Ultimate Samurai: Chapter One prologue

 

Hell, weeks ago, during the Sabbath

 

The Sanzu River stirred. The crimson water rocked the boat of the Gedoushuu, demons that sailed across the outskirts of Hell.

 

The demon Xandred stumbled across the lower deck. “Waves…” he muttered. “What are these waves?!”

 

“Despair,” said Shitari, a short squid-faced demon. “From the mortal world.”

 

“What?!” Xandred kicked the squid off its feet. “Don’t mock me with your foolish prattling, minion! I’ll cut off your head and use your skull as a bowl!”

 

“It’s true,” said the demon woman Dayu as she strummed her shamisen. The instrument was the only thing that could calm Xandred during his fits of rage. “Legend has always said that human suffering can cause the Sanzu River to rise.”

 

Xandred filled a wide bowl with sake and drank deeply, the alcohol spilling down his chin and across his chest. He tossed the empty bowl aside and breathed, letting Dayu’s music calm him. “Legend…” he grumbled. “It’s legend.”

 

“Yes, but true…” Shitari said. He used his staff for balance and climbed back to his feet. “The Sanzu River has always risen and fallen with the tides of human despair. Now…something has happened. That connection is even stronger. Significantly stronger.”

 

“What are you saying, minion?” Xandred asked.

 

Shitari looked over the scrying bowls and maps laid across his small table. “Parts of the mortal world have…cracked.”

 

“And?” Xandred asked impatiently.

 

“I think we can slip through the cracks,” Shitari said. “And with enough despair, I believe the Sanzu River can flood into the mortal world.”

 

Chapter One: Ultimate Samurai

Threat Underground

 

Eighteen-year-old Teddy Oliver curled up with his blankets in bed. It was his last week at home before going off to college, and he dreaded the thought of sleeping on hard-as-rock beds in dorms that would probably not have air conditioning.

 

A tap sounded on his window. And again a second time, stirring Teddy awake. Wearing nothing but boxers, he slid off his blankets and rose from bed. Teddy had a slim, toned build from his years as a martial artist.

 

His window suddenly swung open, and a young man leapt through. He pounced against Teddy and tackled him against the bed.

 

The intruder had dark hair, hazel eyes and smooth, tan skin. He smiled down at Teddy before kissing him full on the mouth.

 

Their tongue’s entwined as Teddy reached around his intruder’s back and pulled him close. The intruder pulled away slightly, keeping his face an inch away from Teddy’s. “Hey.”

 

“I am so going to kill you, Bryce,” Teddy whispered with a smile.

 

Aww. I have other things in mind,” Bryce said.

 

Teddy rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you do. That was one hell of a greeting, by the way.”

 

“I couldn’t exactly walk up to your front door and knock. Your dad would have shot me on sight,” Bryce said.

 

“Yes,” Teddy said. “But that probably has less to do with the fact that he hates I’m gay, and more with the fact that it’s 2 a.m.”

 

“Details,” Bryce said as he leaned in and started kissing Teddy along the neck. Teddy bit his lower lip while reaching back and running his fingers through Bryce’s hair.

 

***

 

New Bitmap ImageDarkness stirred miles beneath the Earth’s crust. An underground race of beings known as the Vorlock was ready to wage war against the surface world and reclaim the topside as its home.

 

The Vorlock Imperial Castle was a jagged palace of stone, as pitch black as the caverns around it. Vorlock used infrared vision to navigate the dark tunnels and passageways.

 

Their leader, Emperor Kraigen, wore a black cape that wrapped around his body. He wore a heavy, silver-and-gold shoulder and headpiece of shining metal. Only his beady-red eyes were visible through his mask.

 

Kraigen watched the surface world through a viewscreen of heat. He was losing patience. “What word from our spy?”

 

“We have heard nothing, master,” the troll-like creature named Zabbu said. The creature was covered in brown and white fur, which made it resemble a wolverine. “Our spy did not report back at the designated time…”

 

Kraigen tightened his grip on his double-edged sword. The villain’s temperature boiled with rage. “I never should have allowed that whelp to travel to the surface. He is as useless as his father.”

