Ultimate Hurricane: Chapter Thirty-four prologue

 

Angel Grove, Seven days ago

 

Nine silver chairs sat in a circle on top of a skyscraper, within the city’s financial district. Behind each chair rested a fireplace that burnt with blue flames.

 

A line of silver split through the air on the rooftop. The line opened, forming a portal. The Forsaken named Moridyn stepped from the portal and onto the rooftop.

 

He straightened his tie and looked at the odd arrangement, which he set up. He checked his watch — a curious thing, time — and waited.

 

Moridyn expected no more than two or three of his fellow Forsaken to arrive. Those who did would show up late, just to keep him waiting. A subtle jab he would let them take.

 

The Forsaken didn’t care much for one another, if at all, but they feigned civility while plotting behind each other’s backs.

 

Moridyn took a seat and waited.

 

Soon, two lines of silver split upward and opened into portals. Two Forsaken women, Graendal and Mesaana, stepped through the portals.

 

Mesaana wore a black dress that matched the midnight color of her hair. She wore silver lipstick and eye shadow, and wore a silver pendant that rested between her breasts. 

 

Graendal wore a tight, black, seductive dress that contrasted her bright blonde hair. She smiled warmly.

 

“Brother…” she said.

 

“Sisters…” Moridyn said. He wondered why the two women showed up at the same time. Had they crafted a secret alliance? “Please be seated. I’m anxious to hear how you’ve been…”

 

“Of course…” Graendal said as she and Mesaana took their seats. “Should we wait for the others?”

 

“I doubt they will come,” Moridyn said. “They all have their own affairs to attend to.”

 

“As do we…” Mesaana said.

 

Graendal leaned back and waved her hand. A portal opened, and three of her servants walked onto the rooftop. They carried trays of wine and grapes.

 

Graendal took a goblet and drank. She smiled at her brother. “Would you care for some wine?”

 

“No thank you,” Moridyn said. “Now…shall we discuss our brothers and sisters? Let us be frank for once, we know they are up to something.”

 

Graendal smiled. “They are crafty,” she said with a somewhat mocking tone. “Almost as if they’re agents of the Dark One himself.”

 

“Fair point, sister,” Moridyn said. “And speaking of the Dark One, he grows impatient. We’ve been released for a year and we’ve opened not a single seal.”

 

“Lanfear believes she is close,” Mesaana said. “So does Rahvin.”

 

“Close to the Second Seal,” Moridyn said as he laced his hands. “I am speaking of the Third, as well as the Fourth. I believe I’ve found their secret…and the key is a boy named Simon Kaden.”

 

Chapter 34: Ultimate Hurricane

Devil’s Trap

 

Azmodai glared at Moridyn.

 

Moridyn barely noticed as he stood casually near the window. “I’ve come to you because I believe you can be of use…” he said. “Prove me wrong…and I’ll have you eliminated.”

 

“Eliminated?” Azmodai asked, his voice thick with irritation. “You would dare to come here, into my home, and threaten me? Me, who summoned you from an eternity-long prison?”

 

“I would hardly call this a home,” Moridyn said as he looked around the hotel room. “It’s a hole you’ve crawled into to hide.”

 

“Release me,” Azmodai demanded as he tried to move from the Devil’s Trap etched on the floor.

 

“Not yet,” Moridyn said. “Not until you’ve become more…agreeable. Cooperate…and you may gain some of the Dark One’s favor.”

 

“Some of his favor…” Azmodai said with disbelief. “I set this plan in motion! I dedicated my entire existence to setting him free. Don’t you dare talk to me about gaining his favor. I am his First Demon. I am his son!”

 

“Then be an obedient child and do as I ask,” Moridyn said.

 

I should be ordering you!” Azmodai shouted. “I should be carrying out His will.”

 

Moridyn pulled up a chair and took a seat. He leaned back and laced his fingers. “I’ve been sealed in a prison since before time existed. I can wait…”

 

Azmodai started pacing in the Devil’s Trap, keeping his eyes on the Forsaken. “What is it you would ask of me?”

 

“My brothers and sisters are close to breaking the Second Seal,” Azmodai said. “I am after the Third. I’ve found it best to stay ahead of my fellow Forsaken whenever possible.”

 

“Then what is it?” Azmodai asked. “What is the Third Seal? Or the Second, for that matter?”

 

Moridyn smiled. “We do like to hold onto our secrets. Even before time, knowledge was power.”

 

“How am I supposed to help you if you won’t tell me what I need to know?” Azmodai asked. 

 

“I’ll tell you what you need to know,” Moridyn said. “But not what you want to know. There is a difference.”

