Ultimate Origins: Chapter Thirteen
Dr. William Cranston sat back in his office chair and watched the holographic display on his desk. Through its images, he saw the Spider Worms continue their rampage through the city. He had watched the Spider Worms battle Tommy’s Power Rangers, and the monsters had continued their assault after the Rangers disappeared in a blood-red vortex.
Cranston wasn’t sure what had happened to the Rangers—nor did he care. Not much, really. He was more concerned with the creatures from Demon City. He always knew they would leak out eventually. And his containment force, ZECT, was ready to stop them.
Cranston activated a comm unit on his desk. “Send in Kabuto.”
Hurricane Red plunged through the portal expecting a fight. But all he found was an empty room, lined with blue torches, and a twirling pit in the floor. His teammates followed behind, and they seemed just as surprised at the emptiness.
Even more surprising was the voice that whispered from behind. “You shouldn’t have come.”
The Rangers and Kiva snapped around to see Hurricane Green step from the shadows.
“Kou-” Hurricane Red started to say, but the Green Ranger interrupted.
“No,” Hurricane Green said. “Apparently not. Just…Karas. And some memories.” His head slowly looked towards the pit in the room. “You should leave here. Now. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t know…I don’t know if I would be able to stop myself. Or even want to.”
Navy Thunder cursed beneath his breath. “Great. Tommy gives the kid a morpher and he becomes an evil Green Ranger. For some reason, that’s not too surprising.”
Hurricane Red ignored the Navy Thunder Ranger. “Kou, come on. We’re getting out of here.”
“No,” Hurricane Green said. “Xanathor was right. I’m staying here. I don’t…I don’t belong out there with you.”
The dark palace suddenly rumbled, and the Rangers staggered to stay on their feet.
“Go!” Hurricane Green frantically shouted as he unsheathed his sword. “That’s them. They’ll rip you apart if you don’t leave. Now!”
“Them who?” Hurricane Yellow asked.
Hurricane Green whispered: “Death Knights.”
Blue fire suddenly exploded into the room and blasted the Rangers from their feet. They smashed through a wall and tumbled into a massive hallway lined with blue torches and toppled columns with demonic engravings.
Into the hall stepped two figures in dark armor similar to Xanathor’s, only bulkier. Thick Spikes protruded from massive shoulder pauldrons. Tusks extended from their faceplates, which concealed their faces with darkness except for their glowing blue eyes. Each of the warriors carried a thick broadsword engraved with markings that pulsed with blue, icy energy. Their mere presence chilled the hallway.
Hurricane Green somersaulted through the air over the Death Knights and landed in front of the villains to cover the Rangers. He looked over his shoulder at those he had called his teammates for only a short time. “Their power levels are too much for you, now for the last time, stop being stupid heroic idiots and get the hell out of here before Hell gets you!”
The Green Ranger charged at the two villains and chopped his blade towards one of the Death Knights. The Death Knight quickly lifted his sword to block the blow, and his companion lunged forward with a sword strike that slashed across the Green Ranger’s armor with a burst of spark. The blow whipped the Ranger off his feet, and he flew through the air before smashing through one of the toppled columns.
“Kou!” Hurricane Red shouted.
“No.” Kiva laid a hand on Hurricane Red’s shoulder to hold him back. “The Death Knights are too strong. I can sense their power…they radiate with an energy you cannot stop. They’d obliterate you.”
“Let them try,” Hurricane Red said. “We’re not leaving Kou behind.”
“No,” Kiva said. “I’m afraid you are…”
Energy like stained glass ebbed from Kiva and washed over the Rangers, teleporting them away in a burst of multi-colored light.
Kiva and the Rangers materialized in the city, where the Spider Worms had attacked.
“No!” Hurricane Red shouted as he turned to Kiva. “What did you do?”
“It’s obvious,” Kiva said. “The veil of reality was still thin here, where you were taken. I pierced the veil to bring you back. To save you.”
Navy Thunder unsheathed his staff and held the weapon to Kiva’s throat. “You just got Kou killed! Granted…I’m not sure I really liked the kid, but-”
“Blake, stop,” Hurricane Blue used her hand to lower Navy Thunder’s weapon. She looked to the Rider. “Kiva, you should go.”
“But Rachel-” Kiva started to say.