 

The villain raised his blade to the infrared screen. “Send our forces to the surface. Retrieve the spy. And prepare for invasion. Soon, we will live in the shadows no more.”

 

***

 

Teddy and Bryce awoke the next morning. Their bodies were still intertwined and dripping with sweat beneath the covers.

 

Teddy kissed Bryce on the cheek. “You better get going before my parents get up.”

 

Bryce sighed. “You’re no fun.”

 

“That’s not what you said last night,” Teddy said.

 

Bryce laughed and playfully slugged Teddy in the shoulder. “You flatter yourself.”

 

Bryce started to pull away to get out of bed and get dressed, but Teddy stopped him. “Actually…there’s one thing I want to talk to you about before you leave."

 

“I’m listening…” Bryce said as he leaned his head back down.

 

“Well…” Teddy said. He sighed, frustrated with himself. “I swear this is going to sound so sappy, so bear with me…I’ve had a lot of fun with you this past year…and I care about you a lot…and…I think I’m falling in love with you.”

 

Bryce lowered his gaze as a guilty expression crossed his face.

 

Teddy’s face turned slightly red. “Okay, I so should have kept my mouth shut.”

 

“No, it’s not that,” Bryce said. “It’s just…I don’t know what to say. I care about you a lot too. But…I’m not even sure I know what love is. Where I come from…my family, I mean…it’s so different than where you come from. Until I met you, all I cared about was…” He hesitated. “I don’t know what to say…”

 

“Don’t say anything…” Teddy said. “I’m sorry I-“

 

“Don’t apologize…” Bryce slowly pulled away and reached for his jeans at the foot of the bed. “Here…I have something for you…”

 

He pulled out a pennant from his pocket. The silver pennant was on a chain of the same color and etched in gold. The small object had intricate symbols etched along its edges. Bryce moved back up and handed the pennant to Teddy, placing it in the boy’s hand.

 

“What is it?” Teddy asked.

 

“Every member of my family is given one of these at birth. It’s a symbol of strength, determination and endurance. It’s supposed to symbolize everything that’s important to me. That’s why…I want you to have it. Because you’re the most important, and caring person I’ve ever had in my life. You mean everything to me…”

 

***

 

The afternoon sun slowly made its way into the skies above Angel Grove. Teddy and Bryce sat together at a picnic table at Bear Lake. Teddy was going over a list of things he still needed for college.

 

“Aw, man…I’m never going to be ready for this,” Teddy said.

 

“You’re not moving that far from home,” Bryce said. “You don’t have to think of everything now.”

 

Teddy shrugged. “What can I say? I like being prepared.”

 

Screams suddenly shrieked through the air as park goers started to run their way. Teddy narrowed his eyes and rose from the bench. That’s never a good sign in this city…

 

Bryce was on his feet in the same instant. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as his face grew pale. It was a feeling he recognized too well. “They’ve come for me…” he whispered.

 

Teddy arced an eyebrow at his friend. “What?”

 

mask-baraba“You need to run,” Bryce said. “I’ll try to catch up with you as soon as I can. If not-“

 

Explosions sparked around them as they dove for cover and rolled across the ground. They looked up to see a strange villain and army of grunts walking towards them.

 

The villain’s name was Cye-Axe, master swordsman of the Vorlock. He wore bulky, machine-like armor over black robes. A metal headpiece wrapped around his left eye, and his hair was silver. The villain’s skin was pale, and his lips purple.

 

Cye-Axe carried a massive, double-edged sword tipped with an axe-shaped dagger.

 

mask-vi-anglersThe grunts around him were all black, with what appeared as rotting vines wrapped around their heads and draped around their collar bones. They were called Anglars.

 

Teddy and Bryce snapped into fighting stances. Teddy arced an eyebrow at Bryce, not expecting him to react in the same way. “Bryce, don’t be stupid. Get out of here.”

 

“Run,” Bryce said again. “Don’t get involved with this.”

