Ultimate Origins: Chapter Twenty-three

City at War: Second Wave

 

Tommy sheathed his sword and packed a small bag. He said nothing, his eyes focused and full of rage. He planned to travel to Demon City to find his son. The three rangers stood behind him.

 

“Let us go with you,” Rachel said.

 

“No. I go alone,” Tommy said. “You three need to stay here. There are too many factions at play, and we have no idea what they’re all up to. The last thing we need is for one of them to attack Angel Grove while you guys are stuck in Demon City.”

 

“Do we know where Kiva is?” Justin asked.

 

Blake rolled his eyes.

 

Rachel ignored him. “I haven’t seen him since we got back from England.”

 

“Maybe he finally got the hint,” Blake said.

 

“That’s not funny,” Rachel said. “We could use his help.”

 

“Rachel’s right,” Tommy said. “Find him if you can. Be alert…and be safe.”

 

***

 

Megan kept her eyes fixed on the computer monitor in her room. Ken sat nearby, while Bobby paced, too nervous to drink his milk.

 

“There was a flare, and then nothing,” Megan said. “I can’t explain it.”

 

“We have to track them down,” Ken said. “The Undead, and Leangle.”

 

“Leangle’s just a kid,” a voice said from nearby. They turned to see Benjamin walk into the room. Ken’s eyes lit up at the sight of his partner.

 

“Benjamin! You’re back…”

 

“I saw him,” Benjamin said. “Leangle. He’s even younger than we are. His name’s Nicolas.”

 

“I saw him too,” Ken said. “We think the Spider Undead is controlling him.”

 

“We know the Spider Undead is controlling him,” Megan said.

 

“Then we have to save him,” Benjamin said. “I’m not letting the Undead manipulate anyone else.”

 

Ken pulled the Garren belt from his shoulder bag and handed the buckler to Benjamin. “Then you’ll need this…”

 

Benjamin shook his head. “No. I’ll help you find Nicolas and try to get through to him. But I can’t be a Rider. Not anymore…”

 

“Just take it, Benjamin,” Ken said. “Just in case. Besides, I could use the extra room in my bag.”

 

Benjamin reluctantly took the belt.

 

Megan’s monitor lit up with activity. She immediately turned to the screen. “I’ve found them again. The Undead. They’re even deeper into Demon City.”

 

“Let’s go,” Ken said as he and Benjamin ran for the door.

 

***

 

Samuel sat on a rooftop with his legs against his chest and his head against his knees. He covered his ears and tried to drown out the psychic cries that surrounded him. But he could not. He faced Demon City, a mere block away, and the feeling threatened to overwhelm him.

 

Simon leapt across the rooftops nearby, spotted his brother, and landed behind him. Samuel didn’t seem surprised.

 

“You heard it too?” Samuel asked. “That voice?”

 

Simon nodded and looked towards Demon City. “I heard it…”

 

Samuel shook his head. “I don’t understand what’s happening. First the images from the meteor shower. Then the physic message. What…what is this?”

 

“I don’t know,” Simon said. “I just know that the voice…he wanted us here.”

 

“Why?” Samuel asked as he lifted his head.

 

“I don’t know,” Simon said. “But being here, where he wants us, gets us closer to him. And that’s what I want.”

 

Samuel climbed slowly back to his feet. “How can you stand the feeling of this place?”

 

“I can’t,” Simon said. “Listen, Samuel. I need you to focus.”

 

“How can I focus on anything?” Samuel asked. He clutched his chest and looked out upon the city. “There’s so much pain…”

 

“I know you’ve been through a lot-”

 

“I’m not talking about me,” Samuel said. “Out there. In the city. In the world. There’s so much pain; it’s everywhere.”

 

“And you think the Hellfire Club is going to make all that go away?” Simon asked.

 

“If they can, yes,” Samuel said. “They want to save everyone.”

 

“By controlling everything,” Simon said.

 

“By bringing control,” Samuel said. “They don’t want to rule. They’re just tired of seeing the world spin into chaos. Can you seriously blame them for that? What if they can make everything right?”

 

“They can’t fix the entire world,” Simon said. “That’s not even possible.”

 

Samuel shook his head. “No…” he said softly. “I suppose you’re right. There’s too much pain…but what if they had the power to start everything over? To wipe the slate clean? A reset button…”

 

“This isn’t a game,” Simon said. “There is no reset button.”

