Ultimate Origins: Chapter Twenty-two
City at War: First Strike
The Jaguar Undead slashed through a Worm and kicked a second Worm in the chest. The blow hurled the Worm off its feet, and the creature crashed against three of its fellow grunts, toppling them to the ground.
The villain slashed his claws through another group of Worms, hacking through their bodies with bursts of spark that sprayed green ichor across the streets.
Nearby, Boar Undead tackled two Worms to the ground, then swung his arms wide to bash two more Worms aside.
The villain pounced onto another Worm and bashed through the insect’s face with a burst of spark, splattering green ichor across the Undead’s body.
Boar Undead whipped his body around and clawed through a Worm with a burst of spark.
The two villains were part of a group of Undead under the control of Kamen Rider Leangle. Leangle had sent the Undead into Demon City to gain a foothold for an important ceremony: a ceremony involving Tyler Oliver, the son of the former Dragon Ranger.
While the Undead attacked Demon City from the south, the Hand attacked Demon City from the northwest.
The Crimson Thunder Ranger lead a group of Ikkazuchi ninja and Hand ninja—Jonin, Genin and Chunin—across the rooftops. They leapt downward towards a group of Worms sent by Xanathor, their creator and master.
The Crimson Thunder Ranger unsheathed his staff and dove towards the Worms. “Shadow Style! Shadow Clone Jutsu!”
A dozen clones of crimson-tinted shadow energy split from the Ranger and dashed through the villains below with bursts of spark, hacking the creatures left and right, spraying green ichor across the pavement with each strike.
Crimson Thunder landed and charged through the creatures while twirling his staff, hacking through the Worms with bursts of spark. He infused his blade with crimson-tinted shadow energy that streaked with every strike, flashing with power while slicing through the enemy. His blade tore through the Worms without mercy. The defeated creatures collapsed to the streets, their bodies exploding with bursts of green flame.
One of the Worms superheated and molted, emerging as the Flea Worm. Its insectoid body was off-white with dark-red spikes, and its right arm extended with a red spike instead of a fist.
The demonic Jonin ninja dashed at the creature and swung their swords. But the Flea Worm parried their blows and slashed them back with bursts of spark.
Three Genin leapt through the air and snapped throwing stars at the monster. The blades sparked harmlessly against Flea Worm, and the monster spat a volley of darts that tore through the ninja’s bodies.
Crimson Thunder held his staff back and charged at the monster.
The Flea Worm braced itself, expecting a frontal assault. But at the last second, Crimson Thunder shot upward and landed behind the creature while slashing through its back with a burst of spark. The Ranger spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed the creature forward. Flea Worm stumbled and nearly collapsed.
Crimson Thunder held his staff forward and charged.
“Shadow Style! Thunder Strike Jutsu!” He poured his shadow energy into the staff, which crackled with bolts of electricity.
He chopped the blade down diagonally, and then up with a backhand swing. The strikes slashed across the monster with bursts of spark, and secondary explosions burst from beneath the creature’s insectoid armor.
Hurricane Green watched the battle from the rooftops. The war had started. And the fighting would eventually spread throughout the entire city, consuming all of Angel Grove.
He knew the Hand and Undead were trying to secure a foothold in Demon City for a ceremony involving Tyler Oliver. Xanathor had plans for the same ceremony. So did the Hellfire Club and the Dark Man, Akuma. They would come too.
The Green Ranger knew he didn’t belong outside Demon City. But he didn’t want to see an innocent child suffer. He had warned the Rangers the war was coming. Now he had to tell them the war had begun.
Simon sat alone on his bed. He twirled the Egos ring between his fingers. He thought the secret of his parents would give him answers and hope. Instead he found only darkness. Emptiness.
Someone knocked on his door. Simon said nothing. The knock sounded again, and the teen sighed. “Come in. I guess…”
The door opened, and Teddy stepped in. “Hey, man,” he said softly. “You haven’t texted me back.”
“Most people wouldn’t take that as an invitation to come over,” Simon snapped.
“Ouch,” Teddy said.
“Sorry,” Simon said without the slightest hint of sincerity.
“We’re just worried about you,” Teddy said. “You went missing for two weeks.”
“I was looking for someone,” Simon said. He didn’t take his eyes off the ring.
