Ultimate Jungle Fury: Chapter One Prologue

 

Angel Grove, two years ago

 

Thirteen-year-old Casey Rhodes shifted uncomfortably as he sat across from his guidance counselor. The young teen kept his gaze low and rubbed his knuckles, still red and bruised.

 

The counselor, Mr. Stone, leaned back and sighed. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

 

Casey shook his head and shrugged. “I, uh…blacked out.”

 

“You blacked out,” Mr. Stone said, his voice hardened with disbelief. “Was that before or after you almost bashed that kid’s head in?”

 

“Before…” Casey said.

 

“Don’t get smart.”

 

“I’m not,” Casey said. “He was picking on this kid, and the next thing I knew…”

 

“You beat the shit out of him,” Mr. Stone said. “Now you’re expelled, plain and simple.”

 

Casey knitted his brow. “What about him?”

 

“The kid you beat up?”

 

Casey nodded. “He was-”

 

“He didn’t start the fight. You did. So you’re expelled.”

 

“But he was picking on this kid…” Casey said.

 

“And?” Mr. Stone asked. “It’s a school. Kids get picked on. Was he picking on you?”

 

“Not today, but he has-”

 

“Not today,” Mr. Stone said. “So you should have stayed out of it.”

 

“He’s a bully,” Casey said.

 

“So? Bullies don’t shoot up schools; kids like you do,” Stone said.

 

“I wouldn’t-”

 

“You don’t make any friends. You just sit and hide and get mad at the world,” Mr. Stone said. “You let that anger build and build without saying a damn thing, and then boom!”

 

Mr. Stone slammed his hand against the desk. “Boom! Just like that. I won’t have another one of you little shits blowing up in my school. Not again.”

 

Casey lowered his gaze. Everyone knew about Eddie, the kid who shot a bully and then himself five years ago. Casey hated the thought of anyone being driven that close to despair.

 

“That’s right,” Stone said. “I suggest you start dealing with whatever shit you’re feeling, and learning to control that damn temper. You hardly say a word, ever, and then something like this happens. You just snap. I’m tired of watching you put your mother through it. And I’m tired of hearing her bitch about it.”

 

Casey felt guilt and shame tighten his throat. “I’m…sorry.”

 

“You should be,” said Stone, Casey’s stepfather. “We’ll damn well talk about this more when we get home.”

 

***

 

Three days passed. Casey’s mother decided she wanted little to do with her son, so she enrolled him in various non-profit programs to keep him busy and out of her way. 

 

One program involved a martial arts school called the Black Sash, which took in at-risk kids and taught them self-control if they needed it, or confidence if they lacked it.

 

On his first day there, he shifted uncomfortably in the back of the dojo for the first 10 minutes. Several teenagers spread across the sparring mats, but Casey felt reluctant to join them.

 

So he stood against the wall. Awkwardly. And silently.

 

A girl around his age, Lilly Chilman, spotted him and walked towards him with a sympathetic smile. “You new?”

 

Casey nodded. “Uh, yeah. I guess so.”

 

“Nice,” Lilly said. “I’m Lilly.”

 

“Casey,” he said with a blush.

 

“Nice to meet you,” she said. “So…what’s your story?”

 

“My, uh, story?” Casey asked. “I don’t really have one.”

 

“Sure you do,” she said. “It’s okay…everyone here does. It’s what this place is for. It’s like the island of misfit toys. But with Kung-Fu and stuff.”

 

Casey smiled awkwardly. “That’s what I hear…”

 

“Come on…” she said as she extended her hand. “I’ll show you.”

 

Casey reached out and reluctantly took her hand.

 

Chapter 01: Ultimate Jungle Fury

Heart of the Beast

 

Adam Park paced in front of his 13 students in the Black Sash dojo. He held his hands behind his back in a calm, yet confident posture. He looked gentle, yet strong. Meek, yet powerful. His students respected him greatly.

 

“Juken…” Adam said. “The art of mimicking an animal to the point your spirit adopts that animal’s qualities. Why learn it?”

 

Some of the students glanced at each other quizzically. They’d studied at the school for a long time and never heard their sensei ask why they even bothered.

 

One of the students, 15-year-old Theo Martin, raised his hand.

 

“Theo,” Adam called on him.

 

“To learn…peace?” Theo asked.

 

His classmate Jarrod scoffed. “Lame.”

 

“Jarrod…” Adam scolded. “You have a better answer?”

 

The class heard scuffling from the back of the dojo and looked to see Casey show up late. Again. He adjusted his disheveled uniform and placed his bag along the wall.