 

“What if there was?” Samuel asked. “Our mother…she’s powerful, Simon. She’s part of something greater than I realized. What if she can help the world start over fresh? Better. For everyone.”

 

“Even if she could—which she can’t—no one should ever play God,” Simon said.

 

“Is a doctor playing God when he stops a man from dying from a heart attack? Is a fireman playing God when he rescues someone from a burning building? What does ‘playing God’ even mean?” Samuel asked. “That’s a stupid phrase, I’ve always thought that. Saving people isn’t playing God. So what would be wrong with saving literally everyone, the whole world?”

 

“The Hellfire Club doesn’t have that kind of power,” Simon said.

 

“What if they did? What if we did?” Samuel asked. “If you could reset everything, start over and take away all the pain, for everyone, wouldn’t you do it?”

 

“I…” Simon hesitated, then shook his head. “Listen, Samuel. I don’t know what crap they’ve pumped into your head, but you’re talking super-villain crazy, and we don’t have time for that. I need you to listen to me. I know we didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms-”

 

“I saved you, remember?”

 

“OK, the terms weren’t all bad,” Simon said. “But listen…I never did get a chance to explain what they did to us. The Black Queen. Azmodai.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Samuel asked.

 

“That voice we heard was Azmodai. A demon. And in a way, our father,” Simon said.

 

Samuel narrowed his eyes. “We’re half-brothers. Different Dads. Same Mom.”

 

“I know, it’s complicated,” Simon said. “That’s why I need you to focus. Can you-”

 

An explosion tore half the roof apart and hurled the brothers through the air.

 

They crashed on the roof of a neighboring building and quickly rolled to their feet.

 

New Bitmap ImageThey looked up to see three Marauders land on the rooftop: Shadow Blade, Red Python, and Wraith.

 

Simon narrowed his eyes at the villains. “Marauders…it’s been a while, but not long enough.”

 

“Well, well. Little Simon,” Red Python said wickedly. “An unexpected treat. We were expecting the Hellfire brat, not you.”

 

“I really don’t care,” Simon said as he armed his morpher. “Ninjetti change! Ha!”

 

Energy twirled around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

Samuel unsheathed his sword. He didn’t want to call upon his Soul Metal armor, because he could use that power for a limited time only.

 

Hurricane Red leapt at Wraith with a flying sidekick. The villain burst into feathers of energy and fluttered around the Ranger, slashing across his armor with bursts of spark. The villain reformed and swung his staff towards Hurricane Red. But the Red Ranger blocked the blow and smashed a sidekick against the villain’s side.

 

The villain staggered backward but stayed on his feet. He stabbed his staff against the roof, and the weapon launched a flurry of energy feathers that shot towards the Red Ranger.

 

Hurricane Red leapt upward to avoid the blast.

 

The Red Ranger angled his descent towards the villain and thrust his palm forward. “Whirling Flame!”

 

Hurricane Red hurled a bolt of fire that twirled with wind energy.

 

Wraith swung his staff and batted the bolt of fire back towards Hurricane Red. The energy blast sparked against the Red Ranger’s armor and hurled him from the rooftop.

 

The Red Ranger crashed through the side of a neighboring building.

 

“Simon!” Samuel shouted.

 

Red Python hurled twin blades of red energy at the teen. Samuel turned and spun his sword, swatting aside the energy blades with bursts of spark. He thrust his palm forward and fired an invisible telekinetic blast that crashed against Red Python and knocked her off her feet.

 

Shadow Blade leapt at the teen and chopped his blade downward. Samuel sidestepped and slashed upward, blade sparking across Shadow Blade and whipping his body backward.

 

***

 

Hurricane Red pushed himself to his feet in the neighboring building. He found himself in an office cluttered with abandoned cubicles.

 

“Hello, Simon,” a voice said from behind.

 

Hurricane Red turned to see the Dark Man Akuma standing casually with his hands in his pockets.

 

“You…”

 

The Red Ranger unsheathed his sword and charged to attack.

 

Akuma merely lifted his hand and suspended the Red Ranger in a field of invisible energy. “Come now, Simon. Your mentor couldn’t defeat me when he was at his peak. You couldn’t possibly hope to hurt me.”

 

He didn’t sound like he was bragging or proud. He spoke matter-of-factly.

 

The Dark Man lowered his hand. Hurricane Red dropped to his feet, and his armor powered down.

 

“I’m not going to stand here and banter while your cronies fight my brother,” Simon said.