“Just go,” she said firmly. “Please…”
Kiva lowered his head, and he slowly rolled his right hand into a tight fist, clenching. The Kamen Rider turned and leapt towards the rooftops, leaving the Rangers on the streets.
“So how do we get Kou back?” Hurricane Red asked.
Hurricane Yellow shook his head. “What if he doesn’t want to come back?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Hurricane Red said. “Even if he wants to stay in Demon City, I doubt he’s thrilled about taking on two Death Knights alone.”
Crimson Thunder stepped closer to his teammates. “You’re forgetting something.”
Hurricane Red tilted his head. The Crimson Thunder Ranger didn’t speak often, so when he did, the Rangers tended to listen. “And what’s that?”
“The Worms,” Crimson Thunder said. “They’re still here.”
Hurricane Red looked across the rampaged street. The Spider Worms had obviously spread their path of destruction, and they were still out there.
“I hate it when you’re right,” Hurricane Red said. “Let’s stop the Worms. Then we’ll figure out how to get Kou back.”
“If he’s still alive,” Crimson Thunder said.
“Way to be optimistic, big brother,” Navy Thunder said.
“Boys, focus,” Navy Blue said. “So…how do we track the Worms?”
Sirens suddenly wailed through the air. To their regret, the Rangers were all-too familiar with that particular siren call.
“Silver Guardian jeeps?” Hurricane Yellow asked.
“SUV’s, but yes,” Hurricane Red said. “Let’s follow them. It’s a safe bet they’re after the same thing we are.”
Silver Guardian SUVs sped across the street towards a plaza. A black van rode in the center of the formation. Within the van sat Dylan, an 18-year-old freshly recruited by ZECT. Few could tell why the organization had recruited him. His features were soft, with long, sandy-blonde hair and green-blue eyes.
He sat in the rear seat with his head lowered and his eyes focused on a broken watch, held gently in his soft hands. The watch had belonged to his older brother, who had died about six years ago. Dylan missed him terribly. His mother always said his older brother, Jeffrey, had died in a car accident. But Dylan knew the truth. Jeffrey had died in the middle of an attack. An actual monster attack, caused by the late Lord Zedd. One of 108 casualties that day.
Dylan wanted to dedicate his life to stopping that kind of loss. After high school, he tried to join the police. Fire department. Silver Guardians. Army. None would have him. He was too weak.
Then Dr. Cranston approached him.
“I know you don’t know me, but I know you, Dylan,” Dr. Cranston said.
Dylan hesitated and took a step back. “OK…that’s not creepy at all…”
A slightly-amused grin crossed the man’s face. “I didn’t mean to scare you. My name’s Dr. Cranston.”
Dylan recognized the name immediately. “The INET guy?”
“That’s correct,” Cranston said.
Dylan narrowed his brow. “And you somehow…know me? How?”
“I know what you’re trying to do with your life,” Cranston said. “I know you want to change the world, for the good of everyone. I do too.”
“That doesn’t exactly make things clear,” Dylan said.
“Then I’ll cut to the chase,” Cranston said. “I’ve seen your kind of determination before, and I know it can lead to great things. You have potential. And you need a chance to use that potential. I want you to join a new division of the Silver Guardians.”
“But…I tried to join the Guardians,” Dylan explained. “They turned me down.”
“That was before I personally saw your file,” Cranston said.
Dylan could barely believe what he was hearing. “And you really want me? To be a Guardian?”
“No. Not a Guardian,” Cranston said. “A Rider.”
Dylan squeezed the broken watch and tucked it into his pocket. He took a deep breath to calm himself and looked out the window. The van lurched as it drove over a curb and into the plaza, where one of the Spider Worms knocked over a Silver Guardian SUV.
The teen snapped his transformation belt into place.
The red-blue Spider Worm kicked over an SUV and turned to face three ZECT Troopers. The troopers opened fire with rapid-volley shots that sparked harmlessly against the monster’s body.
The Spider-Worm opened its mandibles and thwipped a web line, which whipped the troopers off their feet and sent them flying through the air.
Dylan ran onto the plaza with his transformation belt ready. Finally, after years, he would no longer have to stand idly by while others were hurt. Finally, he could protect those who could not protect themselves.
The teen raised his hand into the air. “Kabuto Zector!”
The zector, a hand-held device that resembled a kabuto beetle, flew through the air towards Dylan. But the zector passed him by and flew towards a stairwell on the other end of the plaza.