 

Teddy narrowed his eyes. “What’s going on?”

 

The Anglars pounced forward and attacked.

 

Teddy smashed a jumpkick upside a soldier's head and spun forward with a sidekick that smashed a second soldier back. Through the corner of his eye, he saw Bryce smash a kick upside a soldier's head and bash his fist across a second soldier's face.

 

Teddy knitted his brow with confusion. “Bryce, where did you learn to fight like that?”

 

Bryce flipped a soldier to the ground and slammed his heel against its chest. “Kind of a long story.”

 

Sparks suddenly exploded around them as they dove for cover and rolled into crouched fighting stances. They looked up to see Cy-Axe stalk towards them with his blade held forward.

 

“Prince...” he growled. “This was your one chance to redeem yourself, and instead you fall victim to these humans and their emotions”

 

Bryce narrowed his eyes. “We're just as human as they are.”

 

“What?” Teddy asked. “What the hell is going on?”

 

Cy-Axe grumbled a low laugh. “Did you not tell your friend, little prince, about your mission to spy on the surface world?”

 

“Leave him out of this,” Bryce said. “This is between you and me.”

 

“I know. You will come back with me, and you will pay for the betrayal of your people.”

 

Cy-Axe extended his hand and fired a tendril of energy that wrapped around Bryce and snapped him off his feet.

 

“No!” Teddy shouted and dashed forward.

 

Cy-Axe swung his blade and fired a stream of energy that exploded around Teddy and sent him flying through the air. He crashed against a tree, slid to the ground, and lost consciousness.

 

When his vision finally blurred back into focus, Bryce, Cy-Axe and the Anglars were gone.

 

***

 

Teddy immediately went to the Hayate Way dojo to speak with his older brother, who he met at Ops along with Ashley. He told them what had happened but left out the part he couldn’t wrap his head around; that Bryce was somehow connected to the villains, as if he were one of them.

 

Tommy recognized the description of the villains.

 

“The Vorlock,” Tommy said. “At least I think so...”

 

“You knew about these things?” Teddy practically shouted. “Why didn't you ever say anything?”

 

“I don’t even know if it’s them,” Tommy said. “But the way you described the grunts...they sound familiar. Maya learned about them during her research in Demon City. As far as she could tell, they were never really a threat. They were never bad, just misunderstood.”

 

“Well they’re bad now,” Teddy said. “They’ve taken Bryce, and we have to stop them. Where are Simon and the Rangers?”

 

“We haven’t seen Simon, or Hunter, since the Sabbath. Kou’s still in Demon City…that leaves Justin, Rachel, and Blake,” Tommy said. “Between the Marauders, the Hellfire Club, the Hand, and the Dark Shaper, the Rangers won't be able to help if the Vorlock are starting some kind of attack. They’re outnumbered and stretched too thin already.”

 

“You forgot to mention Xanathor,” Ashley said.

 

“See,” Tommy said to his brother. “I can't even keep track of all the bad guys we have now.”

 

“So what then?” Teddy asked. “We just let the Vorlock take whoever they want? Do whatever they want?”

 

“Of course not...” Tommy turned and walked towards a book case near the rear of the room. “Come here, let me show you something.”

 

Teddy sighed impatiently. “Tommy, we've got to move. There's no telling what they'll do to Bryce. We have to-”

 

“Just come here, little brother.” Tommy walked to the book case and pulled a decorative box from one of the shelves. “Like I said, the Power Rangers are broken. I was meditating a few weeks back and had a vision about a way to even things up a bit.”

 

Teddy looked to the box and instantly knew what was inside. “Is that what I think it is?”

 

Tommy opened the box and showed his brother a handheld device shaped like a slender cell phone. “A morpher. For the Red Samurai Ranger. The other four are almost done; I just have a few more strands of The Power to weave to make the armor and weapons. This one’s complete.”

 

Teddy stared silently at the morpher. He reached out, and then hesitated. “So what are you saying?”

 

“I'm saying, be a Ranger again,” Tommy said. “If you want. Take this morpher. Find out who took your friend. Once you know, the other Samurai Rangers will be ready, and you can all work together to get him back.”

