Chapter 14: Ultimate Overdrive
The Night Troops
Eiji sat in a meditative pose on a rooftop. He closed his eyes and focused, breathing deep to calm his agitation. He could no longer fight the Ashu. Not effectively, at least. And that pissed him off.
Sure, he could hunt lesser Ashu who possessed men and women. But he wanted Gai, and even Rei. The problem: They took physical form, and Eiji’s barrier magick didn’t work on demons in physical form.
Not yet, at least.
He snapped open his eyes and swiped his hand. “Ketsu!”
He formed a multi-layered barrier of solid blue energy. A normal barrier couldn’t stop a demon in physical form. But maybe a multi-layered barrier could.
But then, the barrier shattered.
The hunter cursed beneath his breath.
“Man,” a voice said from behind. “You suck.”
Eiji snapped around to see a boy standing on the ledge. Tan skinned, he wore his black hair spiked, and dressed in a purple ninja outfit, with sleeves of gray mesh.
Eiji stood and arced an eyebrow. “Who the hell are you?”
“Gen,” the stranger said. “Your brother sent me here. To give you a message.”
“That son of a-”
Gen dashed with a kick that knocked Eiji off his feet before he could defend himself.
The hunter tumbled across the rooftop and rolled into a crouched stance. He swung his staff behind his back and thrust his hand.
The hunter formed a blue barrier between himself and his opponent.
Gen extended his right arm. The arm twisted into a wolf-like limb, with massive fingers and claws.
Gen shot forward, clawed through the barrier, and tackled Eiji onto the rooftop.
Eiji rolled backward and kicked Gen off at the same time.
Gen twisted through midair and landed on the ledge. He crouched, then pounced at full speed.
Eiji twirled his staff and swung at the stranger.
Gen grabbed the staff and used it to flip over Eiji. The attacker kicked Eiji’s back, knocking him to the rooftop.
Gen swiped his claws less than an inch from Eiji’s neck.
“Slash,” Gen said. “You’re dead.”
Eiji rolled onto his back and rose into a crouched stance. “Is that my loving brother’s message?”
“Basically, yes,” Gen said. “I’m only half demon and your barrier magick couldn’t touch me. You really think you can go up against the Ashu now? Alone?”
“I don’t need a lecture from a kid,” Eiji said. “If Tokimori has something to say, he can come here himself.”
“He’s rather busy these days,” Gen said.
“Then tell him to go to hell,” Eiji said.
Suddenly, explosions tore through a nearby skyscraper. Eiji didn’t need to look to know the source: The Ashu.
The hunter leapt towards the explosions, and Gen followed.
Mr. Voice spoke to the rangers in SGS headquarters.
“The Pegasus Bow,” the image said. A screen next to Mr. Voice displayed a map of New York with various targets, where the bow struck.
Jake nodded with recognition. “Kamen Rider Kuuga could turn ordinary objects into crossbows by using his Pegasus Form. Rumors said Section 31 recovered one of the bows after a battle with the Grongi. Maybe even more than one.”
“Just one,” Mr. Voice said. “And it’s surfaced in New York.”
“And now a Negative’s using it to make the city his shooting range?” Will asked.
“We can talk about motive later,” Shane said. “Let’s move out.”
Gen twisted through the air like a screwdriver. His target: Gai, who held the Pegasus Bow.
The hunter slashed Gai with massive bursts of spark that knocked him backward.
Eiji landed nearby. He thrust his hand at the demon, pointing his middle and index fingers.
“Ketsu!” He formed a multi-layered barrier that snapped around Gai. He swiped his hand down. “Metsu!”
The barrier exploded with a burst of blue flame that splashed harmless across Gai.
Eiji cursed beneath his breath. It didn’t work.
Gen pounced and swung his paw upward, claws ripping Gai’s skin with massive bursts of spark.
Gai grunted with annoyance and back-hand swatted Gen aside. The hunter smashed against a wall and crashed to the ground.
Gen snarled with anger and climbed to his feet. He looked to Eiji.
“You want to fight the Ashu?” he shouted. “Really fight them? Then toss that staff aside and use your real power!”
“Not happening,” Eiji said.
Gai laughed and aimed the bow. He triggered bursts of energy that exploded around Eiji, knocking him unconscious.