On top of the stairwell stood a young Japanese man in a gray jacket. The man reached up, and the zector landed in the man’s palm. Dylan noticed the stranger wore a transformation belt of his own.
“Hey!” Dylan shouted at the man. “What do you think you’re doing?!”
The stranger looked down to the zector in his hand. “I am reaching out...and taking hold of my destiny.”
Dylan narrowed his eyes. “You’re insane! People are getting killed. I need that zector!”
“Insane?” the stranger smirked. “We all have a sliver of madness in our minds, and that sliver is called reality.”
He armed the zector and spoke a command that sounded almost casual. “Awaken.”
He snapped the zector onto his belt buckle, and the belt’s programing mimicked the phrase in a low, digital tone: “AWAKEN.”
Bulky-gray armor with red highlights wrapped around his body with a sound like metal plates clamping into the place. A blue visor snapped shut across his helmet with a low hum. The stranger had become Kamen Rider Kabuto.
The transformation distracted the Spider Worm, which looked to the new Rider with renewed interest and blood lust. The Rider seemed more appealing than the armored ZECT Troopers.
The Spider Worm lunged towards Kabuto. The Rider merely sidestepped and slammed his fist against the Worm’s back, knocking the creature off balance.
Recovering, the Spider Worm snapped back at Kabuto, but Kabuto pressed forward with a flurry of punches that bashed against the creature’s chest. The blows knocked the creature off its feet, and the monster rolled across the pavement.
The monster started to rise to its feet, but Kabuto armed his blaster and fired rapid shots that sparked against the creature.
The Spider Worm hissed with rage, leaned back, and pounced towards Kamen Rider Kabuto with a burst of speed. Kabuto switched his weapon to axe mode and plunged the blade through the creature with a burst of spark. The impact exploded with a shockwave that tore the Worm apart with bursts of blue fire.
Below, Dylan watched the stranger with a sense of awe and sadness.
Neither Dylan or the Rider noticed the yellow Spider Worm leap down from above.
About two dozen Worms spread across the streets near the main battle. The ZECT Troopers had done what they could to contain the creatures, but the Worms were able to force themselves through the Silver Guardian’s barricade.
The five Power Rangers leapt onto a rooftop nearby.
“There they are,” Hurricane Red said. “Xanathor’s little bug sacks.”
Hurricane Blue shook her head. “I don’t remember there being this many.”
“We can take them,” Navy Thunder said. “As long as they don’t all molt into monsters.”
“That would suck,” Hurricane Yellow agreed.
“We’ll have to take them out fast.” Hurricane Red unsheathed his sword. “Let’s go.”
The Red Ranger leapt towards the street below. He channeled his Ki through his blade, increasing its density and strength. “Air Style! Blade Storm Jutsu!”
Hurricane Red dashed back and forth between the Worms, slashing them back with bursts of spark, his blade cutting lines of red light through the air.
The other four Rangers landed and charged forward to attack.
“Horn Blaster!” Crimson Thunder armed his cannon and fired blasts of shadow-tinted, crimson energy that sparked through several of the Worms.
“Stag Breaker!” Navy Thunder armed his claw weapon and charged into the group of Worms. He used the claw to grasp a Worm tightly, and strands of navy-tinted lighting danced from the claw and thrashed against the creature with bursts of spark.
Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow heard the sound of screeching metal come from a bridge that ran above the street. They looked up to see the white Spider Worm leap downward while using weblines to swing two cars.
The two Rangers barely dove and rolled aside as the Spider Worm crashed the cars against the pavement while landing.
Hurricane Yellow rolled into a crouched position. “Um, guys, we found one of the freaking monsters!” he called to his teammates as he and Hurricane Blue switched their swords and scabbards to rifle mode. “Storm Blasters!”
The two Rangers fired lances of golden energy that sparked against the Spider Worm, knocking the creature back several steps.
Nearby, the other three Rangers finished off the last of the lesser Worms and leapt to aide their teammates.
The Rangers regrouped, and Hurricane Red armed his Hawk Blaster. “Let’s bring ‘em together!”
The five Rangers combined their weapons into a single cannon. The Wind Power Rangers held the cannon from behind, and the Thunder Power Rangers kneeled while resting the cannon’s barrel on their shoulders. “Thunderstorm Striker!” they shouted. “Fire!”
The cannon fired a crackling burst of energy that punctured through the Spider Worm with a massive explosion that tore the creature’s body apart and shook the ground.
