Chapter Three: Hurricane

Witnesses

 

PROLOGUE: The First Forsaken

 

Simon stood in the scorched ruins of Angel Grove. He wore a hooded sweatshirt that covered his face with shadow, and he kept his hands in his pockets. The ranger’s shoulders clenched with anxiety.

 

His home: Destroyed, broken and charred, like his soul. He remembered little of his time in Hell, except for the feelings. He still felt anger, sorrow, despair and hatred. Such hatred.

 

Let that hatred flow…a voice whispered in his head. The voice belonged to the demon DaiShi.

 

“I thought I told you to shut up…” Simon whispered with a hoarse voice.

 

Footsteps approached the ranger from behind. Simon didn’t need to turn around. His empathic abilities sensed the man who approached: Moridyn, a Forsaken.  

 

“Hello, Simon…” Moridyn said. “It’s good to finally meet you in the flesh.”

 

“I suppose you did this to me…” Simon said. “Pulled me from the pit.”

 

“It’s true I tried to lead you from the flames of perdition,” Moridyn said. “But sadly…you rejected me.”

 

Simon narrowed his eyes and faced the villain. “If not you…and not the Dark Man….then who?”

 

“Unfortunately, I do not know,” Moridyn said. “Regardless…now that you are here…you can continue the work that you started.”

 

“And what work is that?” Simon asked, trying his best to ignore the screams of DaiShi: Kill him! Show him that even the immortals can die at the hands of the Great Beast of Hell!

 

“You still don’t understand…” Moridyn said. “You see, Simon…the Fourth Seal had nothing to do with men walking as beasts. That part of the Final Prophecy led to a fool’s errand. The Fourth Seal broke when the first mortal soul escaped Hell and achieved resurrection. That soul was you. You, Simon, broke the Fourth Seal.”

 

Simon rolled his hands into fists. “Why should I believe you?”

 

“Because in time, you will join us. You will join the Forsaken, and join the Dark One. While in Hell…you realized something that I learned long ago, before time itself. As the scabs of Hell tear off, as you remember…you will come to me.”

 

“You’re insane,” Simon said.

 

“Perhaps,” Moridyn said. “I prefer to think of myself as an enlightened realist. You see…even before the dawn of man, I knew this existence was doomed…”

 

***

 

Before Time and Space

 

Telemon stood at the head of the Thirteen Priests of the One Power. He led the forces of the Creator to war against the armies of the Dark One, now called Mephisto.

 

Moridyn didn’t care much for the conflict. Instead, he preferred to explore the philosophical and intellectual facets of the cosmos.

 

The immortal wore a brown cloak and hood that covered his long hair. He crossed his arms behind his back and stared ahead at the torn landscape of Shetofiel. The land once belonged to cosmic beings called Dreanari, all slaughtered by the growing forces of the Dark One.

 

Dead bodies littered the landscape. Some still bled onto the surface of the strange world. Others convulsed, all lifeless. 

 

“Curious…” he whispered.

 

Moridyn,” a voice said from behind. The voice belonged to Telemon, who wore a tan cloak and carried twin, slender sabers, thick with enemy blood. “We’ve lingered here for too long. We must move.”

 

“But of course, brother,” Moridyn said. “First, perhaps you should take a moment and gaze upon the Dark One’s work.”

 

“And why should I do that?” Telemon asked. “What is wrong with you, Moridyn? This is war…not the subject of your next pointless essay.”

 

“Pointless?” Moridyn asked. “How is it pointless to understand the nature of our existence?”

 

Telemon shook his head. “Sometimes I question your sanity…brother.”

 

“It was I who identified the very concept of sanity,” Moridyn said. “You question my work, and yet use it yourself. How…hypocritical.”

 

Telemon scoffed. “Come, brother. Our mission here is done.”

 

“Yes…” Moridyn said as he stepped back. “I suppose it is.”

 

***

 

The 13 Priests regrouped in the Crystal Palace within the Kingdom of the Moon. They stood in a dim chamber lined by stone columns lit with torches.

 

Moridyn stepped forward to address his fellow priests.

 

“In the beginning was twisted chaos. The Nether. Now, a new chaos has arisen. This can lead us to only one conclusion. Chaos is the natural order. The Dark One is a force of chaos. And such a force is not something we can defeat.”

 

“What are you saying?” Telemon asked.

 

Moridyn smirked. “I hereby renounce my servitude to the Creator, the Life Giver, and pledge my allegiance to the Dark.”

 

Telemon narrowed his eyes and grasped his sword. “You can’t be serious…”

 

“We cannot defeat him. His victory is inevitable,” Moridyn said. “So I will join him, and rule by his side for a time...”

 

Telemon trembled with rage. “I always knew you were insane, Moridyn…and now…to hear this? This?!”

