Listen carefully, okay? We don't have a lot of time...
It started three years ago. The World Internet Federation reported the appearance of an aggressive new computer worm: The Venjix Virus. A year later it was estimated that Venjix had already infected thirty-seven percent of the world's computer systems.
By then, it was too late.
Venjix took control of the world's communication, power and defense systems. It built armies of advanced robotic soldiers that laid waste to everything in their path. There was no stopping them and Venjix declared victory.
But it's not over… not yet. There is still one place we can be safe: The domed city of Corinth. And the only hope we have left is: The Power Rangers!
THE SUMMER OF TENAYA 7
A POWER RANGERS: RPM STORY BY MARK R. WHITTEN
As the cue ball clacked against the sixth, sending it rolling home into the corner pocket, Summer sidled closer to Dillon. "What do you mean, you never have?"
He shrugged. "I can't remember ever doing it." He kept his eyes on the pool table, angling for his next shot. He seemed uninterested in her question. "Not even once."
His answer surprised her, but she didn't doubt him. Suffering from amnesia, Dillon didn't even know his real name anymore. Since he found his place amongst the Power Rangers, though, he had gained new memories and she suspected that he remembered something like this. "You mean, in all the time since you arrived in Corinth, you've never even tried it?"
"Nope." Dillon chalked his cue and walked around to the other side of the table. His movements were smooth, confident and as he leaned over the table, lining up his shot, she couldn't help but admire his steady hand. He looked up at her and added. "And don't think you're gonna get me to try it, either."
Summer shook her head. She had been trying to get him to sing with her for the better part of a week. He had never even so much as hummed. She had known him for months and although they had become friends, he still kept to himself.
She didn't understand why. In her mind, she and the other Power Rangers were all one big, happy family. Summer smiled despite his response. She wouldn't give up so easily. "C'mon, just once," she prodded. "I bet you'd be good at it..."
Dillon stared at her. "No." He slid the cue stick back and forth and hammered his shot hard. The cue ball clacked against the others and sent three balls slamming into their pockets. He half-smiled, which is most of what he often offered when things went his way.
As Dillon angled for more shots, Summer looked around at The Garage, her favorite place in the world. It was their home: they slept in bunks, took their meals in the kitchenette and played games, all in the spaces surrounding their vehicles. It had a lived-in, casual feel. The expansive room was usually filled with activity, but today Scott was busy elsewhere trying to convince his father, the colonel, that a more aggressive attack against Venjix was in order and Ziggy was milling about in the adjacent Ranger Room.
Flynn was occupied with his truck nearby and since she and Dillon had some free time, Summer thought an effective way to spend time together would be to enjoy her hobby. She had shared it for some time with her friends and although everyone told her how much they appreciated her singing voice, Summer wondered if her recent singing mission was the real reason for the absence of their friends.
She decided that she couldn't blame them for being elsewhere. The entire world was now outside these walls, a city teeming with life: stores, businesses, schools, all very much like it was before. Summer cherished it. Ever since she had arrived in Corinth, she had felt at home. Her life was better here than it had ever been before. She never really had friends before, only people she thought she knew. Sure, there had been laughter, wealth and even fun but with her parents away all the time, she never really felt complete. She guessed that's why she never felt much like singing before.
Corinth was different. There was a beauty to it, a peaceful tranquility and although the entire city was contained within a shielded dome to protect it from the dangers of the wasteland, the holographic projectors conjured a constant image of a peaceful horizon. Walking the streets on sunny days, watching the children playing in the park, Summer found that she often felt like singing but she always had trouble finding someone to join in. She hoped she could get her friends to join her. Dillon seemed like a good candidate.
Months ago, when asked to join the Power Rangers, he only demanded one thing in return: getting his friend Ziggy out of prison.
Having met Ziggy shortly thereafter, Summer was certain he was good too and that he didn't belong in that awful place. He had only been placed there because of his association with Dillon and Dillon was only there because of what Venjix and his mechanical minions had done to him. She couldn't really imagine how horrible it must have been for him, having his memories taken and nearly being transformed into a robot. It wasn't his fault, she knew. He never volunteered to become a hybrid, part- machine and part-man.
