Chapter 44: Ultimate Gene-Tech

Demon Shift: Infestation

 

PART ONE: Endless Horde

 

Dax climbed slowly to his feet within the chamber of the Giga Brain.

 

The Dark Shaper tightened his fist and circled Dax with distortion energy to hold him in place.

 

“Look…” the villain said.

 

Several holographic screens appeared in midair. Their images showed monsters and grunts from Demon World Earth surge through the streets.

 

Dax narrowed his eyes. “Wow, a massive army invading Angel Grove. Something I’ve never seen before.”

 

“Demon World Earth will keep spilling its hordes until nothing remains of your world,” the Dark Shaper said. “Your planet can only be saved through its fusion with Demon World Earth.”

 

“This would be the same fusion that kills everyone except the folks lucky enough to get your Undead bodies and VOLT minds,” Dax said.

 

“Correct,” the Dark Shaper said.

 

“Makes perfect sense,” Dax said sarcastically.

 

“Submit,” the Dark Shaper said. “You amuse me…I could keep you alive during the transition. Or bring you back afterward.”

 

“I’d rather die,” Dax said. “I don’t mean that in a heroic way, I just don’t like you.”

 

The Dark Shaper thrust his hand and slammed Dax against the side of the chamber. The teen crashed against the floor.

 

“That’s mature…” Dax grumbled.

 

Above, the chamber ceiling exploded with flames and sparks. Two figures dropped through the opening and landed in the chamber with a massive boom.

 

The Joker stood over Blade while grabbing the Rider in a chokehold.

 

Kamen Rider Blade knocked Joker’s hands away and kicked him back.

 

The Dark Shaper stepped back, releasing his invisible grip on Dax. “Joker…”

 

Dax arced an eyebrow. “Joker…?”

 

“My Undead creation,” the Dark Shaper said.

 

Dax shook his head. “But when you hear Joker, you think The Joker Joker, not…that thing…”

 

Joker clawed Blade aside with massive bursts of spark and turned his attention to Dax.

 

Dax connected his bracers. “Bio burst!”

 

He morphed into his armor just as Joker clawed him across the chamber with a burst of spark.

 

Joker growled, a deep guttural sound, as he faced the Dark Shaper. The Undead pounced to attack.

 

The Dark Shaper lifted his hand and summoned a field of distortion energy. The Undead bashed against the shield, which knocked him across the chamber.

 

Red Falcon armed his sword. “Let’s try this one more time…”

 

“Wait!” Blade said as he held Red Falcon back. “We have to be careful! If we damage the spire, we destroy both worlds!”

 

“Who are you again?” Red Falcon asked.

 

The Joker lunged towards the Giga Brain. He landed against its side and slashed with a massive burst of spark.

 

Electrical discharges lashed from the brain and exploded throughout the room. The discharges intensified and blasted through the fortress, destroying the engines with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

The lower hull of the VOLT fortress exploded, and the energy beam died down with an explosion that tore apart the top of the fortress.

 

The giant ship lost all power and crashed towards the city below.

 

***

 

The other four Bio-Beast Rangers bashed their way through a group of Batlings at the edge of the city.

 

“Dolphin Bow!” The Blue Ranger fired a volley of energy arrows that tore through several Batlings with bursts of spark.

 

She looked up just as the VOLT fortress exploded and started to drop to the streets.

 

“No…” she whispered. “Dax!”

 

Black Bison back-fisted a Batling’s head and kneed a grunt in the gut. He looked to the falling fortress.

 

“That idiot…” he whispered.

 

Colynn spoke to the Rangers through their communicators. “Rangers, we have a problem.”

 

“We noticed,” Black Bison said as he punched a grunt.

 

“What happened to Dax?” Blue Dolphin asked.

 

“I lost his signal,” she said. “But that’s not all…With the fortress down, the energy beam’s stopped. But something’s still pulling Demon World Earth into our reality.”

 

“What?” Yellow Lion asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Colynn said. “We’re running scans now. So is everyone in the Initiative. All of INET’s working on finding a solution.”

 

“Could you ask them to work faster?’ Green Rhino asked. He bashed his head against a Batling’s face. “Maybe say ‘please’?”

 

“We’re doing everything we-” a boom sounded, and the comm signal dropped with a burst of static.

 

Colynn…” Blue Dolphin said. Colynn!”

 

“It’s no use,” Yellow Lion said. “The signal’s down.”

 

Green Rhino armed his Rhino Rangs and slashed through a trio of grunts. “We’ve got to go check on Colynn.”

 

“What about Dax?” Blue Dolphin asked.

 

“You saw what happened to that fortress,” Black Bison said. “It’s too late for Dax. But it might not be too late for the carrier.”

 

“He’s right…” Yellow Lion said.

 

“Okay…” Blue Dolphin said reluctantly. “Let’s go…”

 

***

 

The Bio-Beast team found the Tor Carrier near the center of Angel Grove North. They spotted no signs of Demon World Earth forces, or the strange Dark Roaches.

 

The Rangers entered the carrier to a scene of carnage. Dead bodies sprawled across the carrier bay, dark without power.

 

Blue Dolphin moved her hand to her mouth. “No…What happened?”

 

Yellow Lion shook his head, speechless at the sight.

 

“We have to look for Colynn,” Green Rhino said. “She might still be alive.”

