Ultimate Legacy: Recap
Reality shattered, leaving shards of time and space. The Ultimate Power Rangers journeyed through the fragments to unravel the secrets that led to the destruction of the Wheel of Time. Using mysterious Ranger Keys, they hoped to uncover the truth about their past, and restore their universe.
Before the Shattering: Years ago, the First Demon possessed a man named John and impregnated Madelyn, who would become Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. She gave birth to Simon Kaden, who would grow up to become Gao Red, and then Hurricane Red. Azmodai possessed five other men to have five other children with Madelyn: Zen, Samuel, Brandon, Owen and Rin “R.J” Amantini.
Azmodai used his children to take physical form and set foot on the mortal plane, which broke the Third Seal to the Dark One’s prison. With the Third Seal broken, children like Simon, whose parents were possessed by demons, lost the ability to control their demon power. They gained the ability to “demon morph” into stronger forms, called Shaded. A demon morph often happened uncontrollably and caused the Shaded to go berserk.
This happened to Simon. And his ally, Shirogane, also a Shaded, betrayed and killed him.
Later, Simon awoke in Hell.
Ultimate Legacy: Chapter Seven
Good God, Y’All
The Time Shard flared with images of Hell, weeks before the formation of the Mystic Rangers.
Visions danced through the Ultimate Power Rangers' minds and zeroed in on Simon Kaden, who had tried to escape from Hell, and failed. Killed by his former comrade, demon-possessed Shirogane, Simon drifted through Hell aimless and alone.
Tyler and his teammates walked through the images of Hades, which parted like fog as they passed through the hellscape. The previous Time Shard gave them visions like memories or dreams. This Time Shard displayed images they could see and feel.
"Weird...right?" Mat asked. "It didn't happen like this before..."
Tyler shook his head. "No...No it didn't."
"What does this mean?" Kym asked.
"Who knows…" Tyler said.
Seth nodded towards the distance. "There...That's Simon."
"He looks different..." Kira said. "Meaner..."
"What happened to him?" Kym asked.
"Well, this is Hell," Mat said. "It's not exactly a place full of warm and fuzzy feelings..."
Simon sat cross-legged on the floor of Hell. Within the Ninth Circle, frigid air blew through the darkness. The cold stung Simon like hundreds of needles, but he tried to ignore the pain, just as he tried to ignore the screams of anguish that cried from his soul.
How long have I been here...? he asked as he sunk into despair. His black aura danced across his skin like dark flame.
A dark wisp blew through the air, expanded, and formed a massive shadow over the former Ranger. The shadow intensified with darkness so thick, it looked like oil.
"You are alone..." a voice whispered from the shadow. "And you have failed..."
Simon stood and glared at the shadow. He recognized the voice immediately. "Lucifer..."
Trapped somewhere beneath the surface of Hades, Lucifer communicated through psionic projections.
"Do you wish for my help now, child?" Lucifer asked. "Do you wish to break free from this place?"
Simon rolled his hands into fists. Dark flames crackled around his knuckles. And his eyes pulsed with dark power. "I'm done with you."
His left eye flared with a burst of black light, firing an invisible TK blast that tore the shade to shreds.
Lucifer laughed as his shadow reformed above the Ranger. The villain's eyes glared with cold-blue light. "Such power within you...such potential...constantly changing and adapting. Do you know what you are, boy? You are the child of the First Demon and the First Angel..."
Simon gritted his teeth. "I've already been through this...why are you wasting my time?"
"Because...what you don't know, is that the First Angel was me, before I was cast from the Heavenly Realms. You carry the blood and Life Force of the First Demon Azmodai...as well as my own."
Simon knitted his brow and staggered backward, as if punched in the gut. "You're...No. You're insane. I won't let you manipulate me!"
"You have been manipulated since the moment you were born," Lucifer said. "All mortals have. The gods may not be able to set foot on the mortal realm, but they still treat you all as their playthings. Don't you want to break free from that cycle? That pattern of death and destruction, a constant that will destroy this reality, as it has others before it? You have that power...With your unique lineage, you can break free from the strings of Fate, just as the Dragon did during the Mogralord Wars."
A shadow formed behind Simon. He turned to see the blurred image of his half-brother, Samuel, the Golden Knight Garo.
"Sammy..." Simon whispered.
"Think of your brother," Lucifer said.
Simon shook his head. "I'm not doing this again. I already tried to break free from this place. I failed. So leave me alone!"
"You tried too hard," Lucifer said. "And you abandoned the one who could help you. Moridyn, the Forsaken, offered his aide, and you struck down his astral form."
Simon smirked. "That's the only thing that's felt good since I've gotten here."
Lucifer chuckled. "You are truly my child."
"I wouldn't say that..." Simon said.
"No...I suppose you wouldn't," Lucifer said. "But it matters not. If you want to leave this place, find the fissure that leads to the heart of Demon City. You've seen it for yourself, on the mortal side."
Simon narrowed his eyes. He had seen the tear, within the palace of Xanathor: a fused entity created from the Avatar of the God of Death and former Hurricane Ranger villains Lothor and Centhrax.
"That rift leads to the Dark One's prison," Simon said.
"You would want to go the opposite way, of course," Lucifer said.
Simon shook his head. "I don't trust you..."
"You do, and that's what scares you," Lucifer said. "Your empathic senses are strong here. Reach out with those feelings and know the truth. You can break through the rift, using the power of demons your soul absorbed while in the mortal realm. Then, once revived, you will be free to choose: Continue to fight to protect a world doomed to death and destruction. Or end the cycle of death and destruction, once and for all."