“Who?” Teddy asked.
Simon shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it, Teddy. I just stopped by home to get a few things. I’m not staying long.”
“What about your team?” Teddy asked.
“I can’t be a Ranger right now,” he said.
“How can you even-”
“Teddy, stop!” Simon shouted. “You want to know what my problem is? I found out the truth about my parents. My family. I found out why I have this empathic curse. It’s demon blood. I have demon blood in me. That’s my problem. So tell me how a touchy-feely talk with my gay best friend is going to make that all better.”
Teddy narrowed his eyes. “You’re not acting like yourself right now, man.”
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Simon snapped as he looked back to his friend. “Just leave me alone, Teddy. All of you. I have to find Azmodai. I have to stop him. And I have to do it alone.”
“Azmodai? Is that the-”
“Demon, yes,” Simon said. “Please Teddy, for the love of God, just leave me alone. I can’t-”
Simon suddenly felt as if ice-hot needles had stabbed into his brain. He screamed and collapsed to his knees while grasping his head. “What the hell…”
“My children…” a voice spoke telepathically, scraping his mind like sandpaper. “You are the Chosen few. The time has come to embrace your darkness. Embrace your destiny. The time has come for the First Seal to finally break…Be prepared…”
Azmodai finished the telepathic call to his children and opened his eyes. He took a deep breath and looked out upon the city.
“It feels like I’ve waited an eternity for this moment,” he whispered.
“That’s because you have, my dear” a voice said from behind.
Azmodai turned to see the Black Queen walk onto the balcony. He smiled at the sight of her, dressed in a tight dress that matched the color of her long, raven-black hair. “Madelyn,” he said. “I’m glad you’ve arrived. How was the flight?”
“Too long,” she said. “Have you reached out to them?”
“Yes…but there’s a slight problem,” he said. “Not all of them have Awakened. Not all of them realize their true birthright.”
“They will, in time,” Madelyn said.
“I don’t think you understand, Madelyn,” Azmodai said. “They should have been ready now.”
He lifted his hand, and an invisible force grabbed Madelyn by the throat. She gasped for air and dropped to her knees. The grip tightened.
“You’ve had a majority of your life to prepare for this day,” he said. “You had one simple task. And you failed.”
She shook her head and tried to speak. Azmodai released his grasp just slightly enough to let her. “We don’t…we don’t need them all…not yet…not for the First Seal…we-”
He tightened his grip. “Oh, I didn’t realize you had the Dark One’s instruction manual. Don’t tell me what I need, Madelyn.”
He released his grasp, and Madelyn collapsed to the ground with a deep, rasping breath.
The demon walked over and crouched down beside her. He gently lifted her head by the chin. “You’re magnificent, Madelyn. Truly you are. But don’t think that makes you immune to my intolerance of incompetence.”
The Black Queen channeled a burst of wind energy that knocked the demon off his feet. Azmodai crashed back-first against the balcony.
Madelyn rubbed her sore neck and rose to her feet. “Don’t treat me like one of your lackeys, my dear. Not ever again. Do we understand each other?”
Azmodai laughed and pushed himself to his feet. “Oh, my Madelyn. I’ve missed you so…”
A DECA patrol car swerved into a dark alley near Demon City. A hooded alien ran as fast as possible from the car.
They always run…Nat thought as he dashed from the patrol car and ran after the alien. Z followed behind, and they pulled out their sidearms.
“Stop!” Nat shouted.
“You realize yelling stop never actually works, right?” Z asked.
“Next time I’ll yell ‘please run faster’ and see how well that works,” Nat said.
A second DECA patrol car swerved to a halt at the opposite end of the alley, blocking the alien’s path. Two motorcycles followed, and the remaining four members of the DECA team dashed into the alleyway.
The alien stopped in his tracks so fast he stumbled backward and fell onto his tailbone.
Nat walked to the alien’s side and kept his gun aimed at the criminal. “Hi, Piggy.”
“No, no, there’s a mistake, I swear!” the villain stammered. He had a flat, snake-like snout with nostrils on his forehead. His dark-tan, multi-shaded skin was covered with ruffles and ridges that flowed from his face across the back of his skull. “I don’t sell Battle Gears. That’d be crazy. I’m not crazy. Crazy people die. I prefer being sane and alive. That’s the way to be. I-”
“Can it, Piggy,” Sky said. “This isn’t about any stolen Battle Gear.”