 

The teen noticed Adam and a few others staring.

 

“Oh, um…sorry,” Casey said as he walked onto the mats. “Sorry.”

 

Jarrod stuck his foot out and tripped Casey to the floor. The bully and several kids laughed.

 

Casey narrowed his eyes, tightened his fists and bolted to his feet. He decked Jarrod across the face and roundkicked him in the gut.

 

“Hey, that’s enough,” Adam said sternly as he stepped in and broke up the fight.

 

Jarrod spat blood and glared at Casey. “You little prick.”

 

“I said that’s enough, Jarrod,” Adam said. “Go home.”

 

“But he-”

 

“Go home,” Adam said. He looked to the rest of the class. “Everyone else take a break for a minute…”

 

The rest of the students split up and whispered amongst themselves as Adam led Casey to the front of the dojo. The teen’s face flushed with embarrassment, and he kept his eyes lowered with shame.

 

“I haven’t seen that look in a while,” Adam said. “You were late…what’s wrong?”

 

“I’m sorry…” Casey said. “I tried to get here on time but…” He shook his head. “Something came up…

 

“Don’t apologize,” Adam said. “You’re not in trouble. What happened?”

 

“My, uh…my step-dad didn’t want to bring me,” Casey said. “So I had to grab the bus.”

 

“Did you two get in a fight again?” Adam asked.

 

Casey nodded.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Adam asked.

 

Casey shifted uncomfortably. “Not really. I, uh…I think I’m getting bad again. Worse, actually…”

 

“Worse how?” Adam asked.

 

“Um, seeing things?” Casey said. “Like...I swore for a second his eyes looked black. Solid black.”

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. “Well…like you said, you were seeing things. But that happens to everyone sometimes. Especially in Angel Grove. Why don’t I take you home after practice?”

 

Casey nodded. “Yeah, um….yeah. That would be great. Thanks, Adam.”

 

“Good,” Adam said. “Now let’s talk about what just happened with Jarrod…”

 

***

 

Casey joined Lilly and Theo on the sparring mats after speaking with Adam. 

 

“Hey…” he said to them.

 

“Hey…” Lilly said as she shuffled his hair. “You look like crap.”

 

Casey smiled sheepishly. “I appreciate that…”

 

“You okay?” Theo asked. “We were starting to get worried.”

 

Theo was starting to get worried,” Lilly said. “I don’t worry.”

 

“Thanks, that’s…thoughtful,” Casey said sarcastically.

 

“I’m just kidding,” Lilly said.

 

Casey nodded. “I’m fine, really,” he said. “Just, uh, problems at home. Can we just… practice now?”

 

“Sure,” Lilly said. “You boys go first. I’ll take winner.”

 

Casey and Theo walked onto the sparring mat. Casey became friends with Theo and Lilly shortly after enrolling in the dojo. They reached out to him, although Casey didn’t understand why. He didn’t have friends except for the two of them. Not really.

 

Mostly, Casey felt he could be himself around Theo and Lilly. He didn’t need to worry about saying the right thing or doing something stupid. They accepted him. And he liked that feeling.

 

Lilly and Theo could relate to Casey easily. They each came from troubled families of their own.

 

Lilly didn’t open up about her past for months, but when she did, she explained her stepfather mistreated her and her mother. Once, he snuck into Lilly’s room to try to molest her — he spent the next two weeks in a hospital.

 

Her mother actually punished her for defending herself and called the police. This started Lilly’s trouble with law enforcement.

 

For Theo, his troubles at home started after police arrested his father on drug dealing charges. This left him and his three siblings alone with their mother, with no source of income other than welfare.

 

The pain in the three teenagers’ past, and present, helped them bond.

 

Casey and Theo stepped into fighting stances. Casey stood in the posture of the Tiger Fist, and Theo stood in the posture of the Jaguar Fist.

 

As one, they lunged and exchanged a quick series of punches and kicks, their moves fluid and catlike. Theo especially moved with a beautiful technique, more like a dance than a fight.

 

Casey moved with a strength and confidence he knew only when fighting. He lost himself in his moves, letting the match take him over. He let go of his emotionally scarred self and became the tiger.

 

***

 

Jarrod met a few of his friends about a block away from the Black Sash dojo. They each belonged to the White Fang, one of the newest gangs in Angel Grove East.

 

“Why do you even go there, yo?” asked one of his friends, Silas. “They’re just a bunch of pussies.”

 

“Just because you live on the street doesn’t mean you need to talk like the trash you sleep in,” Jarrod said.

