Author‘s note: This story begins after Book Six: Shadows of Evil. It takes place about three weeks after the defeat of Lord Zedd.

Ultimate Power Rangers: Movie

The Hayate Way

The dark basement had a pit lined with stone in its center. A group of men in black trench coats surrounded the pit, each of them holding various pieces of high-tech weaponry.

Two men were suspended from the ceiling, dangling above the pit while tied and bound with rope. An old man stood in the corner, watching the men through his right eye. His left eye was covered with a white patch of cloth. The man held a cane in front of him, and a tame wolf sat by his side.

“When I was a young boy,” the old man said in a quiet voice, “it was my job to watch over the family sheep herd at night. Sitting alone in the field, with only the bleating sheep for company, I would stare into the star-filled sky and dream of all that I would do when I grew up, and was away from the field.

“One night, a meteor shower filled the sky with a wondrous display of shooting stars. I spent that night counting the streaks of magical light and wishing, wishing I could be anywhere but in that field. On that night, the wolves came and we lost many sheep.

“When I faced my father the next morning, the taste of fear burning in the back of my throat, all he could say was ‘son, you have disappointed me.’ On that day, gentlemen, I first learned the meaning of fear and true pain.”

Sweat dripped down the brows of the two tied-up men as they hung in midair.

“Today, gentleman,” the man continued, “you have disappointed me.”

Wolves in the pit below began barking and snapping their fang-filled jaws.

“You are the captains of the crews who have failed to eliminate the thorn in my side who calls himself Omino of the Ikkazuchi Way,” the man continued, “and who failed to bring back to us Mason, one of our own, who would betray us. You understand the need for punishment, do you not?”

“Yes Fortunado,” the men said in unison, their voices quaking with fear.

“Good,” Fortunado said. “Let it be done, and we will put this incident behind us.”

The rope snapped, and the two captives plummeted into the pit of wolves below.

Fortunado placed his hand on his wolf.

“Your whelps are playful today, angel, eh?”

***

Tommy leapt across the rooftops while dressed in his black cloth-and-leather uniform of the Hayate Way school. Less than a month ago he had been the Dragon Ranger, saving the world from Lord Zedd, and the Gorma and Bandora before him.

These days he was simply a member of an elite group fighting to keep the streets safe on a much more down-to-Earth level.

The Hayate Way had a long-standing tradition, dating back to its roots in Japan. During the Nara Era, at the end of the seventh century, it was discovered that certain individuals could use powers hidden in nature. By the Kamakura Era, the methods of using these powers were systemized. Two great schools became major players in this secret society: The Hayate Way and the Ikkazuchi Way.

In 1495, during the Muromachi Era, the two schools competed in a tournament presided over by the emperor of Japan himself. The Hayate Way won, becoming the leading martial arts school in the nation. The Hayate Way and Ikkazuchi Way continued competing into the Sengoku Era, improving and testing their techniques against each other.

The Hayate Way was chosen during the Edo period as the select school of the Emperor, and the best of its warriors became his secret guard. Secret warriors of virtue and justice, shrouded in darkness. The Ikkazuchi became a group of assassins, often recruited by members of the Japanese underworld. They were without honor.

The traditions of the Hayate Way and Ikkazuchi Way continued to this day, across the world. The best of the Hayate Way students were chosen as secret guardians and protectors. Chosen as Harrikenjaa. The Ikkazuchi Way continued to provide its students to the criminal element.

Tommy left the school before he even learned of Harikenjaa’s existence. Left to become a Power Ranger.

Tommy’s Sensei Mugensai recently recruited him for a special assignment, one that opened Tommy’s eyes to the fact that true evil was bred in places other than the moon.

Tommy made his way to the roof of a secluded warehouse and peered inside. Some of the most dangerous players in the west coast underworld were down below, sitting around a triangular wooden table. He recognized one of them as Omino, head of the Ikkazuchi Way.

“Esteemed colleagues,” the man at the head of the table said. He was dressed in a dark navy suit, and his hair was gelled back over his head. “By now, I believe, you all know me. For those who do not…I am General Nguyen Ngoc Coy. Many gathered in this room have conducted business transactions with me and my modest organization in Madripoor.

“Now I come to offer you my humble strengths as a military strategist…a man who has had dealings with our mutual foe. You are at war, my friends, have no doubts about that. A powerful enemy has risen among you and threatens to take from you everything. I propose a union of sorts to stand against the greed of Fortunado. He is one man, and we are many. Once our enemy’s one eye is brought down, then we can divide the city amongst ourselves without needless bloodshed. Do we agree?”

Those gathered nodded in agreement, despite their lack of trust towards one another.

“Good,” Coy said. “Fortunado dies tonight.”

***

How did I get into this? Tommy thought as he rode along the night-lit streets.

He was hiding on top of a semi as it drove down the rode, concealing himself in the shadows. Tommy’s instructions from his sensei had been short. A previous mission by several Harrikenjaa had uprooted the man single-handedly running crime on the west coast. The downfall of the crime boss had left a vacuum…a vacuum that every criminal mastermind was trying to fill.