"What's stopping you from hitching a ride out with me?" Simon asked.
"I am trapped beneath the surface of Hades," Lucifer said. "And my prison...is not my own."
"That doesn't even make any sense," Simon said.
"Go to the fissure," Lucifer said. "See it for yourself. Decide for yourself..."
And with that, Lucifer dissipated into black smog that vanished into the cold wind.
"Hey..." Simon said. "Hey! Come back, you son-of-a-bitch!"
He tightened his fists, and his TK energy shook the Ninth Circle of Hell.
"Fine..." he whispered. "You want to play? We'll play..."
The Rangers stood stunned.
Mat shook his head and broke the silence. "...Dude."
Kira arced an eyebrow. "Did you just say 'dude?'"
"What else do you say to something like that?" Mat asked. "The guy's related to the First Demon and Lucifer. Talk about crap luck."
Tyler knitted his brow and looked around. "This is before the Mystic Rangers...before Morticon...and before N'Ma."
"What are you thinking?" Kym asked.
"I'm not sure..." Tyler said. "What if what happened here caused everything the Mystic team went up against?"
Simon wasted no time diving through the dark pit at the center of the Ninth Circle. He dropped faster than he thought possible, as the screams of the damned pounded in his ears.
Suddenly, his decent slowed, and he snapped to a stop in midair. Ahead, a dark-blue pillar of energy stabbed upward from the center of Hell. The energy flared like cold flame, which Simon recognized immediately.
"That's the tear..." he whispered. "That leads straight to Demon City...Angel Grove..."
He didn't think any soul or demon could pass through the fissure; it wasn't a portal, just a rip. Even standing this close, he could feel its power threaten to tear his soul to shreds — unless the intense spiritual pressure crushed him first.
Yet somehow, through the fissure, he felt the pain of the mortal world. His emphatic senses intensified beyond anything he thought possible, and he screamed with agony. Pain. Suffering. Everywhere.
"Make it stop..." he whispered. "Make it stop!"
His body flared with dark energy, and without thinking, he shot into the fissure.
Tyler and the Rangers looked upward, and through Hell, they saw images of Demon City, the corrupted heart of Angel Grove, now decimated by a nuclear attack meant to end the threats that lurked in its alleyways.
"So that's home?" Mat asked. "I'd rather stay in Hell."
"This isn't funny, Mat," Kira said. "This is important. Look..."
Simon surrounded himself with Ki and TK energy as he shot upward, flying through the fissure towards the mortal world above. The fissure nearly crushed him and pushed his power to its limits; the cold heat felt like an intense furnace, even hotter than the flames of Hell itself. He would know.
The burning pealed back layers of his soul, scraps of his very existence. But he barreled forward.
The former Ranger shifted into his Shaded form, with hair and skin chalk-white, and eyes solid black except for red irises. He shouted, causing Hell itself to tremble.
The white Gorma Mask formed over his face, and his Ki churned into Rinki. He blazed with dark power and shot ahead even faster. But as he neared the mortal plane, the spiritual pressure of the fissure reversed, and started to push him downward, back towards Hell.
"What...no!" he shouted.
He heard the soft, hissing laughter of Lucifer. "A soul for a soul..."
"What?!" he shouted.
"The final push..." Lucifer said. "No mortal has ever escaped from Hell. Your power allowed you to come this far. Now, to finish the transition back into the mortal plane, you must exchange a soul for your own, and it must be now...or the fissure will tear you to pieces."
"You son-of-a-bitch!" Simon shouted.
In the mortal realm, the demon called DaiShi possessed the corpse of Simon Kaden. DaiShi traveled along with a boy named Evan, an offspring of DaiShi's bloodline.
They moved across the rubble of Demon City, until DaiShi skid to a stop and clutched his chest.
Evan knitted his brow with concern. "What's wrong...?"
"Something... " DaiShi muttered, "is happening..."
The fissure nearly tore Simon to pieces as he struggled against its currents.
The former Ranger flared with power. He reached out with his psionic senses and looked upward. His left eye flared with black light, and the light shot through the fissure.
DaiShi staggered. He clutched his head and collapsed to his knees. "What...What is this madness?!"
Simon felt his body. He felt the mortal plane. And more importantly, he felt a single soul nearby. Young Evan. Simon cursed beneath his breath. He couldn't. He wouldn't.
Lucifer's laughter filled the void.
Simon screamed, denying his conscious, denying his morality. He shouted as loudly as he could. And he gave a final push of his power.
DaiShi howled with agony and rage. Against his will, he lashed out, grabbed Evan's forehead and ignited his palm with black light. The light tore the soul from Evan's body, and the boy collapsed to the ground.
Simon burst from Hell and re-entered his body. Evan, sprawled on the ground, shivered as his soul entered Hell in exchange for Simon's life.
Tyler and his teammates saw something Simon did not.
A Heavenly Saint, Mikhail, sensed the disruption in Hell and recognized it immediately. He knew if he didn't stop the disturbance, it would cause catastrophic results.
So the Saint swooped from the Heavenly Realms to intervene. He knew that, to stop Simon, he had to free him. But in the right way. The delicate way.
Mikhail tried to save Simon from Hades, but by the time he arrived, Simon already broke from the pit.