 

Silas narrowed his eyes and pulled out a gun. “Bitch, that is it, I’m gunna-”

 

Jarrod grabbed Silas by the wrist and twisted, knocking the gun to the ground. The teen twisted harder, snapping Silas’s arm and forcing him down.

 

Silas screamed and tried to break free. “What the fuck, yo?! What the, ah!”

 

Jarrod twisted harder and slammed Silas chest-first against the pavement. No one noticed Jarrod’s eyes flicker black for the briefest of moments.

 

“I made you…” Jarrod said. “All of you. And I can break you just as easily. Now…listen very carefully, because I will only explain myself once. That little dojo is hiding something. Something powerful…and I want to know what it is. So does the man I answer to…You’re lucky it’s not him having this conversation. He’d be stomping your head against the curb right now.”

 

Jarrod let go. Silas scrambled to his feet and clutched his broken arm. “What the fuck?!” he shouted. “You’re mental, yo!”

 

“Aren’t we all,” Jarrod said. “If you ever raise a gun to me again, I will kill you.”

 

“Bitch.” Silas spat.

 

Jarrod thrust his palm and fired a Ki burst. The blast exploded through Silas’s head, and his body dropped to the ground.

 

***

 

Adam walked Casey home as promised. They stepped into a small two-bedroom apartment cluttered with dirty laundry and empty beer cans. The place smelled of filth. And evil.

 

Casey felt embarrassed at the sight. “You don’t really have to come in…”

 

“It’s okay…” Adam said. “I was hoping to talk to your mom. Is she-”

 

“She’s not here,” a voice said. Mr. Stone stepped out from around a corner. “The kid told you not to come in. So don’t.”

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. “Casey…I thought you said the police arrested him.”

 

“They, uh…did,” Casey said as he took a step back.

 

Stone smirked at the boy’s look of fear. “Not feeling so tough this time?”

 

“Where’s his mom?” Adam asked.

 

“Dead,” the man said. His eyes turned solid black. “Now…do you want to keep talking or get to the fun part?”

 

“Casey, run,” Adam said.

 

But Casey stayed still. The boy glared at his step dad and rolled his hands into fists. “What do you mean she’s dead?”

 

“I mean I flayed her and killed her,” the demon said. “Is that going to be a problem?”

 

Casey pounced at his stepdad.

 

“Casey, wait!” Adam called.

 

Casey swung a punch towards his stepdad. But the demon grabbed the boy by the arm and hurled him across the room.

 

Adam dashed forward. The demon snarled and punched towards Adam. But Adam blocked, punched the demon in the gut and kicked his chest, knocking him back. The demon smashed through the kitchen table and crashed to the floor.

 

The former ranger stomped onto the demon’s chest and pinned him to the floor. “Who are you?”

 

“My name is ImaFuckU,” the demon said with a laugh.

 

Adam pressed his foot harder. “I can burn you out of that body in a second.”

 

“Go ahead, you son of a bitch,” the demon snarled. “We’re onto you. You and that school of yours. We know what you’re hiding…”

 

Adam placed his hand against the man’s forehead and ignited his Ki, which burnt the demon from the host’s soul with a flash of pale green light.

 

Casey climbed to his feet nearby. He knitted his brow with confusion. “Adam…”

 

“It’s okay,” Adam said. “He’ll live…”

 

“What, ah…” Casey said. “What was that?”

 

“A demon,” Adam said. “I know this is going to sound hard to believe-”

 

Casey shook his head. “This is Angel Grove.”

 

“Good point,” Adam said.

 

“What did he mean?” Casey asked as he shifted uncomfortably. “About the school?”

 

Adam sighed. “Let’s get back to my shop. I’ll explain on the way…”

 

***

 

Angel Grove, two months ago

 

Tommy Oliver joined Adam Park in the Black Sash dojo. Adam opened the dojo several months after the Second Countdown to Destruction as a haven for troubled youth.

 

“I like what you’ve done here,” Tommy said.

 

“Thanks…” Adam said. “I’m proud of it. This place has helped a lot of people.”

 

You’ve helped a lot of people,” Tommy said. “I envy you…”

 

Adam knew Tommy well enough to recognize the look on the former Dragon Ranger’s face.

 

“How you holding up?” Adam asked.

 

Tommy shook his head. “I’m not…Not really. That’s why I’m here. Things are bad, Adam. The Forsaken are lose and breaking the Dark One’s Seals faster than we can find them. Billy’s declared an all-out war against me. We have too many enemies. And now Simon’s…”

 

Tommy rolled his hands into fists and shook his head. “I can’t deal. Not right now. Ashley and I…we’re going away for a while. To regroup.”