“But we will get back to that here in a minute,” Nat said. “First, tell us about the kidnappings.”
“Kidnappings? I haven’t heard of any kidnappings. None,” Piggy protested.
“There are kidnappings every day,” Z said. “So you’re clearly hiding something.”
Piggy grunted and sunk his shoulders. “OK, OK. The Hand, yes, the Hand, I know.”
Syd sighed. “Not them again.”
“You mean you didn’t know they were…” Piggy grunted. “Oh darn…”
“Why are the Hand kidnapping people?” Nat asked.
The DECA team thought the Hand was interested in tech and territory. They hadn’t suspected the villainous ninja were behind a recent rash of kidnappings.
“No one knows, honest, I swear,” Piggy said.
Nat lifted his gun closer to Piggy’s head.
“OK, OK, OK,” Piggy said. “I do know where they were going. To Demon City. That’s all I-”
A throwing star struck Piggy in the head with enough force to whip his body to the ground.
The rangers spun and aimed their weapons upward towards the rooftops, but they saw no one.
“Hmm,” Bridge said thoughtfully. “I’d be open to calling Jet Force at this point.”
“Please stop,” Sam said.
Tommy finished inspecting the runes surrounding the Hayate Way campus. He wanted to make sure they were intact, to shield his 5-year-old son’s presence from the enemy. But they were failing. Each enchantment and rune was breaking down.
“What the hell’s going on…” he whispered. He would need hours to repair each rune.
“Sabotage,” a voice said from behind.
Tommy turned to see Hurricane Green step out from behind a tree.
“Kou…” Tommy said.
“I…” he said, and then hesitated. He looked down, as if too ashamed to look Tommy in the eyes. “I can’t stay long. Did the others tell you?”
“About Tyler?” Tommy asked. “Yes. Thanks for passing on the warning.”
“I can’t stand by and do nothing,” he said.
“Then stay with us,” Tommy said. “I know what you’re-”
“You don’t,” Hurricane Green said. “Even after what you did as the Evil Green Ranger...after that, at least you were human. I’m not.”
“It’s started,” Hurricane Green said. “That’s what I came to tell you. Your enemies are fighting over Demon City, and soon they’ll come for Tyler.”
“Which enemies?” Tommy asked. “Please don’t say ‘all of them’, I need specifics this time.”
“Xanathor is obviously at the center of Demon City,” Hurricane Green said. “All he has to do is wait, and he’ll be able to intercept the boy.
“The Hand and Dark Shaper have each established a foothold within Demon City. At the same time, they’ve sent forces after Tyler.”
“The Dark Shaper?” Tommy asked.
“The Billy Cranston from Demon World Earth,” the Green Ranger said. “He’s the one who created that robot army your Rangers fought months back, and he’s manipulating the Undead.”
Tommy tightened his hands into fists as Hurricane Green continued.
“As for the Hellfire Club, they have limited resources. They’ve set up several of their knights at the edge of Demon City. They plan to wait and intercept the boy before Xanathor.
“Then there are the Marauders,” Hurricane Green said. “I…I don’t know what they have planned. But they’re involved, somehow.”
“How much time do we have?” Tommy asked.
“An hour at most,” Hurricane Green said. “Your protections are failing and about to collapse. There’s no time to repair the damage. Once the barriers fail, they’ll sense Tyler’s life force, and they’ll all come for him. All at once. The ceremony has to happen tonight, so they’ll be desperate. They’re already out looking.”
“Do you know what this ceremony is?” Tommy asked.
“No,” Hurricane Green said.
Tommy thought of the Dark Man’s warning and looked to the broken runes. He narrowed his eyes. “Akuma…he did this to the barriers somehow. He wants this fight to happen.”
Tommy looked back up, but Hurricane Green was already gone. The former ranger sighed. “Snap out of it, Kou. We need you…”
The DECA team gathered in their briefing room along with Kruger. The rangers sat around a circular table with a holographic projector, and Kruger stood.
“We’ve tracked the kidnapping victims to this location,” Kruger said.
He activated the holographic emitter, which displayed an image of an ancient Japanese temple.