 

“They won’t win,” Akuma said. “Little Sammy’s too powerful for them. They’re just here to distract him, and the rest of the Hellfire Club.”

 

“From what?” Simon asked.

 

“We’ll get to that in a moment,” Akuma said. “First, I have information for you.”

 

“There’s no way I’ll trust anything you say,” Simon said.

 

“Of course not,” Akuma said. “Regardless, I’ve been learning much about you. As well as your mother and father. The Hellfire Club’s been below notice until recently—I never realized Kimberly had a half-brother. And how many other siblings? Five? That’s quite a number.”

 

“Tell me what you want or I’m morphing out of here.”

 

“It’s not what I want, it’s what you want,” Akuma said. Azmodai. I can tell you where to find him.”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “Why would you do that?”

 

“If I told you all my plans, it would simply confuse you,” Akuma said. “I can barely keep track of everything myself. That’s what happens when the very Pattern of reality starts to unravel.”

 

“Fine,” Simon said. “Where is he?”

 

“The Wolfram & Hart building,” Akuma said.

 

“Thanks,” Simon said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go kick the crap out of your goons.”

 

He turned and ran towards the hole in the wall, then leapt through the opening and morphed into his armor.

 

***

 

Red Python smashed a kick against Samuel’s gut, knocking him onto his back. The teen rolled into a crouched position and rose to his feet.

 

Samuel lifted his sword upward and swung the blade through a circle.

 

“Garo.”

 

Energy surged around him as he transformed into his wolf-like, golden armor.

 

Garo dashed forward and smashed his elbow against Wraith. The blow hurled the villain from the rooftop with the force of a wrecking ball.

 

Red Python and Shadow Blade leapt towards Garo from behind. The knight turned and swung his sword through a wide arc. The blade sparked across both villains and whipped them from the roof.

 

The two villains plummeted downward, smashed through the skylight of a nearby rooftop, and crashed in the middle of an abandoned warehouse.

 

Garo leapt through the air and landed in the warehouse with a thundering boom that smashed the concrete beneath his feet.

 

Red Python and Shadow Blade staggered back to their feet.

 

Garo traced his hand along the edge of his blade, which ignited with green flame. He swung his sword through an x-shaped arc, which fired an x-shaped wave of jade-tinted flame.

 

The flame splashed across Shadow Blade and Red Python and tore across their armor with massive bursts of spark and flame that hurled them off their feet.

 

Shadow Blade crashed through a nearby support beam, and parts of the ceiling collapsed onto the fallen villain. Red Python smashed through a pile of empty crates.

 

Garo lowered his sword and powered down his armor. He collapsed to all fours and breathed deeply, exhausted at the stress of his own power.

 

Samuel knew he couldn’t linger for long. He had to run before Shadow Blade and Red Python recovered.

 

He pushed himself to his feet and ran from the warehouse.

 

***

 

Nicolas led Tyler into the outskirts of Demon City. The teen could tell that Tyler was getting tired, but he didn’t want to slow down. If they paused for even a moment, the boy would have time to think and feel fear. They had to keep moving. 

 

“I wanna sit,” Tyler said.

 

“Not yet,” Nicolas said. “As soon as we get to the safe place.”

 

“How far?” Tyler asked.

 

“Not far,” Nicolas said. “We need to get there fast, so we have to keep moving. I need you to be strong. Like your father. Can you do that for me?”

 

Tyler nodded.

 

“Good,” Nicolas said.

 

They kept walking, until Tyler suddenly stopped and looked over his shoulder. He stared at the skeletal remains of a gutted building, stabbing upward from piles of broken concrete and rubble.

 

“Tyler, what did I just say?” Nicolas asked softly.

 

“There’s something over there,” Tyler said.

 

“Probably, that’s why we have to keep moving,” Nicolas said. “It’s not safe here, so-”

 

A Worm erupted through a nearby wall and skid across the ground ahead of Nicolas and Tyler. The creature exploded with a burst of green flame.

 

02LocustThe Locust Undead leapt from the air and landed next to the fallen grunt. Several more Worms scattered onto the streets. The Deer Undead, Boar Undead, Dragonfly Undead and Jaguar Undead charged from nearby and bashed against the Worms, hacking and slashing through the creatures with bursts of spark.

 

Tyler squeezed tightly onto Nicolas’s hand and took a step backward.

 

“It’s OK, Tyler,” Nicolas said. “They’re hurting each other, not us.”