 

“Cam…” Black Bison said doubtfully. “Look at this place.”

 

“It’s one room,” Green Rhino said as he led the way deeper into the carrier bay. “Come on.”

 

The Rangers stopped in their tracks when they heard growling come from the shadows. Movement fluttered briefly in the darkness. First ahead. Then behind and to the sides.

 

Suddenly, creatures sprang from the shadows and tackled the Rangers to the floor. They looked like man/beast hybrids: A tiger, jaguar, cheetah, wolf, rhino, lion and chameleon.

 

The Dark Shaper experimented with transforming humans into animal hybrids while on Demon World Earth. Those experiments continued in the Dark Shaper’s absence, and the result, creatures called Geki Beasts.

 

These hybrids looked more human than animal, a change from the Gao Beasts created by the Dark Shaper.

 

Geki Tiger grabbed Yellow Lion in a chokehold. The Yellow Ranger knocked the arm away and bashed the creature aside.

 

Yellow Lion rolled to his feet just as Geki Lion clawed his chest with a burst of spark.

 

Nearby, Geki Rhino pinned the Green Ranger to the floor. Green Rhino armed his Rhino Rangs and stabbed the blades into the creature with bursts of spark.

 

Geki Rhino howled with pain, and the Green Ranger bashed the creature away.

 

Green Rhino rolled into a crouched stance. Geki Jaguar pounced at him. But he swung upward, blades slashing her aside with bursts of spark.

 

Geki Cheetah dashed past Blue Dolphin while clawing her chest with a burst of spark.

 

Geki Chameleon blurred into view and lashed out her tongue. The tongue wrapped around the Blue Ranger and whipped her across the carrier bay.

 

Nearby, Black Bison stood his ground and faced Geki Wolf. Geki Wolf charged and pressed against the Black Ranger, who stood his ground as his feet skid across the floor.

 

Geki Wolf knocked the Black Ranger’s arms away and clawed his chest with a burst of spark, whipping him backward.

 

The Black Ranger crashed to the floor and rolled into a crouched stance as his teammates regrouped around him.

 

Acting strangely, the Geki Beasts stayed back.

 

“What are they waiting for?” Yellow Lion asked.

 

A voice answered from the shadows. “For their master.”

 

A man stepped from the darkness. He looked human with feline features: diamond-slit eyes, a whiskered snout, black fur and cat-like ears.

 

“You must be the Rangers of this world,” the villain said. “I am Beast Master Mao.”

 

The villain snapped a whip that fired an electric discharge, which sparked against the Rangers and hurled them backward.

 

***

 

The Jet Task Force Aero Rangers swooped down from the skies and bashed against the Dark Roaches. The Rangers unsheathed their Aero Sabers and hacked the Undead with bursts of spark, scattering them across the street.

 

Aero Black swung upward, slashing an Undead with a burst of spark. He kicked the bug back, then slashed a Roach that closed in from the side.

 

“We better get paid overtime for this,” he said as he slashed another Dark Roach back.

 

Aero Blue kicked a Dark Roach upside the head. “That would be a nice silver lining…if the city wasn’t almost destroyed…again.”

 

Red Hawk slashed a Dark Roach to the ground. “Cut the chatter,” he said. He opened a comm-line to Miss. Fairweather back at the ISIS Defense Initiative base. “How are we on containment?”

 

“Not good,” she answered. “The situation’s completely out of control. The forces of Demon World Earth are focused on the city, but those Roaches keep spreading. They’ve moved across the whole state.”

 

Aero Black punched a Dark Roach in the face. “Then we’re just wasting our time.”

 

“Don’t say that,” White Swan said as she kicked a Dark Roach to the ground. “We have to help whoever we can…”

 

Ahead, another teleportation beam stabbed from Demon World Earth and splashed across the streets of Angel Grove.

 

But nothing stepped from the beam.

 

Aero Red stepped into a defensive stance. “Stay alert,” he said to his teammates. “Something’s not right…”

 

An evil voice laughed from the rooftops. “So…the human thinks something’s not right?”

 

“As the city burns around him,” said another voice.

 

“And his fellow humans scream,” said a third voice.

 

Laughter echoed from all around the Rangers. “No…something’s not right at all!”

 

Explosions bashed against the Rangers with a shower of sparks that hurled them off their feet.

 

New Bitmap ImageSix figures leapt from the rooftops and landed around the Rangers. The people of Demon World Earth called them the Oni Riders: Sabaki, Akira, Banki, Goki, Kurenai and Todoroki. They looked similar, with glossy leather armor and demonic faceplates. 

 

On Demon World Earth, the Oni Riders arose after Lord Zedd’s Jakanja generals destroyed Japan. The demon spirits awoke to seek vengeance and destroyed Jakanja. Afterward, retaining their demonic nature, the Oni Riders sewed chaos by striking at the evil forces of Demon World Earth, as well as innocent humans.

 

Sabaki crossed his arms over his chest. “The Rangers of this world are too…colorful.”

 

Goki hunched his back and rolled his hands into fists. “Let’s dim those colors!”

 

The Oni Riders sprang to attack.

 

Goki, the Oni Rider with the jagged blue armor sweeping back from his faceplate, targeted Aero Black.

 

Goki smashed his fists into the street and tore up two massive chunks of concrete. The villain hurled the concrete at Aero Black, who slashed the debris from the air with bursts of spark.