 

“Who are they? The other Rangers, I mean,” Teddy asked.

 

“I'm not exactly sure yet,” Tommy said. “We were going to wait a few more weeks to recruit. I have a few people in mind. They’re students here at the school.”   

 

“Okay,” Teddy said. He took a deep breath and lifted the morpher from the case. “Sounds like a plan.”

 

“I meant what I said, though,” Tommy told his brother. “The five of you will work together to get your friend back. Don’t go fighting an army all by yourself. Just poke around, see if you can track down the Vorlock, and let us know what you find. Only fight if you have to.”

 

“Where do I even start looking?” Teddy asked.

 

“I remember a tunnel Maya mentioned, just outside the city,” Tommy said. “That’s as good a place as any.”

 

“Okay...so how does this work?” Teddy asked as he traced his fingers along the edges of the morpher. “Is it a Mind, Body, Spirit, or Soul boost?”

 

“Spirit,” Tommy said. “But in a different way than what you remember. The Samurai morpher will let you use spells to channel the elemental power of fire. That power will mix with your own Life Force.”

 

“Did you have to make it complicated?” Teddy asked.

 

Tommy smiled. “Don't be a smartass,” he said. “It's actually based on a technique called mojikara, used by a Ranger team ages ago on a world called Unosuke. They used symbols and words to harness elemental forces and morph. That’s basically what you'll be doing. You'll be using Japanese kanji symbols, though, instead of words from an alien language. To Ranger up, you'll use your morpher to write the kanji symbol for ‘fire.’”

 

Teddy sighed. “Simon gets to morph by swiping his hand across his wrist.”

 

“If you ask nicely, maybe you two can switch,” Tommy said.

 

Teddy rolled his eyes. “Now who's being a smartass.

 

***

 

Tommy directed Teddy towards the woods father east of the Hayate Way, just outside of Angel Grove. The thick woods swatted Teddy’s face with leaves and branches at every step, but he didn’t break his pace or slow down. He had to find Bryce. He just had to.

 

The forest suddenly ended and looked out upon a clearing of jagged rock and stone. This was where Maya had found an entrance to the Vorlock tunnels, according to Tommy. But there was no entrance to be seen.

 

“Great,” Teddy cursed beneath his breath. “Tommy must be losing his memory in his old age...”

 

Teddy stepped out onto the rock. The stone gave out beneath his weight and collapsed, sending him tumbling downward into a dark cavern.

 

***

 

Emperor Kraigen sensed the intruder in his empire. He felt the teen through his connection with the dirt and stone of his underground kingdom. His energy flowed through the earth, and the earth’s energy flowed back into him.

 

Humans rarely happened upon the Vorlock. His predecessors had always hidden when humans stumbled along, hoping they would pass—and they almost always did. But Kraigen viewed each intruder as an aggressor, and each intrusion as an act of war. 

 

“Anglars,” he spoke with a voice like gravel. “We have company. Please great our guest…”

 

***

 

Teddy pushed himself to his feet on the cavern floor. “Wonderful…” he muttered to himself. “Real smooth…”

 

Teddy had never been much of a hero on his own. He held the Kiba Ranger powers after Kou died, acting as a sixth ranger, and only briefly held the Zeored powers during the Second Countdown to Destruction.

 

I’ve never been particularly good at this…

 

The teen walked deeper into the dark caverns, which seemed to have a faint, dim light shining from the walls. The tunnels reminded him of being below ground on the planet Eltar.  

 

Suddenly, he heard footsteps scurry from the tunnel ahead. A group of Anglars rounded the corner and charged at Teddy with short staffs and swords of polished stone.

 

“So much for a subtle recon,” he whispered as he pulled his morpher from his pocket.

 

Teddy flipped his morpher closed, so that the device resembled a thick brush. “Samurai scribe!” He painted the symbol for fire in midair, and the word glowed with power. “Ha!”

 

He swung his morpher through the character, spinning the word until it latched around his head. Red energy covered his body as he morphed into his Ranger form. 