 

“You’re running?” Adam asked.

 

“Not running,” Tommy said. “Never running.”

 

“Okay…” Adam said. “So what is it you need me to do?”

 

“Like I said: We have too many enemies, and now a new one’s popped up. They call themselves the Rin Juken,” Tommy said. “I need a new team to fight them, and that team is going to need a mentor.”

 

Adam shook his head. “Tommy, you know I’d do anything for you….after everything we’ve been through,” he said. “But I’m no Zordon.”

 

“No one is,” Tommy said. “That’s probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. We can’t compare ourselves to Zordon or Sensei Kaku.”

 

“Tommy…” Adam started to say.

 

“I know you’ve tried to stay away from this Ranger business. Everyone has, and I can’t blame them,” Tommy said. “But you’re the only person I can trust with this.”

 

“What about Jason?” Adam asked.

 

“You practice the Juken style here,” Tommy said. “That style’s key to unlocking a special type of Kiryoku: Geki. That’s what we need to stop the Rin Juken.”

 

“How can you know that for sure?” Adam asked.

 

“I get these…visions,” Tommy said. “I’ve seen a tiger, jaguar and cheetah fight against a lion and chameleon. The lion and chameleon had the symbol of the Rin Juken. The tiger, jaguar and cheetah had the symbol of the Pai Zhua.”

 

One of Adam’s former instructors, Master Mao, belonged to the Pai Zhua. The Pai Zhua created the Juken style, a style that influenced martial arts across the globe, including styles taught at the Hayate Way and Ikkazuchi Way.

 

“Juken versus Rin Juken…” Adam said.

 

Tommy nodded. “It’s always about balance…”

 

“What about Billy?” Adam asked. “I don’t know everything that happened between you two…but I won’t fight him.”

 

“I don’t expect you too,” Tommy said. “And I’m hoping he won’t be able to connect the Jungle Fury team to your dojo. That’s the plan at least.”

 

“Jungle Fury?” Adam asked.

 

Tommy nodded. “You’ll start with three…just like I did. I’ll have the morphers ready soon…”

 

Adam nodded. “What else can you tell me about these Rin Juken?”

 

“That they’re connected to something greater than themselves,” Tommy said. “Something’s happened to kids like Simon…kids who were born from parents possessed by demons. They can…change somehow. Simon called it a ‘demon morph’ before he…”

 

Tommy shook his head. “I need you to find them, Adam. To look out for them.”

 

“Protect them?”

 

Tommy nodded. “Some of them are still innocent, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

 

“How am I supposed to do that?” Adam asked.

 

“I’m pretty sure some of them have already found you…” Tommy said.

 

***

 

Casey arced an eyebrow as he and Adam walked down the street. “So you were a Power Ranger?”

 

Adam nodded. “Lion Ranger, of the Heaven Illusion Star.”

 

Casey shook his head with disbelief. “What Tommy told you…you don’t think I’m…one of these demon kids?”

 

“I honestly don’t know,” Adam said.

 

“Huh…” Casey said. He looked to his hand and rubbed his knuckles. “That would explain the blackouts…and the fights.”

 

“It would,” Adam said. “But a lot of things could explain that. Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

 

“What about Theo and Lilly?” Casey asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Adam said. “I can only sense them after their powers awaken. That might never happen for some of them, unless they’re provoked. So far, I know five students are Shaded.”

 

“Shaded?”

 

“At some point we had to stop calling them ‘demon kids,’” Adam said. “When they demon morph, their skin, hair and eyes change shades. The name stuck.”

 

Casey nodded. “Which...which students are Shaded? Is Jarrod?”

 

Adam nodded. “He is. And I’m afraid I’m losing him…”

 

***

 

Jarrod kneeled in front of his master and lowered his head. They met in a dark warehouse within one of the many abandoned sections of Angel Grove East.

 

“My master…” he said. “I have yet to find any of the other children, but I know they are near. This school…”

 

He trailed off when he realize his master didn’t answer, or even move. He simply sat in darkness, completely still and silent. Not even a breath.

 

Jarrod’s master slouched and collapsed, completely dead. His flesh looked sizzled, as if someone burnt the demon from its host.

 

“Master?” Jarrod asked.

 

“Not anymore, is he?” Graendal said as she stepped from the shadows. The Forsaken smiled as she looked at the body of the demon she killed. “It’s too bad, really. He wasn’t completely unattractive.”

