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Countdown to Destruction


Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers, Justice League, Avengers or any other property. They belong to their respective copyright holders and are used without permission. Parts of this chapter were borrowed from Ellen Brand’s Final Frontier. Thanks Ellen.

From Out of Nowhere Part Three

The Present

SHIELD Helicarriers were many things, but defenceless was not one. The size and shape of a modern aircraft carrier, it carried a fleet of its own aircraft and was supported by radar and automated weapons systems as well as crewmen trained to fight under the strange conditions it often found itself drawn into. So, by the time the first wave of invading craft had reached it, the Atlas was already aware of them and had started to launch its planes. Six of its Sky Hawk interceptors had been scrambled to buy time and its onboard compliment of Dragonfly helicopters had been scrambled to provide intelligence on what was happening.

Of course, when the flaming wreckage of one of the Dragonfly units dropped onto the deck, narrowly avoiding one of the planes lined up ready to launch, they knew exactly where the enemy was. And as the automated defences activated, the helicarrier shuddered for the stray shots hitting its runways.

SHIELD’s aircraft were among the best in the world. Modified to launch at high altitude and to function in thinner atmosphere, they were fast and manoeuvrable. They were also armed with the latest in energy and kinetic weaponry. They were flown by the best pilots that SHIELD’s budget could afford and could have given the Air Force and Navy a run for their money.

So, it was not a lack of equipment or the lack of skilled pilots that made the battle between the humans and the aliens so one-sided. If the scoring had been based upon the number of fighters taken down by enemy fire, the Earthlings would have won for sure. For every plane they lost, the aliens lost a many as six of their fighters. The problem was that there were so many alien craft in the sky that the odds were stacked against the humans.

Even as the automatic defences ripped into the oncoming Velocifighters, more of the alien ships appeared, targeting the gyros that kept the massive carrier in the air. Fire flashed from the forward left side of the ship as a kamikaze attack ripped one of the power generators from its housings. The deck was burning as the mighty engines tried to sustain altitude.

The Helicarrier lurched as more and more of the alien ships slipped passed its defences. Alarms sounded as the large carrier started to drop from the sky, its camouflage failing as it became visible to anyone watching from below. Fortunately, they were other open water and those below had more urgent things to worry about than the exposure of a secret organisation.


Despite the chaos outside, inside the command centre of the Atlas, the atmosphere was strangely calm as operatives moved swiftly but with little sign of panic. At least on the outside. Following procedures and protocols they had practiced at regular drill sessions, the personnel worked to save their ship.

"Engine Three is down," Agent Hill repeated as she continued to receive and pass on vital information. "Talk to me somebody. Can we get it back or not?"

"I can’t even see Engine Three," one of her operators responded. "I’m getting no information from it at all. Something must have taken out the control systems. And Engine Two is starting to fail."

"If we lose another engine we might as well turn them all off," Agent Hill growled. She could already tell that their chances of staying aloft were fading. But if they were lucky, they code still save the Atlas and have a chance of making a counter strike. "All personnel prepare for emergency descent. Put us down. Smokescreen Protocol."

A claxon sounded throughout the ship, causing the crew to grab onto anything solid. The helicarrier lurched and then started to drop faster as its remaining engines burst into flames. The fighter jets still in the sky pulled away with the alien forces in pursuit. What remained of their support ships flew back to land on the deck, seemingly ready to help with the evacuation.

The Atlas crashed into the water below creating a massive wave that swept across the deck. Explosions rocked the deck as the huge carrier broke apart, sinking beneath the waters. All lives were lost.


There are many secrets surrounding the Earth. There are those openly acknowledged such as the presence of gods and demons walking around in mortal bodies having given up complete immortality for something less. And then there were those that had been lost to the planet’s people over time or perhaps covered up. Knowledge of ancient civilisations that had been completely wiped out and visitors from beyond the stars that had changed the course of evolution on more than one occasion.

It was the early days of the Universe, just as the groups such as the Ancient Morphin Masters, Kryptonians, Cybertronians, Maltusians and Time Lords were completing the steps that would lead to their names being spoken about far into the future; at a time when the difference between deities and mere gods was being made to the upstart gods, when a war would begin that would continue long after the real reason from hostilities were forgotten.

