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[personal profile] zeshaika
Title: Project Nexus
Chapter: Not So Happy Days
Rating: T
Fandom: TGWTG/ Spoony Experiment
Character(s): Nostalgia Critic, Nostalgia Chick, MarzGurl, Spoony, Linkara, Doctor Tease , Doctor Insano, Professor Celluloid, Malachite, Bennett The Sage
Pairing(s): None
Warnings: AU. mild language, violence.

Disclaimer:Any recognizable characters that appear in this fic are property of their respective contributors at ThatGuyWithTheGlasses , therefore I do not own them, nor do I intend any disrespect toward either the character or the contributor portraying them. Also any concepts/ideas borrowed from Power Rangers/Super Sentai are property of Saban and Toei, respectively. Any other properties mentioned/used are also property of their respective owners.


*Special Note: This chapter marks the beginning of this story being co-written with EsaEnai of Fanfiction.Net,I strongly encourage you to check out her work, especially if you are a Lord of the Rings or Doctor Who fan.

It must have been only minutes later, but if anyone were to ask him, Critic would have told them it felt more like hours. He woke up to someone kicking his head. He snapped his neck up, eyes blearily focusing on the first thing he could see.

The Pink Ranger was lying on the ground in front of him, and though he couldn’t see her face he could only imagine the glare she was aiming at him.

“Wake up, moron,” she hissed under her breath.

The Critic blinked slowly; his brain seemed to be a few steps behind. As he focused, he realized that his shoulders were hurting. As well as every inch of his body. He tried to push himself off the ground, but couldn’t move. Why were his hands tied? He wondered, as he felt something tug against this wrists.
A sudden force pressed into his back, and he craned his head around to find the end of the bo staff resting just below his neck.

“Don’t move,” the General rasped through his mask. Critic nodded slightly, and the General stepped away, turning his back to the Rangers and consulting a screen on his wrist.

Critic looked back to his friends; they had been dropped, unconscious, to the floor next to Sage, who was simply staring at them in disbelief.
Admittedly, Critic was just a little surprised that Sage hadn’t passed out from shock yet. He knew that if he were in his shoes at the moment, he would have fainted from having so many weird things happen in the span of under an hour. Of course, afterward, he’d claim he was just playing dead to protect himself.

Although Critic couldn’t get a good look at the device, he could tell that it appeared far too technologically advanced for something that any of Malachite’s forces would use.

Then again, Malachite was a hypocrite when it came to technology, so it stood to reason that his minions were in the same mental boat.

The Red Ranger strained his ears to hear as The General began to speak into the device. Unfortunately, this seemed to be difficult, as that The General’s mask seemed to now be muffling the creature’s voice.

Why wasn’t this man killing them, yet? Critic wondered, as a vague note of panic sang through his nerves. All it would take was for the General to take a swift jab through the Rangers chests with his electric trident-spear.

Calmly, the General knelt beside Sage and rested a hand on the terrified reviewer’s shoulder as he whispered something in his ear. Again, a wave of panic stricken adrenaline shot through the Red Ranger’s veins as he struggled harder against bonds that refused to yield.

“Don’t…” He could hear Chick shout to the General in a hoarse whisper, “Don’t touch him, you ugly son of a bitch!”
The helmeted General only made a motion that that one could assume was similar to annoyed eye-roll, before turning his attention back to the terrified anime reviewer.

Damn it, Critic swore to himself, his muscles now burning and aching as they rebelled against his efforts to break free. Perhaps, much like with Tegon’s spell, he’d see Sage engulfed in a cocoon of light, only to emerge as some twisted feral creature. Or maybe this man was more of a subtle spellcaster than his lizard-like comrade; and was doing something that, while not altering Sage’s physical appearance, but would change his mind—either turning him against them, or making it even harder for them to restore his memories, should they even manage to rescue him.

Although sweat beaded on Sage’s forehead, and his chest heaved in short but deep breaths like one trying his hardest to keep calm, he only nodded in response to the words that only him and the General could heard. Almost immediately, his breathing calmed,

The shark-masked man stood again, now strolling over to Critic with the gliding steps of a predator.  The Red Ranger’s heart beat began to beat so rapidly that he was afraid that it was going to fly out of his chest as the man loomed over him, glaring down at him through the onyx visor of his helmet.