 

Telemon slashed his sword with a wave of fire that shot towards Moridyn. Moridyn lifted his hand and blocked the flame, which splashed harmlessly across his body.

 

The immortal lowered his hand and thrust his fist, hurling a bolt of energy that bashed Telemon off his feet. Telemon smashed against a column and crashed to the ground.

 

Moridyn crossed his arms behind his back and stalked towards his fallen opponent. The other Priests stayed back, too shocked to act.

 

“You may have great strength, brother,” Moridyn said. “But I have studied this universe, and its peoples, in great detail. I have come to find that knowledge is power. Would you not agree?”

 

Telemon rolled his hands into fists. “You…are…insane!”

 

The Priest flared with Holy Fire that bashed Moridyn and hurled him from the palace. He crashed on a bridge of crystal and skid across its surface.

 

Telemon leapt through the air and landed on the bridge while chopping his sword. The blade struck with a shockwave that hurled bolts of fire at Moridyn.

 

Moridyn climbed to his feet, and the flames blasted his chest and whipped him backward.

 

Telemon aimed his sword and stalked towards his fellow Priest. “You are no longer one of us, Moridyn. You are now, and forever, Forsaken.”

 

Moridyn stood and dusted off his cloak. “I am not one for battle…but it appears we are an even match.”

 

Telemon scowled, but Moridyn simply smiled.

 

“Something I have learned, brother…” Moridyn said. “Is that this conflict between the Creator and Dark One is far more complex than even we can understand. It is primal. It is pure. I tend to see it through to the end. The alternative…is to die.”

 

“Be gone, Forsaken,” Telemon spat.

 

“Very well…” Moridyn said. “But I will leave you with this one question. If the Creator, our father, cares about his creation so much…why does he allow such suffering and despair to plague all of his realms?”

 

Telemon knitted his brow, and lowered his sword, ever so slightly.

 

 Moridyn smiled and walked away.

 

***

 

“Even before the Wheel of Time…the never-ending conflict between good and evil thrived,” Moridyn said. “It permeated all of existence.”

 

“So what?” Simon asked. “The answer is to let the Dark One destroy everything?”

 

“He doesn’t want to destroy,” Moridyn said. “He wants to demolish the universe and remake the cosmos in his image.”

 

“And what would that look like, exactly?” Simon asked.

 

“No one quite knows,” Moridyn said. “But it is irrelevant. He will win. So to live, we must side with him.”

 

Kill him! DaiShi shouted in Simon’s mind. Take your sword, and stab his heart!

 

Moridyn waved his hand. “Remember…”

 

Memories stabbed through Simon’s mind like icepicks and forced him to his knees. He remembered the demons of the Diyu rip the soul of his damned brother apart. He remembered the souls of infants — infants! — twisted into monsters.

 

“Stop…” Simon whispered as he grasped his head. “Stop!”

 

The memories ended, and Simon slumped to the ground.

 

Moridyn adjusted his cufflinks. “That was just a glimpse of what you experienced: The reality of your existence as a mortal. When you remember the rest…you will find me…”

 

Moridyn summoned a portal, stepped through, and vanished.

 

***

 

PART ONE: Rise of the Witnesses

 

The Drive Voyager served as the mobile base of the Titan Rangers following the destruction of Angel Grove. The massive zord drove across the desert of New Mexico and searched for the latest Precious: The Box of Isis.

 

The Box came from the planet Isis years ago. Its secrets unlocked the powers of Earth’s first virtual heroes, including Cybertron, Galavan and SHOC. Although the virtual heroes lost their powers after the Second Countdown to Destruction, the box remained. 

 

Drive Voyager skid to a halt as the team neared a mountain range. Shane leaned forward on his wheel.

 

“OK,” he said. “The box is somewhere in those mountains. Split up, and find the Precious. Move out!”

 

***

 

The team split up and moved into the mountains. Mr. Voice warned that the Questers sought the Box too, so the team stayed alert for trouble. They moved in pairs, and Will went along with Eiji.

 

Eiji used his Drive Detector in Search Mode to track the relic’s power signature.

 

Will sighed with impatience. “Anything yet?”

 

Eiji smirked. “Besides that annoying voice of yours? No.”

 

“You’re not nearly as funny as you think you are,” Will said.

 

“Not funny,” Eiji said. “Just honest.”

 

Suddenly, a stream of mist surged into the mountains, smashed against Will, and bashed him against a rock face. The mist snapped back, and Will crashed to the ground.

 

“Will!” Eiji shouted as he twirled his staff into a fighting stance.

 

The mist surged towards the ranger. He slashed his staff through a streak of silver energy, cutting the smoke. But it twirled around him, whipped him off his feet, and snapped him through the air.

 

Eiji crashed hard and skid across the dirt. The ranger rolled into a crouched stance and armed his bracer.