The rangers arrived in New York. They saw bolts of jade energy pierce through buildings with massive explosions.
Jake flipped open his tracker. “Hazard Level 138.”
“The Pegasus Bow,” Will said. “Great.”
“Split up and search,” Shane said. “Move out…”
Shane dashed down an empty street, cluttered by cars abandoned when their drivers skid to a halt and fled. Sirens still blared through the air.
But he didn’t see any more bow strikes. Nor did he see Rei, who watched silently from a nearby rooftop.
The demon breathed a cloud of mist that drifted through the air. The mist became fog that spread across the block.
Shane ran through the fog and entered a warehouse, darkened by shadows. He stopped when he noticed a man up ahead.
The man held a crossbow.
“Negative!” Shane shouted.
The man smirked. “Negative? I’m not a villain, Immortal Fang. It’s me…”
The man stepped into the light. Shane recognized him immediately — Dustin, his former partner who died in Demon City.
Shane’s breath caught in his throat. He took a step back and shook his head.
“You’re…alive?” Shane asked. As the shock faded, the ranger felt overwhelming relief. “Thank god…”
Dustin aimed the Pegasus Bow.
Shane knitted his brow. “The Pegasus Bow…Why do you have that?”
“I figured you’d come if I got my hands on a Precious,” Dustin said.
“What are you talking about?” Shane asked.
“Talia’s dead. And it’s all your fault,” Dustin said. “You left us…just so you could take the relic for yourself.”
“No…” Shane said. “That’s not how it happened. I was going for help. Dustin…hand over the crossbow.”
“Even now that’s all you can think about. These relics,” Dustin said.
Dustin triggered a jade energy arrow.
Shane morphed into Titan Red just as the arrow exploded against his chest with bursts of spark and hurled him backward. He skid across the ground, and the impact knocked him from his armor.
Eiji’s vision blurred slowly into focus. He found himself looking up at the face of his older brother, Tokimori.
Eiji knitted his brow and started to sit up. “You son of a-”
“Stay down, Eiji,” Tokimori said. “You’re injured.”
“Since when do you care?” Eiji noticed Gen crouched on a ledge nearby. “I didn’t appreciate you sending your little lap dog after me, by the way.”
“He’s not a lap dog,” Tokimori said. “He’s one of my Night Troops.”
Eiji knitted his brow. “Your what?”
“Night Troops,” Tokimori said. “And I sent him to prove a point.”
“You’re an ass. Point taken,” Eiji said as he pushed his brother aside and stood up. “Now get out of my way.”
“Eiji. We haven’t seen each other since-”
“I know when we saw each other,” Eiji said. “I’ve been doing just fine since then, without you.”
“Have you?” Tokimori asked. “You’ve seen what’s happened. Not just with the Ashu. But with demons everywhere. They can use their hosts to take physical form. And they’re growing in number.”
“I’ve been hunting demons since I was a kid,” Eiji said. “I don’t need a lecture about how dangerous they are.”
“You can’t hunt alone anymore,” Tokimori said. “Especially since you refuse to tap into your true power.”
Eiji sighed with annoyance. “What do you want, Tokimori?”
“Months ago, I started looking for others like us. Mages. Exorcists. People with supernatural abilities. Working together, we can accomplish more than we ever could individually. We call ourselves the Night Troops.”
“I’m sorry you think so,” Tokimori said. “Because I’ve come here to ask you to join us.”
Eiji arced an eyebrow. “You can’t be serious? Even if I didn’t hate you, I’m not exactly a team player.”
“Maybe that’s because of the teams you’ve chosen to play with. Psychotic teenage girls, demon-sucking Rangers-”
“Just stop talking…” Eiji said as he shook his head. He lifted his staff and gripped tightly onto the weapon. “You had your lackey attack me, to what? Show me I’m weak? Show me I need your little team? I don’t do teams. Not anymore. Especially not with you.”
“How will you fight the Ashu, then?” Tokimori asked. “Our barrier magick won’t work when they’re in physical form. And you deny your birthright-”
“Screw you,” Eiji said. “Don’t talk to me about my birthright. If dad heard you talking to me about this, he’d kill you.”