 

Jarrod narrowed his eyes and pounced.

 

But the Forsaken grabbed him in an invisible web of energy, without lifting a finger.

 

“I suppose he had you hunting the children of demons, yes?” Graendal said. “Children like you?”

 

“We were to build an army…” Jarrod said. “An army to crush-”

 

“Yes, yes, an army to crush the world,” Graendal said dismissively. “How original.”

 

“Release me,” Jarrod said. “Or I will-”

 

“You’ll what? There’s not much you can do if I don’t release you,” the Forsaken said. “I’ve never quite grasped the concept of empty threats.”

 

“Who are you, witch?” Jarrod asked.

 

“I am Graendal,” she said. “A Forsaken, and servant of the Dark One.”

 

“The Dark One?” Jarrod asked. “You’re speaking nonsense.”

 

The Forsaken sighed. “Well, I see you have a lot to learn. Here’s the short of it: Some of my brothers believe you demon children are key to breaking the Fourth Seal. Moridyn has Simon in his pocket. I will have you and your minions in mine. To hunt others like you. Only this time, instead of working for a demon of little consequence, who’s now a burnt out husk, you will be working for a direct servant of the Dark One. Sound fun?”

 

Jarrod scowled, but relaxed slightly. “I crave only one thing, witch. Power.”

 

“And you shall have it…” Graendal said. “Now…tell me about this school.”

 

***

 

Theo and Lilly laughed as they walked through the streets at night. Neither one of them wanted to return home right after practice. They rarely did. Instead, they often walked through the city. With every walk they noticed a newly boarded storefront or piece of parkland fallen into disarray.

 

The city’s population dwindled greatly, especially in recent months.

 

Ahead, two men walked towards the teens. The friends angled slightly so they’d avoid bumping into the men. But the men angled too, making sure to approach the teens head-to-head.

 

Theo knitted his brow. “Lilly…”

 

“I noticed,” Lilly said as they moved closer to the men. They stopped a few feet away from each other. “If you want to mug us, go right ahead. But it seems like an awful lot of trouble for some pocket change and lint.”

 

The men’s eyes shifted to solid black.

 

Theo and Lilly each took a step back with fear as the men advanced.

 

What’s…their eyes…” Theo said.

 

Lilly shook her head. “This is why I told my mom I wanted to move to Reefside.”

 

The men lunged. Theo sidestepped and knife-hand chopped one man in the back of the neck. But the demon snapped around and bashed his fist across the teen’s head, knocking him to the ground.

 

Lilly swung her arms wide to block the second man’s lunge. Then she leaned forward and palm-heel slammed his chest, knocking him back a step. The teen spun forward with an axe-kick. But the demon grabbed her leg and knocked her to the ground.

 

She cursed beneath her breath. “No one’s that strong.”

 

The demon lifted Lilly by the shirt. But she kicked his chest to knock herself free, landed, and kicked his kneecap, knocking him off balance.

 

The man lunged, but Lilly moved faster than he expected. She spun around and knife-hand chopped the back of his head, sending him staggering forward.

 

From the shadows, several other men stalked towards the teens. The young men belonged to the White Fang, now possessed by demons loyal to Graendal.

 

The two teens stepped into defensive stances. Their eyes darted back and forth, looking for the quickest way to escape. But demon-possessed men came at them from everywhere.

 

The demons bashed against Theo and Lilly. The teens fought back with a flurry of punches and kicks. But the shock of their situation worked against them. They barely understood the purpose of the attack, and their confusion clouded their senses.

 

Suddenly, pale green light flashed through the street, bright enough to nearly blind the demons and send them staggering backward.

 

Adam ran to the scene, followed by Casey.

 

Adam acted without thinking. He launched at the demons with skills and strength honed after years of fighting the forces of evil.

 

The former ranger swept-kicked a demon to the ground, round-kicked a demon backward, and grabbed a man by the head. His palm ignited with pale green light that burnt the demon from the man’s soul.

 

Nearby, Casey ran to his two friends. “You guys okay?”

 

“Yeah…” Lilly said.

 

“How did you find us?” Theo asked.

 

“Adam…” Casey said. “He’s, uh…Well, it’s complicated.”

 

Adam hook kicked the last demon aside.

 

Nearby, a fallen demon climbed back to his feet, and his eyes ignited with black light. He tilted his head back and laughed. His hair burst into flames that stretched like a mane of fire. His teeth twisted into jagged fangs, his skin hardened into leathery flesh with an orange hue. Two stubs formed on his head like horns.