The General gripped the Red Ranger by the back of his helmet, slowly but painfully lifting him up until his masked face was just inches away from Critic’s own. Staring into the blackened eye of this creature’s helmet was like staring into the depths of the abyss itself. He could just barely see himself reflected back—a blur of dull red amongst a sea of emptiness.

“So,” The General’s metallic voice hissed, “Anything you’d like to ask me?”

“Yeah,” Critic snarked as his voice returned to him, “I got one question for you: Does Darth Vader know you’re stealing his gimmick?”

The General laughed, his voice cold and rough through the static, like shards of glacial rock against ones’ skin.  Yet, underneath the static’s gravelly distortions, there rang a faint flicker of a warm fire of familiarity, like a laugh of a close friend or family member.

Involuntarily, a cold shiver ran down the Red Ranger’s spine like an icy waterfall.

“Maybe,” The General laughed, “George Lucas should use me as a stand in for the Super Hyper Turbo Deluxe Extended Directors’ HD Edition re-release.”

Again, The Red Ranger and his two teammates blinked, Linkara and Chick managing to exchange puzzled looks. None of them were sure that they could accurately come up with words to describe this man that held them captive. Then again, what could one possibly say about a mage who took pot-shots at Star Wars while holding a man’s head as if it were a grapefruit, outside of “he’s completely psycho?”

Critic’s movements became like a frantic animal trying to escape the clutches of a predator. His legs, though numb with pain, flailed about uselessly, scrambling to kick whatever square inch of the armored man he could. 

Suddenly, he heard the sound of footsteps echoing from the opposite end of the hall. Out of the corner of his eye, Critic caught a bit of blue and yellow almost like glowing neon against the dull monochrome.

The General, seemingly amused by the appearance of two new opponents, loosened his grip on Critic as his head turned toward the two newcomers, watching them as MarzGurl hacked at the ropes binding the wrists of her fellow reviewers.

A fierce roar emitted from the Red Ranger as he threw himself backwards, kicking his feet out. A startled gasped followed by a pained grunt escaped the General as Critic’s foot connected with the man’s black armor, as he pushed himself free.  The ropes binding his wrists together creaked as they yielded to the newly refueled force of his efforts.

His hands now free, Critic hastily typed in the code to summon his weapon and joined the others.  The Pink and Green Rangers, now also freed from their bonds, followed their leader, and also summoned their weapons in a flash of light, forming a protective barrier between Sage and the General.

“Where the hell were you guys?” Critic asked over his shoulder to the Yellow and Blue Rangers.

“Well excuse me,” Spoony snapped, “But it’s a little hard to find you guys when this place is like a billion miles wide and we’ve got no way of getting a lock on you because the damn communicators are busted. Oh! And, let’s not forget the fact that we’re busy getting our asses kicked by Tegon and a bunch of greaser punks. Next time we’ll try harder, okay?”

Critic blinked as the Yellow Ranger pointedly looked away from him. The gamer’s posture seemed oddly stiff as his hands tightly gripped the battle hammer in his hands. It was like looking at a dormant volcano just on the verge of springing to life again—nobody was sure when it would reawaken and spew forth molten lava and ash, but they knew that should it happen, the results would be devastating.

“Oh, by the way,” Linkara said, motioning toward the General, “Have you guys met Tall Dark and Ugly yet? If not, allow me to introduce him to you.”

“Oh, believe me,” MarzGurl replied, “I know him.”

The pure, unbridled loathing that growled in the Blue Ranger’s voice gave everyone on the battlefield pause. Not even in her most ranting of reviews, had any of them ever heard her sound this pissed at anyone ever before.
“You what?” Critic asked, “What do you mean ‘you know him’?”

“I met him back in our dimension,” MarzGurl explained, gripping her hand axes tighter, “Long story short; this bastard tried to kidnap me.”

“So,” Chick said aloud, “That confirms it, doesn’t it? This guy’s definitely working for Malachite.”

The General’s grip on his weapon slacked, as he lowered his guard. His body was rigid; shoulders tense and his feet planted into the ground, as if he were trying to keep himself from stumbling back.