 

“Is that all you can do?” the Black Ranger asked. “Throw rocks?”

 

Goki pounced and uppercut punched Black Condor in the gut. The Black Ranger swung his saber towards the demon. But the Rider caught the Black Ranger by the wrist and twisted, dropping the saber to the ground.

 

The Oni Rider kneed Black Condor in the gut and elbowed the back of his neck, knocking him to the ground.

 

“Is that better?!” Goki shouted as he stomped on the Black Ranger’s back.

 

Todoroki, the Oni Rider with white armor trimming and brown sash, dashed towards White Swan.

 

The Oni Rider charged his fists with electricity and swung a volley of punches at White Swan. The White Ranger blocked and dodged, but the assault forced her several steps backward.

 

White Swan started to arm her Wing Gauntlet. “Wing Gaun-”

 

The Oni Rider grabbed her wrist and knife-hand chopped the back of her neck, knocking her down.

 

The Blue-trimmed Oni Rider Akira launched at Blue Swallow with a volley of quick and fluid kicks. The Blue Ranger dodged and moved low with a knife-hand chop to the Oni Rider’s gut.

 

Blue Swallow snapped a crescent kick. But Akira grabbed the Ranger by the leg, lifted her off her feet, and smashed her against the street.

 

Meanwhile, the dirt-gold trimmed Oni Rider Banki faced Yellow Owl. The Yellow Ranger unsheathed his sword and swung wide.

 

Banki dodged and kicked the Yellow Ranger’s chest, knocking him back several steps.

 

Yellow Owl staggered but stayed on his feet. He lunged with another sword swing. The Oni Rider dodged and palm-heel struck the Ranger’s faceplate, knocking him to the ground. 

 

Nearby, the red-trimmed Oni Rider Sabaki launched at the Red Aero Ranger with a flurry of punches and kicks. Red Hawk dodged and fought back with a roundkick/punch combo. But the Rider blocked and kicked the Red Ranger’s head, knocking him back a step.

 

The Oni Rider snapped a roundhouse kick the Red Ranger ducked to avoid. Red Hawk hopped with a jumpkick the villain blocked.

 

From behind, the red Oni Rider Kurenai pounced at the Red Ranger while swinging a pair of clubs. Red Hawk unsheathed his sword and parried the clubs.

 

Sabaki sidekicked the Ranger’s back and kicked his legs, dropping him to his knees. Kurenai swung his clubs upward, bashing the Red Ranger upside the head and whipping his body backward.

 

The Oni Rider laughed. “How many more of them are there? This is just too fun…”

 

***

 

Kamen Rider Garren throttled his motorcycle through the city streets. His helmet repaired, he plowed through a group of Dark Roaches that cluttered the roadway.

 

The Rider cursed beneath his breath. Did he somehow cause the Dark Roach’s appearance by sealing the Last King?

 

A Dark Roach tackled Garren off his bike and slammed him to the ground.

 

The Rider rolled to his feet and forced the Dark Roach back with a volley of punches, and then a sidekick.

 

The creatures scurried towards Garren with overwhelming numbers. He kicked and punched them back, and then pulled out his gun. He blasted Dark Roaches with massive bursts of spark to give himself room, swinging the weapon back and forth.

 

But the Dark Roaches kept coming.

 

From above, a red blur of motion knocked aside a dozen Dark Roaches with a single swoop. A blue blur followed, and the two blurs knocked aside several Dark Roaches with the blink of an eye.

 

The two blurs skid to a halt. Kamen Rider Kabuto and Kamen Rider Gattack shifted into fighting stances.

 

“Kabuto…” Garren said.

 

He recognized the Riders as part of ZECT, a division of the Silver Guardians primarily responsible for eliminating monsters called Worms. Although, Kabuto and Gattack broke away from the organization. The other ZECT Riders now hunted them.

 

“Garren,” Kabuto said, his voice as arrogant and casual as ever. “The first of the BOARD Riders…Are you ready to see what true power looks like, when wielded by hands meant to shape destiny?”

 

Gattack sighed and shook his head. “I thought I asked you to stop talking like that? This is why we have no friends…”

 

The remaining Dark Roaches regrouped and scurried to attack.

 

Kamen Rider Kabuto dodged a claw swipe and punched the Dark Roach to the ground.

 

Another creature clawed at him. But he blocked and sidekicked the Dark Roach down.

 

He dodged and blocked with cold precision. He countered with quick and powerful punches and kicks, not wasting a single movement.

 

Kamen Rider Gattack unsheathed his two curved swords and slashed the Dark Roaches with massive bursts of spark. He swung the blades through wide and powerful arcs, deflecting the creatures’ claws and hacking their bodies. 

 

Kamen Rider Garren armed his blaster and triggered a volley of bullets that blasted through Dark Roaches with bursts of spark.

 

Kamen_Rider_Dark_Kabuto_with_AxeSuddenly, from behind, a blur of motion knocked Garren to the ground. The blur landed and kept his back to the Rider. He turned, revealing himself as Dark Kabuto, the Kamen Rider Kabuto of Demon World Earth. He looked identical to Kabuto, but with yellow eyes and black armor, etched with a red circuit-like pattern. The evil Rider carried a short axe.

 

Garren climbed to his feet. “Another Rider…Are you with ZECT?”