 

Adam narrowed his eyes. “Huh. Tommy never mentioned they had that trick-”

 

The demon pounced like an ape and smashed its feet against Adam’s chest, knocking him to the ground.

 

Nearby, three demons scrambled back to their feet and charged towards Casey, Theo and Lilly.

 

Casey rolled his hands into fists. Instinctively, he stood between the demons and his friends.

 

Lilly grabbed him by the arm. “Casey, what are you doing? Get back!”

 

A demon narrowed his eyes and fired a TK blast that hurled the teens off their feet.

 

Casey crashed and skid across the pavement.

 

He rolled into a crouched stance just as a demon pounced towards him.

                                         

The teen’s heart pounded in his chest. He rolled his hands into fists, stared defiantly, and screamed with the sound of the tiger. The scream carried a wave of Geki that blasted the demon off his feet.

 

Lilly opened her eyes wide with amazement. “Casey…did you seriously just do that?”

 

Casey shook his head. “I’m seriously not sure…”

 

Nearby, Adam dodged the horned demon, named Menace, and round-kicked him in the gut. The blow knocked the demon back several steps.

 

Adam lunged and swung his fist. “Hand of Fate!”

 

His fist fired a beam of pale green light that blasted through the demon’s left shoulder with massive bursts of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

The demon hissed with annoyance, climbed to his feet and leapt into the nearby treetops, vanishing.

 

Adam relaxed his fists and walked towards his students. “You guys alright?”

 

Theo shook his head. “I’m not even sure I can process what just happened.”

 

“What did just happen?” Lilly asked.

 

“We need to get back to my shop,” Adam said. “We’ll talk there…”

 

***

 

Adam lived in a large loft above a pet store he owned, the same store where he worked in 2002 during the war against the Gorma.

 

He led Casey, Theo and Lilly into the loft.

 

“Those demons targeted you for a reason,” Adam said.

 

“What reason?” Theo asked.

 

“Well,” Casey said. “We may be…demon kids, basically.”

 

“You’re not,” Adam said as he moved towards his closet. He opened a secret compartment and pulled out a metal suitcase sealed with a scratch-like symbol. “What I felt from you back there, all three of you, was Geki. That couldn’t have happened if you were Shaded.”

 

“If we were what?” Theo asked.

 

“Geki?” Casey asked.

 

Lilly shook her head. “You need to start writing this down…”

 

Adam explained everything. He told them about rival demons carving out territory and recruiting Shaded. He suspected demons learned about the Shaded at the Black Sash, which is why they possessed Casey’s step-dad and attacked Theo and Lilly. The demons didn’t know which students to target, so they started targeting all of them.

 

“They’ll be after the others,” Adam said. “I need your help to stop them.”

 

“Us?” Casey asked.

 

Adam opened his suitcase to reveal three sets of orange-and-black gloved arm guards.   

 

“You,” Adam said. “I need you three to use these morphers to become Jungle Fury Rangers.”

 

“Rangers?” Theo asked.

 

“I’m not even sure how to respond to that with a straight face,” Lilly said.  

 

“I, uh…” Casey said as he shook his head. “I can’t…”

 

“You can,” Adam said. “Casey, you blasted three demons off their feet without even thinking. You already have the power you need. Your Juken. Your Geki. These morphers will amplify that power.”

 

“You lost me at the ‘Ranger’ part…” Theo said.

 

“Adam…” Casey said as he shifted back and forth anxiously. “How would we even know what to do?”

 

“Your powers will guide you,” Adam said.

 

“So that’s it?” Lilly asked. “We just strap on these arm guards and magically know how to use them?”

 

“Actually, yeah, that’s pretty much the way it works,” Adam said.

 

“Convenient…” Lilly said.

 

An alarm sounded from a computer screen in the rear of the loft. Adam rushed to the screen and turned it on. The images showed Menace leaping towards a suburb in Angel Grove East. A squad of demon-possessed men and women joined the monster.

 

“Him again…” Adam said.

 

Lilly crossed her arms over her chest. “You seriously think we can stop him?”

 

Adam nodded. “I do,” he said. “I’ve known you three for a long time. I believe in you…”

 

“Okay then…” Lilly said as she grabbed her pair of arm guards. “What are we waiting for?”

 

***

 

A pair of Silver Guardian SUVs swerved through the streets of Angel Grove. The vehicles pulled to a halt, and Silver Guardians scrambled onto the street.

 

The soldiers fanned out and took position as the wave of demons approached.

 

“Open fire as soon as you see the black in their eyes!” their commander shouted.