The yellow Spider Worm dashed past Kabuto with blurs of motion that bashed against his body and sent him hurling through the air. The Rider smashed against a wall, which cracked upon impact, and then crashed against the pavement.
Three of the lesser Worms stalked towards the fallen Rider.
“Kabuto!” Dylan shouted as he ran towards the Rider. He had no armor. No weapons. But he wouldn’t stand by and do nothing.
The teen tackled against a Worm, but the creature merely shrugged the boy onto the ground. The three Worms turned their attention to the fallen youth—who had provided enough of a distraction for Kabuto to rise to his feet and open fire on the villains. His bullets sparked against their bodies and pushed them backward.
Kamen Rider Kabuto adjusted his aim and fired again. “You don’t have a warrior’s soul, it seems.”
Dylan looked back and narrowed his eyes at the Rider. “Shut up.” He shook his head, having no time for anger. “Listen, the Kamen Rider system can Clock Up to match the Worms’ speed.”
Kabuto opened fire, blasting through a Worm. “I know that.” The Rider sounded almost…bored. Too casual. Too confident. “I’m quite familiar with the belt.”
“Then what are you playing around for?” Dylan asked.
“I don’t play.” Kabuto fired another volley that dropped the remaining lesser Worms with bursts of spark. “I just wanted to see how far I could advance in this form.”
Another trio of lesser Worms fanned onto the street and moved towards Kabuto. The Rider lowered his weapon and moved his free hand towards his zector buckler.
He waited until the Worms were close, then flipped the zector’s horn like a handle. “Cast off.”
The belt’s program mimicked the command: “CAST OFF.”
The Rider’s bulky armor burst off, knocking back the three Worms.
Kabuto’s remaining armor was slender: black with red chest plating, and a blue, bug-like visor. A red, beetle-like horn snapped into place above the visor. The Rider’s belt spoke: “CHANGE BEETLE”
The Spider Worm renewed its interest in Kamen Rider Kabuto and charged towards the hero in a blur of motion.
Kabuto swiped his palm across a panel on the side of his belt. “Clock up.”
The Rider’s belt echoed the command: “CLOCK UP.”
Time seemed to nearly stop around the Rider. But in reality, a time-distortion field was allowing him to move fast enough to match the Spider Worm’s blurring speed.
The Spider Worm lunged forward and swung its claws towards the Rider. The Rider easily blocked the blows and slammed a trio of punches against the monster, each blow knocking the creature back a step as the Rider continued his advance.
Kabuto blocked another strike and stepped forward with a sidekick that knocked the monster off its feet.
The creature slowly rose and tried to lunge, but the Rider stepped forward and slammed a combo of punches, followed by another kick, that knocked the monster to the ground.
Spider Worm rolled across the pavement and rose into a crouched position. The monster opened its mandibles and spat a wad of webbing towards the Rider. Kabuto armed a dagger weapon, leaned back, and swung the blade to deflect the webbing. The monster spat another ball of webbing, and Kabuto leaned back while swinging his dagger to deflect the attack.
Kamen Rider Kabuto leapt through the air, aimed his descent towards the monster, and landed while stabbing his blade through the creature. Kabuto twisted the blade, and the monster exploded with a massive burst of smoke and flames.
The Rider’s belt spoke: “CLOCK OVER.”
The flow of time returned to normal around the Rider.
Dylan had barely blinked by the time the battle ended. The smoke from the dead Worm blew across the street, and the Rider stood, slowly lowering his dagger.
“That was incredible,” Dylan whispered.
He was about to approach the Rider when five blurs of motion dropped to the street. They were the Power Rangers.
The Rangers snapped around and faced the Rider, who continued to stand next to the smoke of the fallen Worm. It didn’t take long for the Rangers to realize the Spider Worm was no longer a threat, and that the new Rider was the reason why. And obviously, the new Rider was a product of ZECT.
The Rangers and Rider stood silently, staring at one another, barely moving.
“We’re not going to fight, are we?” Hurricane Yellow asked. “Can we just pretend that we fought one another and go about our separate ways? I really don’t want another enemy; we have too many already.”
“There’s no need for us to be enemies,” Kabuto said in a casual tone. “Our paths are crossed by destiny, a common destiny, aimed at the same dark heart.”
Navy Thunder tilted his head and looked to the Yellow Ranger. “Is this guy serious?”