 

The sound of two motorcycles came from behind. Nicolas looked back to see Ken and Benjamin ride onto the scene.

 

They skid their bikes to a halt and dismounted.

 

“Nicolas!” Ken shouted as he and Benjamin ran towards the teen.

 

Nicolas looked to Tyler. “Hide. I’ll find you when I’m done.”

 

Tyler looked back and forth between Ken, Benjamin, and Nicolas. “But…they’re Riders too.”

 

“Evil ones,” Nicolas said. “Now hide.”

 

Young Tyler turned and ran towards the nearest pile of rubble to hide.

 

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.

 

Ken lowered his buckler. The belt wrapped around his waist as he stepped into his transformation pose.

 

“Transform!” Ken flipped his buckler. The belt spoke the command: “TURN UP.”

 

The buckler emitted a card-shaped wall of blue energy that slid across his body and transformed him into Kamen Rider Blade.

 

Benjamin stayed back and looked to the buckler in his hand. Was he truly ready to become a Rider again? His thoughts drifted to Emma, who had died because of his weakness.

 

Another motorcycle sped onto the scene, this one driven by Zayden. He had tracked the Undead to reclaim his card. He quickly pulled to a stop, dismounted and charged towards Leangle.

 

Zayden pulled the Ace of Hearts from his jacket. His belt appeared with a rippling effect around his waist.

 

“Transform,” he said as he swiped the card through his belt slit. The belt spoke the command: “CHANGE.”

 

His body rippled and transformed into Kamen Rider Chalice.

 

Nearby, the Undead finished off the last of the Worms and turned their attention to the Riders.

 

Blade and Chalice charged forward to attack.

 

The two Riders smashed against the Undead with punches and kicks. Blade unsheathed his sword and slashed the creatures with bursts of spark, while Chalice swung his bow-blade through quick and powerful strikes that sparked across the monsters.

 

Leangle chopped his staff towards Blade’s head. Blade used his sword to block the blow. But Leangle smashed a kick against the Rider’s chest, knocking him back a step.

 

Chalice leapt at Leangle and chopped across the villain’s back with a burst of spark. The evil Rider whipped around and bashed his staff across Chalice’s head.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slashed across Locust Undead and Boar Undead with bursts of spark. He whipped his leg through a roundhouse kick that bashed across Deer Undead’s head.

 

Leangle moved in and slashed across Blade’s back with a burst of spark. Blade spun and swung his sword at the villain. But Leangle parried the blow and slashed his staff across Blade’s chest with bursts of spark, whipping his body backward.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle swung his staff wide and knocked Blade’s sword aside. He lunged forward and grabbed Blade in a tight chokehold. He squeezed and watched with fiendish delight as Blade struggled.

 

Suddenly, Leangle heard Tyler cry from his hiding spot. The crying stirred odd emotions in the Rider, who slackened his grip.

 

Blade knocked Leangle’s arm aside and quickly opened the fan of cards on his sword. He swiped the Three of Spades through his sword slit: “BEAT.”

 

A card of blue energy splashed across Blade’s chest and energized his fist.

 

Kamen Rider Blade lunged forward with a powerful punch that smashed against Leangle’s chest with a burst of spark that hurled him through the air.

 

Nearby, Boar Undead swung its claws towards Chalice. Chalice blocked the blow and smashed a roundkick against the Undead. He snapped his other leg through a sidekick that slammed against Jaguar Undead.

 

Blade slashed across Dragonfly Undead with a burst of spark, parried a blow from Deer Undead, and slashed his sword across Locust Undead.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle climbed back to his feet. His body filled with rage and hatred as he looked up to see the two Riders battle his Undead army.

 

Leangle rushed into the battle. He bashed Locust Undead aside and smashed his staff across Blade’s head. The evil Rider continued his charge, slashed aside Boar Undead, and chopped his staff towards Chalice’s head.

 

Chalice swung his bow-blade and blocked the staff with a burst of spark. Leangle swung with a flurry of quick chops and strikes, and Chalice blocked each. Each strike forced the Rider farther backward, and each block became weaker.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice dove under a staff swing and rolled back to his feet. He turned to dodge a staff swing, then swung his blade towards Leangle’s head. Leangle blocked the blow and smashed a sidekick against Chalice’s chest. The evil Rider followed with a roundhouse kick that bashed across Chalice’s head.

 

Chalice staggered backward.

 

Leangle swung his staff and knocked the legs out from beneath Chalice, and the Rider crashed back-first against the ground. Leangle bashed the end of his staff repeatedly against the fallen Rider’s faceplate.