“Japan?” Syd asked.
“Demon City,” Kruger said. “This fortress arose in a matter of hours. The Hand’s power is growing.”
“How do we break in?” Z asked.
“You don’t,” Kruger said. “INET upgraded the Hand’s threat level after your last encounter. This is Jet Force’s jurisdiction now.”
“Oh come on,” Sam said. “This was our case.”
“It was, and you did well,” Kruger said. “Jet Force can handle things from here.”
“No,” Nat said. “We get to go after Crimson Thunder and the Hand.”
“Don’t make this personal, Nat,” Kruger said. “We still have plenty of work on our end. The Hand triggered a gang war that’s out of control. Every street thug in the city is getting his hands on tech or bio-upgrades…”
Nat let his mind wander for the rest of the briefing. He waited until he and his teammates left the briefing room before speaking.
“I know Kruger gave us our orders,” he said. “But we’re not listening. We’re heading into Demon City.”
“But you heard Kruger,” Bridge said. “This is a Jet Force job, which I’m always saying, but this time he actually agrees with me…well, technically, he made the decision first in this case, before I said anything, so I’m agreeing with him-”
“Bridge, we’re going,” Nat said. “Any objections?”
Nat looked to Sky.
“If I objected, that wouldn’t make any difference,” Sky said.
“No,” Nat said. “But you’re not going to object.”
“I know,” Sky said. “I want to go after the Hand just as much as you do. I was just making a point.”
Hunter stood on top of his fortress and looked out upon Demon City. He could see the black palace of Xanathor in the distance.
Chiyome stood behind Hunter and wrapped her arms around his waist.
“We’re here,” she whispered. “We’re finally here.”
“I hate this place,” Hunter said.
“I know, my love,” she said.
Below, Jonin battled back dozens of Worms that tried to assault the newly-created fortress.
“I should join the fight,” Hunter said.
“Not yet,” she said. “We’ve gained the footing we need. Now we wait. We’ll strike tonight.”
“Why wait?” Hunter said. “We’re outnumbered. We shouldn’t waste our resources staying on the defensive.”
“We wait because we need to,” Chiyome said. “Before we strike, our forces in Angel Grove must acquire a…special package.”
Night came. Tommy crouched on the rooftop of the Hayate Way dojo and kept his eyes focused on the surrounding woodland. He didn’t know who exactly would try to take his son. But he knew they would come, sooner or later. And he had to be ready.
Ashley remained inside the Hayate Way with Tyler, and the three rangers stood guard outside.
The former ranger noticed trees flutter towards the south. He narrowed his eyes and pounced downward.
A group of several dozen Jonin silently leapt through the trees on their way towards the dojo.
Tommy landed on the ground to cut off their advance. He extended his hand and tightened his fist. His Kiryoku tightened around seven Jonin, crushing them with fiery explosions.
Three grunts shot through the air towards the former ranger. But Tommy merely swatted them aside with bursts of Kiryoku, sending them splintering through the trees.
Tommy summoned his golden-hilted sword, Ryuuseikin. “You picked the wrong family to mess with.”
The remaining Jonin attacked.
Tommy energized his sword with red-tinted fire and swung the blade through several patterns. Each swing hurled an energy blade through the air. The blades slashed through Jonin with bursts of spark, ripping their bodies apart with fiery explosions.
Justin, Blake, and Rachel watched as dozens of Jonin leapt from the woods towards the dojo. They armed their morphers. “Ninjetti change! Ha!”
Energy twirled around them as they morphed into their Ranger forms.
“Lightning bolt!” Navy Thunder thrust his palm forward and fired a bolt of lightning that sparked through several Jonin, whipping them from the air.
Several more demon ninja leapt closer.
Hurricane Blue flipped forward and bashed her feet against a Jonin, dropping the ninja to the ground.
Hurricane Yellow stood nearby and bashed a tornado kick across a grunt’s head.
In the distance, a young teen stepped slowly from the trees.
The Rangers turned to see Nicolas walking towards them. They didn’t realize who he was, or that he could turn into Kamen Rider Leangle. But they doubted his arrival was a good thing.
“Who’s the kid?” Hurricane Yellow asked as he bashed an elbow against a grunt’s chest.