 

The evil Rider stalked forward. “I am the one walking the Path of Hell…the man who will rule over all…Souji Tendou.”

 

Dark Kabuto dashed and chopped Garren with a burst of spark, knocking the Rider back a step.

 

Kamen Rider Garren lifted his blaster to attack. But Dark Kabuto spun forward with a reverse sidekick that bashed Garren’s chest. The evil Rider swung his axe upward, slashing Garren with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

***

 

The DECA Rangers regrouped around Kamen Rider Leangle, and the eight heroes plowed through the Dark Roaches with massive bursts of spark.

 

Leangle swung his staff through wide and powerful arcs that slashed and bashed the Dark Roaches aside. He swung upward, slashing a Roach with a burst of spark that tore the creature in two.

 

From behind, Dark Kruger swung his blade, which extended like a whip and thrashed the Rider’s armor with a burst of spark.

 

Leangle staggered but stayed on his feet. He turned just as Dark Kruger whipped his blade, slashing the Rider’s chest with a burst of spark that knocked him off his feet.

 

“I’ve always called you humans insects,” Dark Kruger said. “Now it seems you’ve decided to dress like them.”

 

***

 

The rubble of the VOLT fortress stirred. Red Falcon dug himself from the wreckage, as did Kamen Rider Blade.

 

The Red Ranger sat back and nearly collapsed while trying to catch his breath.

 

“What the hell?” he asked between breaths. He powered down his armor with a flash of red light.

 

Blade pulled the Ace of Spades from his buckler, powering down his armor with the wave of a blue energy field.

 

“We survived…” Ken said.

 

“Yeah, I noticed,” Dax said. “I also noticed your BFF dropped the whole VOLT fortress onto the city.”

 

Ken knitted his brow. “My BFF? You don’t even know me. Or Zayden.”

 

“Like I need to,” Dax said. “It’s a classic story. You’re the good guy, he’s your friend who struggles with a dark side, which happened to take over, yadda yadda, city explodes.”

 

Ken shook his head. “Who are you again?”

 

“I already asked you that,” Dax said as he stood. “But I’m Dax. Red Falcon Ranger.”

 

“I didn’t recognize your armor…” Ken said.

 

“We’re still new-ish,” Dax said. “Even though our outfits look like an ‘80s throwback. You’re with BOARD, right? Or ZECT? You all kind of look the same.”

 

“BOARD,” Ken said. “But that was a while back.”

 

“Ah, that’s right, you went rogue, I remember now,” Dax said. “It must have sucked afterward, to find out you weren’t important enough for them to hunt down.”

 

Ken shook his head. “I don’t have time for this…” he said as he started to walk off. “I’ve got to find Zayden.”

 

“Good luck with that, Ace,” Dax said. “I’ll just wait here in the rubble, over what I can only assume are a few hundred dead bodies and the corpse of the evil genius who made it all happen.”

 

Ken stopped walking. He turned and glared at Dax. “Did you really just say that?”

 

“I’ve never understood that question,” Dax said. “What do you expect me to say? No? I clearly did.”

 

“People just died, people we failed to protect, and you’re talking like it’s nothing,” Ken said. “What’s the matter with you?”

 

Dax shrugged. “I’m an emotionally detached genius?”

 

“I bet you fit in real well with INET,” Ken said. “You probably don’t even know what they’re using you for.”

 

Dax narrowed his eyes. “No, but it’s that very mystery that keeps me around. Why else would I dress in red spandex?”

 

“That’s why you fight?” Ken asked. “To find out INET’s true goals? Is this all a game to you?”

 

“It’s a game to good ol’ Dr. Cranston,” Dax said. “I’m just trying to find out why.”

 

“And that makes you just as bad as him…” Ken said.

 

Dax scoffed. “Hardly.”

 

“I mean it,” Ken said. “You keep telling yourself that’s the only reason you fight, you keep telling yourself that’s the only reason you’re a Ranger…then you’re just a pawn. A pawn who lets stuff like this happen.”

 

“I’m sorry?” Dax said defensively. “I didn’t let this happen, I-”

 

“You didn’t try to stop it,” Ken said. “Not hard enough. A person who tells himself he fights for the mystery, for the game, can’t be strong. Not really.”

 

“Do you hear yourself right now?” Dax said. “You let this happen too.”

 

“But I fought to stop it,” Ken said. “That’s the difference. I fought. You played.”

 

Dax shook his head. “Just settle down there Turbo-”

 

Ken punched Dax to the ground. “I may not know you…but something tells me you’ve had that coming for a while.”

 

Dax rubbed his jaw and pushed himself to his feet. “Okay…that hurt.”

 

Ken turned and started to walk off.

 

Suddenly, the rubble stirred. An explosion erupted and tossed the two teens through the air.

 

From the explosion stepped the Dark Shaper, now merged with Kerberos. He wore the man-made Undead like a suit of armor, a more slender version than the monster defeated by Blade and his teammates. The helmet looked like a monstrosity, but with a standard black visor and dark-silver mouthpiece, etched with jagged lines that looked like teeth. 

 

The villain looked to his hands and rolled them into fists. “How unexpected…”

 

Dax armed his morphers, and Ken armed his belt.

 

“Bio burst!” Dax connected his bracers and morphed into Red Falcon.

 

“Transform!” Ken flipped his buckler: “TURN UP.”