Although the other Rangers didn't want to trust him because of this, Summer didn't worry too much about what mechanical enhancements he had; it was his heart that mattered. He had proven that by put his physical enhancements to effective use, his speed and strength allowing him great prowess in battle against Venjix and by the time he became Ranger Series Black, he had already saved her life twice.
Dillon, despite his gruff exterior, gave the definite impression that he had a good heart. As she watched him move around the pool table, his eyes scanning for his next shot, Summer couldn't help but admire his other assets. He was handsome, she couldn't deny that, with his strong jawline and warm brown hair. He was not a machine. He was a man. And she wasn't just a girl anymore. None of them were silly kids in high school; they were all adults and there was no point in pretending to be otherwise. Summer knew she was attracted to him, she just hoped the others weren't so aware of it. She had spent weeks wrestling with her feelings for him, flirting in her own little way, him flirting back in his slightly more obvious one. She enjoyed their little game and suspected he did too.
Just that morning, when Summer was dressing in her usual outfit of yellow shirt and good black jeans, she had thought about leaving her golden hair tied up, like she sometimes did before she arrived in Corinth. She had stood there a moment, looking at herself in the mirror, wondering if she should surprise everyone with something different. Finally, she undid her hair clip and let her blonde locks cascade down around her shoulders. If Dillon liked her, it was for who she was, not who she had been. Besides, she knew he already liked her. She remembered seeing his soulful brown eyes checking her out in the reflection of car windows when she helped the guys wash Scott's red racer or Flynn's big blue truck.
When his gaze lingered on her, she allowed herself a hidden smile.
Although Dillon had earned her trust and the trust of the other Rangers, he was still somewhat mysterious to everyone. Even himself. As he rounded her corner of the pool table, Summer stared at the insignia emblazoned upon the center of his leather Ranger jacket. The wolf in the shape of the number five represented the animal whose DNA had been the basis for his suits powers. It suited him. She knew he was the lone-wolf-sort, with his tendency to go off alone, but she also knew that he did that to protect the people he cared about. He may have been the lone wolf, but he was loyal to his pack.
Summer didn't believe that others always got that about him. They judged him by his sullen outward appearance, the loner who didn't care about anyone but himself. She saw past his gruff exterior. She saw him. The real reason she was coercing him to sing was because she often believed that when you sing, you bear your soul, and she wanted to see his soul, to know she was right about him.
The Garage was the perfect place for it, too. The open spaces provided wonderful acoustics but without music playing, if felt as if there was something missing. Except for the rhythmic sound of the socket wrench Flynn was using on his big blue truck, and the occasional clang of metal on metal when he exchanged tools, The Garage was unusually quiet today.
Too quiet, she decided. "Well, if you won't, then I will." She closed her eyes, cleared her throat and began singing:
"Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed,
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed…"
She crooned the song for him, pouring her heart into it, letting the sound take her away.
"When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong…"
She allowed her voice to trail off, letting Dillon take the rest of the song. She heard nothing, and, after a moment, she opened her eyes.
Dillon was gone.
Summer stared at the cue stick on the green felt of the table and sighed. She had figured that if she showed him all the fun he was missing out on, he might change his mind.
Flynn slid out from under his big blue truck. "Lovely," he said with a genuine smile. His thick Scottish accent made her smile too. He wiped his hands clean with a rag and as he looked around, seemed to take note of Dillon's absence. "I guess it dinnae work."
"I won't give up," Summer declared. "I'll get him singing."
Flynn scratched his short brown hair. "Maybe you should try a different song," he offered. "You've been singing The Rose for the better part of a week, now." He shook his head. "I dinnae think he fancies it, lass."
Summer shrugged. Maybe he was right. As Flynn headed towards the kitchenette for a drink, Summer set down her cue stick and meandered across the Garage. She kept thinking of her plan, trying to find some new angle. She moved past the truck and found herself wandering towards the Ranger Room, the laboratory/training facility and second half of their headquarters.