To protect Simon, Mikhail wiped out his memories of his time in Hell, and he allowed Simon's consciousness to overpower DaiShi. This left Simon in control of his own body, but with no recollection of how he resurrected after his death.
Seth's face paled at the sight of Evan. "He's just a kid..."
But slowly, Evan climbed to his feet. Somehow alive, but without a soul.
Meanwhile, within Hell, Hades shook from the power surge, and that shaking awoke the Great City of Hell, Denzoberranzan, and its General Morticon.
The vision flashed by, blurs of images that nearly gave the Rangers vertigo. They watched Simon reunite with Shirogane, now free of his demonic influence. And they heard the former Silver Gao Ranger offer to give Simon guidance for controlling his demonic power.
Their demon heritage gave them the ability to shift into stronger forms, called Shaded. Most Shaded went berserk. But Shirogane offered a way to help control those urges.
Simon sat cross legged on the floor of a dojo. He closed his eyes and focused on the twirling darkness within his own soul — the darkness of DaiShi, the demon spirit that shared his body. The ranger tried to ignore the screams of his own subconscious, tortured by the raw pain of fighting through Hell. How did he escape...? He still didn't recall. He barely remembered any of it. But he felt it, somehow.
What the hell's wrong with me...he thought.
The dojo doors opened, and Shirogane stepped into the room. The former Silver Gao Ranger sat across from Simon. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," Simon lied.
"Good..." Shirogane said with a nod. "The Night Troops are helping you to control your Shaded form and urges, just as they did with me..."
"I suppose..." Simon said. "How long do you plan to stay here?"
"Not long," Shirogane said. "We have a war to fight."
"Against the apocalypse, apparently," Simon said.
"When the apocalypse comes, the Fifth Seal breaks," Shirogane said.
"You've said that...pretty much every day since you found me," Simon said.
"Then learn faster," Shirogane said, "so we can act instead of talk."
Simon narrowed his eyes and stood. "Fine...What's next?"
"A final test," Shirogane said. "Come..."
Shirogane led Simon into a courtyard within the Japanese wilderness. There, various members of the Night Troops scattered about while practicing their disciplines. A diverse bunch, all possessed different types of supernatural powers, including several Shaded like Simon and Shirogane, who could demon-shift into stronger forms because of the tainted blood of their demon-possessed parents.
"What's this test?" Simon asked.
"You must hold your Shaded form for 10 minutes...without going berserk," Shirogane said.
"Seems simple enough."
Shirogane shook his head. "...while you fight him."
Shirogane nodded towards Simon's opponent, a young Shaded named Gavin, no older than 15. He looked toned, but young and innocent.
DaiShi laughed within Simon's mind. The ranger arced an eyebrow. "Him? He's a kid..."
"He's the most dangerous Shaded the Night Troops have ever encountered," Shirogane said. "He controls his powers, fully, making him more formidable than even you."
Simon scoffed. "I doubt that."
Tokimori, the half-brother of Eiji and leader of the Night Troops, walked into the courtyard. The soldiers hushed at the sight of their leader.
"Today we welcome a new member into our ranks...if he survives..." Tokimori said to the crowd. "Simon Kaden. Shaded. Former Hurricane Red. Are you ready to tame your inner demon?"
Simon nodded. His instincts screamed at him to lash out and slice Tokimori in half. But he held back, despite DaiShi's persistence.
"Good," Tokimori said. "Now...you will call on your Shaded form and face Gavin, a young man, wise beyond his years."
A boy! DaiShi shouted in Simon's mind. A boy who dares to think he can harness the power of the demons...
"Okay..." Simon said as he shifted into his Shaded form. His skin and hair paled to chalk-white, and his eyes turned solid black except for red irises. "Let's get this over with."
Gavin shifted into his Shaded form, pale, with black eyes except for blue irises.
"Remember..." Tokimori said. "The goal is not to defeat Gavin...it is to keep your inner demon under control. To fight with all your power, without letting it consume you. Do you understand?"
Simon nodded and summoned his black katana with a pulse of dark light.
Gavin smirked and summoned a white katana. "I'll go easy on you..."
Simon scoffed. "Kid...You have no idea how-"
Gavin flash-stepped and bashed his pommel upside Simon's head, whipping him backward. Simon crashed and skid across the ground.
Simon cursed beneath his breath as he climbed to his feet. "You're a fast one..."
Gavin flash-stepped with a flurry of strikes Simon blocked, forcing him backward. The former ranger gritted his teeth as DaiShi shouted in his mind: Unleash your power! Incinerate him! It would take a second, a mere second, and then dust!
No! Simon shouted back within his mind. We do this my way!
Simon slashed wide, firing a flare of black energy that surged towards Gavin. The young Shaded slashed upward, slicing the blade in half.
Gavin remained calm and controlled, mastering his power. His spiritual pressure intensified with each passing second, yet he appeared calm and collected.
Simon hated him for it. Good...DaiShi whispered. Good...Take that feeling, master it, control it, and use it to strike out!
Simon and Gavin flash-stepped around the sparring area. Their swords clanged with bursts of spark, and although Simon knew he could blast the young teen into pieces, he held back.
Simon twirled through midair. He knocked Gavin's sword aside and energized his fist with twirling black energy.
"Whirling Knuckle!" Simon punched Gavin's gut, hard, hurling him from the air. The boy crashed and skid across the dirt, dropping his sword.