 

He unsheathed his sword and snapped back into a fighting stance. “Blade of the Flame! Samurai Red!”

 

He felt the fiery energy of the One Power flow through his veins.

 

The grunts charged at Samurai Red, and the Red Ranger returned the charge.

 

Samurai Red dashed past two grunts while parrying their swords, then turned and cut them down with bursts of spark. He spun to his side and bashed a sidekick against a grunt, then slashed upward with a burst of spark.

 

The Red Ranger charged through the enemy ranks, parrying and blocking their blows, and slashing them down with his sword. He swung the blade through quick and fluid patterns, hacking through their limbs, bodies and weapons.

 

The Anglars tried to surround the Red Ranger. But he twisted and turned through the group while swinging his sword and slashing through the grunts left and right.

 

A group of about five Anglars pounced towards Samurai Red from ahead. The Red Ranger charged forward and cut a grunt down with each step, blade flashing through the dark tunnel.

 

Samurai Red spun while swinging his sword through a wide arc that slashed through three grunts, whipping them back with bursts of spark.

 

The Red Ranger hopped forward and chopped his sword through a creature’s chest, the blow driving the grunt to the ground with a burst of spark that splattered black ichor across the cavern.

 

The Red Ranger flipped open his belt buckle and pulled out a red disc. He flipped the disc upward, held his sword upside down, and the disc slid onto the sword’s handle, landing at the hilt.

 

He held his sword upright and swiped his hand across the hilt to spin the disc. “Fire Disc!”

 

The disc spun tendrils of flame that wrapped around the Red Ranger’s blade.

 

Samurai Red spun forward and swung his fiery blade through a wide arc that slashed through three grunts with bursts of flame. He pressed forward and swung his sword downward diagonally, blade slashing through a group of grunts.

 

The Red Ranger spun forward and swung upward, slashing through another trio of grunts that exploded as the flaming sword cut through their bodies.

 

The last of the grunts charged at him from three sides. He swung the blade three ways in three directions, horizontally, downward vertically, and upward vertically, fiery blade hacking through the creatures with bursts of spark.

 

The last of Anglars fell and exploded with bursts of flame that lit up the dark cavern.

 

***

 

Emperor Kraigen narrowed his eyes as he watched the battle through his viewscreen. “A Ranger…here…in my kingdom.”

 

“He’s come for the prince,” Zabbu said. “Cye-Axe says they were…lovers…my emperor.”

 

“A perversion…” Kraigen grumbled. “To mate with a topsider? There is no greater taboo.”

 

The villain looked to his minion. “This Ranger wants to see his precious prince? Then by all means…show him the prince. Keep him distracted in our tunnels for as long as possible.”

 

The villain kept his eyes on the viewscreen of heat. He watched the Red Ranger run through the dark caverns.

 

“Cye-Axe!” he shouted.

 

The armored warrior walked into the dark throne room and kneeled.

 

“Yes, my emperor,” he said.

 

Kraigen paused. He had waited his whole life to give the next command. His people had waited their entire existence to hear it spoken: “Strike.”

 

***

 

Anglars poured through the underground caverns and erupted into the subway tunnels of Angel Grove North. They surged into the stations and attacked everyone in their path as they made their way towards the surface.

 

Cye-Axe led the charge. He smiled wickedly at the sight of the topsiders running for their lives.

 

***

 

The alarms blared in Ops. Ashley pulled up an image on her computer monitor. She immediately saw the Anglars pouring onto the streets. Tommy stood behind her and narrowed his eyes at the sight.

 

“Where are Justin, Blake, and Rachel?” Tommy asked.

 

“Looking for Hunter,” she said. “I can’t reach them…”

 

Tommy cursed beneath his breath. “Looks like now’s a good time to recruit.”

 

***

 

Samurai Red dashed through the tunnels. He felt like he was running in circles. But he had to keep going.

 

Suddenly, he heard a scream come from up ahead. He recognized the voice immediately.

 

“Bryce!” Samurai Red shouted as he ran towards the voice.