“You never even bothered to learn the truth-”
“You barely even knew him,” Eiji said. “He was my dad. To you, he was just some guy who knocked up your mom after one too many-”
Tokimori summoned a barrier that whacked Eiji’s head and knocked him to the ground.
“Think about what I said,” Tokimori said. “Keep hunting alone, and hiding from your own power, and die. Or accept your heritage, and join me to fight the rising darkness.”
He turned to jump from the rooftop, but hesitated and looked over his shoulder. “War isn’t coming, Eiji. It’s here.”
He formed a chain of barriers in midair and used them to leap away.
Gen smirked mockingly at Eiji, and then followed Tokimori into the distance.
Eiji leapt across the rooftops and followed the trace of the Ashu. He landed on a ledge that looked down to a smoking plaza, where Shane staggered to his feet.
“Not these guys again…” Eiji muttered.
Below, Shane looked through the smoke for his former comrade.
“Dustin!” he shouted. “I’m still here…but I don’t want to fight!”
Shane tossed his Overdrive Tracker aside.
Dustin stepped through the smoke and aimed his crossbow at Shane. “Immortal Fang…”
“I told you…” Shane said. “I don’t want to fight. What do you want? You want me to quit? Being a Titan? Fine. I will. I’ll quit. But hear me out…
“I lost you and Talia…That made me realize how dangerous these relics are. I didn’t want your deaths to be in vain. So I decided to safeguard the Precious. To protect them.”
“That’s my mission,” Shane said. “Please…hand over that relic.”
Dustin laughed and lowered his weapon. “Are you serious? You joined the Titans for us? That’s your mission? Stop making this about yourself. Who asked you to do that? Did you think that’s what we would want?”
Dustin raised his crossbow. “This is what I want…”
He triggered a bolt of jade energy.
Eiji sighed. He dashed into the plaza, swung his staff, and swatted the blast aside with massive bursts of spark and flame.
“Eiji…” Shane said.
“Come on,” Eiji said as he grabbed Shane’s arm and ran off.
Eiji and Shane took cover in a nearby warehouse.
“So…” Eiji said. “You find out a friend of yours is still alive and lose your mind. Great coping skills.”
“And what would you do?” Shane asked. “If it was your comrade?”
“What?” Shane asked. “Don’t you have teammates? Other hunters?”
“No, I don’t have teammates,” Eiji said. “I work alone. All that talk about doing what you do for them? For your old friends? That’s just an excuse weak people use.”
Shane looked away, as if embarrassed.
Eiji leaned on his staff and gripped the weapon with both hands. “I was born into this. Born to fight demons. There’s nothing more to it than that. There’s no room for friends.”
“My mission’s just as important,” Shane said. “I-”
“Don’t compare yourself to me,” Eiji said. “What you have isn’t a mission. You treat your little treasure hunt like a game. I do what I do because I have to.”
Eiji swung his staff over his shoulder and started to walk off. “You do what you do because you like it, right? So if you don’t like it, why not quit?”
Shane narrowed his eyes and rolled his hands into fists.
The Ashu fog covered the streets. Shane walked into the fog, standing tall and confident.
Dustin walked into the plaza. “So, Immortal Fang…You’re prepared to die.”
“Dustin,” Shane said. “What I told you was true. I joined the Titans for your sake. For the sake of the world. But doing what I do…I like it. I like adventures. You did too, Dustin. And so did Talia. She loved the thrill of the hunt. The fun of it. It’s not a mission given by anyone. That’s why…That’s why I won’t run away.”
Nearby, Eiji crouched on the rooftop and watched. He knitted his brow as he listened to Shane’s words.
“This is my adventure,” Shane said. “I won’t quit.”
The fog blew across the plaza, and the guise of Dustin disappeared, revealing Gai.
Shane narrowed his eyes. “Gai.”
The demon staggered backward. “You can see me?!” He looked over his shoulder. “Rei!”
Rei leapt into the plaza. “Impossible…”
From above, Eiji leapt into the plaza.
The hunter held his staff over his shoulder and glared at the Ashu. “You two, together again. What a pair.”
Shane knitted his brow. “What’s going on? Where’s Dustin?”
“Don’t you get it yet?” Eiji asked. “It was all an illusion, caused by your doubt. That’s Rei’s ability.”
Explosions sparked around the Ashu. Eiji and Shane looked aside to see Rose and the other rangers run to the scene.