 

Ken’s buckler emitted a blue energy field. He ran through the field, activating his armor, and dashed towards the Dark Shaper.

 

“Falcon Sword!” Red Falcon armed his saber and charged to attack.

 

The Dark Shaper lifted his hand and fired invisible energy bursts that blasted the heroes off their feet with bursts of spark.

 

The villain tightened his hand into a fist. “I’ve merged with the Giga Brain…I can feel its power…I can feel the ebbs and flows of reality. The currents of existence. The turning of the Wheel of Time…”

 

“Okay…” Red Falcon said as he climbed to his feet. “He’s lost it.”

 

Blade armed his sword. “He said he merged with the brain…That’s why nothing happened when the fortress went down.”

 

Red Falcon nodded. “As long as the brain stays active, the two Earths will merge. He doesn’t need the fortress anymore.”

 

“Very good, Dax,” the Dark Shaper said. “The Giga Brain is now my mind…I can finish pulling Demon World Earth through the portal…I can merge our two worlds….”

 

The villain tightened his fists, and the ground shook with waves of distortion energy.

 

“Bio Blaster!”

 

The Red Ranger pulled out his blaster and fired cyan-tinted energy bursts. But the Dark Shaper swatted the blasts aside.

 

Kamen Rider Blade opened the card fan on his sword’s hilt. He pulled out the Queen of Spades and King of Spades, and then attached the Rouze Absorber to his gauntlet.

 

He slid the Queen of Spades into the absorber. “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the King of Spades through the absorber’s slot. “EVOLUTION KING.”

 

His cards burst from his belt and circled him while glowing gold. The cards splashed against his armor with pulses of golden light that activated Blade’s King Form.

 

The Rider armed his massive sword and charged to attack. The Dark Shaper thrust his hand and fired bursts of distortion energy from his palm.

 

Blade slashed the energy bursts aside, lunged, and swung his blade towards the Dark Shaper’s midsection. But the Dark Shaper grabbed the sword and kicked Blade’s gut, knocking the Rider several steps backward.

 

The Dark Shaper armed claws from his wrist gauntlets and swung upward, slashing the Rider’s chest with a burst of spark that knocked him off his feet.

 

Red Falcon leapt through the air and held his sword high.

 

The Dark Shaper fired a distortion blast that knocked the Ranger to the ground.

 

***

 

PART TWO: The Brink

 

Beast Master Mao snapped his whip, which fired an energy blast that exploded against Black Bison and Green Rhino with bursts of spark. The impact knocked them off their feet and sent them skidding across the floor.

 

Blue Dolphin and Yellow Lion moved in from the sides. But the villain whipped them back one by one.

 

“Such fun…” the Beast Master said. “I’ll enjoy turning you into my pets.”

 

Black Bison cursed beneath his breath and climbed to his feet. He became a Ranger to avenge the death of his younger brother Cyril and Cam’s younger sister Lacey, who dated while attending Academia. He didn’t become a Ranger to fight random creatures that dropped from a parallel world in the sky.

 

“What’s wrong with you…” he said as he rolled his hands into fists. “You seriously get your kicks out of this? Toying with people?!”

 

Geki Rhino charged and bashed the Black Ranger to the ground with a burst of spark. Geki Tiger pounced on top of him and clawed his chest with massive bursts of spark.

 

Beast Master Mao lowered his head and slimed, glimmers of evil in his cat-like eyes. “Yes…I seriously do.”

 

***

 

The Oni Riders smashed relentlessly against Jet Force.

 

Aero Red twirled his blade to parry the club strikes of Kurenai. The Red Ranger spun and swung wide. But the evil Rider blocked and clubbed the Ranger’s head, sending him staggering backward.

 

Sabaki launched a flying sidekick that hurled the Red Ranger to the ground.

 

Quickly, the Red Ranger rolled to his feet. He started to pull out his blaster, but Sabaki kicked the weapon away.

 

The evil Rider lifted the Red Ranger by the throat. “Is this the best your world has to offer?”

 

He tossed the Ranger aside.

 

***

 

Kabuto and Dark Kabuto exchanged a fierce volley of kicks and punches. They matched each other nearly blow for blow as they circled one another.

 

Gattack started to move to aide his comrade. But a group of Dark Roaches blocked his path.

 

From behind, Garren blasted through the Dark Roaches with bursts of spark.

 

Meanwhile, Dark Kabuto hook punched his counterpart’s head and kneed his gut.

 

The evil Rider slapped his hand across his belt’s side panel. “Clock up,” he said. His belt echoed the command: “CLOCK UP.”

 

The evil Rider dashed through hyper speeds and slashed Kabuto, Garren and Gattack to the ground.

 

“CLOCK OVER.”

 

Dark Kabuto’s speed returned to normal. He stepped towards Kamen Rider Kabuto and placed a heel on the Rider’s neck.

 

“Do you even know what you are? What you could become?” Dark Kabuto asked. “No…it seems on this world you are only an insect.”

 

***

 

Dark Kruger extended his sword and swung the blade like a whip. The whip lashed the DECA Rangers backward with bursts of spark, then snapped towards Leangle.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle twirled his staff, which blocked the blade, then rushed to attack. He pulled two cards from his holster. But Dark Kruger snapped his blade whip, which knocked the cards from the Rider’s hand with a burst of spark.

 

Leangle staggered forward.