 

He ran into a wide cavern lined with heated stones for illumination. He looked to see Bryce, now frozen in a block of ice in the center of the room.

 

“No…” Samurai Red whispered. “No, no, no!”

 

He ran towards the block of ice and placed his hands on its surface. “I’m going to get you out of there…”

 

The Red Ranger considered using his fire power to melt the ice but didn’t want to risk hurting Bryce. Instead, he thought of somehow dragging the ice through the caverns. But that didn’t seem practical or reasonable.

 

“What the hell do I do…I suck at this!” He slammed his fist against the ice. “Bryce!”

 

He heard laughter come from behind. Samurai Red turned to see a woman dressed in dark robes standing in the shadows. Her name was Lal.

 

The Red Ranger unsheathed his sword. “Let him go…”

 

“No…” she said as she stepped into the light. “No, I don’t think I will. What is your name, Ranger? I want to hear the name of the boy who seduced my brother.”

 

Your…your brother?” Samurai Red took a step back. “You did this to your own brother?”

 

“He betrayed his people,” she said. “He was sent as a spy. Instead, he mated with a topsider. He deserves his fate.”

 

“I’ll tell you one last time,” Samurai Red said. “Let him go. Now.”

 

“And I will tell you one last time,” she said. “No.”

 

She slapped her palm against a panel on the wall. The floor slid open, and the block of ice fell through.

 

“No!” Samurai Red shouted as the floor slammed shut.

 

“Now…” Lal said. “You have two options. You can search these tunnels endlessly until you die from starvation or something far worse—which is what Emperor Kraigen would prefer. Or you can leave this place and help save your city.”

 

She placed her hand against the wall again. The far wall sizzled with heat and formed a blurred view of the city. The Red Ranger saw the Anglars spill into Angel Grove North.

 

He rolled his hands into fists.

 

“That’s what I thought,” Lal said with an evil grin. She slid her hand further down the wall, and an opening appeared, leading to a corridor that extended upward. “Take this passageway back to the surface.”

 

“I’ll be back for him,” the Red Ranger said.

 

“I know,” Lal said. “But you will find nothing. We’ve hid from mankind since the discovery of fire. We’re not found until we wish to be. Now go…”

 

Samurai Red hesitated and looked down at the ground. He looked back up at Lal, glared from beneath his helmet, and fled into the corridor.   

 

***

 

The Anglars charged across the streets of Angel Grove for the first time in their history. They slashed through cars and storefronts with staffs and swords of polished stone. They cut down anyone who got in their way.

 

Four teens ran onto the streets nearby. They wore the uniforms of the Hayate Way: two wore the yellow-trimmed Earth-style uniforms, one wore the red-trimmed Air-Style uniform, and one wore the blue-trimmed Water-style uniform.

 

“I was really hoping this was some kind of a prank,” said the boy in yellow. His name was Bradin McAllister.

 

“It’s no prank,” said the boy in blue, Ryan Phillips. “This is what we’ve been training for.”

 

“Speak for yourself,” Bradin said.

 

“This is really happening,” said the girl in red, Anna Tears. “The more we stand here talking about it…the more people will get hurt.”

 

The girl in yellow, Kirsten Watson, shook her head. “What are we getting ourselves into…?”

 

“Our destiny,” Ryan said.

 

Bradin rolled his eyes. “Let’s get this over with.”

 

They pulled out their morphers.

 

“Samurai scribe!” They wrote their kanji symbols, which glowed with power. “Ha!”

 

They swung their morphers through the characters, which spun and latched around their heads as they morphed into their Ranger forms. Bradin became Samurai Green, Ryan morphed into Samurai Blue, Kirsten became Samurai Yellow, and Anna morphed into Samurai Pink.

 

The Rangers unsheathed their swords and dashed forward.

 

They charged through the Anglars with swords swinging. Their blades cut through swords and staffs of stone and slashed through limbs and bodies with bursts of spark.

 

Samurai Blue moved with fluidity. He swung his sword through intricate patterns that hacked through Anglars and cut them to the ground.