 

“I grow tired of games,” Azmodai said.

 

“As do I,” Moridyn said. “So gather your army of Hellfire Knights so I can put them to use.”

 

***

 

Days passed.

 

Thirteen-year-old Owen Cartwright played soccer with his friends beneath the bright sunny sky in Silver Hills.

 

The boy moved with the fluidity of a toned and seasoned athlete, hindered only by his long brown hair that sometimes swept into his eyes.

                                                               

He kicked the ball hard and scored the winning goal, prompting his friends and teammates to cheer.

 

His father and mother clapped from the sidelines.

 

“Way to go, honey!” his mom shouted.

 

“Good job, Owen, way to hustle!” his father shouted.

 

The boy smiled as his friends surrounded him and congratulated him. A group of girls rushed from the sidelines, and one of them kissed him on the cheek.

 

***

 

Simon, Eiji, and Zadie watched Owen from the shade of a nearby tree.

 

Eiji shook his head. “I don’t…I don’t understand what’s happening here.”

 

“Well…” Zadie said. “He appears to be happy.”

 

“I don’t…I don’t understand what’s happening here,” Eiji said again.

 

Simon watched as Owen’s parents ran to their adopted son and lifted him in a congratulatory hug. His heart ached with jealously.

 

“He has no idea what’s about to happen,” Simon said.

 

“Are we sure this is even real?” Eiji said. “Name one other person involved in Ranger business that has a normal, happy life.”

 

“There’s…” Simon hesitated. “The Galaxy Rangers seem okay.”

 

“They live in an enchanted forest,” Eiji said. “I said ‘normal’.”

 

“There’s…” Simon hesitated. “Okay, this is weird.”

 

“Thank you,” Eiji said.

 

Simon’s communicator toned, and he answered. “This is Simon.”

 

“Red,” Ryan said through the communicator. He, Shirogane and Samuel searched the surrounding area for trouble. “We can’t pick up any signs of demon activity. The only weird thing is the people seem…”

 

“Happy,” Simon said. “I know. Maybe we beat the Hellfire Club here…Meet us at the soccer field.”

 

He lowered his communicator and sighed with agitation.

 

Zadie leaned closer to him and held his hand. She didn’t notice the glance of jealousy from Eiji. “What’s the plan?”

 

“We could try…the truth,” Simon said.

 

Zadie stifled a laugh. “You’re losing your mind again, blondie.”

 

“Part of the truth, at least,” Simon said. “Samuel and I will go alone. The rest of you hang back, and keep an eye out for anything strange.”

 

“Stranger than all the happy people?” Eiji asked.

 

“Yes,” Simon said. “Like if the happy people start screaming.”

 

***

 

Simon and Samuel followed the Cartwrights to a gated community of multi-storied mansions and landscaped yards. Simon couldn’t believe the splendor and décor of the neighborhood.

 

He shook his head with disbelief as he and Samuel walked down a sidewalk. “Would you look at this place? It’s incredible…”

 

“Would that be jealousy you’re feeling? Or maybe greed?” Samuel asked.

 

Simon sighed. “Can we stop arguing, please?”

 

“Sure,” Samuel said. “Wouldn’t want to bring out your wrath.”

 

Simon muttered beneath his breath as they walked towards the Cartwrights’ home. They moved towards the entrance and rang the doorbell, which rang with a pleasant tune.

 

Mrs. Cartwright answered the door and smiled. Her bright blue eyes seemed alight with life, and her golden hair reflected the sunlight. “Hi there,” she said. “Can I help you boys?”

 

“Yes, we’re sorry to barge in on you like this…” Simon said. “My name’s Simon…this is my brother Samuel. We’re actually here…about Owen.”

 

“Oh?” Mrs. Cartwright asked.

 

“Yeah…” Simon said. He started to second guess his truthful approach. “You see…we’re sort of his half-brothers…”

 

“Oh…” Mrs. Cartwright said. “Oh, I see. Well…You two boys sure don’t waste any time with small talk, do ya? Come in, come in…”

 

“Who is it, honey?” Mr. Cartwright asked.

 

“Two boys. Simon and Samuel…turns out they’re Owens brothers,” Mrs. Cartwright said.

 

Simon and Samuel stepped into the wide entry room as Mrs. Cartwright closed the door behind them.

 

“Why don’t we go chat in the living room,” she said. “I’ll have the maid bring us some tea…”

 

***

 

Simon and Samuel sat on a white couch as puffy as a cloud. A maid set a tray of tea on a coffee table between them and Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright.

 

“So…” Mr. Cartwright said with a smile. “Owen’s brothers…isn’t that something.”