Simon flared with dark flame and angled his decent towards Gavin. With a flash of black light, a white, lion-like Gorma mask formed over his face. He howled with rage, landed on Gavin's chest, and stabbed his sword — through the ground next to Gavin's ear.
Simon shifted back into human form and tossed his blade aside.
"There..." he said between breaths. "Your 10 minutes are up..."
He stood and started to walk away.
Tokimori sighed. "Very good, Simon. Welcome to the Night Troops..."
Welcome? DaiShi growled in his mind. It will be a short welcome, human...a short welcome indeed.
"So...he's psycho," Mat said.
"Seems that way," Tyler said.
Seth looked thoughtfully across the landscape. "We’re seeing everything leading up to the release of N’Ma, but from Simon’s perspective...”
Mat sighed and rubbed his forehead. "This is giving me a migraine..."
"Just watch..." Tyler said.
Mikhail stood at a small table along with Eiji, Titan Silver; Zadie, the Red Python; Ryan, Kamen Rider Faiz and Samuel, Garo. The Heavenly Saint spread his hand across the table, and his palm glowed with holy light. A map appeared, and the light highlighted the Ohio valley.
"Here," Mikhail said. "Dead livestock. Polluted rivers. A falling star. All signs point to a bubble of evil rising from the Dark One's prison."
"You think it's a horseman?" Eiji asked.
"That very well may be," Mikhail said. "A horseman, or a powerful demon. A sign of the pending Apocalypse."
Samuel shook his head. "We don't have time to check out every demonic sign that pops up on the map. We have to find my brother..."
"This is the fastest way to do it, blondie," Zadie said.
"Don't call me that," Samuel said. "Our last three leads didn't turn up a thing. We're wasting time..."
Ryan arced an eyebrow. "You have a better idea?"
Samuel hesitated. "No..."
"Simon will feel himself drawn to these eruptions of dark energy," Mikhail said. "It's only a matter of time before we find him."
"How can you know that for sure?" Samuel asked.
"Because I have seen inside his mind," Mikhail said. "He'll be attracted to the darkness...as will the demon within his soul."
The Night Troops wasted no time sending Simon on his first mission. Simon, Shirogane, Gavin and Gen entered a small town in the Ohio Valley. The streets looked empty and deserted, dotted with cars that had swerved off the road.
"This is the place?" Simon asked.
Gavin nodded. "Our scouts noticed signs of supernatural activity..."
Gen narrowed his eyes. "We're not alone."
Without a word, he dashed into the shadows, vanishing from sight. Simon, Shirogane and Gavin armed their swords.
The ranger narrowed his eyes. "Whoever you are, you suck at hiding. So come out."
"Drop your weapons!" a voice shouted from behind a car.
"Yeah, we'll get right on that," Simon said sarcastically.
He thrust his hand with a TK pulse, knocking the car across the street, and exposing a trio of soldiers. The soldiers wore long, black jackets and carried modified handguns.
Simon twisted his wrist with a wave of invisible energy, knocking the soldier to the ground.
"Gentlemen," Simon said. "Care to introduce yourselves?"
Shirogane stepped in before Simon could act. "We mean you no harm," he said. "We're here to investigate reports of...strange activity."
A soldier grunted as he and his comrades climbed to their feet. "So are we," he said. "I'm Easten. We're with STN."
Simon arced an eyebrow. "Who?"
"Mercenaries who specialize in hunting supernatural beings," Shirogane said. "They lend their services to INET, as well as other organizations."
Simon tightened his grip on his sword. "INET. That isn’t exactly what I wanted to hear..."
"Calm down, kid," Easten said. "We're not with INET. Not today, at least."
"Then who sent you?" Simon asked.
"Does it matter?" Easten asked, keeping his hand on his gun.
Suddenly, footsteps thundered from around a corner. A group of men surged onto the street, with shotguns and handguns, and opened fire on Simon and the STN soldiers. The attackers' eyes looked solid-black, demon-possessed.
Bullets tore through Easten's companions, killing them. But Easten managed to dive for cover behind a car. He reached over the hood and fired bullets that splattered against the attackers with bursts of green liquid. The impact knocked them down. But they managed to climb to their feet.
Easten cursed beneath his breath. "How the hell..."
Simon stepped forward. "Stand back..." He leaned ahead to flash-step, but couldn't. He arced an eyebrow. "What the hell?"
Shirogane tried to do the same, as did Gavin, but they couldn't access their speed.
Luckily, Gen dashed from the rooftops and slashed through the attackers, splattering their blood on the pavement with several brutal strikes of his claws.
Simon, Shirogane and Gavin ran to regroup with him.
Gavin looked around, his brow knitted with distress. "I couldn't flash-step."
"Me either," Simon said. "Something here is messing with our powers."
"Listen, kids," Easten said as he walked towards the Night Troops. "You're in over your-"
A bullet blasted through Easten's head, knocking him to the ground.
Simon looked down the street to see another wave of attackers coming their way.
He cursed beneath his breath and grabbed Gavin by the arm. "Come on," he said as he pulled the boy back. "Let's figure out what the hell's going on."
Mikhail, Samuel, Ryan, Eiji, and Zadie arrived on the other side of the same town. They walked through a residential area that appeared deserted, with several dead STN mercenaries scattered across the ground.
Zadie smirked at the sight. "I think it's safe to say we're in the right place."
"This isn't funny, Zadie," Eiji said.
"Boo. You're no fun anymore," Zadie said.
Mikhail knitted his brow. "Something evil stirs here..."