 

“How do you feel now, Chalice?” Leangle asked as he bashed his weapon against the Rider’s faceplate again and again. “You could have been the strongest of us. Instead, you sell your soul to the humans.”

 

“Stop!” Benjamin shouted from nearby. Leangle looked over his shoulder, giving Chalice enough time to roll aside.

 

Garren…” Leangle said.

 

“First you take control of Nicolas...then you kidnap some kid?” Benjamin asked. “Nicolas, if you’re still in there, fight. Think of Nikki.”

 

Chalice charged in from behind and slashed across Leangle’s back with a burst of spark. Blade moved in next with a wide swing that slashed across the evil Rider.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle staggered forward and stepped back into a defensive stance.

 

The Rider 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 slit on his staff. “BITE; BLIZZARD.”

 

The staff emitted two cards of energy that splashed across the Rider’s armor.

 

Leangle leapt forward, somersaulted through the air, and aimed his descent towards Blade and Chalice. His legs pulsed with icy energy, and he smashed a scissor kick across both Riders, hurling them off their feet.

 

The two Riders crashed against the ground, and their armor powered down as they lost consciousness.

 

Benjamin narrowed his eyes and tightened his grip on his buckler.

 

Leangle leapt through the air and bashed a punch against Benjamin’s gut, knocking the teen out cold.

 

Nearby, Tyler scrambled from hiding and ran as fast as his legs could carry him.

 

Dragonfly Undead and Jaguar Undead landed in front of the boy to block his path. He screamed and lifted his hands, and fiery light shot forth. The light blasted against the Undead with bursts of spark and hurled them through the air.

 

Nicolas powered down his armor and walked towards the boy with peaked curiosity.

 

Tyler rolled up into a ball on the ground and cried, burying his head into his arms.

 

“I wanna go home,” he sobbed. “I wanna go home, why can’t I just go home.”

 

The crying tugged at emotions Nicolas did his best to bury. He lifted Tyler into his arms and walked deeper into Demon City.

 

***

 

vlcsnap-202949.jpg image by maverick-eririnA group of Worms moved across the broken rooftops to intercept Nicolas and the boy.

 

The Marauder named Volf landed in the middle of the group and tore through the Worms with bursts of spark.

 

His claws ripped open their shells and sprayed green ichor across the rubble around them.

 

Volf bit down hard against a Worm’s arm, tore the limb free, and slashed upward across the creature’s chest.

 

The last of the Worms fell, and Volf leapt through the air towards his next targets. 

 

***

 

Blake, Rachel, and Justin didn’t listen well. They had stayed behind in Ops for about two hours before Ashley finally sent them into Demon City.

 

“He gave a good speech,” she had said of Tommy. “But the reason he wants you to stay here is because he wants to do this alone. And the reason he wants to do this alone is because he feels guilty about what happened. He’s beating himself up for it and taking all the blame. He’s putting it all on himself to make things right. I’m not going to let him do that. So get going.”

 

They made their way into the outskirts of Demon City when they saw Ken, Benjamin and Zayden lying injured.

 

The rangers landed next to the riders, who slowly regained consciousness. Justin and Rachel helped them to their feet.

 

Ken groaned and knitted his brow quizzically at the sight of the team. “Rangers…? What are you doing here?”

 

“We could ask you the same thing,” Justin said as he helped Benjamin stand.

 

“In fact, I think we will,” Blake said as he stood with his arms crossed. “What are you doing here?”

 

Benjamin glared at Blake and swatted Justin’s hand away. “It’s not anything you need to worry about,” Benjamin said. “This isn’t your fight.”

 

“You say that every time we meet, dumbass,” Blake said. “Get some new material.”

 

Benjamin lunged at Blake with a hook punch. Blake sidestepped, grabbed the rider by the arm, and dropped him to the ground.

 

Zayden dashed forward before Ken could stop the fighting. The rider smashed a roundkick against Blake’s gut and bashed a knife-hand strike against the back of his neck, knocking him to the ground.

 

“Stop it!” Ken shouted.

 

Justin moved to help Blake. But Zayden slammed a sidekick against the ranger’s chest.

 

Ken lunged forward and punched Zayden in the face, knocking him back a step. “I said stop!” he shouted. “What’s wrong with you?”