 

Simon arced an eyebrow. “Right…forgive me, but you don’t seem that surprised.”

 

“Of course we’re surprised,” Mrs. Cartwright said. “But that’s no reason to be rude.”

 

Mr. Cartwright nodded. “Truth is…we’ve always known Owen’s real family might look him someday. My wife and I fully prepared for the possibility…”

 

“Although we were expecting maybe parents,” Mrs. Cartwright said. “A mother or father maybe. Not brothers.”

 

“Half-brothers,” Samuel said.

 

“I see,” Mrs. Cartwright said. “Well, yes, that is a surprise. We adopted little Owen when he was just a baby. I’m afraid we never really knew much about his real parents.”

 

“Do you?” Mr. Cartwright said.

 

Simon said. “A little bit…But I think it’s a little too early to jump into that part of the conversation.”

 

“I wouldn’t worry,” Mr. Cartwright said. “Owen’s a tough kid. The other day? He got an A- on a math test.”

 

“Oh, that was a rough day,” Mrs. Cartwright said.

 

“But he took it like a man,” Mr. Cartwright said.

 

Simon put on his best smile to hide his utter disbelief. “Oh, the things kids have to go through these days…”

 

***

 

Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright introduced Simon and Samuel to Owen in the boy’s room. Framed posters lined his wall: Superman, Sword Art Online, Miley Cyrus before she went insane, Kelly Clarkson and various sports teams Simon didn’t recognize.

 

His room looked neat and clean. He sat behind his desk, free from clutter, and equipped with the latest desktop PC. He had a tablet and smartphone next to the keyboard, and a laptop lay on his bed.

 

He kept his window open to let the sun in.

 

“So…” Owen stood from his desk when his mother left them alone. “You guys are my brothers? That’s awesome!”

 

“Yes, well…” Simon said awkwardly. “That was our reaction…”

 

Samuel nodded. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

 

“Do I!” Owen said. “What’s your favorite sports team? Do you read comic books? What about games? I’m a total Sword Art Online geek, my friends and I basically take up an entire server ourselves.”

 

“We meant questions about your parents,” Simon said. “Your real parents…”

 

“Gosh…” Owen said as he sat back down. “I guess I never thought of that. My real parents are downstairs. But my birth parents?”

 

The boy leaned back and shook his head. “I don’t think I wanna know. That’s all in the past, and whoever they were doesn’t have anything to do with who I am today. I am who I am because of my real parents, the ones who raised me.”

 

Simon glanced at Samuel and whispered. “Did he really just work through all that himself in five seconds?”

 

“…Yep,” Samuel said.

 

***

 

That night, Simon settled down in a hotel just outside Silver Hills. He and the others planned to go back to Owen’s house the next morning — which gave him time to figure out what to do, exactly.

 

The teen tossed and turned. He couldn’t get thoughts of Brandon or R.J. out of his mind. He lost both brothers to the Hellfire Club, and to his other brother, Zen — who Simon knew little to nothing about.

 

Simon couldn’t lose Owen too.

 

Suddenly, the hair on the back of Simon’s neck stood on end. He felt cold creep into the hotel room from outside. He narrowed his eyes, rose from bed, and threw on his clothes.

 

He recognized the feeling all too well — a demon, but somewhat…different. He couldn’t put his finger on the reason why.

 

Simon stepped outside, onto an upper-level walkway lined with hotel doors. His breath fogged, despite the heat.

 

“That’s never a good sign…” he whispered.

 

The door next to his opened, and Zadie stepped outside with her knife in hand. She looked to Simon and arced an eyebrow. “You felt that too?”

 

Simon nodded. And he nearly choked on his own breath when he saw Eiji step out of Zadie’s room. “What…what?”

 

“Oh relax,” Zadie said. “You had your turn.”

 

They heard a fluttering come from above. They looked up but saw nothing. Then, the fluttering past them with a gust of wind — but they still saw nothing.

 

Eiji armed his staff. Zadie lifted her dagger in a defensive stance. They faced one end of the balcony, and Simon faced the other end as he stepped into a fighting stance.

 

“Any idea what this is?” Simon asked.

 

Zadie shook her head. “Girl Scouts, maybe? They always did freak me out…”

 

A gust of black wind blew them off their feet. They crashed against the walkway as the wind swirled above the railing nearby. The wind formed a shape like a humanoid bird, made of shadow, with its wings folded across its chest like a bat.

 

Zadie stood and slashed towards the shadow. But it dissipated into wisps of wind that flew several feet backward and reformed in midair.

 

Simon leapt towards the creature and morphed into his armor. The Black Ranger energized his blade with black flame and slashed towards the creature. But the creature transformed into a burst of wind that shot against the Black Ranger with the force of a cannonball.