"That's helpful, thanks," Ryan said.
The images changed.
Tyler and his teammates watched the landscape shift to the surroundings of Simon and his group.
Mat saw them approach a church surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. "Huh," he said thoughtfully. "Church. Just the way I always pictured it."
Tyler and the Rangers followed the vision of Simon and the others as they entered the church basement. Several townspeople gathered there, afraid of the chaos that gripped their town.
A man named Roger told Simon and the others about the town's situation.
"The demons are...everywhere," he said. "They have us bottled up here. But they operate out of the residential areas."
A frightened woman nodded. "They came out of nowhere. We're...we're all that's left."
"It'll be OK..." Gavin said as he sat next to the woman. "We're here to help."
"Help us do what?" Roger asked with frustration. "Fight back? We're not an army."
"With us, you won't need an army," Simon said.
"Well he's confident," Mat said as he and the other Rangers watched.
Kym nodded. "I can't believe he's the same person we met on the Anamarium..."
The vision blurred ahead to the town suburbs. Simon, Shirogane, Gen and Gavin led a group of townsmen into the residential area to root out the demons. Simon wanted the townspeople to stay behind, but they insisted on joining the raiding party.
Simon and Shirogane crouched on a rooftop. They stared at the three-story home ahead, where two men paced back-and-forth past the windows. Their eyes flashed black, demon possessed.
"This is it," Simon said.
Shirogane nodded. "Remember. Control your urges."
The two former Rangers leapt from the rooftop and crashed through the window of the home. One of the demons lifted a shotgun; Simon slashed the gun in half and kicked the man to the floor.
Shirogane slashed the gun from the second man's hands and kicked him upside the head.
Simon thrust his hand to absorb the demon energy from the men. But nothing happened. He knitted his brow. "What the hell..."
Gavin dashed across the street to avoid a volley of gunfire from men standing on a nearby driveway.
Gen dashed up the driveway, swung his claws, and cut the assailants down with a single strike.
Gavin unsheathed his sword and shifted into his Shaded form.
From behind, two figures jumped through the air and kicked his back. He crashed and skid across the street, and when he rolled onto his back, he looked up to face his attackers: Zadie and Eiji. The young Shaded saw their eyes shift to solid-black.
Gavin cursed beneath his breath and climbed to his feet. "You demons never learn when to quit."
Eiji knitted his brow. "Demons?"
Zadie unsheathed her knife. "Don't listen to him."
She charged to attack, and Eiji followed.
Gavin leapt over them and swung his blade, firing a wave of white power. Zadie and Eiji dove aside to dodge.
Eiji rolled onto his back and thrust his hand at the Shaded. "Ketsu! Metsu!"
He formed a barrier of blue light that surrounded Gavin and collapsed with a burst of blue flame. The attack burnt demons from the men and women they possessed. But it did nothing to Gavin.
Eiji narrowed his eyes. "He's not a demon."
"Do you not see his eyes?" Zadie asked.
"I'm telling you, he's not a demon," Eiji said.
Gavin landed in a defensive stance. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, Ryan rushed him from behind. The Rider bashed the Shaded's back, knocking him to the ground.
"Black eyes means demon," Ryan said. "Try to follow along."
"I'm not an idiot, OK?" Eiji said. "He may have black eyes, but my barrier didn't react at all."
Zadie smirked. "Having performance issues?"
"That’s not funny," Eiji said.
Gavin rolled to his feet and thrust his hand with a TK burst, blasting his attackers off their feet.
"I don't know what game you're trying to play..." The young Shaded twirled his sword and pounced to attack. "But it's ending!"
Holy light flashed in between the combatants, halting their attacks. When the light dissipated, Mikhail stood with his arms extended to both parties.
"Stay back," he said. "All of you. This is not what it seems..."
Simon tightened his grip on his sword. He knitted his brow as he looked at the bodies around him.
"Their black eyes..." he said. "They looked possessed, but they weren't..."
DaiShi laughed within his mind. A trick...meant to turn the mortals of this town against each other.
"Who's responsible?" Simon asked.
Shirogane looked confused. "Responsible for-"
"I wasn't talking to you!" Simon snapped. "Who's responsible?"
A force older than time...DaiShi said. I didn't recognize his presence before. But now...this close to his trickery...I can feel it. I can feel him.
"The horseman?" Simon asked.
"Simon-" Shirogane started to say, but Simon hurled him backward with a TK pulse.
The very one, DaiShi said. I can feel the center of his magick, from the church where we gathered earlier.
Simon twirled his sword and leapt from the home, towards the direction of the church.
Samuel joined Zadie and Eiji outside, as did Ryan, and they faced off with the Night Troops. Mikhail stood between the two groups, and he finished his explanation.
"The horseman is making you appear to one another as demons," Mikhail said. "As he did to turn the entire town against itself."
Gavin shook his head. "So those people we fought before..."
"Were human," Mikhail said. "Innocents, who saw you as demons, as you saw them."
"Where's this horseman now?" Ryan asked.
Suddenly, Shirogane leapt from the top story of a nearby home, and he landed next to the two groups.
"He's in town..." he said. "And Simon's already gone after him..."
"Simon..." Samuel whispered.
Simon burst into the church basement. "Which one of you is War."
The men and women staggered backward, their eyes opened wide with fear. They saw an illusion of Simon's eyes colored solid black, as if demon possessed.
"They're here!" a woman shouted. "Oh, god, no!"