Marzgurl…”  The man breathed quietly, his voice barely able to be heard over the crackling static.

In response, the Blue Ranger and her teammates raised their weapons, posing in a battle formation that, while fierce, felt more than a little ridiculous to them.  If this was a trick, they silently agreed, then they weren’t going to allow themselves to fall for it.

“So,” The onyx armored General sighed, as he picked up his trident like staff again, “I guess how that’s how things are going to be between us, huh?  I guess I might as well play the part, then.”

With a blur of motion, a handful of Synthspectors—standing in the corners like forgotten statues—sprang to life, morphing into their usual ghostly, faceless selves as they descended upon the Rangers like a swarm of angry wasps.

“Oh yeah?” Critic challenged, readying his sword into an attack position, “Bring it on, Sith Lord.”

He started to rush toward the General, but was stopped as an arm shot out in front of him, catching him lightly in the chest.

“Leave this jerk to me,” MarzGurl said, resting her hand on his shoulder, “I’ve got a score to settle with him. You guys just keep the Synthspectors off my back, okay?”

Critic opened his mouth to protest. How was MarzGurl expecting to take on this guy alone, when he’d taken out three of them without breaking a sweat? But, just as quickly as he opened his mouth, something in his mind warned him against it.

Perhaps it was the tone of the cartoon reviewer’s voice, or perhaps it was how he could almost feel her staring at him through the visor of her helmet, but something told him that this was something she felt she needed to do. Like Malachite, this General had crossed a line, and had made it personal for the Blue Ranger.

So instead; he simply nodded as MarzGurl rushed ahead of the team, the silver of her hand-axes glowing white under the gray fluorescent light of the hallway as the clashed with the blades of the General’s staff-like weapon.

At the edge of the battlefield, Sage spat in disgust as he pulled the last of the tape off from over his mouth. Slowly, he tried to speak again, his lips struggling against a film of sticky tape residue.

“Wait,” he tried to call, “You guys—”

But, his words were lost to the clash and bang of combat erupting all around him. It didn’t matter, he shrugged, a maniac grin coming over his face as he as his fist smashed into a near-by glass case, withdrawing a heavy, round fire extinguisher and a small, red fireman’s hatchet.

A Synthspector, having been tossed by the Yellow Ranger, flew across the room toward Sage. With the quickness of a tiger, the faceless monster twisted its body around, lunging at the anime reviewer.

Sage swung the hatchet, wincing just slightly as he watched the blade cleanly slice through the creature’s body. He winced as the creature’s split skin melted and stretched with an uncomfortably squishing sound as it reformed itself.  However, despite this, the creature still was thrown backwards, landing on the ground with a very audible thud.

The manic smile on the anime reviewer’s face curled into a demented Cheshire Cat grin, as watched the creature climb back onto it’s feet.

Finally, he almost laughed, after spending his entire existence in this universe as the dweeb that everyone picked on, he had a chance to unlock those demented instincts that made him feel so out of place in this sugar-coated optimist’s nirvana. 

Again, he grinned and rushed into the fray, gleefully hacking through a group of attacking faceless humanoids like a kid who’d just been given the keys to a candy store, glad to have targets that would last a few rounds against him.
-----
Minutes passed as the battle raged, spilling out from the narrow hallways of the school building, onto the football field. In MarzGurl’s mind, it hadn’t seemed much like they’d moved at all, until she paused for a second as she felt a faint, warm breeze brushed against her suit, and the distant screams of innocent civilians fleeing the scene.

But, she had no time to muse on this, as that a burning heat warmed her body, aching for her to take another swing at this creature who’s very existence seemed to offend her to her very core.

The battle had devolved into a stand-off between them. MarzGurl’s shoulders heaved in time with the rise and fall of her panting breaths as the two circled one another like a pair of wolves in a dogfight.

She studied his stance carefully, despite the ringing ache dulling her senses, searching for a momentary weakness in his stance. Something wasn’t right, she thought as a spark of annoyance danced on the ends of her nerves.

His movements had seemed too restrained, dodging attacks that could have been easily parried and countered, and missing even the easiest and cheapest of shots. What was stranger was that, outside of the electrically charged blades of his spear, he seemed to be sticking primarily to physical combat over magic, more so than either of his comrades.