 

The Black Ranger slammed through the hotel and crashed inside a room, where a junkie slept with two prostitutes.

 

Hurricane Black staggered to his feet and ran back to the walkway. A burst of wind knocked him off the walkway and sent him plummeting towards the ground below.

 

The shadow creature slammed against the Black Ranger and smashed him against the pavement hard enough to pulverize the concrete.

 

The shadow creature shrieked and shot upward.

 

Eiji leapt onto the railing and thrust his hand towards the creature, pointing his index and middle fingers. “Ketsu!

 

A cylinder of blue energy snapped around the creature. But it easily shattered the barrier and streaked towards the distance, fleeing the scene.

 

Below, Hurricane Black climbed to his feet and watched the shadow fly from the hotel.

 

“It’s headed towards Silver Hills…” He looked to Eiji and Zadie. “Get Samuel. We have to move. Fast.”

 

***

 

Simon’s group split up when they neared Owen’s house. Simon and Samuel ran towards the house itself, while the others spread out through the neighborhood.

 

Simon and Samuel rushed to the door of the home, and Simon started banging.

 

“Simon, maybe you should calm down…” Samuel said.

 

“There’s no time,” Simon said as he banged on the door.

 

The bolt clicked, and Mr. Cartwright opened the door. “Simon? What are you-

 

“There’s no time,” Simon said as he pushed past Mr. Cartwright. “Where’s Owen?”

 

“Owen?” Mr. Cartwright asked. “Simon, you can’t just barge in here like…”

 

Simon bolted upstairs towards Owen’s room, and Samuel followed. The teens made it to the top of the stairs and rushed down the hall. Simon kicked Owen’s door down.

 

He barged in to see Owen sitting behind his computer. “Owen, we have to go…you’re in trouble.”

 

Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright stepped into the room behind the teens.

 

“Kids, you can’t just come in here like this,” Mr. Cartwright said. “Now, we’ve tried to be polite, but-”

 

“He’s in danger,” Simon said. “Some very bad people are after your son, and they’re on their way here. You have to trust me.”

 

“Bad people?” Mrs. Cartwright said.

 

“Monsters,” Simon said. “Like on the news.”

 

Mrs. Cartwright relaxed and laughed. “Oh. Oh, honey. Look…something obviously spooked you. Let’s go downstairs and talk about it. But you have to realize…monsters aren’t real. That’s just the government trying to scare you.”

 

Mr. Cartwright nodded. “Typical.”

 

Simon knitted his brow. “You realize the entire center of the city is a festering pit of demons, right?”

 

They giggled again.

 

“Oh, Simon…” Mrs. Cartwright said. “You could probably say that about a lot of cities.”

 

“That’s what you get with a Muslim in the White House,” Mr. Cartwright said.

 

“Obama wasn’t even president when this all-” Simon shook his head. “You know what? Never mind. We’ve got to get Owen out of here.”

 

Owen knitted his brow and looked to his parents. “Mom…what’s he talking about?”

 

“Nothing, honey, it’s okay,” she said.

 

“It’s not okay…” Simon said. “We have to leave.”

 

“Mom…” Owen said with panic in his voice as he stood. He staggered, but grabbed onto his chair to keep from falling. He kept his gaze low. Suddenly, his voice turned ice cold. “You can’t have him.”

 

Simon knitted his brow. “What…?”

 

“The boy…” he said. “Owen…You can’t have him. He’s mine.”

 

Simon and Samuel each took a step back. Samuel looked over his shoulder to Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright. “You two need to run.”

 

“No…” Owen said. He looked up slowly, and his eyes appeared solid black. “You can’t make them leave. You can’t take them away from me. You can’t. You can’t!”

 

The boy thrust his hand and fired a TK burst that knocked Simon and Samuel against the wall.

 

“This is my home!” he shouted as his body burst with black waves of wind that wrapped around him like feathers. “I tried to warn you! But you didn’t listen! You can’t have him!”

 

He swung his arm and hurled the teens across the room. They shattered through the window and crashed against the ground below.

 

Owen flew from the opening and hovered in midair. He appeared as the shadow creature, covered in weaves of wind shaped like feathers.

 

Simon cursed beneath his breath and rose to his feet. “He’s possessed.”

 

“I’m guessing he has been for some time,” Samuel said as he stood. He sensed the strength of the demon’s bond with Owen. A bond that strong took years to form. Also, the demon seemed familiar enough with Owen to stay undetected within the boy’s mind and soul.

 

“We can’t hurt him,” Simon said.

 

Samuel narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t.”