 

Suddenly, waves of demon-possessed men and woman jumped onto the soldiers and started ripping them apart. The guardians fired silver bullets and tossed grenades filled with holy water. The attack blasted back most of the demons. But several pushed past the attack and tore through the guardians.

 

Menace landed on the street, formed two spheres of flame within his palms, and hurled the blasts at the guardians. The blasts exploded through the soldiers with massive bursts of spark and flame that tore their bodies apart. Their vehicles exploded into clouds of shrapnel that blasted through several buildings.

 

Menace growled with delight and rolled his hands into fists. “Such power…to set foot on the mortal plane in physical form…”

 

“Calm down, pet…” a voice said from behind. Menace turned to see Jarrod walk towards him. “If the boy is one of the Shaded, we don’t want to harm him. We need him alive.”

 

Menace narrowed his eyes. “Why should I listen to you, human? I’m no-”

 

Jarrod lifted his hand and grabbed Menace in an invisible chokehold. The teen’s eyes turned black, except for his golden irises.

 

“My word is the word of the Forsaken,” Jarrod said. “The First Immortals, and servants of the Dark One. You will obey me. Or I will crush you with my power.”

 

Jarrod released his grip, and Menace dropped to the street. “Remember that.”

 

The demon climbed to his feet and spat. “Half-breed fool.”

 

“Hey ugly!” a voice shouted from behind.

 

Lilly, Casey, and Theo ran to the scene. They stopped in their tracks when they noticed Jarrod standing alongside Menace.

 

Lilly knitted her brow. “Jarrod…”

 

Jarrod snarled with a feral grin. “Hello, children. You don’t have what I need, so be on your way. And feel lucky my men didn’t kill you when they discovered your worthlessness.”

 

Theo shook his head. “What happened to you?”

 

“He’s one of the Shaded,” Casey said.

 

Jarrod lifted his hand towards the teens. “Menace, you felt the need to kill? Kill these three.”

 

The demon snarled and pounced to attack.

 

The three teens armed their Aura Guards. Theo and Lilly stepped forward, but Casey stayed back, his mind clouded with self-doubt.

 

Theo and Lilly placed their right fists against their left palms. “Jungle Beast!” They swung their hands backward and punched forward while shouting: “Spirit unleash!”

 

The auras of their animal spirits washed over them as they morphed into their Ranger forms. They twirled into fighting stances.

 

“With the stealth of the jaguar…Jungle Fury Blue Ranger!”

 

“With the speed of the cheetah…Jungle Fury Yellow Ranger!”

 

Jarrod snorted with disbelief. “You think colorful costumes will help you? Menace. Show them your power.”

 

Menace hurled bolts of fire. Casey, Blue Jaguar and Yellow Cheetah dove aside as the blasts exploded around them with bursts of spark.

 

Casey rolled to his feet and armed his morphers. “Jungle Beast! Spirit unleash!”

 

Nothing happened. Feelings of doubt and worthlessness clenched his throat.

 

He tried again. “Spirit unleash!”

 

Still nothing.

 

Blue Jaguar launched at Menace with a flying double kick that knocked the demon several steps backward.

 

The Yellow Ranger moved in with a flurry of high-speed punches. But the demon grabbed her by the arm and tossed her aside.

 

Yellow Cheetah smashed against the side of the car and crashed to the street.

 

Slowly, she pushed herself up as a swarm of demon-possessed men surrounded her. Their skin melted as the demons used their hosts to take physical form, at least partly, with flesh cracked with webs of black energy.

 

They rushed to attack.

 

The Yellow Ranger acted on instinct. She slapped her right fist against her left palm. “Geki Waza! Cheetah spirit!”

 

She thrust her fist and fired a wave of yellow energy shaped like a cheetah. Her animal spirit charged through the demons like a beast and tore them to pieces with bursts of spark and black ichor.

 

Nearby, Blue Jaguar launched at Menace with a combo of elegant palm-heel strikes and kicks. Each blow bashed the demon and forced him several steps backward.

 

The Blue Ranger placed his right fist against his left palm. “Geki Waza! Jaguar spirit!”

 

He thrust his fist and fired a wave of blue energy shaped like a jaguar. The animal spirit somersaulted through the air and blasted past Menace with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Nearby, Jarrod walked towards the steps of a house and used his TK to rip the side of the building apart.

 

A boy tumbled from the wreckage and crashed against the yard. No older than 12, he crouched and pushed himself to his feet while rubbing his glasses.