What was his game, she wondered, was he deliberately trying to mess with her head, or was there some other reason for him to be holding back like he was?

“Hey,” MarzGurl taunted as the the burn of fatigue tingled in her lungs, “What’s up, pal? Getting tired or something? I expected you to put up more of a fight.”

“Funny,” The General laughed, “I was expecting little less of a fight. You’ve gotten a hell of a lot tougher since Kickassia. Not that you weren’t already tough enough back then.”

MarzGurl’s eyes widened as her gut felt like it’d been hit with a ton of bricks. Nervously, her gloved fingers loosened around the hilts of her twin axes, as her fingertips suddenly felt numb.

“Who,” she asked, “are you?”

The General suddenly fell quiet, his arms folded across his chest, his hand stroking the chin of his shark-like helmet. He stared at the Blue Ranger with eyes, had they not been concealed by the impenetrable black visor, which may have been far away and remorseful.

But, no sooner had a static hiss escaped the General’s mask, before a loud, thunderous explosion. Thick clouds of gray smoke and debris rolled across the field, blanketing the Blue Ranger’s vision in a thick haze.

As the smoke started to clear, MarzGurl had noticed two things immediately. One was that the others and Sage had regrouped nearer to her. The second, was that the armored clad General was no longer the only one on the field.

Like a ghost materializing from the ether, Tegon stepped out of the burning gray fire, his sword drawn and a familiar manic glint dancing across his masked, lizard-like face. A placid, almost unnerving, grin twisted across his lips as he made a flourishing motion with his hand.

The critics moved closer together, instinctively trying to reform the barrier around Sage, as the fallen Synthspectors twitched, shambling their way back into a standing position. Admittedly, it took most of the reviewers’ strength and willpower not to wince uncomfortably as the faceless humanoids crawled, twisting and moving in ways that they were sure no human could possibly move without possibly snapping a few bones and muscles in the process.

“Honestly,” Tegon sneered, “You must be gluttons for punishment. We both know exactly what’ll happen if you insist on taking us on like this. Wouldn’t be much less painful for all of us—especially Sage—if you just hand him over now? I’m sure that Malachite would gladly grant him a swift and painless death.”

“Hey, about that,” Sage replied, “Here’s the thing; I don’t make a very interesting dead guy. You on the other hand, being the strange lizard human hybrid that you are, would probably make an interesting autopsy. See, I’m wondering if your insides are more like a lizard’s, or more like a human’s, or maybe a weird hybrid of the two.”

Tegon laughed as Sage charged at him, swinging the small hatchet at the dragon-like man with a fury born from months of quiet suppression boiling over like bubbling liquid on a hot stove.

Without even so much as blinking, Tegon sidestepped Sage’s attack, casually deflecting his attack with a casual swipe of his sword. Again, Sage tried to counter, only to find Tegon’s knee catching him swiftly in the gut, knocking the hatchet out of his hands. Before the anime reviewer could hit the ground, his assailant grabbed him roughly around his neck, pulling him just inches off the ground.

“I’m impressed,” Tegon replied, “You held up better than I expected against me. Of course, you’re still in over your head. Perhaps you would do better against opponents who are more your speed?”

Faster than any of them could react, Tegon began chanting, gathering together the energy of the Synthspectors into a ball of energy. Sage let out a choked gasp as the dragon-man’s claw like fingers pressed against his back, feeling as cold as liquid nitrogen as they guided the shimmering, pulsating ball of concentrated evil into the depths of his core.

Like with the other transformations, a glow began to surround Sage’s body. But, also like the other times this happened, this glow did nothing to shield the observers from the twisting and gruesome transformation that took place.

However by now, the critics had become somewhat accustomed to seeing these horrible, nightmarish mutations that they weren’t near as shocked or disgusted by it. It was like watching a scene from a horror film that someone’s watched multiple times. The actual horror and shock of the scene had long since faded, replaced only with an uncomfortable nauseous lurching of dread in their stomachs.

None of them were all that surprised when the light faded and Sage emerged as a hulking, humanoid bear-like creature.