 

Owen shot towards Simon and Samuel. The teens dove aside and rolled across the ground.

 

Nearby, Eiji and Zadie dashed towards the yard.

 

Ryan and Shirogane ran to the scene from the other direction.

 

Samuel looked to them. “Be careful. That thing’s Owen!”

 

Owen twirled like a cyclone. The force tore apart the side of his home and hurled Simon and the others off their feet.

 

Zadie crashed against the yard and skid backward, dropping her knife.

 

Owen swooped down, lifted her, and flew into the air. He hovered while holding Zadie in a chokehold.

 

“Leave me alone!” Owen shouted. “You can’t have him! If you don’t leave, I’ll…I’ll kill her!”

 

Simon felt waves of fear and panic wash from the demon and Owen. Samuel felt the same thing.

 

The knight looked to his brother. “He has no idea what he’s doing. He’s just panicking.”

 

“I see that,” Simon said. He looked up towards his youngest brother. “Let her go! You’re just making this worse for yourself!”

 

“Worse?!” Owen shouted. “I was happy here! We were happy! You ruined everything! Why couldn’t you just leave us alone?!”

 

He squeezed tighter around Zadie’s neck. She struggled to break free, but couldn’t, and gasped for air.

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. “Owen, put her down!”

 

“You’re not a killer, Owen!” Samuel called out.

 

Nearby, Shirogane armed his sword, and Ryan pulled out his Faiz caller. But Samuel waved them back.

 

“Don’t…” the knight said.

 

Eiji gripped his staff so tight his knuckles turned white. “He’s going to kill her!”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes. He watched Zadie struggle and fight against Owen as she gasped for air.

 

The teen shot upward, morphed into his armor, and unsheathed his sword.

 

Samuel looked up from below. “Simon, no!”

 

Hurricane Black swung his blade through a streak of black fire. The flames splashed against Owen’s head and bashed him from the air, knocking Zadie loose.

 

The Black Ranger grabbed Zadie and landed, setting her aside.

 

Owen climbed to his feet as black wind blew from his back like wings. The wings wrapped around the boy and concealed him in shadow.  

 

Hurricane Black thrust his hand towards his brother and spread his palm wide. He used his Kiryoku to grip onto the demon — but the demon kept strong roots within the boy. The Black Ranger gritted his teeth and pulled.

 

Owen screamed and dropped to his knees. The black wind thrashed around his body as it tugged at his soul. The Black Ranger pulled harder, and Owen screamed louder.

 

Samuel ran to Hurricane Black and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Simon, stop! You’re hurting him!”

 

The Black Ranger pushed him aside. “I have to save him…”

 

“You don’t care about saving him…” Samuel said. “You just want to keep him from Azmodai!”

 

“Is there a difference?!” Hurricane Black shouted.

 

Samuel knitted his brow.

 

“I’m sorry…” he said softly.

 

He unsheathed his sword and swung a ring above his head. He swung the blade down, and the ring washed over him to activate his armor.

 

Garo dashed at Hurricane Black and slashed upward; his sword sparked against the Black Ranger and hurled him through the air.

 

Hurricane Black crashed into Owen’s home.

 

Owen collapsed as the black wind wisped from his body. The demon — nearly destroyed — separated from its host and drifted away on the wind.

 

The boy started to cry at the feeling of loss. “No…no, please, come back…”

 

“Owen!” Mr. Cartwright shouted as he stormed outside. He looked rigid and angry. “You little…you little…what are you!?!”

 

The man started to storm towards his son, but Ryan stood in his way. “Not a good idea…”

 

His mother walked outside. She looked shaken and afraid as she stared at her son. “What did you…what did you do to us?! You little monster!”

 

Owen stayed on the ground and sobbed. “I just wanted…I just wanted everyone to be happy. I just tried to make everyone happy…”

 

Mr. Cartwright cursed beneath his breath. “You little shit!”

 

He started to storm towards his son again, but Ryan lifted him by the arm and slammed him against the ground. “Seriously, not a good idea.”

 

Samuel leaned down next to Owen and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be okay…” he said softly. “We’ll take care of you…”

 

“No,” Owen said between sobs. “It won’t be okay…not ever again.”

 

No one noticed the faintest trace of silver light start to glimmer above.

 

***

 

Simon awoke face-first on a cold, concrete walkway covered with dust. He expected to find himself back in the yard where Owen attacked. Instead, he pushed himself up on the walkway of an abandoned amusement park at night.

 

He saw broken-down rides and carnival booths covered with cobwebs. The area looked long deserted.

 

“Son of a bitch…” he whispered.

 

To be continued…Chapter 35