 

Jarrod narrowed his eyes at the boy. “You…one of Adam’s newest cubs. Do you have the blood of the demon, boy?”

 

“Get away!” Casey pounced and tackled Jarrod aside.

 

Jarrod quickly grabbed Casey’s arm and tossed him off his feet.

 

The villain laughed. His skin and face paled. And dark energy slid across his body to form a black kimono, trimmed with the golden pattern of the lion.

 

He smiled mockingly at Casey. “You never could stand on your own two feet. Could you, whelp?”

 

Jarrod turned and stalked towards the 12-year-old boy. The boy cowered back in fear as he watched Jarrod approach.

 

Casey narrowed his eyes and rolled his hands into fists. He climbed to his feet, slowly, and screamed. The scream echoed with the roar of the tiger and a wave of power.

 

The teen slapped his right fist against his left palm. “Jungle Beast!” He pulled his fist back and punched forward. “Spirit unleash!”

 

He fired a wave of red energy shaped like a tiger that flowed around him as he morphed into his Ranger form.

 

“With the strength of the tiger…Jungle Fury Red Ranger!”

 

Jarrod looked over his shoulder. “So. You-”

 

Geki Waza! Tiger spirit!”

 

Red Tiger thrust his fist and fired a wave of red energy shaped like a tiger. The animal spirit grabbed Jarrod with its jaws and tossed him aside with bursts of spark that tore through his kimono.

 

Jarrod crashed and tumbled across the yard as smoke sizzled from his cloth armor.

 

The Red Jungle Fury Ranger lost himself in the fight. He became the tiger.

 

Red Tiger launched at Jarrod with a flurry of punches, palm-heel strikes, and kicks. The attack forced Jarrod farther and farther back as he struggled to block each blow.

 

The villain narrowed his eyes as he blocked a trio of palm-heel strikes. “Do you think these new powers can save you?”

 

Red Tiger jumped and kicked Jarrod upside the head. The impact whipped him backward and hurled him through the air.

 

The Red Ranger landed in a tiger like pose and breathed heavily as power poured through his Soul.

 

Nearby, Yellow Cheetah and Blue Jaguar surrounded Menace. They dashed past the demon while bashing their fists and knees against him.

 

Red Tiger rushed to join them. He dashed past the demon with a slash that sparked on impact and hurled the demon through the air.

 

The three Rangers regrouped, and the demon climbed slowly to its feet.

 

The Red Jungle Fury Ranger lead the charge as the trio attacked. He thrust his palms forward as his teammates placed their hands on his shoulders.

 

Their Geki pulsed through his body, combined with his own, and shot through his palms at point-blank range. The blast exploded through the center of the demon with bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Menace collapsed as his energy overloaded and exploded with a sphere of flame that blasted through a nearby house.

 

The Rangers lowered their guard. They looked across the landscape and saw no sign of the other demons or Jarrod.

 

Lilly powered down her armor. “That just happened…right?”

 

The others powered down their armor.

 

Casey nodded. “I’m, ah…pretty sure it did.”

 

The rangers spotted the 12-year-old boy crying near the ruins of his house. They recognized him as Evan, one of the youngest of Adam’s students.

 

They ran to his side.

 

“Hey, Evan…” Lilly said as she leaned next to him. “You recognize us?”

 

Evan wiped tears from his eyes and nodded.

 

“Good,” she said. “We’re going to get you out of here, okay?”

 

“But…” he said with a whimper. “My parents. They were in…”

 

He rolled his hands into fists. The boy’s eyes turned black, except for his red irises.

 

Lilly took him by the hand. “It’s going to be okay…”

 

His eyes reverted to normal as he blinked back his tears. “O…Okay.”

 

“Good,” Lilly said. “Now come on…let’s go.”

 

***

 

Jarrod returned to the abandoned warehouse to find Graendal waiting for him.

 

The Forsaken sighed with disappointment. “Well…you’ve proven yourself to be quite useless, yes?”

 

Jarrod kneeled before his master. “My mistress. There were Rangers-”

 

“Yes, I’m quite bored with you now.”

 

She waved her hand and fired an invisible burst of energy that hurled him across the warehouse. He smashed against a wall and crashed to the floor. When he looked up, he saw no sign of the Forsaken.

 

He smashed his fist against the floor. “Useless?!”

 

Suddenly. Jarrod heard voices whisper in the back of his mind. The three voices sounded distant, yet close at the same time.

 

He could barely understand them, but he heard two things distinctively. They called themselves the Three Kenma. And they referred to him as the son of the demon DaiShi.

 

To be continued…Chapter 02