“No idea,” Hurricane Blue said as she snapped a crescent kick across a soldier’s face.
Nicolas lowered his buckler, and the belt wrapped around his waist. He slid the Spider Undead card into the buckler and flipped it open. “Transform.”
The belt spoke the command: “OPEN UP.”
The buckler emitted a card-shaped wall of purple energy that wrapped around the teen, transforming him into Kamen Rider Leangle.
“Another freaking Kamen Rider?” Navy Thunder asked.
“That’s random,” Hurricane Yellow said.
Kamen Rider Leangle armed his staff and slashed through the Jonin, bashing his staff across their skulls and slashing the weapon through their bodies with bursts of spark.
Half the Jonin charged towards Leangle. The other half dashed towards the dojo.
The Rangers started to run after the Jonin before they could reach the dojo. But Leangle leapt through the air and smashed a flying sidekick against Navy Thunder, knocking him to the ground. The Ranger quickly rolled to his feet.
The Rider landed, and the Rangers regrouped to face him.
“Hey,” Hurricane Yellow said. “Whose side are you-”
Kamen Rider Leangle slashed his staff across Hurricane Yellow’s chest with a burst of spark, whipping the Ranger’s body backward.
Navy Thunder moved in and smashed a jumping sidekick against the Rider, knocking him back a step. Hurricane Blue followed with a slash from her sword that sparked across the Rider’s armor.
Leangle staggered but stayed on his feet. He swung his staff through a wide arc. The staff slashed across Navy Thunder and Hurricane Blue, knocking them backward.
Kamen Rider Leangle flipped open his belt holster and pulled out two cards: The Five of Clubs labeled with the Cobra Undead and the Six of Clubs labeled with the Polar Bear Undead. He swiped the cards through the rouzer slit on his staff. The staff spoke a command with each swipe: “BITE; BLIZZARD.”
The rouzer emitted two cards of energy that splashed across the Rider’s armor.
Leangle leapt forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed his descent towards Navy Thunder and Hurricane Blue. His legs pulsed with icy energy, and he smashed a scissor kick across both Rangers. The kick sparked against their armor and hurled them off the ground.
Nearby, Hurricane Yellow rolled back to his feet. “Lion Hammer!”
He swung his hammer into a defensive stance and charged towards the evil Rider.
Leangle pulled the Four of Clubs from his belt. He swiped the Rhino Undead card through his rouzer: “RUSH.”
The staff emitted a card of energy that splashed across the Rider’s armor.
Leangle leaned forward and charged through a blur of motion. The villain crashed against the Yellow Ranger with a burst of spark, sending him flying off his feet.
Tommy suddenly dashed forward as if from nowhere and slashed his blade across Leangle with a burst of spark, whipping the Rider off his feet. Before the Rider crashed to the ground, Tommy spun forward with a reverse sidekick that smashed against the villain, hurling him backward.
Leangle smashed through a tree that splintered into pieces, and then crashed against the dirt. His armor powered down with a wave of purple-tinted light.
“Tommy,” Hurricane Blue called as she rose to her feet. “There’s more inside!”
Tommy turned and ran into the dojo.
A Jonin leapt through the air and swung its blade towards Tommy. Tommy merely lifted his hand, and the Jonin erupted into flame and exploded. Two more Jonin landed on the floor, and Tommy slashed through them with a quick strike that tore their bodies in half.
“Ashley!” Tommy shouted.
“There’s more back here!”
Tommy ran down the corridor and turned a corner to see three Jonin dash at Ashley and Tyler.
The former ranger thrust his hand forward and fired an invisible Kiryoku blast that knocked the three grunts backward, sending them slamming through the nearest wall.
Tommy twirled his blade into a defensive stance and moved closer to his fiancé and son. “Come on, back this way…”
Ashley and Tyler stayed close behind Tommy as he led them through the corridors and out of the Hayate Way. Once outside, they ran through the courtyard, but the massive villain Death Hand dropped to the ground in front of them to block their path.
Tommy cursed beneath his breath and lifted his sword.
“Ashley…” he wanted to tell her to run, but villains were everywhere, nowhere was safe.
Death Hand swung his massive sword, which fired a wave of crimson energy towards the former ranger. Tommy sliced through the energy blast, thrust his palm forward, and hurled a bolt of fire that exploded against Death Hand with a massive burst of spark, hurling the villain backward.