“Um, good,” Hurricane Red said, slightly taken aback. “I’m glad we could avoid any misunderstandings. Your higher-ups don’t exactly like us that much.”
Kabuto shook his head. “I’m not a member of this little army.”
“That’s right,” Dylan said. “You’re not. So who are you? And how did you manage to use that zector?”
Kabuto looked up, and he slowly lifted his hand towards the sun. “Walking the Path of Heaven…the man who will rule over all…Souji Tendou.”
Kabuto turned and leapt towards the rooftops.
“Um…OK...” Hurricane Yellow looked to his teammates. “Did he just call himself the ‘man who will rule over all’? Tell me how that’s not a bad thing.”
Cranston turned off the holographic display on his desk. He leaned back thoughtfully and laced his fingers. He had little experience with his plans going astray. He didn’t like the feeling of it. Not at all.
Who was this Souji Tendou? How did he happen to have a transformation belt? And what enabled him to snag the zector?
Cranston had forged the zector from the undead energies of Demon City itself. Not just anyone could harness that kind of power. This Souji Tendou person was clearly special.
He leaned forward and activated the comm on his desk. “Send a unit to find Kabuto and bring him in. Dead or alive, as long as the zector’s intact.”
“Sir, which unit?”
“Let’s not be subtle about this. TheBee, SaSword, and Gattack,” Cranston said. “They’ll do nicely…don’t you agree?”
Tommy’s dreamscape clouded in gray mist. He stood in darkness, the only light coming from the fog itself. He knew the dream wasn’t typical. Nor was it a vision. His mind, it seemed, had a visitor.
“Who’s there?” Tommy asked.
“Karas,” the voice whispered. “Only Karas.”
“Kou…” Tommy said. “We talked about this. You don’t have to give into darkness. The Rangers and I, we’re going to find a way to get you back.”
“Don’t,” the voice whispered. “I don’t want to be found. When we talked, I thought I was Kou. I believed. But I’m not him. Not really.”
“You’re not making sense.”
“Please don’t come after me,” Kou pleaded. “Please. This is something I have to do alone.”
Tommy gasped and sat up in bed. He closed his eyes tight, and slowly wiped the sweat from his brow. Kou had apparently learned a new trick.
Ashley stirred next to him and laid a hand on his leg. “Nightmare or doomsday vision?”
“Neither,” Tommy said as he lied back down. “Kou…he reached out to me somehow. He wants to be left alone.”
“I wish he would have told us that before we spent all evening looking for him,” Ashley said.
“This isn’t funny,” Tommy said.
“I know, I know,” she said as she snuggled next to him. “I’m sorry. What else did he say?”
Tommy shook his head. “That’s all I remember. I just…I can’t believe this happened to him. I thought I helped save him.”
“He can still come around,” Ashley said. “You did. And from what I’ve been told, the transition wasn’t exactly easy.”
“Yeah, but…never mind.”
“You were going to mention Billy, weren’t you?”
Tommy nodded. “He helped. So did Kim. Now they’re both gone…just in different ways.” He shook his head to clear away the memories. “How did things get so messed up? This was supposed to be a simple year. The Shinzon attack, the Rangers stop them, the year ends. Instead everything feels like it’s dragging on, getting more complicated than it needs to be.”
Ashley snuggled tighter. “How was Political Science?”
“Political Science class today,” she asked. “How was it?”
“Are you serious?” he asked.
“No more complicated. Not tonight. We’re two people, in love, spending the night together after a rough day of classes. So…how was Political Science?”
Tommy smiled and kissed Ashley on the forehead. “Terrible. You know I hate politics.”
“You love politics.”
“Hate politics,” Tommy said. “Politicians have less integrity than Gorma.”
“There are no Gorma,” Ashley said. “No Zedd. No Bandora. No Shinzon. No Rangers. Right now…there’s just us.”
Tommy nodded. “Just us,” he whispered as he pulled her close and kissed her deeply.
Xanathor stood behind Kou on a balcony that looked out upon Demon City.
“Did you tell him?” the villain asked.
Kou nodded. “He won’t come looking for me. Not now.”
“Good. Very good, my Karas. Did you warn him?”
Kou shook his head. “I didn’t have to. He knows. Deep down, he knows the world’s unraveling…and that there’s not a thing he can do to stop it.”
To be continued…Chapter 14