The sound of Tenaya 7's boot strikes against the metal floor reverberated down the corridor. Her eyes stared straight ahead. Venjix's palace had an efficient design that suited her: stark and bare of ornamentation. None of the frivolous human accruements to distract her from her mission. Sleek and functional, it was a model of unitarian splendor, much like her. Although all the corridors looked the same, she always knew where she was and where she was going. As she approached the center of the palace, she sighed.
Tenaya 7 wasn't looking forward to this meeting. She didn't know what this was about, but she could guess: Another plot to end the Power Rangers once and for all. Master Venjix would tell her what the plan was but it was always basically the same: Take down the shield, destroy the Power Rangers, and obliterate the city. It had been some time since Venjix had conquered the world, laying waste to everything human until all that dominated the planet was machine. But as long as humans thrived in the safety of Corinth, his victory would never be complete.
Constructed with human physiology and emotions, Tenaya Generation: 7, human infiltration attack bot had been created as a way of infiltrating the human defenses and destroying humanity. She was proficient. On her first mission, Tenaya 7 had infiltrated Corinth city and the Power Rangers inner circle.
She even came close to becoming the Green Ranger.
She still remembered holding the Series Green Morpher in her hand. She was seconds away from becoming the final stage of techno awareness. She was then accosted by the imbecile who had chosen her to be the last Power Ranger. They struggled with the morpher until finally he activated it on himself.
Tenaya 7 clenched her fists at the memory. If the fool hadn't taken it from her, she would have destroyed the Power Rangers from within. However, once bonded with the buffoon's DNA, it was irreversible. He was the last Power Ranger and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Master Venjix had elected to destroy her for her failure to acquire the Series Green Morpher and set his grinders to dismantle her, but to everyone's surprise, she destroyed the mechanical minions, proving once again that she was worth keeping around.
As it was, Venjix still needed her. It was obvious why. His other advisors were relatively incompetent. General Crunch was as big a buffoon as the Green Ranger and General Shifter, although smarter than Crunch, still wasn't anywhere near her level. Her human physiology was imperative to Master Venjix's offensive. Tenaya 7 could think like humans, act like humans, live like humans. But she was all machine. Inside her beautifully crafted outward form, there was only wire, circuitry, and gears.
Possessed of dark eyes and long dark hair, she was designed to be a fine-figured young woman, but her true assets were her quick wit and athletic abilities.
She could and had fought all the Power Rangers at once, besting them single handedly.
She was pure power, pure danger and pure evil.
And she was bored.
She took the last corner and as she strode towards the main chamber, she kept any sign of contempt from her face. Master Venjix was no doubt pleased with himself for conceiving his latest plan.
Probably wouldn't work, but Tenaya 7 didn't care; she just wanted some action.
As she strolled into the central chamber, the massive mechanical bulks of Generals Crunch and Shifter turned to face her. As their glowing red eyes fixed on her, she ignored them; they were beneath her. Her own eyes fixed solely on the glaring red orb imbedded in the front of the rotating cylinder which dominated the central chamber. Her master, Venjix the computer virus, was the glowing red light inside of that metallic cylinder and although he had no distinguishing features, there was no doubt in her mechanical mind when that blood red eye was upon her.
She gazed up at it, expectantly. "You summoned me, Master Venjix?"
"Ah, Tenaya-7," his mechanical voice boomed, "Good. You are just in time to witness the completion of my newest weapon." The silver cylinder rotated, turning its crimson orb to the production vat, dominating the side of the room, drawing her gaze to it. The claw tool rose steadily upward and Tenaya 7 could see through the white smoke what it was that Crunch and Shifter seemed so excited about.
As the circular platform displaying her master's newest creation came fully into view, she frowned. In place of the attack bot she anticipated, she beheld only a large rifle. There seemed to be a cord and plug attached to it. There was no apparent energy source. She couldn't imagine what more there was to the weapon. "I'm sorry," she complained, waving her black-gloved hand at the device before her. "What exactly am I supposed to do with this?"