 

The Green Samurai Ranger attacked with quick strikes that slashed through grunts with savagery and deadly force. His moves lacked form and talent, but what he lacked in form, he made up for with strength.

 

Samurai Pink twirled her sword with the grace of a dancer as she slashed through the Anglars and their weapons.

 

The Yellow Samurai Ranger swung quick precision strikes with powerful force and deadly efficiency.

 

Cye-Axe charged from the ranks of the Anglars. The villain chopped his blade against Samurai Green’s chest with a burst of spark, smashing him to the ground.

 

The villain whipped around while swinging his sword through a wide arc that sparked across Samurai Pink and Samurai Yellow, whipping them to the ground.

 

Samurai Blue pounced at the villain and swung his sword upward. Cye-Axe blocked the blow and chopped his sword across the Ranger’s armor with a burst of spark.

 

The villain stepped on the fallen Ranger’s chest and snarled with delight. “We should have done this years ago…”

 

Cye-Axe lifted his sword to chop against the Blue Ranger’s helmet.

 

Before he could strike, the Red Ranger leapt through the air as if from nowhere and bashed a flying sidekick against the villain. The blow hurled Cye-Axe off his feet, and he crashed against the pavement.

 

Samurai Red extended his hand and helped Samurai Blue to his feet.

 

“You must be Teddy…” Samurai Blue said. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

 

“Yes, we’re all thrilled,” Samurai Green said sarcastically. “Can we introduce ourselves later, please?”

 

Cye-Axe climbed back to his feet as the Anglars regrouped around him.

 

Samurai Red wanted to give orders and direct the Rangers into battle. That’s what they expected. But he wasn’t sure what to tell them. So he decided to lead with action.

 

“It’s time to take care of business…”

 

Samurai Red spun the disc on his sword hilt. “Fire Smasher!”

 

His sword glowed with red power and transformed into a long, zanbato-type saber. The sword was as long as the Ranger was tall.

 

Samurai Red charged forward and swung the blade through a wide arc that smashed through the Anglars, hurling them through the air. The Red Ranger twisted his grip and swung again, slashing through grunts with enough force to knock them through nearby buildings.

 

The other four Rangers followed his lead.

 

Samurai Blue spun the disc on his sword hilt. “Water Arrow!”

 

The sword glowed with blue energy and transformed into a bow.

 

The Blue Ranger fired arrows of water energy that punctured through Anglars with bursts of spark, whipping them backward.

 

Samurai Pink spun the disc on her sword hilt. “Wind Fan!”

 

The sword glowed with pink energy and transformed into a fan.

 

Samurai Pink twirled the fan, emitting waves of pink wind energy that slashed across the Anglars, hurling them off their feet.

 

Samurai Yellow spun the disc on her sword. “Land Slicer!”

 

The sword glowed with yellow energy and transformed into a three-pronged blade.

 

The Yellow Ranger hurled the weapon like a boomerang. The blade sliced through a group of Anglars with bursts of spark, knocking them off their feet.

 

Samurai Green started to spin the disc on his sword. But an Anglar sliced the sword from his hand. “Son of a bitch…”

 

The Green Ranger bashed a sidekick against the grunt, rolled across the ground, and grabbed his sword.

 

Samurai Green spun the disc on his sword hilt. “Wood Spear!”

 

The sword glowed with green energy and transformed into a spear.

 

The Green Ranger spun the weapon around his body, blade slashed through streaks of green energy that slashed through Anglars with bursts of spark, whipping them off their feet.

 

Samurai Red cut through the last of the Anglars. He powered down his weapon to sword mode as the other Rangers regrouped around him. They turned to face Cye-Axe, and Samurai Red held his blade forward in an offensive stance.

 

The villain took a step back with fear. “Dogra!”

 

DograA Vorlock monster burst from beneath the street with a cloud of debris and concrete. The creature resembled an iguana to some extent, with three blue eyes on rust-colored, leathery skin.

 

The villain spat wads of flame that exploded around the Rangers with bursts of spark as they dove for cover.