 

“Overdrive!” he shouted. “Start up!”

 

He slapped his morpher’s activation panel and ignited his transformation into Titan Silver.

 

The Silver Ranger twirled his weapon. “Drive Detector: Spear Mode!”

 

The mist hissed with a supernatural voice. “Do you see yourself, Eiji? Look what you have become. It is a joke…”

 

The mist twirled and solidified into a humanoid form: The form of his dead father, Karato.

 

Titan Silver dropped his staff and stepped back. He shook his head. “Dad…? What the hell’s going on?”

 

“What’s going on… Karato said as he walked forward, each step as light as air. “…is that my son got me killed. And then turned himself into a joke. What are you now? A treasure hunter? Really? I trained you to hunt demons, not dig through sand boxes.”

 

“You’re not my father…” He looked around for any sign of the Questers. Gai? Rei? Is this you?! Drop the act!”

 

“The Ashu…” Karato said. “They should be dead. You should have killed them all. But you failed. Miserably.”

 

From behind, Will climbed to his feet and armed his morpher. “Overdrive! Start up!”

 

He slid his tracker across his arm, sparking his morph into Titan Black.

 

The Black Ranger leapt through the air, unsheathed his sword, and aimed his decent towards Karato’s back.

 

Karato didn’t even turn. He lifted his hand, grabbed Titan Black’s throat with invisible energy, and whipped him backward.

 

Titan Silver swung his staff behind his back and charged.

 

Karato thrust his hand with a burst of blue light; explosions tore across Titan Silver’s armor with bursts of spark that whipped him to the ground. The impact knocked him from his armor with a flash of silver light.

 

Eiji reached towards his fallen staff. But Karato kicked the weapon from his son’s reach. “That is not the true weapon of my heir. What have you done to yourself, Eiji?”

 

Eiji narrowed his eyes. He slapped his hand against the ground with a discharge of energy, but the blasts passed through Karato as easily as lightning through clouds.

 

Karato lifted his son by the throat. “You killed me…now I, my son, am going to kill you.”   

 

***

 

Samuel traced Azmodai to St. Louis, Missouri. The teen crouched on a rooftop and looked towards a skyscraper in the distance. Azmodai made his home in that building, along with his army of Hellfire Knights, Demunio, werewolves and demon-possessed men.

 

Samuel wanted nothing more than to stop them all. Azmodai ruined the lives of his children by offering false hope of family and strength, order and stability. Samuel craved stability — his empathic senses let him feel the growing despair and anguish of civilization spinning out of control. But he refused to side with Azmodai and the remnants of the Hellfire Club, which used innocent people as pawns and corrupted the lives of countless men, women and children.

 

Samuel blamed the organization for the corruption and death of his older half-brother Simon. And he hated them for it.

 

The teen unsheathed his sword. He crouched to leap across the skyline, but stopped when he heard footsteps come from behind. The approaching presence filled Samuel with chills that crept down his spine and tingled his skin.

 

He snapped around and lifted his blade, which he nearly dropped when he saw the face of the visitor — Brandon.

 

Samuel’s younger half-brother looked pale, with lesions across his skin and dark bags under his eyes.

 

Brandon breathed heavily, his breath like mist, and smirked. “Surprised to see me?” he asked. “Me too…Last thing I remember was getting torn to shreds in Hell.”

 

“Brandon…” Samuel whispered. “You were in…?”

 

“Hell. Yeah,” Brandon said. “Thanks for that, by the way.”

 

He burst into mist, twirled around Samuel like violent wind, and knocked the teen off his feet. Samuel crashed and skid across the rooftop.

 

Brandon reformed behind his older brother. The boy knitted his brow and rolled his hands into fists.

 

“You couldn’t just leave me alone, could you?” Brandon asked. “You wanted to use me, just like the rest of them. I just wanted…I just wanted to go home. And instead, I took a bullet to the head. Because of you.”

 

Samuel shook his head and climbed to his feet. “You’re not really Brandon…”

 

Brandon narrowed his eyes. “Don’t say that…” he said through a clenched jaw. “Don’t you ever say that!

 

He ignited with blue fire and hurled a bolt of flame at his brother. Samuel dove for cover.

 

Brandon tossed another bolt of flame, and then another. “You killed me!”

 

Samuel dodged a bolt of flame and slashed a second bolt from the air.

 

Brandon burst into fiery mist, circled Samuel, and slammed into his chest, knocking him from the rooftop. The mist twirled around Samuel and bashed him repeatedly as they plummeted towards the street below.

 

***

 

Zadie tracked a demon-possessed man through the streets of Springfield. She followed him for several hours before she picked up on his hobby: Luring girls into alleys and raping them.

 

She stopped the man from taking his next victim. 