 

Zayden wiped green-tinted blood from his mouth and glared at Ken with eyes like fire. “You touched me…”

 

“You didn’t give me much choice,” he said. “I would’ve punched Benjamin too if his butt wasn’t already on the ground. We can’t waste time fighting each other like this.”

 

Benjamin climbed back to his feet and lunged to tackle Blake. But Ken grabbed him, kneed him in the gut, and tossed him aside. “I wasn’t kidding Benjamin,” he said between deep breaths. “These aren’t our enemies.”

 

“Tell that to the people they’ve killed,” Benjamin said as he pushed himself back to his feet. “You always wanted to know why I joined the Initiative, right? Because of them. My little brother went to Solon Robinson.”

 

The rangers had heard of the school before—their Megazords had accidentally crushed the building during a fight when the Wind Power Rangers and Thunder Power Rangers were still enemies.

 

“He didn’t make it,” Benjamin said.

 

“Benjamin…” Ken said as he laid a hand on Benjamin’s shoulder.

 

He shrugged it off. “Don’t. I don’t want pity. That’s why I never told you. The point is, we can’t trust them.”

 

“This personality conflict is really interesting,” Blake said sarcastically. “But we need to move on before your evil Rider friend sacrifices Tommy’s kid to some pagan god, or does some random evil…thing.”

 

“Tommy’s kid?” Ken asked. “That boy was Tommy Oliver’s son?”

 

“Yes,” Rachel said. “Which makes this very much our fight too.

 

Ken sighed, looked to Benjamin, and then looked reluctantly back to Rachel. “I suppose there’s strength in numbers.”

 

“Yes, very wise,” Blake said. “Seriously, can we get moving now, please? I’m getting antsy.”

 

“You’re always antsy,” Rachel said.

 

“All the more reason to move,” Blake said. “Kids in trouble, demon ceremonies to stop. I hate standing, let’s just go.”

 

***

 

Simon had lost track of Samuel. So he decided to resume his hunt for Azmodai.

 

The teen leapt across the rooftops towards the Wolfram & Hart building. He entered the skyscraper through an upper balcony expecting to face anything from security to hulking demon monsters. Instead he faced nothing.

 

The ranger walked through the corridors and noticed dead security officers slumped against the floor and walls, their blood splattered everywhere. Simon narrowed his eyes at the sight.

 

He turned a corner and heard the familiar sound of punches and kicks thumping against flesh and bone.

 

The ranger darted ahead and ran onto another balcony. There, a teenage girl spun forward and smashed a reverse sidekick against a man’s face, knocking him backward.

 

A suited man with solid-black eyes lunged at her from behind. The girl spun and stabbed a knife through the man’s chest. She twisted the knife, and the blade glowed with fiery-orange power. Sizzling light erupted from the man’s eyes and mouth, and flashed beneath his skin, as if the blade had burnt his soul.

 

She pulled the knife free and kicked the man upside the head. His lifeless body crashed against the balcony.

 

The girl turned towards Simon and held her blade in an offensive stance.

 

“Whoa, whoa,” Simon said as he took a step back and held out his hands. “I’m not with them.”

 

The girl narrowed her eyes. “You’re right…you’re not…You’re one of the Chosen.”

 

“Chosen?” Simon asked.

 

“It’s what Azmodai calls his kids,” she said as she lowered her knife. “Not very original, I know. That’s because he’s an asshat. My name’s Zadie, by the way.”

 

“Who are you?” Simon asked.

 

She arced an eyebrow. “I just told you that. Not too bright, are you?”

 

“Not just your name. Who are you, and what are you doing here? How did you recognize me so fast?”

 

“I’m pissed off and in a hurry, so one of three things can happen. One, you can keep asking me questions until I get annoyed and slit your throat. Two, you can help me track Azmodai and the Black Queen. They’re not here like I expected; they’ve already gone into Demon City. Or three—you’re extremely hot, so I wouldn’t mind you fucking me against the balcony.”

 

Simon blushed and took a step back. He paid attention to her looks for the first time. She was slender, with tight-fitting jeans, cream-colored skin, and long black hair. Her eyes were a mix of green and blue.

 

“I…” he shook his head. “I’m after Azmodai. I want him dead.”

 

Zadie frowned. “I was hoping for Option 3, but that works too,” she said. “Come on, pretty boy. Let’s hunt down your daddy.”

 

***

 

Azmodai stood on a broken rooftop within Demon City. He looked down at Nicolas carrying Tyler into the distance.

 

The demon smiled and whispered one word. “Now.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 24