughter of anything in their path.
And as the Cyborg Rangers wreaked havoc and the Titanium Morpher killed its chosen user, the virus spread throughout the facility. It took control of devices that gave it new abilities, allowing it to scan and digitize inorganic matter. With a constant stream of data the computer soon made improvements to the machinery, allowing it to absorb living beings as well.
Somewhere along the line it lost control of the Hydrothermal Generator causing it to enter a dangerous build up of volatile energy. If not handled safely the generator would explode and blow a hole in the planet; such a build up would take months before it reached the critical point.
And so as one of the Cyborg Rangers turned its targeting sensors on one of the soldiers and raised its arm into the firing position, the computer virus spoke for the first time.
"Humans," it said, its voice emerging from every speaker on every computer within the complex. "This world is mine!"
Exactly what had happened after the first shot had been fired was unclear. The guests had been evacuated and the facility had been sealed. However many of the staff had been trapped inside and their fate was unknown.
The VIPs reappeared relatively unharmed, with no recollection of what had happened beyond the shooting and a burst of light. They all remembered the voice telling them that it had taken control of their computer and would soon claim their planet. All of them would be haunted by nightmares of what had happened and the odd feeling that there was something they had forgotten that would prove disastrous.
Somehow the Titanium Morpher had been retrieved by Hammer during the chaos. It had been taken from him by Lightspeed and despite his claims that he was the authorised custodian of the device, they refused to give it back.
Fortunately for Hammer all other broadcasts from the facility had failed when the virus had taken over, so the extent of his failure was not known. That lack of information would likely save his company. It couldn't stop him worrying about what had happened to his technology?
Because the official record of their failure was unclear, the senior figures involved in the fiasco survived with their careers intact. And the quest to unlock the secrets of Ranger technology continued.
End of Part