Several men grabbed guns or knives in a desperate attempt to attack. Simon moved his hand, casually sweeping them aside with a wave of TK energy.
Ahead, he saw Roger, sitting at a table with a smirk. "Well...." he said. "Aren't you the clever one?"
Simon pounced. He grabbed Roger by the throat and pushed him against the wall. "What are you?! Start talking."
Roger laughed. "What am I? Here's a hint: I was in Germany. Germany again. Then the Middle East. I was in Darfur when my beeper went off. Now...I'm waiting to hook up with my siblings. I have three. And we're going to have so much fun together."
Simon narrowed his eyes. "You’re War. I’ve got that. So that makes you a what? Demon? "
“Heh.” War grinned. “Don’t make me laugh. I’m not a puffy little cloud of black smoke. I’m the primal force of conflict: The Horseman of War. Just having a little fun, wasting time until Judgement Day."
"You made these people kill each other!" Simon shouted.
War shrugged. "I didn't force them to do anything. I just made them see what I wanted them to see. They took care of the rest themselves. Animals. Besides, Simon, you've seen worse, haven't you? After all, you fought your way free from the Pit."
Simon lifted War off his feet. DaiShi screamed in his mind: He is the Horseman of War! A primal force! Tear off his head! Make his power your own!
War tapped Simon's head.
Simon howled with pain, released War, and staggered backward. "What did you...argh!"
"Seems you've forgotten all the fun you had prancing around the fiery fields of Hades," War said. "Let me help you remember..."
Simon screamed and collapsed to his knees. In that moment, he remembered everything, from the First Circle to the Ninth. The Sanzu River. The Yama. Brandon...
War stepped closer to Simon and smiled down at him. "Hurts, doesn't it?" The villain rolled his hand into a fist, which ignited with flames. "Don't worry...I'll make this quick. Then when you come to...you'll be a Servant of War."
Simon lifted his hand with a TK burst that hurled War off his feet. The horseman crashed through the wall and smashed into the next room.
In pain, Simon scrambled to his feet and fled.
The vision shifted once more. The Rangers saw Samuel dash downtown to find his brother, for the first time since his resurrection.
Mat sighed and shook his head. "I've totally lost track of who these people are..."
"That's Samuel," Kira said. "Simon's half-brother."
"Does he...morph into something?" Mat asked.
"We'll see..." Kira said.
Simon sat at a piano and tapped the keys. He took a swig of whiskey and kept playing, key after key, with a clunky melody.
He sensed Samuel walk into the bar but didn't look up.
"Heya, Sammy," Simon said. "Been a long time."
"Simon..." Samuel said. "Is it really you?"
"More or less," Simon said with a smirk. "Probably more."
"What happened in this town-"
"It's a bitch, isn't it?" Simon said. "All it takes is a little push, and an entire town slaughters each other. Gotta love the suburbs."
"Leave me alone, Samuel," Simon said, his voice stern. "I'm warning you. Leave me alone...because it's all I can do to keep myself from tearing out your throat right now. And liking it."
"Let me help you. We're brothers. We lost Owen...we lost Brandon...I won't lose you too. We're family," Samuel said.
Simon laughed. "'Let me help you,'" he mocked. "We're brothers. I won't lose you, we're family.' Thanks for that Lifetime Movie Moment, Sam, I needed that."
"This isn't you, Simon."
Simon smashed his bottle against the bar. "I told you to leave. You have no idea what happened to me. No idea who I am now."
Suddenly, the rear wall exploded into pieces and hurled the brothers off their feet. They smashed against the wall and crashed to the floor.
Quickly, they rolled into crouched stances and looked up to see War walk towards them. "That was quite the little vanishing trick," he said as he adjusted his sleeves. "It might have worked on a lesser demon, but I'm War. I-"
"You talk too much." Simon's eyes flared with black light.
Invisible energy bashed War and hurled him backward with the force of a cannonball.
War crashed and skid across the street. The villain laughed as he climbed to his feet. "Cute..." he said as he rolled his head, bones cracking. "Very cute."
Red and black energy flared around him and circled his body like wind. He shifted shape into a suit of medieval style armor, covering a body of darkness. The horseman armed a two-handed sword and shifted into an offensive stance.
Samuel charged and twirled his saber. His lighter blade moved quicker than the horseman's massive sword; but the villain still managed to block and parry each strike.
War blocked a blow, twisted Samuel's blade downward, and swung a back-fist that smashed the teen's face. The blow sent Samuel staggering backward; War lunged and chopped, but Samuel sidestepped.
"You're slow," Samuel said as he dodged another blow. "And clumsy."
Samuel moved as gracefully as a dancer, spinning as if on wires, slashing his sword, and snapping volleys of kicks. His blows forced War back several steps but didn't penetrate the villain's defense.
War kicked Samuel's ankle and punched his gut, sending him staggering backward. The villain chopped his massive blade towards Samuel's neck, but the teen blocked and side-kicked the horseman.
Samuel jumped backward to gain distance. He looked over his shoulder towards Simon, who stood in the hole of the building where War attacked. "A little help?"
Simon crossed his arms over his chest. "No...Show me what you can do."
Samuel cursed beneath his breath. He stabbed his blade upward and circled the weapon through a ring of light. "Garo."
He snapped his blade down, summing the golden armor of Garo.
The Golden Knight lifted his sword and shot towards his opponent.
War raised his sword and chopped hard, smashing the Golden Knight through the street and into the sewer tunnel below.