 

Zadie kicked the demon-possessed man upside the head and stabbed his chest. She twisted her knife; the demon sizzled from the man with bursts of fiery light.

 

She pulled her blade free and pushed the body to the ground.

 

The hunter breathed heavily as she wiped her knife on her jacket.

 

“Well…” she whispered. “That was fun. Not at all tedious…or repetitive…”

 

She kicked the fallen body.

   

Suddenly, she felt chills creep down her skin, and her breath fogged with cold. She snapped around — to face her dead bother.

 

The hunter narrowed her eyes. “Sean…” she said. “Cute. Is this supposed to tug at my heart strings?”

 

“It’s really me….” Sean said as he walked forward, his footsteps as light as air.

 

“I doubt that, Sunshine,” Zadie said. She lunged and slashed through Sean, but he vanished into mist.

 

The mist reformed behind Zadie and bashed her back, knocking her forward. She stumbled, but snapped around and hurled her knife. The knife passed harmlessly through Sean.

 

Zadie pulled a handful of salt from her pocket and tossed it at Sean. The salt burst him into smoke, but he quickly reformed, pounced, and grabbed Zadie by the neck.

 

He bashed her against the wall and lifted her off her feet.

 

“You let me die,” he hissed through his clenched teeth. “I was just a kid...and I died…because of you!”

 

He phased his hand through her chest and grabbed her heart.

 

***

 

In a deep plummet, Samuel powered up his armor with a flash of golden light. Brandon and Garo smashed against the street with a massive shockwave that shattered nearby windows.

 

Brandon scattered into mist and reformed as Baron, the Thunder Knight. Baron shot at Garo and slashed wide, striking Garo with massive bursts of spark that hurled him backward.

 

Garo swung his sword with a wave of green flame; but the flame passed harmlessly through the Thunder Knight.

 

Baron pounced, kneed Garo’s gut, and bashed his sword against the back of Garo’s head. The Golden Knight dropped to the ground, and Baron stomped on his back.

 

***

 

Karato tightened his grip on Eiji’s throat. The ranger struggled to break free as he felt his windpipe tightened.

 

The hunter swiped his hand. Ketsu!

 

He formed a blue barrier that bashed Karato backward.

 

Eiji landed, rolled into a crouched stance, and swung his hand. Ketsu!

 

A barrier snapped around Karato. But he shattered the barrier with a shockwave of blue flame that blasted Eiji off his feet.

 

***

 

Sean laughed and pulled his hand free. “Did you really think I’d let you die that quickly?”

 

Zadie collapsed and coughed up blood as she struggled to catch her breath. Sean back-hand slapped her upside the face, whipping her down the alley.

 

“You’re going to bleed first…” Sean said as he stalked towards her. “A lot…”

 

***

 

Baron hurled bolts of blue flame that splashed against Garo and whipped him off his feet. The impact knocked him from his armor with a flash of golden light.

 

Slowly, Samuel clutched his chest and stood. “Brandon…please stop.”

 

“Are you begging?” Baron asked as he ignited his sword with blue fire. “Really?”

 

Suddenly, bullets blasted through the air and tore through Baron. He burst into mist and reformed across the street.

 

“Bullets?” Baron said with a laugh. “You think bullets can hurt me?!”

 

The armored robot Jet Slider hovered through the air and opened fire with rapid, high-yield rounds. The bullets passed harmlessly through Baron, who rippled like a pond with each blast.

 

The robo landed, transformed into a motorcycle, and skid to a halt next to its owner: Kamen Rider Faiz. Faiz unsheathed his sword from the mecha.

 

“Sam…” Faiz said. “You look like shit.”

 

“Ryan…?” Samuel asked. “Were you following me?”

 

“Technically I was following the people who were following you,” Faiz said.

 

“Who-”

 

Bullets tore across the pavement. Faiz lunged, grabbed Samuel, and dove for cover.

 

A white armored Rider flew through the air on a jetpack armed with machine guns.

 

New Bitmap Image

 

The Rider — Kamen Rider Psyga — opened fire at Baron, Garo and Faiz. Baron burst into mist and vanished, while Faiz and Samuel ducked into an alleyway.

 

Psyga flew into the alley, landed, and powered down his jetpack. He expected to face Faiz and Samuel, but didn’t see either.

 

Suddenly, Faiz dropped from behind and elbowed the villain’s neck. Psyga stumbled forward; Faiz side-kicked him, knocking him off his feet.

 

Psyga tumbled across the ground but quickly stood. He snapped off his jet pack for greater mobility and pounced with a flurry of punches and kicks Faiz blocked and dodged.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz round-kicked Psyga’s side and punched his helmet. But the villain struck back hard with a volley of punches that bashed Faiz’s chest.

 

A flash of golden light flared within the alley. Garo shot at Psyga and swung wide. His blade slashed Psyga with a massive burst of spark that whipped him off his feet, and he smashed through a nearby wall.