Thousands of years before Rita and Zordon made Earth their battleground that war drew both races to the planet, where they took an interest in the primitive humans that dwelled on the surface. Both sides conducted multiple experiments, changing entire populations in order to build a better soldier. But unfortunately the humans of the world were not physically capable of handling the changes or were to resistant to become indoctrinated in the aliens’ beliefs.

Such was the case with the Utopian Islands where their experiments were considered partially successful. But despite the failure they were reluctant to destroy all of their hard work and had at least been able to instil in the Utopians a hatred of their enemies. In the end it was agreed the Utopians would be allowed to survive and would act to prevent their enemies from taking the planet. In order to cover their activities and protect their experiment from harm by their enemies, they altered the memories of the people of the Utopian Islands, making them believe that they had been visited by the gods and blessed with their power. The aliens chose forms that would be passed down through the memories of the Utopians and throughout the world as the Romans Gods. As a final act the gods encouraged the warrior race to complete the experiment and become a mighty army.

For thousands of years they had trained and fought and killed. They did not hide from the world for the word of their brutality helped to keep them safe from outsiders and their warlike nature kept their neighbours under control. They had allied with Prince Namor during his attempted coup of Atlantis, marking them as an enemy of Atlantis. They were fiercely protective of their territory and they were willing to defend themselves by any means necessary.

Zarda had been one of the original experiments that had been deemed a failure. Although the aliens’ manipulation of their memories meant that most of her race falsely considered her the child of their royal family. They remembered her difficult journey to prove herself before she was proclaimed to be the champion of the Utopians. The Utopians memories recalled the miracle of her birth and the blessings the gods had bestowed upon her. The legends changed with time and the mysterious gods that had offered their blessings upon her were finally identified. thus, many of her own people believed that she had inherited the strength of Heracles, the beauty of Venus, the wisdom of Aphrodite and the speed of Mercury. She was merciless in battle and steadfast in her judgement. She had judged the other peoples of the world as a threat and had stood by that judgement ever since. Under her rule the Utopians had terrorised their neighbours to protect themselves.

Several times the Utopians had clashed with the Amazons of Themyscara. Each time Zarda and her forces had been forced to retreat. Her personal clashes with the Amazon Queen were legendary encounters. Some recorded the battles as ending in stalemate, but even Zarda had to admit that she had never come close to winning.

Today though despite the differences they had with the world in general, the people of Utopia were at their service. They put aside all other feelings in favour of punishing the aliens that had dared to invade their lands. The Utopian warriors had lifted their weapons and attacked the alien insects, striking them down in a savage display of power.

Zarda had been compared publicly to Wonder Woman, but aside from coming from a people claimed to be favoured by the gods, they were very different. Zarda had not been raised to fight a just war or to value life where possible. She was a weapon forged for war and Conquest that had been sheathed for too long. And even as her people started to falter amidst the onrushing army of Stingwingers, she stood strong. And she would fight, and fight, and fight some more until all her enemies and most likely her allies were gone.


Metropolis

His name was Clark Kent and he was a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper based in Metropolis. He was an upstanding citizen, which was a polite way of saying many found him to be a bit boring and stuffy to be around. He had worked for the paper for as long as anybody could remember, but still had some time left before his retirement. And he also held the unenviable position of being Lois Lane’s co-writer for many stories, a role that inevitably led him into dangerous situations.

However, for all those that claimed to know Clark Kent and would state that they had been his friend and colleague for many years, there were few that really knew him. For Clark Kent had a secret, one that he and his adopted parents had kept from the rest of the world. Clark Kent was an alien, a survivor of the planet Krypton who had been sent to Earth when his world had exploded. There he had been found as a child by the Kents and was eventually raised as their son.

As he had grown older, Clark had discovered there were things about him that were different from other people. He could do things that most people could not do and survive things that they could not. His parents had raised him to know when to use those powers and when he should act like a normal person. He learnt how to use his gifts in a way that did not make others feel inferior.

As an adult he had moved to Metropolis and had found a job at the Daily Planet. There he had discovered the world was not without its dangers. He had decided to make a difference and for a time the world had been protected by the hero known as Superman. But there had been a problem. A big problem as it turned out. For Superman was no longer as super as he had once been.