 

Dark Kruger swung his blade through a streak of blue fire that slashed the Rider with massive bursts of spark. The impact hurled the Rider backward, and he crashed through a nearby storefront.

 

***

 

The Dark Shaper tightened his fists and summoned a cyclone of distortion energy that circled around him. The cyclone spread and started to cover the city, which ebbed as if shifting out of focus.

 

Kamen Rider Blade used his sword for balance and pushed himself to his feet. The force of the cyclone nearly hurled him back.

 

“He’s doing it…We have to stop him!” the Rider shouted.

 

Red Falcon used his sword for balance and climbed to his feet.

 

“Novel idea!” he shouted over the roar of the cyclone.

 

Kamen Rider Blade pulled five cards and slid them into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and the Dark Shaper. But the villain’s distortion waves shattered the fields and blasted Blade through the air.

 

The Red Ranger felt his stomach lurch as he looked down. His own body shifted as if out of focus. He cursed beneath his breath.

 

The Dark Shaper held his arms wide and tightened his fists. “Worlds! Merge!”

 

The cyclone intensified and thrashed the Red Ranger’s armor with bursts of spark.

 

Red Falcon started walking, slowly, step-by-step towards the Dark Shaper. The distortion cyclone threatened to blow him through the air. But he managed to gain ground.

 

The Red Ranger struggled with each step forward. The winds and distortion waves thrashed his armor with massive bursts of spark. But he kept moving, step-by-step.

 

Blade’s words echoed in his mind: “A person who tells himself he fights for the mystery, for the game, can’t be strong. Not really.”

 

The Ranger cursed beneath his breath. “Dumbass…” he whispered.

 

A burst of spark nearly whipped him backward. He clutched his injured chest with one hand and carried his sword with the other. He moved forward further, despite the wave of energy that threatened to rip him apart.

 

Fine…the Red Ranger thought. You want me to be strong? I’ll be strong. And save this godforsaken rock, and all its idiot people…

 

His mind drifted to thoughts of Ian and Kylie, and even Marcus, Cam and Colynn. Okay, fine…so they’re maybe not all bad.

 

He gripped his blade, which pulsed with red-tinted energy. He felt a strange sensation stir within his gut; a sensation separate from the powers of his morpher. Fiery energy poured through his veins and ignited his sword.

 

The power of his morpher seemed to suppress the energy somehow, as if incompatible. But the energy still blazed.

 

The Dark Shaper looked at the Red Ranger with amusement. “What will you do, Dax?”

 

“Well…” the Red Ranger said as he grasped his sword with both hands and pushed forward, fighting the distortions. “I imagine I’ll plunge this sword through your crazy-ass chest.”

 

Suddenly, the Dark Shaper staggered backward. He grasped his head and dropped to his knees.

 

Jaedus…” he muttered. He felt his former agent’s brainwaves fight through the pattern of the Giga Brain. “Impossible…”

 

A foreign thought cut through the Dark Shaper’s mind like ice. This is the price of trying to use us, you bastard…

 

The Red Falcon took advantage of the distraction, lunged forward, and stabbed his blade through the Dark Shaper’s chest with a massive burst of spark.

 

The Ranger pulled his sword free and swung upward, slashing through the villain’s chest. The blow whipped the Dark Shaper through the air, and secondary explosions tore through his body. 

 

The villain crashed to the ground and slipped from consciousness. Above, the waves of distortion stopped.

 

***

 

With the Dark Shaper out cold, his invisible grip on Demon World Earth slackened. The planet shimmered with a final burst of distortion energy and snapped back to its reality.

 

In Angel Grove, the armies of Demon World Earth started to shift back to their home.

 

Dark Kruger swung his massive blade at Leangle and the DECA Rangers. But the blade shimmered from sight, followed by Dark Kruger, who vanished with a rippling pulse of energy.

 

Beast Master Mao grabbed Green Rhino in a headlock and almost snapped the Ranger’s neck. But the villain disappeared with a pulse of distortion energy.

 

The Oni Riders smashed into Jet Force and knocked them down, keeping them from gaining the advantage. The villains prepared their final strike, forming spheres of energy between their palms. But they vanished before they could attack.

 

Dark Kabuto chopped Kamen Rider Kabuto to the ground, slashed Garren aside and kicked Gattack back. The villain felt his body start to shimmer away, so he looked to his counterpart.

 

“You and I will meet again…It is the path of our destiny…” he said as he vanished with a pulse of distortion energy.

 

The battle damage itself pulsed across the city, through every ruined street and building. The damage reverted with ripples of energy distortions, as if Demon World Earth never attacked.

 

But the Dark Roaches remained. And they continued to spread.

 

***

 

PART THREE: Mirror, mirror

 

The Dark Shaper pushed himself to his knees near the rubble of the VOLT fortress. Back in his human form, he tried to stand, but blinding pain shot through his spine and kept him down.

 

The villain started to crawl and cursed his weakness.

 

He didn’t get far before he collapsed. Each shallow breath sent waves of pain through his chest. The Dark Shaper rolled onto his back — and looked up to see the face of his counterpart.

 

“Doctor…” William “Billy” Cranston said. “You look like hell.”

 

The Dark Shaper dragged himself closer to the rubble and forced himself to sit up, while leaning back against the debris.

 

“Come here to gloat?” the Dark Shaper asked. “That doesn’t suit you.”