 

Dogra lashed out with a tongue that wrapped around Samurai Red. The monster poured electric current through its tongue, and the energy surged against the Red Ranger with bursts of spark.

 

The other four Rangers ran to Samurai Red. But the villain fired optic bursts that sparked across their armor and whipped them backward.

 

Dogra used its tongue to reel the Red Ranger in, closer to its open jaws.

 

Samurai Red slashed through the tongue with a burst of spark and rolled free.

 

Dogra staggered backward and growled with pain. The monster quickly recovered and spat a flurry of fireballs that shot through the air towards Samurai Red.

 

The Red Ranger charged forward as the fire bolts exploded around him with bursts of flame and smoke.

 

Samurai Red pounced forward, somersaulted through the air, and landed while plunging his blade through the monster’s body with a burst of spark. The Red Ranger leaned forward, pushing the blade in deep.

 

Dogra hissed and smashed the back of its fist across Samurai Red’s helmet. The blow whipped the Ranger off his feet, and he crashed against the pavement.

 

The Red Ranger rolled into a crouched stance and lifted his sword. “Let’s try this again…” He spun the disc on his sword hilt. “Fire Smasher!”

 

The Ranger’s sword glowed red and transformed into a massive blade. Samurai Red charged at the monster while holding the flat of the blade forward like a shield.

 

Dogra spat spheres of flame that exploded against the sword and sparked around the Ranger.

 

Samurai Red didn’t slow his advance. The thought of Bryce, and the creatures who took him, filled his body with rage. The anger ignited the fire in his Life Force.

 

The Red Ranger stabbed his sword against the monster and pushed, slamming the creature back-first against a pillar. Samurai Red pulled the sword free and energized the blade with fiery power.

 

Samurai Red lifted his blade over his shoulder and swung diagonally through a streak of flame, which slashed through the monster with bursts of spark, ripping the creature in half. The monster’s energy overloaded with a burst of flame. 

 

The Red Ranger lowered his blade and looked for Cye-Axe. But the villain was gone.

 

***

 

Emperor Kraigen silently cursed the incompetence of his army. Their first strike against the surface had ended in disaster.

 

The villain wasn’t foolish with pride as others who had tried to take over the city. He knew he needed more power to defeat the Samurai Rangers. His forces could not sustain a prolonged conflict against the heroes.

 

Emperor Kraigen returned to his private chambers and opened a secret doorway. The doorway led to a stairwell of stone, which circled down into a pit of heated rock. Kraigen descended the deep stairwell to the very bottom.  

 

The villain stepped onto the rock and kneeled. He pulled a dagger from his robes, slit open his palm, and dripped his blood onto the stones.

 

The darkest of his ancestors had used this pit to worship and pray to demons. Kraigen followed this proud tradition. He’d never spoken with the demons—no one in his family had—but he believed they could hear him and grant him power.

 

He needed their power now.

 

The villain whispered an incantation in Latin. He expected to finish the incantation and return to his chambers, as he did every night. But this night, the ground stirred.

 

Crimson light glowed from the cracks and crevices within the stone floor.

 

***

 

Teddy returned to the tunnels beneath the earth. He didn’t spend any time introducing himself to the other Samurai Rangers or asking for their help. He had no time for that, and no time to explain.

 

He walked throughout the night and eventually started to think Lal was right—that if the Vorlock did not want to be found, they could not be found. 

 

Then he stumbled into a dark room filled with heated stones. The room branched off into several tunnels that webbed from a central chamber. Intricate markings lined the walls.

 

Fresh corpses littered the floor. They were Vorlock, judging by their robes. Teddy recognized one of them as Lal. And she was still breathing, but barely, while seated against a stone doorway.

 

Teddy ran to her side. “What happened here?”

 

“Dead,” she whispered in a hoarse voice. “All dead…”

 

He thought of Bryce and tried to keep himself from panicking. “Who did this?”

 

She said one final word before breathing her last breath and slipping into lifelessness. “Gedoushuu.”

 

To be continued…Chapter 02