 

“Come on,” Faiz said as he dashed down the alley. “He’s not alone.”

 

“Delta and Kaixa?”

 

“No,” Faiz said. “Riot Troopers.”

 

“Riot Troopers?” Garo asked. “What are-

 

Seven identical Riders dashed into the alleyway. They looked like generic versions of Faiz, with bronze armor over black body suits and circular visors. They carried bronze blades called Axel Daggers, which could shift into blasters. 

 

New Bitmap Image (2) 

 

Garo growled beneath his breath. He slashed wide with a wave of green flame that smashed the Troopers. The impact whipped them off their feet, but more Troopers rushed into the alleyway.

 

The Golden Knight grabbed Faiz by the waist and jumped onto the rooftop. Garo’s armor flared with green flame that shot them through the air as they escaped.

 

***

 

Eiji dashed to his side. Ketsu! Ketsu! Ketsu!

 

He tossed up barrier after barrier to try trapping his father. But Karato evaded the kekkai.

 

Eiji cursed beneath his breath. “Come on.”

 

Karato surged through a wave of smoke that smashed Eiji’s chest and pinned him to the ground. The villain took shape and grabbed his son by the throat.

 

“You always did remind me of your mother…” Karato said. “That Ashu whore…”

 

Suddenly, a claw slashed through Karato, who dissipated into smoke. Eiji looked up to see the attacker: Gen, of the Night Troops.

 

“Gen…” Eiji said as he climbed to his feet. “That must mean…”

 

“Eiji,” a voice said from behind. Eiji turned to see his older half-brother.

 

Tokimori…” Eiji said. “Did you do this? Was this some kind of joke?”

 

“I’m afraid not,” Tokimori said in his usual cold, calm demeanor. “That was truly the spirit of our father…and he is still here.”

 

Tokimori lifted his staff into a defensive stance. 

 

Karato reappeared and surged towards his sons through a wave of smoke. Gen dashed in front of the attack and slashed, shredding Karato into wisps of smog.

 

Tokimori chopped his hand towards the ground. Ketsu!

 

A barrier formed beneath Tokimori and Eiji and shot up, tossing them to safety.

 

They landed on a cliff, and Tokimori stabbed his staff into the rock. A globe of dark energy expanded and circled around them.

 

Eiji struggled to catch his breath. “Tokimori...you better tell me what the hell is going on.”

 

“The Rise of the Witnesses…” Tokimori said.

 

Eiji knitted his brow. “The what?”

 

***

 

Zadie scrambled down the alley and nearly collapsed. Sore, her heart pounded in her chest, and she could barely breathe.

 

Sean taunted her from behind. “Kind of feels like dying, doesn’t it? It’s a bitch, huh.”

 

“Get away from me…” Zadie rasped. “You’re not Sean…”

 

***

 

“The Rise of the Witnesses,” Tokimori said. “A bubble of evil, rising from the pit of the Dark One’s prison.”

 

“That doesn’t exactly make things any clearer,” Eiji said.

 

“I’ll explain once we are safe,” Tokimori said.

 

Below, Gen slashed repeatedly at Karato, who shredded and reformed. The spirit hissed with annoyance.

 

“Is this what you’ve resorted to! Using your pet demon dogs to do your fighting! You are not my sons! You are bastards!” Karato shouted.

 

The spirit knocked Gen aside and shot upward towards his sons. He smashed against the round barrier with discharges of power and energy that nearly knocked Tokimori off his feet.

 

But the hunter stood his ground and gripped tightly onto his staff. He solidified his barrier, which pushed back against Karato. Twirling between physical and spiritual forms, Karato spun and smashed the barrier with bursts of energy, looking for weak spots.

 

Tokimori clenched his jaw. “I can’t…keep him back…much longer.”

 

He thrust his staff, and the barrier expanded into a shockwave that hurled Karato backward.

 

Tokimori looked over his shoulder. Mukade! Now!”

 

Eiji knitted his brow. “Who-”

 

Waves of orange energy shot through the air, slithered like centipedes, and wrapped around Eiji and his brother. The centipedes flashed with light, and Eiji and Tokimori vanished.

 

***

 

Garo and Faiz landed on a rooftop and powered down their armor.

 

Samuel knitted his brow and looked to the distance. “What was that back there?”

 

“INET beefed up its Black Ops program,” Ryan said. “Kamen Rider Psyga and the Riot Troopers. They target Shaded. Rangers. People with supernatural abilities…anyone they consider a threat.”

 

“Not that…” Samuel said as he shook his head. “That Hellfire Knight…or spirit, whatever it was…it couldn’t have been Brandon.”

 

“Maybe you’re being haunted.”

 

“This isn’t funny, Ryan,” Samuel said.