 

Dr. Cranston took a seat next to his twisted counterpart. “No…I suppose it doesn’t.”

 

“What do you want, Shaper?” the Dark Shaper asked.

 

“Your plan would have failed…” Dr. Cranston said. “You can’t merge two alternate worlds independently without wiping out their realities.”

 

“You’re talking about the Hickman variable,” the Dark Shaper said. “I compensated for that…”

 

“You didn’t,” Cranston said. “You’re not as smart as you think.”

 

“I am you,” the Dark Shaper said.

 

“No,” Cranston said. “You’re not. Our world had differences, even before yours fell to evil. Your Tommy attended the Ikkazuchi Way. Ours attended the Hayate Way. I recently learned my mother was a senior lab technician with a covert agency called Section 31. She died of cancer…so did yours. But yours…both your parents…were members of the Gorgom Syndicate…”

 

***

 

Years ago, Demon World Earth

 

Six-year-old Billy Cranston tried not to cry. He sat at the bedside of his mother, dying of cancer. He listened to her wheezing breath and watched her drift in and out of consciousness.

 

Grief clenched his throat. In that moment, he understood a truth too dark for a young mind: Death was painful. Death was terrifying.

 

His father, Jack Cranston, walked into the room. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of his son. “What are you doing here? I told you to study.”

 

“I…” Billy stammered. “I just wanted to…”

 

Cranston sighed with disgust. “Fine...I guess you better look now, while you can. Do you see her? The way she struggles to breathe? The way she clings to life? In the end, it’s all the same. For everyone…Life gives you pain, and then so does death.”

 

The man leaned next to his wife and grasped her hand. “But the people we work with…we’re going to change that. There will be no more suffering. No more death. Humanity will evolve…or we will die.”

 

***

 

Years passed, and Bandora attacked Earth. Zordon chose five Rangers to stop her: Jason Scott, Zack Taylor, Billy Cranston and Trini Kwan.

 

They fought against Bandora and her Dark Warlords, including the Evil Green Ranger, who never turned to the side of good.

 

Bandora succeeded in bringing DaiSatan to Earth, and within a year, they conquered nearly all of the United States.

 

New York was one of the last remaining cities, and Lord Zedd’s first target.

 

DaiSatan had released Lord Zedd and his minions. The warlord had an army of Golems and Wolfmen under his control. A warrior general named Draklith, a silent assassin named Vex and a witch named Levina rounded out Zedd’s army.

 

DaiSatan’s power amplified Zedd’s by a thousand fold. The warlord led a massive army of grunts and monsters that marched towards the city like a blanket of death.

 

Jason, Zack, Trini, Billy, and Kimberly stood side-by-side as the army approached. Jason reached over and gave Kimberly’s hand a gentle squeeze, just as the two lovers did before every battle. 

 

The teens pulled out their morphers and snapped them open. “Dino, Buckler!”

 

Energy shimmered around their bodies as they morphed into their Ranger armor. They armed their Power Weapons and launched their long-range attacks.

 

“Power Blade!” Tyranno Ranger shouted as he swung his sword, emitting a wave of crimson energy that shot through the air.

 

“Mammoth Breaker!” Mammoth Ranger shouted as he swung his axe against the ground. The axe created a shockwave that tore through the ground towards the army.

 

“Arrow Shockwave!” Ptera Ranger snapped an energized arrow that streaked through the air with a line of pink energy.

 

“Power Torrent!” Tricera Ranger fired a torrent of blue energy with his lance.

 

“Power Blades!” Tiger Ranger swung her daggers, firing twin blades of yellow energy.

 

The combined attacks exploded among the Golems and Wolfmen with massive shockwaves of flame and light.

 

The Ranger charged forward and slammed hard against the thinned ranks of villains. The heroes attacked with a flurry of punches and kicks, ripping through wolves and cracking through Golems.

 

Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes into hours. It seemed there was no end to the fighting.

 

Draklith charged forward and slashed his blade across Ptera Ranger’s armor with a burst of spark, whipping her body backward.

 

Other monsters from Zedd’s army closed in next and surrounded the battle-weary Rangers.

 

A monster with a dragon-like head, whose body was covered in black armor, grabbed Tricera Ranger with both arms and squeezed hard. The Blue Ranger screamed as the villain slowly tightened his grip.

 

With a final squeeze, the dragon monster snapped Tricera Ranger’s back and tossed him aside like a broken toy.

 

Nearby, a wolf-like creature covered in dark gray armor armed two massive blades. He swung the blades forward, emitting a massive burst of silver light that exploded against the other four Rangers with massive bursts of spark, knocking them backward.

 

A few of the last Fire Golems closed in and extended their palms, firing streams of flame at the fallen Rangers.

 

Blasts exploded around the Rangers and sent them flying off their feet, crashing through nearby windows, smashing on top of parked cars, and splintered through telephone poles.

 

The Rangers’ armor shattered when they hit the ground.

 

Blood dripping from his head, Jason slowly rose to his feet and thrust his morphed forward. “Dino Buckler!”

 

Nothing happened.

 

The rangers’ morphers were ruined.

 

They could still feel the power from their coins, but their armor was gone.

 

Through the corner of his eye, Jason watched a lizard-like creature lift Kimberly by the neck.

 

“No!” he shouted as he ran towards her.