War dropped into the sewer, landed in a crouched position, and bolted forward. He swung upward, slashing the Golden Knight off his feet and further down the tunnel.
Before Garo hit the ground, War pounced with another swing, slashing the Golden Knight through a wall. Garo crashed into a tunnel of sewer water.
War kept charging forward and swinging his blade, swatting the Golden Knight further and further down the tunnels, bashing through pipes and walls with massive bursts of spark and debris.
Garo managed to land in a crouched stance and lift his sword. He blocked a chop and pushed up, knocking the horseman upward.
The Golden Knight shot up, bashed War out of the tunnel, and shot into the air above the streets.
Garo twisted in midair and slashed War, hurling the horseman back towards the ground.
War crashed into a small retail shop, and Garo landed nearby.
War rushed to his feet and swung wide. Garo blocked and swung the back of his fist, bashing the horseman across the face, hurling him off his feet.
War smashed through the store window, crashed against the street outside, and skid across the pavement.
Garo charged and swung upward, slashing the horseman off the ground with a burst of spark. The Golden Knight pounced and chopped, hacking the horseman downward. War smashed through the street and landed in the sewer tunnels.
Garo angled his descent towards the villain; he landed on War and drove his blade through the horseman’s faceplate.
War screamed with pain and rage as golden light seared through his body.
Garo twisted his sword; War exploded into ash singed with golden flame.
Garo hopped back onto the street. From behind, he heard Simon walk towards him while clapping mockingly.
Samuel powered down his armor and breathed deeply. He looked over his shoulder to Simon, who stood with a smug grin.
"What happened to you?" Samuel asked.
"I knew you could handle yourself," Simon said. "And you'll need to for what's coming."
"That's not what I asked," Samuel said. "What happened to you?"
"I remember everything. Every circle of Hell. Every torment. Every scream," Simon said. "This is the world we live in...a world that condemns people to endless suffering. This is why we need what's coming."
"And what's that?" Simon asked.
"You already know. The Apocalypse- the Fifth Seal. Then the Sixth, and then, the Seventh. DaiShi didn't want it to happen. But I do. I want it all to end."
"You said so yourself, not long after we met," Simon said. "You said the world was spinning out of control. You wished we could press the reset button and start over. Well, Sammy...with the Dark One, we can."
"You're insane," Samuel said. "You'd free the Dark One? Let him remake the universe into whatever hellhole-"
"You don't understand," Simon said as he rolled his hands into fists. "I'm not going to let the Dark One do anything. Once he's released...I'm absorbing his power...absorbing him, just like I've done with his demons."
"That..." Samuel shook his head. "That will never work!"
"It's the only thing that will work!" Simon said. "You've felt it just as I have. This world is already dead. It’s falling apart. I feel it every day, and so do you. But I can change that. Change all of that."
"You sound like every whack-job villain we've fought against," Samuel said.
"Maybe..." Simon said. "But there's one difference."
Simon thrust his hand. His palm flared with black energy that ignited the remains of War. The remains circled into waves of fire and ash that streaked towards Simon and twirled around him like a tornado.
The former Ranger lifted his other hand; the energy poured into his palms and body, and his eyes flared with crimson light.
He lowered his hands as the storm of power died down.
"The difference is..." Simon whispered. "I can pull it off, little brother. I can pull it off..."
Samuel shook his head and stepped backward. "I won't let you do this to yourself."
"You can't stop me," Simon said.
The vision changed. Images shifted to show a Silver Guardian task force arrive on the scene; the Night Troops fled, as did Mikhail and his group.
"Who are these people?" Mat asked as he watched Silver Guardians fan out in search of Simon and the others.
Tyler shook his head. "You'd think ‘good guys.’ But something doesn't feel right..."
The vision dissipated, swirled into shadow, and then reformed into the scene of a rural hospital. There, a strange doctor walked up and down the halls while whistling.
"He looks...fun," Mat said. "And not at all suspicious."
Kira arced an eyebrow. "You're rambling again."
"I don't ramble," Mat said. "I narrate."
They watched the doctor walk into a patient's room. He sat at her bedside, held her hand, and smiled reassuringly. She thanked him, but he told her there was no need. Then her body broke into boils as she vomited blood and died.
The doctor stood, smiled, and wiped the blood off his hands as he left the room.
Kym shook her head. "That's....That's terrible."
"So..." Mat started to say. "Anyone else starting to think reality is better off in shambles?"
Samuel, Eiji, Ryan and Zadie entered the hospital. Days after the battle with War, they managed to track down another Horseman: Pestilence.
They slipped past the front desk and searched room after room, where patients had died from mysterious illnesses.
Eiji sighed along the way. "OK...This is starting to get depressing."
Suddenly, Zadie stopped in her tracks and waved her teammates still.
Ryan arced an eyebrow. "Is your Python Sense tingling?"
"Don't make me vivisect you," Zadie said. "There's something up ahead."
"The horseman?" Samuel asked.
Zadie shook her head. "A demon."
A Shaded, Zadie could sometimes sense the presence of lesser demons.
Ahead, a nurse walked out of a patient's room and closed the door behind her. They heard a man cough and hack from within the room, and the nurse smiled at the sound.
Then she saw Zadie and the others.
Her eyes opened wide with panic and shifted to solid-black, demon-possessed.
Zadie wasted no time hurling her knife. The knife stabbed the nurse and whipped her to the ground. The wound sizzled with light as the blade burnt the demon from the nurse's body.