As a Kryptonian living on Earth, Clark enjoyed near invulnerability combined with enhanced senses, super strength and an ever growing list of abilities. However, there had always been some things that could harm him. The radioactive remnants of his home world were lethal to him, viruses and bacteria from Krypton were equally life threatening as he lacked the immunity that would have developed during his childhood. But the problems he suffered had been the result of an unseen super human arms race between the United States and its rivals.

Kryptonians were unusually vulnerable to extra-dimensional energy. Especially the extra-dimensional energy that many referred to as magic. Magic disrupted the flow of energy through the Kryptonian body. It wasn’t normally harmful at a background level, but it prevented the absorption and conversion of solar energy, robbing Kryptonians of the power they received from a yellow sun.

Since the start of the century, the use of magic had increased. And between the time his ship had arrived and the time he was old enough to leave home, the levels of magic on Earth had grown exponentially. Background levels of untapped energy had risen, but it was the open use of magic that had caused Clark problems. As years passed, his abilities started to become less reliable and at times uncontrollable. Sometimes they would fail him at a vital moment. It was something that put lives at risk.

And so, Clark had made the difficult decision to step back from the life of a superhero. He still donned the cape and tights from time to time, but mostly he left the superhero business to those that were better suited to deal with it. In the years since his retirement he had only made a few outings as Superman, at times when he had either been needed or there had been a direct threat to Metropolis. The last time had seen him beaten down and humiliated by a magic-wielding villain.

Today he was not worried about magic users. The army storming its way through Metropolis was made up of robots. That was a battle that Superman knew he could join. When the attack had reached the Daily Planet, Clark Kent had made his excuses and left. After shedding his disguise and donning the new variation of a costume he had rarely warn since the start of the decade, Superman flew into action.

Once on the street Superman showed that he was a one-person army, tearing his way through the Quantron ranks, his heat vision transforming them into pools of molten metal. His enormous lung capacity allowed him to inhale and then expel a powerful jet of air that froze more of the Quantrons in place. He hurled one of the machines in the direction of their frozen comrades and watched in satisfactions as the frozen warriors shattered.

He punched and kicked his way through the robotic throng, decimating those that were unfortunate enough to stand in his way. Some tried to combine their efforts to overwhelm him. They ended up being crushed under his mighty heels.

Still the metal soldiers continued to attack, and he came to realise that their numbers were seemingly endless. He had no doubt that he would defeat them, but prolonged battle put the citizens of Metropolis at risk. He needed to end the battle sooner rather than later.

And so, he turned his attention was away from the metal army, toward the ship hovering over Metropolis. When it had first appeared, he had only glimpsed it for a minute or two before it had created some sort of dome over the city. Then a rift had opened in the top of the dome and the invaders had descended. Now he could see that the rift was just an illusion used to cover a natural hole in the top of the dome. And he decided that if he wanted to put an end to the invasion, his best bet was to fly through that opening and deal with whoever was on that ship.


Despite appearances to the contrary, Astronema did not have an endless supply of Quantrons to send into battle. Which was one of the reasons why Dark Specter had instructed her to make use of all the different shock troops and foot soldiers he had within his vast empire. It was only in Metropolis that a force made up entirely of Quantrons had been dispatched. Dark Specter had spent a considerable time building a vast army of lower quality Quantrons built from inferior materials to act as cannon fodder. With the addition of a simplified control mechanism, they were ready for deployment. And once they fell in battle, it was a simple matter of transporting the remains back the foundry to be recycled and deployed again.

This was not the sort of plan Dark Specter normally supported. He was known to favour planet wide invasions, but the scale of the assault was unheard of and the loss of so many forces in a single confrontation would never be allowed were it not for the special circumstances surrounding Earth.

For Dark Specter had gained more insight into the little world than other villains. He knew of its power; he understood the nature of the so-called curse and most importantly he grasped its real value. Rita had attacked Earth on a whim, Zedd to prove his superiority over Rita and Master Vile had stepped in to gain the power source known as the Zeo Crystal. They and others like them had been drawn in by the Earth’s power, not realising that that same power made it more and more difficult for them to triumph the longer they tried. A prolonged campaign favoured the Earth and its protectors. But a swift overwhelming invasion? That remained to be seen.