“Huh,” Spoony commented with an amused chuckle, “So Sage got turned into a geekier version of Kuma from Tekken. I don’t think I could have seen that one coming.”

“How couldn’t you have?” Critic snarked, “I mean, he only transformed into the mascot for like one of the only two towns in this universe that we know of. Yeah, who could have possible not seen that coming?”

“Well,” Linkara said, “Considering that the last two times this has happened, we fought against humanoid sea creatures, I could see why we wouldn’t expect the next transformation to be a bear.”

“Hey guys,” Chick said, tapping her foot impatiently, “Unless one of you wants to start quoting Christopher Walken from that god awful Country Bears movie, then I suggest we get a move on. This overly-saccharine monochrome nightmare is really starting to get on my nerves.”

“Hang on guys,” MarzGurl said, holding up a hand, “I want to try something.”

The other four exchanged dubious looks with one another as MarzGurl stepped ahead of them, her weapons lowered and her arms open and at her sides to indicate that she meant no harm.

“Sage,” she said, her voice, though shaking, was gentle and measured, “Look, I know that you probably don’t recognize us in these weird suits; but we’re you’re friends. I’m not sure if you can hear me because of the spell or not, but you’ve got to wake up and fight this.”

For a moment, a tense silence fell over the battlefield as Sage’s monster form stared through her, as if he wasn’t sure whether to trust this strange woman clad entirely in blue. However this hesitation was very short lived as Sage let out a fearsome roar that shook the grounds below them and lumbered toward them, followed closely by Tegon.  With a battle cry of their own, the five rushed across the field, brandishing their weapons and engaging with combat.

“Okay,” MarzGurl said, “So that didn’t work. Plan B—I’m going in for round two with the Dark Knight. Linkara; cover me!”

The Green Ranger nodded, firing blasts from his twin pistols as he rushed over to the Blue Ranger’s side.  With a startled yelp, the Blue Ranger stumbled as a stray shockwave of electricity from the General’s spear hit her in the chest, forcing the comic book reviewer to practically leap the last few yards of distance between them as he scrambled to catch her.

“Marz?” He asked, helping her stand, “You okay?”

“You’re not going to go all ‘take comfort in my masculine arms’ like you did in Kickassia,” MarzGurl asked, grinning despite the faint wooziness she felt as she stood, “are you?”

Linkara shook his head.

“Then I’m fine.” She replied, dusting herself off.

But, unfortunately, this slight delay had been adequate enough time to allow the General to escape, disappearing somewhere in the ever darkening grayscale forest of pine-trees outside the field.

“Damn it,” MarzGurl swore to herself as she scanned the empty skyline to no avail, “Where’d he run off to?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Linkara replied, resting a hand on her shoulder, “If he’s anything like Tegon and Devafen, then I get a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of him in the future.”

The Blue Ranger nodded as she cast one last look behind her, hoping to catch even a glimpse of the dark-armored General, before following Linkara back towards the others.
-----
Back with the others, the others were beginning to know what the phrase “being thrown around like a ragdoll” actually felt like.

Spoony groaned as Sage’s claws tore through his suit, raking a deep trail of bleeding gashes across his mid-section, sending a fiery pain shooting through him as the claws pressed against his other injuries.

But, as soon as he stumbled back from that, he’d found himself being tossed into the path of a second attack by Tegon, who merely tossed him back to his bear-like companion.  Every so often, one of the Rangers would manage to block an attack and exchange it with one of their own.
Tegon leapt into the air, forcing Chick to roll out of the way as he brought down his sword, only for Spoony to rush into the way, and block the attack with his hammer.

Unfortunately, the sudden movement did very little favors for the Yellow Ranger’s injuries, forcing his stance to be slightly off as just as a sharp pain shot through his side.

Thankfully, however, Tegon was unable to take advantage of this, as just as he was landing, the Pink Ranger had managed to shoot a pink energy charged bolt from her crossbow, grazing the lizard-man’s shoulder as it zipped by him like a hummingbird. Tegon grunted as he was knocked on his back.

However, just as quickly as he had fallen, he stood back up again, clutching the bleeding cut on his shoulder. But, the two paid very little attention to him as they rushed to rejoin Critic, who now accompanied by Linkara and MarzGurl, was exchanging blows with a very infuriated Sage.