The cylinder rotated, turning the orb back towards her. "Since you failed to acquire the Ranger Series Green Morpher, I'm giving you another chance, Tenaya-7…"
She looked up at him in confusion. "Another chance… to destroy the Power Rangers?"
"No," his voice boomed, "to become one!"
As the big white doors opened with the customary sound of twenty-first century technology, Summer considered what Flynn had said. He may have been right but she wanted a second opinion. As she entered, she couldn't help but notice the Ranger Room's efficient design, a stark contrast to the lived-in feel of the adjacent Garage. The white walls and floor always made walking through those double doors feel like stepping into another world. Her eyes roamed over the glass cases against the nearest wall, each display holding their Ranger Uniforms when they weren't being worn. Red, Blue, her own beloved Yellow, Green and Black all resplendent in their own case, their respective numbers emblazoned on the front of the uniforms and on the wall above each one.
Their powers were derived from animals, blending the DNA of fierce creatures with their uniforms. Scott's Red was the eagle, Flynn's Blue was the lion, her own Yellow was powered by the bear, while Ziggy's Green uniform was an orca and Dillon's Black was the wolf.
As she turned away from the protective cases, she found Doctor K, the creator of project ranger and their self-appointed mentor, working at her computer station. Although younger than all of them—Summer guessed her age to be about eighteen—the confidence with which she spoke made her seem wise beyond her years. Summer supposed she was. Doctor K was easily the most intelligent person in the entire city and although she still dressed in her school uniform, the authoritative lab-coat she wore over it every day reinforced the fact that she knew exactly what she was talking about.
"Ranger Series Yellow," Doctor K said in that airy voice of hers, "Is there something I can help you with?" Engrossed in her research, she often spoke to them without looking away from her three computer monitors.
Summer didn't know why, but ever since she had known her, Doctor K had always referred to the Rangers by their assigned colors. She never questioned it, though. "Actually, I was hoping to talk to Ziggy for a minute."
Ziggy, or as Doctor K insisted on calling him, "Ranger Series Green," was hovering around their mentor's desk. "Me?" he asked. "Okay. Sure." He wandered toward her, his big brown eyes lit with excitement at the prospect of being helpful. "What do you want to talk about?"
He was Dillon's best friend, as they had arrived in Corinth together. Although he hadn't known him much longer than the others, he seemed to have a special kinship with the lone wolf. If she wanted some inside information, Summer figured she'd better try him. "Ziggy," Summer asked as she folded her arms. "What am I doing wrong?"
His brown eyes lit up with seeming comprehension. "Oh! You mean that whole 'getting him to sing' mission." He cleared his throat. "You, uh, you still on that?" he asked, scratching his head of unruly dark hair. When she nodded, Ziggy continued. "Look, ah, Dillon's a cool customer." He shrugged. "I'm not sure anything will really work." He thought a minute. "Well, maybe if you tried a new approach…"
"Unlikely," Doctor K added under her breath. Her fingers filled the room with the tapping sound of her typing.
Summer looked past Ziggy. Seeing them both staring at her, Doctor K sighed. "An original approach isn't going to help." She kept her eyes on the monitors in front of her as she continued to explain in that detached manner of hers how she saw it. "With his inherent loneliness caused by his memory loss, his emotional state is not currently congruent with what you wish he would do."
Ziggy frowned. "Okay, what, ah, what does that mean, exactly?"
Doctor K sighed again. "Simply put, Ranger Black doesn't sing for Ranger Yellow because he does not feel like singing." She resumed typing. "If you like, I can have Ranger Red order Ranger Black to sing." She gave Summer a meaningful look. "But don't expect that to work either."
Summer knew the truth of that. Dillon only followed orders when he felt like it. "I'm not giving up," she declared. "I'll just keep singing, showing him how much fun I'm having." Summer smiled. "He'll join in, eventually."
Doctor K shook her head without looking away from her computer screen. "I'm afraid that employing the same flawed strategy repeatedly is not likely to make it more effective."
