Tayen sat at the bar at the Looped Tank, both hands gripping the glass in front of her. She’d been in Metal City for several weeks now but the dreams hadn’t become any clearer. If anything, they’d started becoming harder to understand. Every night it was the same image: a steering wheel infused with the powers of the ancestors, strings tied between it. Tayen stared down into the murky drink in her glass. Perhaps there would be a sign from the ancestors in the beer.
“Something wrong with it?” Earthquake Jenie asked, leaning an arm against the counter, her rag slapping down on the bar. Tayen jolted a bit, before shaking her head, tipping the drink back. Jenie shrugged, before turning her attention to the television playing above. “Can’t stand this Sect-approved garbage. Hope you don’t mind if I change it. Underdogs should be broadcasting soon.”
Static blared as Jenie changed the channel before the picture settled on a new station, a big FMTV plastered on the bottom of the screen. The show seemed to be some sort of kid’s animated show with color-coded machines driving in synchronized formation across a flat plain. The white environments seemed like they were meant to be some sort of snow or ice field. Tayen couldn’t quite tell. Suddenly, the camera transitioned to a tall woman, made entirely out of ice. Her fingernails were long like talons, and her entire skin and hair were different shades of blue. Her long hair and cape flowed out behind her like she was standing with a fan pointed right at her.
“Hahahahaha! It’s too late to stop me, Kuruma Sentai!” The tall evil witch cackled. “With my powers over ice, I will reign over this world of ice and snow. Winter shall never end!”
Pillars of ice began rising from the frozen earth, forcing the colorful machines to swerve around to avoid hitting them. It seemed that the closer they got to the witch, the more pillars shot up.
“We’re losing traction, Super Stingray!” One of the pilots said. He had horns on the helmet covering his face, and a splash of blue paint on the right side of the mask. “With the power of the Horn of the Frost Giants, she’s become truly monstrous!”
“Where’s your courage, Ice Ranger? You said it yourself, not even giants are indestructible!” Super Stingray said. Even from just a quick glance, Tayen could tell that this was supposed to be the leader of the group. “Besides, even the Metal Ox has agreed to help us against the Lady of Winter!”
“Yeah, but who knows if we can trust him? He’s always up to something.” A girl with bright red hair, dressed in green armor, said. Tayen found herself admiring the design of the machine she drove. It was sleek and green, with bright blue fiery accents. A true warrior’s machine. “Not to mention he’s our archenemy!”
“He wants this winter to end just like we do, Neo Samurai. For now, we’re on the same side. And if he tries anything, we’ll just stop him in the act.”
“Just like always,” Another voice cut in, mysterious, almost synthetic. This machine had a dark color scheme, black and blue, but just as sleek as the green machine of Neo Samurai. Tayen hadn’t noticed it before among the team.
“Nani?!” Super Stingray said, eyes going wide as his jaw fell open at the sight of the new arrival. Whomever this was, Tayen guessed it was apparently supposed to be a big deal at this point in the story,
“Nice of you to show up, Receptor!” Neo Samurai said, with fiery annoyance. “Where have you been this whole time? Or have you turned evil once again as well?”
“You never change, Neo Samurai,” True Receptor’s machine fell into sync with the rest of the team, as they finally passed the hazardous pillars, falling easily into their color coded spots in sync once again. The machines moved in a v-formation, with Super Stingray in the front. Arrayed in front of them, however, were dark machines. They also seemed similar, just like the machines of the ‘heroes’. Tayen had seen posters throughout the city. She could recognize the big monster truck and the giant magnet of another machine from said posters.
“What is this?” Tayen asked Jenie, keeping her eyes on the screen the whole time.
“Mm? Ah, this is Stingray’s project. He calls it Super Kuruma Sentai, or something. Draws it himself and broadcasts it on Free Metal TV.” Earthquake Jenie looked up from scrubbing the glasses, shaking her head. “Not what I expected when he and the Underdogs set this up to play their underground station, but folks seem to like it well enough.”
“Foolish Kuruma Sentai!” The Lady of Ice said, having at some point joined the fray in her own machine. The sight of that one caused Tayen to sit up, for it was one she was well familiar with, even stylized as it was. That was the car her predecessor had ridden in search of vengeance. And that was the wheel, the dream catcher, that had called her to this city! Or at least, it was close enough to it, just like all the other machines matched those on the posters.
“The power of the storm will blow you off this mountain!” The Lady continued, as clouds filled the sky and snow started to blame every which way. The Kuruma Sentai clashed with the forces of the Lady of Ice. However, while the flamethrowers of the Neo Samurai, the sheer power of Ice Ranger’s oversized truck, the flashy gizmos of Super Stingray and Star Queen, and the quick movements of the True Receptor made for a flashy display of animation, it didn’t seem particularly effective against the hordes of machines the Lady of Ice was throwing at them. Soon enough, the Kurama Sentai were surrounded.
“What do we do now, Super Stingray?” Star Queen asked, as her small machine was sent spinning out across the ice.
“We can’t lose hope now! I gotta think…Gotta think…” Super Stingray said, even as more and more of the slave machines started to drive the Kuruma Sentai into the walls of ice surrounding this makeshift arena.
“Ora, ora, ora! What the hell do you think you’re doing? There’s no one who’s gonna destroy the Kuruma Sentai besides me!” From over one of the hills of ice, a giant bulldozer came charging in, the head of an ox adorning it.
“Metal Ox!” Four of the Kurama Sentai shouted. True Receptor was the only one to say nothing at all.
A man with a giant metal ox helmet on his head piloted the heavy machine down the ice, gathering more of it as he raced towards the scene of the battle. By the time he reached it, the ice had become like a giant wall that slammed into the Lady of Ice’s servants, smashing them into metal bits. The Neo Samurai broke free and, using the flamethrower on top of her machine, started to melt the machine made from ice.
“Noooo! You will regret this! I’ll be back, Kuruma Sentai! I’ll be baaaaack!”
With that, the program came to an end as commercials began to roll. The first was a promo from one of the pilots in the tournament. Tayen couldn’t say she’d ever heard of her. Calamity. Tayen couldn’t focus much on that though. Her thoughts were still on the strange familiarity she felt to that fictional Lady of Ice. Several of the other patrons at the bar seemed to be into the promo, however.
“She looks like a fierce one. But I don’t see how they can just let someone into the tournament who’s going to be an outright thief. If she just takes the bomb from the transporter, then how’s that fair?”
“Hey, if they let her steal it, serves them right! I’m looking forward to seeing her in action! Besides, we’ve got too many goody two shoes in the Arena these days. It’s good to see someone bad again.”
“Another drink?” Earthquake Jenie’s voice cut through the chatter, pulling Tayen from her thoughts. She gave a shake of her head. The dream catcher wheel was still on her mind, calling her.
“No, that’ll be all. Tell me, where can I find the ‘Underdogs’ who broadcast this show?”
>>>To be continued…