“Any reason,” MarzGurl mused aloud, as she countered a few swipes of Sage’s claws, “Why it seems like Chick’s always the one fighting Tegon? This makes like, what, four times that she’s fought him now? You think that it might go deeper than just a vendetta?”

“Don’t know,” Chick replied, as she and Linkara fired a few more blasts, showering the field in sparks “And honestly, I don’t want to know.”

The battle continued in a few more moments, with both teams exchanging one hit for another, with no clear victor in sight. While the critics had the advantage of having greater      numbers, Sage and Tegon had the advantage of delivering attacks that had greater impact—thanks in no small part to the unrestrained power of Sage’s monster form.

The fact that they were fighting Tegon and Sage alone bothered Critic. Why hadn’t Devafen returned with Tegon? He wondered. And, what about that General guy? Why had he suddenly fled? Surely, between the three of them and Sage, they could have wiped the floor with the Rangers. Wouldn’t Malachite want to twist the odds in his favor like that?

On second thought, Critic wondered, why weren’t they doing what they could to twist the odds in their favor?

“Hey guys,” Critic said in between countering and dodging strikes, “I just thought of something.”

“Oh, good for you,” Chick snarked between blasts “Did it hurt?”

“Shut up,” the Red Ranger replied, “But seriously---We’ve got a giant robot, right? So why don’t we just summon it and just flatten these guys?”

“Code of the Ranger,” Linkara replied in a matter of fact tone, “‘never escalate a fight unless it’s absolutely necessary’. Besides, we’re trying to save the others, not kill them.”

“Well,” Spoony joked between strained breaths as he clutched his ribs “That and the fact that I’m pretty sure none of us want to have to keep hosing off bits of bloody pulpy flesh and guts out from under Neutro’s feet after every mission.”


“Speaking of,” MarzGurl said, “do you think that we’ve tired Sage out enough for us to be able to use the cannon and move on to the next stage of the fight?”

The others nodded in agreement as they dismissed their weapons to whatever subspace they resided in, exchanging it with the large cannon that, like most of their arsenal, was designed specifically for the purposes of removing severe magical spells with minimal damage.

As a burning, shimmering orb of energy barreled forth, burrowing into the monster-form of their fellow co-worker to battle its opposite force, the Rangers couldn’t help but silently wish that this would have been the end of the battle there.

It had been easy during their first mission; the enemy hadn’t had the foresight to reinforce their spells upon the reviewers with a failsafe that turned them into giant, sixty-foot tall monsters.

However, despite the fact they knew they should get used to this, they couldn’t help but feel an ever-tightening knot in their stomachs as they watched Sage’s body flicker like a candle between human and monster as a violent pinpoint of light glowed brightly over his heart.

Each of them hoped that unlike the last time this had happened, that perhaps it would be Sage’s true form that would emerge from the silent struggle, thus negating the spell’s effects and the need to have to prolong this fight. Not that they thought  pilot a titanic, armored, mechanized death machine and fight giant monsters wasn’t awesome—they just wished that the giant monsters that they had to fight against didn’t also happen to be one of their co-workers.

Unfortunately, it seemed that, just like the previous time, Sage’s body was engulfed in an ever-growing violet light. The light, already bright enough to blind, seemed even harsher and eerie as it bathed the black and white fields in ugly, nightmarish shades.

And, much like the previous time, a larger version of their transformed co-worker materialized from the rapidly fading light. Another beast-like howl roared from the bear-man’s throat, sending the last of the civilians who had been too fascinated by the fight to flee, running as far away from the football field as they could, for fear of being crushed under his massive paw-like feet.

“So,” Linkara said “Anyone else realize that we might not have thought this through?”

“What do you mean?” Spoony joked, “We just unleashed a freaking gigantic, rampaging grizzly bear in the middle of a place that, up until today, didn’t even know that anything existed beyond their little corner of the multiverse, and are probably going to need centuries of therapy to even begin to comprehend any of this. Yeah, I’d say we thought this through perfectly.”

“Okay,” Linkara explained “but consider that, at some point during the energizing process, our communications with Insano and the others got somehow damaged. I’m guessing that the only reason we were able to access our suits and weapons is because their being stored in some sort of subspace in our morphers.”