 

“Never said it was,” Ryan said. “The same thing happened to me…”

 

“You saw Brandon?”

 

“Not Brandon,” Ryan said. “Tetomu…”

 

Suddenly, waves of energy snapped through the air like centipedes. Ryan and Samuel started to leap aside, but they didn’t make it. The centipedes wrapped around them, burst with energy and teleported them away.

 

***

 

Zadie collapsed and rolled onto her back. She grabbed her chest, which burned with pain.

 

Sean laughed as he stood over her. “Sucks, doesn’t it. Knowing you’re about to die. That your short life is about to-”

 

A wave of energy snapped through the air, wrapped around Zadie, and teleported her to safety.

 

***

 

Eiji and Tokimori landed on the floor of a library. Dusty shelves and desks cluttered the small room, with no windows. A young man stood in the center of the room. With long dark hair, he wore a black jacket, sunglasses, and a black mask that covered the lower half of his face.

 

Eiji knitted his brow. “What the hell was that?”

 

That, was Mukade,” Tokimori said as he nodded to the young man with the mask. “Another member of the Night Troops. He can teleport people from virtually anywhere. Your friends should be here shortly.”

 

“The Rangers?” Eiji asked.

 

“Not them,” Tokimori said. “Your other friends.”

 

A flash of light erupted like a twirling mass of centipedes. The light unraveled, revealing Samuel and Ryan.

 

Before they could react, another flash of light swept across the floor. The teleportation burst brought Zadie into the room. She lay injured, her face pale, and sweat dripping down her forehead.

 

“Zadie!” Eiji shouted as he knelt at her side. A part of him still cared about her, although he hated himself for admitting it. “She’s barely breathing…What happened to her?”

 

“The same thing that happened to you,” Tokimori said.

 

Samuel unsheathed his sword, and Ryan gripped his Faiz Caller. “Somebody better start talking…”

 

“You’ve all been caught in a bubble of evil known as the Rise of the Witnesses,” Tokimori explained. “The Witnesses are the souls of people who have seen or died at the hands of supernatural beings. They’re twisted into vengeful spirits and target the ones they blame for their deaths.”

 

Eiji tried to help Zadie sit up. “Hey…” he whispered. “You’re going to be OK.”

 

 She gasped and coughed up blood. “You say…the funniest things…”

 

Eiji looked to his brother. “You have to get someone who can help her. One of your Night Troops.”

 

“He’s already on his way,” Tokimori said. “But so are the Witnesses.”

 

Samuel shifted his grip on his sword. He trusted many people who let him down, and he didn’t plan to make the same mistake again. “Why is this happening to us? And how do we know you aren’t behind it?”

 

“The four of you are connected through the journey you shared with the Red Hurricane Ranger,” Tokimori said. “Now that he is alive again, you-”

 

“Wait,” Ryan said. “Back up. Simon’s alive?”

 

Tokimori nodded. “He was somehow freed from Hell, and being the first mortal to escape, he broke the Fourth Seal to the Dark One’s prison.”

 

Ryan cursed beneath his breath. “So he’s behind this?”

 

“Not directly,” Tokimori said. “As the Dark One’s prison weakens, random bubbles of evil like this one will rise to the surface. These events will be viewed as signs…of the Apocalypse.”

 

Ryan narrowed his eyes. “The Apocalypse…As in the Apocalypse Apocalypse? End of Days, rivers of blood, dogs friends with kittens?”

 

Tokimori nodded. “We believe the Apocalypse as you know it is simply one Seal of the Dark One’s prison.”

 

“Great…” Ryan said. “Just how many times can the world end, exactly?”

 

A burst of light ignited and unraveled in the center of the room. A young boy stepped from the light and nodded at Tokimori.

 

“I’m here,” said the boy, a Night Troop named Shiragiku.

 

“Look after the girl,” Tokimori said.

 

Shiragiku hurried to Zadie’s side. He kneeled next to her and placed his hands on her chest; his palms glowed with golden light that poured into her body.

 

Tokimori walked to the center of the library, where a massive book sat on a wooden table. “Mukade, form a line of salt around this table. Let nothing pass.”

 

Eiji narrowed his eyes. “What are you doing?”

 

“The vengeful spirits will follow you…but I have a spell that can cast them back into the afterlife,” Tokimori said. 

 

Suddenly, the ground shook.

 

Samuel narrowed his eyes. “The Witnesses?”

 

“No…” Tokimori said. “Something else.”

 

A scout teleported into the center of the room and bowed. Tokimori. It’s the Riders…”

 

Ryan arced an eyebrow. “Riders? Where are we, exactly?”

 

“St. Louis…” Tokimori said.

 

Ryan scoffed. “You’re kidding. You could teleport us anywhere in the world and you barely moved us a block away?”