“Chief!” Rose called out.
“Eiji…” Will said as he narrowed his eyes. “What are you doing here?”
“It looked like the Ashu were targeting you,” Eiji said. “So I used you as bait.”
“Bait?” Will asked.
Rose ignored the exchange and handed Shane his morpher. “Chief…here.”
Shane nodded and grabbed his tracker. “Defeat the Ashu and collect the Precious. Ready?”
They armed their morphers.
“Overdrive! Start up!” They swiped their trackers across their arms and triggered their morph into Titans.
They snapped into fighting stances.
“Overdrive Task Force!” Titan Red shouted. Together, they called out: “Titan Rangers!”
The Ashu charged.
The Rangers swarmed around Rei with kicks and punches the demon blocked.
Turning, Rei clawed Titan Yellow and Titan Pink with bursts of spark that whipped them backward.
Rei blocked a kick from Titan Blue and clawed him to the ground. The demon slashed Titan Black aside, and then blocked a kick from Titan Red. The demon clawed upward with a burst of spark that whipped the Red Ranger off his feet.
Nearby, Gai aimed his bow at the Rangers.
But before he could attack, Eiji leapt through the air and used his staff to stab the bow from the demon’s hands.
Gai staggered backward. “Takaoka Decedent…You are nothing but a gnat to me now.”
“I’ve been called worse,” Eiji said.
The hunter lunged with a series of staff swings Gai dodged and blocked.
Meanwhile, Rei energized his claws with fiery power. The demon clawed Titan Red with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.
The Red Ranger tumbled and rolled to his feet, as his teammates regrouped around him.
Rei hurled bolts of fire that smashed the Rangers with bursts of flame that knocked them to the ground.
Titan Red rolled his hands into fists and climbed to his feet.
“Wrenched humans…” Rei said. “Why? Why do you keep standing? Why don’t you stay down?!”
“You saw it for yourself,” Titan Red said. “Your spell…it didn’t affect me. People can pass their limits. They can push themselves. That’s the power of an adventure.”
The Red Ranger snapped his arms to his sides.
“Titan Armor!” An armored vest snapped around his chest.
“Drill Crusher!” He summoned his rifle and switched its barrel. “Mixer Header!”
The mixer opened and spun. “Go!”
The weapon fired a pulse of energy that splashed against Rei and encased his body in stone.
“Drill Header!” Titan Red shouted as he switched the barrel to drill mode.
But before the Red Ranger could attack, Rei shattered from his stone casing and hurled bolts of fire at the Rangers. The flames exploded with bursts of spark that hurled them through the air.
Eiji sighed at the sight. “They’re pointless…”
He slashed Gai and kicked him backward while snatching the crossbow. The hunter leapt through the air and landed near the Rangers.
“Here…” he said as he held the crossbow towards Titan Red. “Make yourself useful.”
Titan Red stood and took the crossbow.
The Red Ranger and Eiji faced the demons.
Eiji slapped his hand to the ground and triggered bolts of energy that shot towards the Ashu.
And the Red Ranger triggered a bolt of golden power.
The blasts pierced through Gai and Rei with massive bursts of spark that hurled them backward, and their bodies exploded into ash.
“See?” Eiji said between heavy breaths. “How hard was that?”
Tokimori and Gen watched the battle from a safe distance.
“Did you see what he did?” Tokimori asked. “Those energy bolts…he tapped into his true power without thinking.”
Gen nodded. “Do you think he’ll give into his true nature?”
“I do,” Tokimori said. “Then he’ll join us along with the other Night Troops.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
Tokimori hesitated. “Then we’ll kill him. The same as we would any rogue demon.”
Gajah stood in an abandoned factory. He held a strange device in each hand and chanted.
“Geldoah, Geldoah, Goldoam…”
Shadowy ash blew into the warehouse and formed mist across the floor. Gajah kneeled and lowered the devices into the mist.
The devices — salvaged from the wreckage of the Zeo-zord holding bay — pulsed with energy.
The mist swirled around the devices and took shape, vaguely humanoid. Gajah released the devices and pulled out his hands. The devices remained as the hearts of the shadowy figures.
Slowly, the shadows hardened and took shape. They formed the reborn Ashu: Rei and Gai.
To be continued…Chapter 15