“New plan,” Tommy said to Ashley. “Back inside.”
They turned to run back in the dojo but stopped in their tracks when they saw a teen standing in the doorway. He looked like the boy the Rangers had described as Zero.
Tommy narrowed his eyes. “I thought all you Hellfire Knights were supposed to be waiting in Demon City.”
“I’m impatient and don’t listen well,” the teen said as he unsheathed his sword.
He raised the sword above his head and swung the blade through a circle. “Zero.”
Silver light flashed around him as he transformed into a suit of intricately-designed armor. His helmet resembled the head of a wolf, and he carried two massive, curved swords.
Zero growled and lunged forward to attack.
Tommy ducked beneath a sword swing and slashed across Zero’s armor with a burst of spark. The former ranger lunged forward with a jumping double-sidekick against the villain’s chest, pushed off, and flipped backward while slashing the villain’s armor. Tommy landed and spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed the villain backward.
Zero growled with delight. “You’re getting old.”
The villain swung both blades hard, but Tommy swung his sword and blocked the blow. “I may be old. But I can still-”
An explosion erupted beneath the two opponents and hurled them off their feet. Zero smashed through the dojo, and Tommy crashed against the ground and skid backward.
The former ranger rolled back into a crouched position and looked up to face his attacker, Death Hand.
“You really should’ve stayed down,” Tommy said.
The villain energized his shorter blade with fiery power and hurled the weapon towards the former ranger.
Tommy charged forward, swatted the blade aside, and energized his own sword with red-tinted power.
Death Hand chopped his sword towards Tommy’s head. But Tommy slashed through the sword, shattering the blade into pieces. He spun forward and slashed his sword through a streak of red energy that sparked across Death Hand and whipped the villain’s body backward.
Secondary explosions tore across the creature’s body as he crashed against the ground and tumbled across the dirt.
“Ashley!” Tommy shouted.
He had lost sight of her and Tyler.
He cursed beneath his breath and effortlessly cut down three Jonin that surrounded him.
The explosion from Death Hand’s attack had tossed Ashley and Tyler into the woods. The impact had knocked Ashley unconscious, but young Tyler manager to push himself to his feet.
“Ashley…” the boy tried to shake Ashley awake. “Ashley…”
He heard the sounds of swords clashing closer towards the dojo. He couldn’t understand what was happening, but he knew his father and the Rangers were in trouble.
The bushes parted from behind the boy, and he turned to Nicolas.
“Shhh…” Nicolas said to Tyler. “It’s OK; you’re going to be alright. I’m a Kamen Rider. I’m here to help you. To take you someplace safe.”
Tyler smiled. He knew that Rangers and Riders were heroes. So he took the Rider’s hand.
Zero charged at Tommy. But Navy Thunder dashed from the side and slashed his staff across the villain with a burst of spark.
The Navy Thunder Ranger armed his Kuwaga Claw and used the blades as a fist weapon, punching the villain hard against the chest with a burst of spark. The blow hurled Zero backward.
Navy Thunder looked over his shoulder to Tommy. “I still don’t like you.”
“I know. You don’t have to remind me every second,” Tommy said. The former ranger slashed a Jonin from the air.
Tommy’s eyes darted across the landscape. The wounded villain known as Death Hand had fallen back, as had Kamen Rider Leangle. And Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow were finishing off the last of the Jonin.
Zero pushed himself back to his feet. His armor sizzled against his flesh. He had been wearing the Soul Metal for too long.
The villain growled and leapt upward to flee.
Tommy looked for his fiancé and son. “Ashley! Tyler!”
“Over here!” Ashley called from the bushes.
Tommy ran to her side and helped her sit up. Her head was bleeding, but not badly.
“You’re hurt…” Tommy said.
“I’ll be fine,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks. “It’s…it’s Tyler. “He’s gone.”
Nicolas walked through Angel Grove with the Leangle Belt held firmly around his waist. He instinctively traced his fingers along the buckler, feeling the energy of the Spider Undead within the belt’s card. The power had full control over the teen.
His other hand held onto something far more precious: The hand of young Tyler Oliver, as they both walked towards Demon City.
To be continued…Chapter 23