 

“This bubble of evil may reach each of you, but it centers on this town, near the First Demon,” Tokimori said. “So we need to be in this town…to burst the bubble.”

 

The building shook again.

 

Suddenly, the spirit of Karato appeared with a burst of smoke and bashed Tokimori. The blow hurled the hunter backward, and he crashed through a bookshelf.

 

Samuel pounced and slashed through the spirit, shredding it in half with a puff of mist.

 

Brandon swirled into view behind Samuel, grabbed him by the throat, and tossed him across the library.

 

The building shook again. And again.

 

Ryan cursed beneath his breath. “Eiji, let’s get outside and hold off the Riders. Sammy, you stay here and help with the pissed-off spirits.”

 

“Don’t call me that,” Samuel said as he slashed through Brandon.

 

Tokimori climbed to his feet. The spirits hurled books and tables that shot around the room with the force of a small tornado. A chair smashed Eiji to the ground, and a bookshelf collapsed onto Ryan.

 

Tokimori used his staff for balance and moved to the center table.

 

Mukade!” he shouted. “Salt!”

 

The Night Troop started to form a line of salt around the table. But a wisp wrapped around his body, snapped his neck, and tossed him aside. The wisp took shape to form Sean.

 

Sean smirked and stalked towards Tokimori. “You think a spell-”

 

Iron filings flicked through Sean and shredded his spirit, which reformed on the other side of the library. Another handful of iron filings splashed through his face, evaporating him.

 

Zadie stood and breathed heavily as she pulled another handful of filings from her pocket.

 

“Let’s get this over with,” she said.

 

She scattered the filings around Tokimori, and Shiragiku formed a line of salt.

 

Nearby, Ryan helped Eiji to his feet. “Come on, Silver.”

 

Eiji armed his morpher, Ryan grabbed his Faiz Caller, and they ran out the door.

 

***

 

Kamen Rider Psyga led Riot Troopers through the massive hallways that housed the library. Riot Troopers opened fire at random, blasting through walls and doors.

 

Ryan and Eiji ran into the hallway.

 

Ryan narrowed his eyes. “You could have just knocked. It’s quieter.”

 

Faiz…” Psyga said. “Where’s the Hellfire Knight?”

 

“Here, let me call him,” Ryan said. He flipped open his Faiz Caller and pressed the “5” key three times. “STANDING BY…”

 

“Awaken.” He snapped his caller into his buckler. Red and white energy flashed around his body as he transformed into the armor of Kamen Rider Faiz. His belt spoke: “COMPLETE.”

 

Eiji armed his bracer. “Overdrive! Start up!”

 

He sparked his morph into Titan Silver and armed his weapon. “Drive Detector: Sniper Mode!”

 

He fired darts of energy that tore through Riot Troopers with bursts of spark.

 

Kamen Rider Faiz used the blasts as cover and charged to attack. He plowed through Riot Troopers with punches and kicks that knocked them to the ground and whipped them off their feet.

 

Psyga lunged at Faiz with a volley of punches that bashed the Rider’s chest. Each blow forced the Rider a step backward.

 

Titan Silver pounced at Psyga and swung upward. His blade slashed the Rider with a burst of spark that whipped him off his feet.

 

Psyga rolled across the ground and rose to his feet. “Eiji…Cranston will have your morpher for this.”

 

“Right,” Eiji said as he switched his weapon to blaster mode. “Silver Blast!”

 

He triggered a massive spear of pale-blue energy that smashed the Rider’s upper chest with a burst of spark, whipping him backward.

 

***

 

Tokimori read an incantation as the vengeful spirits caused havoc throughout the library.

 

Zadie dove aside to dodge two shelves that smashed each other, splintering to pieces. A table shot towards her. But Samuel dashed in front of her and sliced the table in half.

 

Suddenly, a swirl of energy surged around the library and took shape to form the vengeful spirit of Tetomu. She looked pale white, with hollow eyes, and blue veins across her face.

 

“You all…” she hissed. “You all have defiled the Earth!”

 

She thrust her hand with an invisible pulse of energy that hurled everyone off their feet. Zadie smashed against the wall and crashed to the floor.

 

She cursed beneath her breath and climbed to her feet. “I wish everyone would stop doing that…”

 

Sean appeared in front of her and lifted her by the neck. “Now, where were we, my dear sister?”

 

Tokimori crawled across the floor to the center of the library, grabbed the table, and pulled himself up. He kept chanting the spell, despite the chaos around him.

 

Samuel slashed through Brandon, twirled his blade, and slashed through Karato. The spirits easily reformed after the strikes. Tokimori, hurry!”

 

Tetomu lifted her hand and summoned gale-force wind. The wind blew away the line of salt that circled the table.

 

She twirled into mist and surged towards Tokimori.