"Nice shot," Eiji said. "Not exactly subtle...but nice."
"I am impressive," Zadie said.
Nurses and doctors scurried into the hallway, and their eyes shifted solid-black, all demon-possessed.
Samuel unsheathed his sword. "Pestilence has to be on this floor. You guys hold off the demons. I'll find the horseman."
Eiji nodded. He summed his staff with a burst of silver energy, twirled the weapon behind his back, and thrust his hand towards the demons. "Hoi! Joso! Ketsu!"
Blue barriers snapped around several of the demons.
The ranger swiped his hand. "Metsu!"
The barriers collapsed with bursts of blue flame that burnt the demons from the men and women's bodies.
A wave of demons scurried over their fallen comrades to attack.
Zadie hurled vials of holy water; the vials shattered and splattered across the demons, burning their skin and halting their advance. She pulled her dagger from the fallen nurse's body and pounced to attack, slashing left and right as her blade purged the demons from the possessed nurses and doctors.
Meanwhile, Samuel burst down the last few doors in the hallway. In the last room, he saw a doctor lean over a patient while whistling.
Samuel aimed his blade towards the doctor. "Pestilence..."
The doctor turned and grinned at the knight. "Now whatever gave you that idea?"
Behind the villian, the patient gasped for air, gurgling blood, and died.
Samuel pounced to attack.
Pestilence lifted his hand; crippling pain shot through Samuel's body. The knight collapsed to his knees and coughed up blood, as his internal temperature rose, and his heart pounded in his chest.
The horseman wrinkled his nose. "Such disgusting creatures, you mortals. You blame disease, but look at you. Bags of filth. But disease...disease is pure. It has an order to it, don't you think?"
He walked closer to Samuel and smiled down at the knight. "Don't bother answering. I'm sure your insides are crawling with all sorts of new and...interesting...feelings."
Pestilence kicked the knight upside the head. "I can't believe you managed to one-shot War. That's impressive, considering he's a primal force older than time, not some random demon or monster you can fight with those giant Ranger Robots. I can see why you might think you're special. But the truth is...you're not. You got lucky, kid. And luck only gets you so far."
The horseman looked at his hand and rolled it into a fist. "These mortal forms we've taken are frail. So I can see why we'd be so easy to break. I don't suppose-"
"Are you done?" Samuel asked as he used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet. "You don't need disease to make people sick. You can just use your...your voice...it's..." His eyes fluttered. "Your..."
Samuel collapsed and lost consciousness.
Pestilence smiled. "Well. That was easy."
He leaned down and reached towards Samuel's forehead.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed his shoulder and hurled him across the room. The hand belonged to Mikhail, a Heavenly Saint in human form.
"Oh," Pestilence said jokingly as he rolled his shoulder. "That wasn't very nice. You must be Mikhail. The fallen angel."
"I'm a Heavenly Saint," Mikhail said.
Pestilence shook his head. "I've existed since before time and I still don't see the difference."
"The hosts of angels were created by the God Yahweh, while we Saints preceded the gods-"
Pestilence waved his hand dismissively. "I wasn't actually asking, Mikhail."
"Heal him," Mikhail demanded. "Now."
"Why don't you use your fancy not-an-angel powers and do it yourself," Pestilence said.
"I'm warning you," Mikhail said. "Heal the boy."
"I'm a Horseman of the Apocalypse," Pestilence said. "I don't heal."
Mikhail lunged forward and grabbed the horseman's forehead. The Saint's hand glowed with golden power that burned through the horseman as he screamed with agony.
"Your mistake was to become arrogant enough to walk as human," Mikhail said. "You are anything but human. You are a disease. A cancer. And as I crush this mortal shell you've made, I crush you, and all your power."
Mikhail tightened his hand, crushing the horseman's skull with a burst of golden light. The headless body collapsed and slumped to the floor.
With his death, his diseases faltered and withered away along with him.
Samuel coughed up blood and climbed slowly to his feet. Mikhail helped him keep his balance.
"Mikhail..." Samuel said between deep breaths. "What kept you?"
"Something...dangerous has happened," Mikhail said.
"Is that an understatement?" Samuel asked.
Mikhail nodded. "The Horseman of Death has revealed himself...he no longer hides in the shadows as an abstract. The problem is...Simon found him first."
"Simon..." Samuel said. "If he absorbs Death like he did War..."
"The results would be catastrophic," Mikhail said.
Storm clouds howled through the streets of Chicago. The city declared a state of emergency and evacuated, due to the approach of the largest storm ever reported in history. The storm came at the beckon call of Death himself.
Simon walked down the city streets. Wind blew through empty alleyways, and rats scurried for shelter as if sensing the impending doom from the storm.
The former Ranger looked ahead to a small diner, with its windows shattered from looters.
He is there...DaiShi whispered in Simon's mind. A horseman. Death...I can sense his presence as he draws the storm.
Simon summoned his kata with a burst of black light. "OK. Let's go say hi to Death."
The former Ranger stalked ahead and kicked down the door of the diner. He stepped inside, and there, dead customers slumped over tables and chairs, having died suddenly and instantly.
One man sat with his back to Simon.
The former Ranger knitted his brow and walked slowly to the other side of the table.
The man smiled. "Hello Simon..."
Simon narrowed his eyes.
"Akuma," he said, the name of the Dark Man. The name of Death.
To be continued…Chapter 08