 

But he could not reach her time. The villain snapped Kimberly’s neck. Her limp body collapsed to the pavement, blood trickling from her mouth.

 

“NO!” Jason tried to run faster, but a group of Golems blocked his path.

 

The battle lasted another 10 minutes before the Rangers retreated, leaving an injured Billy on the battlefield.

 

***

 

A group of Golems tossed Billy onto the floor at the foot of Lord Zedd’s throne.

 

“Well, well,” Lord Zedd said. “The Blue Ranger. Welcome to my throne room…”

 

“Zedd…” Billy said with contempt as he pushed himself to all fours. “You may have beaten us…but my friends are still out there. They’ll stop you.”

 

“Friends? You have no friends, Blue Ranger,” Zedd said. “Your friends left you to die on the battlefield. Except for your precious Kimberly…Poor little Pink Ranger, too helpless to fend for herself.”

 

Billy narrowed his eyes and sprang to his feet. But blinding pain shot through his back and knocked him down. 

 

“She never did love you,” Lord Zedd said. “Her heart belonged to the Red Ranger.”

 

“I know what you’re trying to do, Zedd,” Billy said. “It won’t work.”

 

“Oh, but I think that it will,” Lord Zedd said. “You’re already broken, Blue Ranger. Or should I just call you ‘Billy’ now?”

 

Lord Zedd leaned forward. “What if I told you, Billy, that you could bring her back? Your precious Kimberly?”

 

Billy knitted his brow and shook his head. “That’s not possible.”

 

“I am Lord Zedd, emperor over all I see. It is possible, because I can make it possible,” Zedd said. “I can give you a chance to finish the work your parents started. A chance to unlock the key to resurrection and immortality.”

 

“My parents?” Billy said.

 

“I know their reputation quite well, from my battles with the Gorgom Syndicate,” Zedd said. “I’ve crushed the Syndicate, but their work can continue. Through you…”

 

Billy shook his head. “This is a trick. I won’t be your monster maker.”

 

“Not a maker,” Lord Zedd said. “A Shaper. My Dark Shaper. You will help me fulfill my ambition, and in exchange, you will unlock the secrets you’ve craved since you were a small boy. I’ve learned much about you, Billy…and I will have you in my service. Or I will crush you, just as I will crush all who stand in my way.”

 

“I don’t need you, Zedd!” Billy shouted.

 

“You do…” Zedd said as he grasped his staff. “Let me show you…”

 

Zedd hovered his staff over Billy’s head, and the staff flared with energy that washed over Billy. The flare knocked him to the floor and washed him with energy that opened his natural connection to the One Power for the first time. The Power flowed through his spirit, his Life Force, and invigorated his body.

 

Billy breathed heavily as he sat up, in awe. “What…what was that?”

 

“The true source of the Rangers’ powers…” Zedd said. “Now…do you wish to know more about this source, Billy?”

 

Billy tightened his hands into fists as he felt lingering energy tingle through his muscles.

 

He did.

 

God help him, he did.

 

***

 

The Dark Shaper wrapped his emotions in anger, grief and sorrow, and then buried those emotions. He didn’t have time to feel.

 

Eventually, DaiSatan conquered all of Earth except for Europe, to leave a few pockets of humans to torment. He let them live their lives as normal as possible, with the exception of daily, scattered attacks.

 

The evil lord and his generals enjoyed the fights. They brought relief from the boredom of an already conquered world and universe.

 

The remaining humans lived in constant fear, without hope — until a group of rebels from the United States became the Turbo Rangers to fight back. The Turbos received their powers from an alien fugitive named Dappu.

 

The Dark Shaper’s creation, Kamen Rider Shin, tore Dappu and the Turbo Rangers to shreds in a single, bloody battle.

 

No one resisted again after that.

 

The Dark Shaper spent most of his days confined in his lab, where he experimented on all things biological and technological. He strove to learn more about the Morphing Grid and master its energies to unlock the secrets his parents sought. The secrets of life and death.

 

He viewed mankind as weak and broken. Pathetic, really. And he wanted to fix them. He wanted to shape them.

 

The Dark Shaper studied a technical readout for two of his newest creations: A Rider program called Agito — modeled with the same Gorgom Syndicate research used to create Kamen Rider Black and Kamen Rider Shin — and a cybernetic program called Kikaider.

 

Suddenly, the monitors crackled with static. The static cleared, and an image appeared. The Dark Shaper stared at a ship that entered orbit from a parallel timeline. The Astro Megaship. 

 

***

 

The Dark Shaper leaned his head back. Pain flared down his back and through his ribs.

 

“You caused the accident that brought the Astro Rangers to my world…” the Dark Shaper said.

 

“How long have you known?” Cranston asked.

 

“Long enough…” the Dark Shaper said.

 

“Do you know why?” Cranston asked.

 

The Dark Shaper shook his head. “You have your plans…I have mine.”

 

Cranston nodded. “You thought BOARD played a part in unlocking the mysteries of immortality. I would agree with that, but for a very different reason.”

 

“And what’s that?” the Dark Shaper asked.

 

“You wouldn’t understand…because you’re not thinking big enough.”

 

Billy pulled a buckler from his back and attached it to the Dark Shaper’s waist. Before the villain could protest, Billy pulled out a card and swiped it through the buckler.

 

The buckler ignited with power, and Billy merged with the Dark Shaper.

 

To be continued…Chapter 45