 

Tokimori stabbed his staff against the ground and summoned a globe of shadow that snapped around him. Tetomu slammed against the globe, which discharged on impact.

 

Nearby, Brandon phased his arm though Samuel’s chest, and Sean tightened his grip on Zadie’s throat.

 

Tetomu placed her palms against Tokimori’s barrier. Her spiritual pressure intensified enough to blast through the walls and ceiling, which started to crumble.

 

She shattered through the barrier and shot towards Tokimori. Just as the hunter finished the final verse of his chant.

 

“…transibitis!”

 

Brandon, Sean, Karato and Tetomu vanished into puffs of smoke.

 

***

 

Psyga upper-cut punched Faiz’s gut and punched his helmet.

 

Titan Silver moved in from behind with a chop of his staff, blade sparking on impact and knocking Psyga off his feet.

 

Psyga quickly rolled into a crouched stance and pounced with a kick Titan Silver blocked.

 

Suddenly, a golden blur dashed into the hallway and slammed Psyga aside. Garo skid to a halt and swung his blade wide, slashing Psyga with a burst of spark that hurled him from the building.

 

Garo looked to Faiz. “It’s done.”

 

***

 

Tokimori, Eiji, Ryan, Samuel and Zadie regrouped on a rooftop later that night.

 

Ryan crossed his arms over his chest. “So what’s next?”

 

“We find Simon,” Samuel said.

 

“‘We?’” Zadie asked. “Last time I checked we weren’t exactly bff’s.”

 

Eiji nodded. “I kind of hate all of you.”

 

Tokimori placed his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “You’re all connected to Simon. And Simon is connected to the signs about to unfold. The signs of the Apocalypse.”

 

Eiji shrugged away his brother. “What about you?”

 

“My place is with the Night Troops,” Tokimori said. “Evil is brewing everywhere. There are plenty of battles to fight.”

 

Tokimori lifted his staff and walked to the ledge. “Take care of yourself, little brother.”

 

He jumped from the building and leapt away on a chain of his barriers.

 

Zadie sighed as she watched him go. “So…are we really going to do this? Get Team Supernatural back together?”

 

Samuel shook his head. “This isn’t funny, Zadie.”

 

“Funny?” Zadie asked. “It’s insanely funny. Tracking down Simon? He went crazy when he was alive. Who knows what shape he’s in now.

 

“All the more reason to find him,” Samuel said. “Look, no one’s asking you to come. But I lost Brandon…I lost Owen…if I can save Simon? I’m going to do it. I’m going to find my brother.”

 

The others couldn’t help but feel the same, even slightly. They each felt responsible for losses they couldn’t prevent. Sean. Brandon. Tetomu. Karato. Did they want any more lives on their consciousness? Plus, despite their differences, they truly felt connected to Simon. He showed Eiji the heart of the Ranger. He showed Zadie affection. He showed Samuel family. And he showed Ryan comradery. Their relationships may have been…odd. But they meant something to each other. Whether they liked it or not.

 

Eiji sighed. “How do we even start?”

 

“If we want to find him…” Samuel said. “We need to find the person who brought him back.”

 

Ryan shook his head. “We have no idea who that is.”

 

“We know who to ask,” Samuel said. “Akuma…the Dark Man.”

 

***

 

EPILOGUE: Drink

 

Simon sat alone in a bar and took another shot. Then another. And another. The drinking barely dulled the pain. But at least it was something.

 

The bartender stepped up to the ranger. “Gonna have to cut you off, kid. Time to say goodnight.”

 

“One more…” Simon whispered.

 

“Last call was an hour ago,” the man said. “Now…drag your ass out of her before I call the cops.”

 

“That…wouldn’t be very smart,” Simon said. “But you don’t strike me as the intelligent type.”

 

The bartender narrowed his eyes. “Listen, kid, get the hell out of my-”

 

Simon grabbed the bartender by the back of the head and smashed his face into the bar. He gripped the man by the neck and tossed his unconscious body aside.

 

The ranger leaned over the bar and grabbed a bottle of whiskey.

 

“Hey!” a man shouted from the rear of the bar as he stood, along with some of his muscular friends. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

 

“Somebody call the cops!” another man shouted, as a few women screamed.

 

Simon ignored them and took a swig of whiskey.

 

A man rushed to Simon and grabbed his arm. “Listen, you-”

 

Simon grabbed the man and hurled him across the bar. The ranger summoned his black katana with a burst of dark light and swung wide, firing a wave of energy that tore through the bar with massive bursts of spark and flame, sending bodies flying everywhere.

 

Simon raised his sword to strike again.

 

But a hand grabbed his arm.

 

Simon looked over his shoulder, and he narrowed his eyes at who he saw.

 

Shirogane. The man who killed him.

 

To be continued…Chapter 04