“Linkara,” Chick interrupted, “As much as we know you love to go on long winded lectures, seeing as how super-sized Yogi Bear over there just punched through the high school, could you please get to the point?!”

“Fine,” the Green Ranger huffed, “Point: There’s a good chance the Neutro Megazord is a bit too large to simply conjure up like we do the weapons. We might need Insano and the others to help us summon it.”

Critic opened his mouth to speak, but quickly quieted as a familiar crackling of static echoed from his morpher. Hurriedly, he brought his arm level with his shoulder and pressed a button.

“Hello?” he called, hesistantly, “Insano? Is that you?”

Of course it’s me,” Insano’s shrill voice rang, “We were just lucky enough to get communications back online. Oh, and we picked up a massive surge of energy in your current location. I’m guessing that it’s safe to say that you found Sage, isn’t it?”

“Yep,” Critic sighed, “And then Tegon showed up with this armored tank of a dude calling himself The General. They fled the scene, but not before dragon-breath turned Sage into a giant grizzly bear.”

Hehehe,” Insano laughed, “That must be quite a sight. A giant bear rampaging through the streets of suburbia. Note to self: once this is all done with, develop a giant rampaging grizzly bear for world domination plans.”

“Save it for later,” Chick shouted, practically pulling Critic’s arm out of it’s socket, “Again, am I the only one who seems to be noticing that SAGE IS RUNNING A  FREAKING RAMPAGE AND COULD POSSIBLY KILL HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT BYSTANDERS?!?”

Erm…right,” Insano cleared his throat, “Anyways, the transport systems are still under repairs. If we divert power from other sources, we might be able to give the system enough of a jolt to get it running again temporarily. At least until we can get most of the systems back online.”

“So what are you waiting for?!” Critic asked, the urgency in his voice growing with each syllable spoken.

Hold your horses, will you?” the mad scientist’s voice whined, “We’re working on it as we speak! It’s not like flipping on a light switch, you know. These things take a little time.”

A few seconds of anxious waiting passed as faint blips and beeps echoed through the static.

Okay,” Insano replied, finally, “I think it should be operational. Try now.”

The transmission ended with a feeble burst of static as the five Rangers gave a quick, tentative nod to one another as they input the command on their morphers. A deep rumbling and whirring of mechanical noise filled the air, as a flash of white light filled the air.

Slowly, Neutro—or the Neutro Megazord as they had taken to calling the upgraded form of the robot—descended from the sky,  it’s eyes flashing as its five pilots teleported into the cockpit, assuming control of the humanoid death machine.

Sage blinked, pausing in its aimless destruction as the robot’s shadow fell upon him.  The beast’s eyes narrowed as they fell upon the giant blue and silver robot that circled him. Immediately, the instincts of his monster form took over, as he bared his teeth and let out a low, threatening growl.

Soon, the second half of the battle commenced as the two exchanged blows with one another.  It was only a small relief, they sighed, that unlike in their fight with Welshy, Sage seemed to be favoring more physical attacks, over any special abilities.

However, as small of a comfort as it was, it was easily crushed in the face of the fact that Sage’s attacks, while slower, were more powerful and brutal, as if whatever of the spell’s energy could be used for special abilities had been channeled into giving him above average strength.

Sparks flew as Sage tackled Neutro, pinning the robot to the ground as he tore at it with his massive paws.
The screeching groan of bending and ripping metal filled the inside of the cockpit as puffs of smoke emitted from the sparking consoles, filling the small space with the acrid smell of brunt metal an plastic.

“Huh,” Spoony mused aloud as he flipped a few switches, trying his best to normalize the network, “I never thought I'd say this; but there’s almost something kind of comforting about Sage trying to rip our internal organs out with his bare hands.”

“And I thought I was the one who hit my head too hard,” MarzGurl commented under her breath, as she took control of one of the arms, delivering a swift hook to Sage’s jaw with enough force to knock him off of them.

“I dunno,” Spoony replied, “It just feels like something that normal Sage would do y’know?”

“True.” Critic agreed, steadying himself as the giant robot shakily rose, its feet guided by Linkara and Chick’s controls.