And the success of such a strategy rested on knowing the location of Earth’s defenders by drawing them all into the open. They were fighting battles across the planet, helplessly outnumbered yet seemingly winning. They were being forced to cover an area that was impossible to handle in such small numbers without hurting innocents.

And then there were the areas that had no superheroes to defend them, that relied on soldier and police officers to hold back the surging armies. Those were the areas where the people easily herded into containment areas, realising to their dismay that they were not deemed important enough to have a costumed protector. And that fostered the malcontent that Dark Specter needed for the second part of his plan to succeed.

For now, Astronema concentrated on her role: making certain that all of Earth’s heroes were drawn into battle and securing as much of the planet as possible before moving on to the next step/

"Target Area Sixty-Eight has been secured," Ecliptor told her.

Target Area Sixty-Eight was a small town, hardly an area of global importance. Except that the Earth’s defenders had misunderstood the reasoning behind the positioning of the saucers. They believed that each area was a site of political, historical and technological importance. They failed to grasp that such areas could be important simply because they were inhabited.

"Order Saucer Sixty-Eight to begin exploration," she instructed.

She nodded approvingly. Not only were the massive numbers of flying insect monsters and Velocifighters whittling down the planet’s military forces, they were drawing out any of the special projects the Earth’s governments had developed to use for the protection of their national interests. Dark Specter plan required that all opposition was identified in the early stages of the invasion, making the second stage a guaranteed success.


Not all superheroes were equal. Not everybody could be a Superman or a Lantern. Not every hero that picked up arms to defend the planet had the gifts or Wonder Woman or the speed of Flash. They didn’t all have the ability to fly or fire last beams from their eyes. Some of them were just human. And if one superhero fighting back a never-ending army of mechanoids was difficult with powers, for those that were simply human, it was almost hopeless.

Fortunately for Oliver Queen, the man known to the world as the Green Arrow, despite being simply human he also happened to be extremely rich and creative. Just like Batman, he had received a stripped-down version of one of Tony Stark’s armoured suits. And just like Batman his first step had been to take the whole thing apart and then figure out what he could use. The result was not as impressive as Batman’s new armour, but it provided extra protection where Oliver felt it was needed without limiting his movement.

And while the suit belonged in part to Tony Stark, the arrows he used to take down the enemy, were his own work. And he used every trick arrow he held in his arsenal in a fruitless attempt to hold a line that he knew he could not hold. High voltage electric arrows, exploding arrows that took out multiple targets at the same time, acid arrows that turned the machines it sprayed into puddles of metal.

But it was a losing battle. Even when joined by the local police and anybody brave enough to pick up a gun, Oliver knew that they could not hold their position much longer. But just because he could not stop the robotic warriors did not mean he was prepared to just let them kill him. And he was not going to surrender.

"Shield your eyes!" he ordered as he selected three arrows. One would create a flash of light to blind the enemy, the second would explode and send shrapnel spraying through the machines, and the last arrow would release an energy pulse he hoped would knock out all unprotected electronics in a half block radius. He fired the arrows and closed down his suit’s limited systems for a moment, hoping that it worked. As the flash grenade arrow triggered, he gave the command: "Run!"

He didn’t need to tell his companions twice as they ran for whatever cover they could find. As for the Green Arrow? Well credit for the suit definitely went to Tony Stark, but the car that he had manufactured for when he needed to be on the move… that was all Oliver Queen.

The battle was far from over.


The Speed Force was one of the most complicated powers in all of creation. While it had not been the first power source to emerge, was not the most powerful or the most utilised, and certainly not the best known, its complexity could not be ignored. And just lie some other powers that seeped into the universe from other dimensions, the Speed Force could be tapped into in different ways and at times seemed to be sentient enough to choose how it would make itself available.

The Power Rangers Turbo held a deeper connection to the Speed Force than they realised. Their use of the Turbo Keys and technology provided by the wizard Lerigot meant they had not delved into the full potential of their abilities. But they were young and one day with the right training they would take full advantage of the gifts they had received. Others had been born with a bond to the Speed Force the was buried deep within their DNA and their ancestors. Still more had obtained the connection through accident or near death. And Barry Allen held such a connection to the Speed Force that at times it appeared his relationship with the phenomenon was symbiotic.