Summer was just about to say she didn't believe that when the ranger alarm started blaring. "What is it?" she asked, joining Ziggy moving around the desk to look at the monitors.
Doctor K tapped furiously at her keyboard. "A breach in the city's shield." She typed faster. "Northeast sector of the city. I'm contacting the other Rangers. Singing lessons will have to wait, Ranger Yellow. It's time to go to work."
Tenaya 7 hoisted her new rifle into position. The grinders surrounded her, creating a protective barrier. "Just keep them busy," Tenaya 7 told them. "I need time to charge the weapon."
"Guess what?" came an all too familiar voice. Tenaya 7 looked up to see Red Ranger's cocky grin. "Time's up!"
Tenaya 7 growled. "Attack!"
The grinders rushed in, swarming the rangers who didn't even bother to morph. No point, really. Grinders were numerous but not so effective without greater numbers. They served their purpose well enough. While they were being thrashed, she focused her attention on charging the weapon.
She turned to General Crunch. "Well, don't just stand there," she scolded him, "plug it in!"
His mechanical fingers gripped the plug. He hopped around to her back. She held her hair out of the way. She could feel the plug insert into the port in the back of her neck. "System online," she said out of reflex. "Send in the smog bot."
By her command, the mechanical man leapt into action, his stove pipe arms billowing thick black smoke which engulfed the rangers. He was doing an excellent job of keeping them separated from Yellow and upping the ante. Seeing they were outmatched, all but Ranger Yellow went for their morphers, each raising their hand- held devices, pushing the button and issuing their security command call-out.
"RPM," they shouted in unison. "Get in Gear!"
Through the billowing black clouds, she could see each bright uniform materialize, identifying each individual Ranger. There was red, the perfect one. And near him was black, the brooding bad boy. Green was fighting well; for a clown. Blue was watching his back.
And there, all by her lonesome was poor Ranger Series Yellow; the one she had been looking for. Tenaya 7 gazed out at the battle, her mental command lowered her visor instantly into place. Amongst the broken scrap of grinders, each Ranger was engulfed by the Smog Bot's attack, but she could see that Ranger Yellow, still dealing with the remaining grinders, had yet to morph. "Excellent," Tenaya 7 said with a grin. Her enemy kicked the last grinders away and raised her own morpher.
"How perfectly predictable," Tenaya 7 sneered. She raised her weapon at Ranger Yellow…
Summer could see Tenaya 7 doing something in the distance. It didn't matter. She was about to morph and that was always a game-changer. As she pressed the button on her morpher and completed her vocal callout, she felt energy course through her, enhancing her strength, her speed, making her feel more aware, more awake, more alive. She always loved morphing. It felt as though she really were connected to the biosphere which powered their suits, as if she were connected to all living things. Summer wondered if her friends ever felt the same way. She would have to remember to ask them.
As the uniform materialized around her, strapping into place, she saw Tenaya 7 raise her weapon. Summer's eyes flicked to her friends for a moment, but she soon realized that her concern for them was unwarranted: Tenaya 7 wasn't aiming at them; she was aiming at her!
As Yellow began to access the Biofield, Tenaya 7 took aim. She smiled. "Bye, bye, Ranger Yellow!" and with a thought, she activated the weapon. As it discharged, blinding light burned through her, overwhelming her. She felt her own essence being ripped away. She heard herself scream. The last thing she experienced was sweeping towards Yellow with impossible speed as the energy blast linked with the biofield and delivered her into her new home.
As it slammed her into her target, she heard the gratifying sound of her Ranger Yellow's screaming.
If she could have, Tenaya 7 would have laughed aloud at the sound.
Suddenly, everything dimmed to black.
When she could see again, she was peering out from the mask of one ranger, looking into the mask of another. It was Ranger Red. He was so close. Her muscles burned with fury as she struggled to stand.
"Summer," he asked, "are you all right?"
Tenaya 7 looked up at him and grinned. "I'm fine," she said, in Summer's unfamiliar voice. "I'm just fine..."