Again, the giant robot moved forward, clumsily grabbing Sage, wrestling with the bear-man’s thrashing limbs as it struggled to break free of the hold that they had put him in. After a few moments of struggling, Sage’s movements slowed, having clearly started to wear himself out from the struggle.

“Alright  everyone,” Critic said flipping a few switches on the control panel in front of him as they let go of Sage, tossing him into a large clearing about a hundred yards away, “It’s time to wrap this up. Begin the seizure-inducing Care Bear’s Stare chest-laser attack!”

“Neutro Megazord Final Attack Sequence,” Linkara corrected him with an exasperated sigh.

“Yeah,” Critic replied, ignoring the deathly glare that the Green Ranger was giving him beneath his helmet, “That thing. Intiate it.”

A high-pitched, pneumatic hum, like the starting of some nuclear device in a science fiction film, echoed from the giant robot as its eyes flashed white. 

Sage, still somewhat dazed from being thrown to the ground, stumbled forward, attempting yet another swing at his opponent. However, just as his hand extended, Neutro dodged out of the way, countering with a few swift punches and kicks from its glowing limbs, stunning the bear man.

Finally, the emblem on the robot’s chest began to charge, flickering with a rainbow light that grew brighter and brighter, burning within the robot’s chest until it could no longer be contained within its prison of metal and glass.

Like a rocket, the beam fired from the robot’s chest, hitting the transformed reviewer square in the chest.  An explosion filled the sky as the beam engulfed Sage’s body, dissolving away the majority of the spell-core like salt dissolving in water.

The light shrunk and faded as Sage reverted back to his normal size and form, collapsing into an unconscious heap below Neutro’s feet. Carefully, the five reviewers scooped up Sage in one of Neutro’s massive hands, as they cheered, happy to have broken yet another spell.

“Insano,” Critic replied, tapping into Neutro’s commincations, “Sage is normal again. Prepare to beam him and us back to the lab.”

I—” Insano’s voice started to say, before it was drown in a worrying burst of static.

“Damn it,” Critic swore, slamming his fist on the console, “Not again. Insano, what’s going on?! Teleport us out of here!”

“Ener….distor…” the mad scientist’s voice panicked through the crackling burst of white noise, “Jamsignal…”

The five exchanged worried looks with one another as a long burst of static feedback drown out Insano’s words.  Suddenly, they saw something moving just within the vicinity of the giant robot, drawing their attention to the newly re-appeared General heading toward them.

Before they could comprehend what even happened, the General leapt up, clearing the sixty foot vertical jump as if it were just a skip, landing in front of Sage, resting in the palm of Neutro’s hand.

“So that was the bastard’s plan,” MarzGurl said, the anger dripping from her voice, as she left her console, practically flying out the exit, ignoring the pain in her head “Let Tegon distract us with Sage, so that we could weaken him down enough for him to take back.”

In a matter of seconds, the Rangers had rushed outside of the robot, ignoring the fact that they were far too high up in something that probably wasn’t that stable. The General looked up at them as he calmly lifted the unconscious reviewer up, one arm around his waist as he carried one of Sage’s arms draped around his shoulder.

“Oh hell no,” Critic said, raising his fists, “We just nearly got our asses kicked out there! There’s no way that we’re letting you just waltz in and make that all for nothing.”

The General did not speak as he tapped the device around his wrist. Screaming, the Red Ranger rushed at the dark armored man, his fist ready to break through the man’s cold, smooth helmet and punch the face beneath until there was nothing left but an oozing, bloody pulp.

A black aura surrounded the General and his captive just as Critic’s fist came inches from the General’s face. In a blink of an eye, the General and Sage vanished, leaving Critic to stumble, falling on his knees as his fist connected with only air.

“Damn it!” Critic swore to himself, beating his fist against the cold metal of Neutro’s hand.

A heavy coldness, like winter snow, fell over the reviewers as they stared at the empty air that their fellow co-worker had stood in only moments ago.
Two thoughts echoed through their minds as they stared out into the empty space where their co-worker had been standing just moments ago. The first, was that they couldn’t believe that they had failed. The second, was summed up by MarzGurl.

“That bastard is going to pay for this.” She said.
----

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August 2014

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