All that was well and good, but for Wally West the connection to the Speed Force went deeper than just the physical link he felt. He experienced the Speed Force on a different level. He could feel it pushing him to take action, to move and do the things it desired. It drove him and guided him and in return his ability to utilise his gifts was at times greater than even Barry Allen.

Gifts such as being able to generate massive amounts of electrical energy and direct it at the swarming bug monsters. Or the ability to rotate his arms at high speed creating tornadoes that ripped through the insect horde. Or just creating objects that he propelled at the enemy at high speed. Anything he could do just to slow them as they marched forward.

For it did not take the mental enhancements the Speed Force gifted him for Wally to realise that he was fighting a losing battle. The Justice League had reacted to the emergency by trying to cover as many targets as possible. In doing so they had underestimated the size of the army each member would face. And because of that error, they would be overcome in the end.

There was no way to win the battle when the enemy could continue to send wave after wave of warriors to the fight. So, he decided to change the game and instead of seeking to defend, he went on the attack. For while Barry Allen was arguably the Fastest Man Alive and held the strongest connection to the Speed Force, there were things that Wally could do that Barry could not understand. And one of those things was the ability to use his speed to fly.

It wasn’t really flying. The most accurate descript would be that he was outrunning gravity for a time. It was tiring and difficult to control. One lapse of concentration and he could plummet, but it was an ability that he used to ascend the inside of the energy dome that prevented entry or escape from the city. And when he reached the alien ship at the top of the dome, he used his speed to force his way inside.

And suddenly the attackers found themselves on the defensive.


Magic has a mutagenic effect on the physical world. Left untapped for a while magic would disrupt the local environment causing all manner of strange events to occur. Prolonged background exposure was known to cause mutations in human, animal and plant life. Many of the mutants that had been emerging in recent years owed their existence to magical exposure in infancy or prolonged exposure in their ancestry. Even magical substances such as demon blood or the waste products of magical creatures could mutate those that came into contact with them. And there was well known evidence that the uncontrolled tapping of a magical pocket could leader to disastrous releases of Negative Energy that could turn men into monsters.

Carol Danvers had once been exposed to an uncontrolled magical outburst. For despite the fact that energy that had caused the explosion, which had nearly killed her was advanced alien technology, at its core it was magic moulded to serve its avatar. The magical energy had changed her, transforming her into a weapon of incredible power. And it was in that form as a super-empowered warrior that Captain Marvel fought for her planet’s survival.

There were very few Earthborn heroes that could claim that they had been to outer space. Carol Danvers was one of those few. She had seen the world that was the source of her powers, she had seen and fought the threats that lurked in those dark reaches beyond the focus of many. And then she had chosen to protect her world from the same aliens that tried to destroy it from within.

After some of the foes she had fought these creatures were hardly a challenge, but then she suspected many of those fighting the machines would consider them a challenge. However, she also realised that these beings were not the threat that she needed to worry about. The threat remained the huge saucer hovering over the city and whatever weapons it contained.

It was a threat she was not going to allow to remain as she flew into the sky and headed toward the saucer at full power.


Wakanda

It was probably one of the few locations on the planet where Dark Specter’s forces had found their goals frustrated from the moment they arrived. The energy shield that surrounded Wakanda had prevented them from landing within the kingdom’s border. And when they had finally landed and tried to break through the barrier, they had found themselves unable to do so. It was only when a different creature appeared and walked into the shield that the battle swung in the invading army’s favour.

Somehow the monster was able to feed upon the power of the energy shield, draining it enough for the army to pass through… and straight into the path of the warriors of Wakanda. And then a very one-sided battle had begun.

While the warriors hunted – for there was no way in which the systematic obliteration of the invading army could be described as a battle – the scientists of Wakanda used their technology to unlock the secrets of the invading force. They like so many other were aware that the tactics being shown were a display of appalling strategy. They sought to find out why.

What they found were highly encrypted computer systems with protection that was too elaborate for simple drop ships. Key areas of the saucers were hidden from the internal sensors and important computer routines had been locked away from their access. It quickly became clear that the saucers were there for more than just containment and troop deployment. They were a major part of the invaders’ strategy. They needed to find out what secrets it held before it was too late.

End of Part.


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