Fortunado was relatively new to the scene, but vastly powerful. Tommy’s sensei stressed this. Stressed fear of Fortunado and his organization. Tommy wasn’t sure what the reason for such fear was, but knew it had to be big. Otherwise, his sensei wouldn’t have enlisted his help.

Tommy’s mission was two-fold: keep Fortunado safe, and prevent him from assuming power. The two goals seemed contradictory, but Tommy had to remind himself that Fortunado wasn’t an evil space alien bent on world domination. As evil as Fortunado was, he was still human. He would face his punishment at the hands of the law.

Tommy leapt off the truck and dashed into the forest area between Angel Grove and Stone Canyon. Fortunado’s mansion may as well have been a castle, and rested in a large clearing spanning more than 100 acres.

A pair of guards stood nearby the gate, and they were armed with high-tech rifles. Tommy dashed towards the guards while snapping off a pair of throwing knifes. The knifes disarmed the guards as Tommy leapt forward, slamming a hook kick across a guard’s face head and snapping out with a roundkick against the other guard’s face.

Tommy ran towards the wall and threw up a grappling hook. He pulled himself up and leapt over the wall.

***

Fortunado sat in his study, the large room lit only by the flickering light of the fireplace before him. The boss’s pet wolf sat loyally by his side as Fortunado ran his fingers through the beast’s fur.

The doors to the study opened as a large muscular man walked in. He was carrying a sawed-off shot gun as he walked to the back of Fortunado’s chair.

“You have returned to me, Mason,” Fortunado said without turning around. “As I knew you would.”

Mason walked to the front of the chair and aimed his shot gun at Fortunado.

“You made it through all the security?” Fortunado asked.

“Without breaking a sweat,” Mason said. “I did design it after all.”

“And now what, Mason?” Fortunado said while continuing to pet his wolf. “Did you return only to kill me?”

“Word has it that I’d have to get in line for that privilege,” Mason said.

Fortunado looked up at Mason. “The times never change. Be quick about it then.”

Mason lowered the weapon. “No, that’s not why I’m here…I came here to let you know that the rest of the mooks in this city are moving against you. Tonight. Anna and the kids are still here. I don’t want to see them-”

“Their safety is no longer your concern,” Fortunado said.

Mason snapped his gun back into place. “I’m making it my concern.”

“You have wasted your time boy,” Fortunado said, turning to face Mason. “Anna and the children are not here. Family means everything to me. I would not place them in harm’s way. Did you not think that I was aware of what is to happen here tonight? When will you learn that I know all?”

The study entrance doors suddenly splintered open, and a group of assailants burst into the room. Some were dressed in black suits with white undershirts, carrying high-tech rifles and pistols. Others were dressed in black leather and silk ninja-type outfits. They bore the lightning-bolt symbol of the Ikkazuchi Way.

“Get down old man!” Mason shouted as he pushed Fortunado to the ground and flipped up the chair for cover as a storm of bullets and throwing stars cut through the air towards them.

Mason reached over the chair and snapped off several shots with his weapon, but he was hopelessly outnumbered. That was until another figure crashed through the window and entered the room. It was Tommy.

“Is this a private party?” he asked. “Or can anyone join?”

A group of Ikkazuchi ninja pounced forward and snapped off a volley of throwing stars. Tommy charged forward to counterstrike while twirling his blade and deflecting the stars.

One of the ninja armed a bo-staff and swung the weapon down towards the ranger’s head. Tommy spun forward while slicing upward through the staff and reverse sidekicking the soldier in the chest. The ninja was knocked backward and went crashing against a book shelf.

Tommy stepped to his left and slammed the end of his saber against a ninja’s face, then he spun to his right with a roundhouse kick that crashed against a soldier’s head.

A trio of soldiers charged towards Tommy. He somersaulted backwards through the air while slamming the two end soldiers upside the head, and snapping out to catch the third upside the head before completing his flip. Tommy landed and charged forward again with a sidekick that smashed in a ninja’s face.

Tommy parried a flurry of blows while looking towards Fortunado and Mason. “Get the old guy out of here…”

“No one asked you,” Mason said while firing blasts at the Ikkazuchi with his rifle.

Tommy close-lined a soldier and reverse hook kicked another across the head before looking back to Mason. “Will you stop being grumpy so I can save your butt?”

“I’ll think about it,” Mason said as he snapped off a few more shots.

An explosion tore through the rear wall, creating a shockwave that threw the remaining soldiers through the air. Tommy stayed low and braced himself for the explosion, and looked up as a dark figure entered the room.

The man was dressed in the black robes of the Ikkazuchi, only he wore metal pads over his shoulders, elbows, knees, and hands. Each metal pad held several razor-sharp blades. He held his dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. It was Omino, sensei of the Ikkazuchi Way.

Omino narrowed his eyes and tilted his head while staring at Tommy. “You’re one of the Hayate Way’s elk…but I don’t recognize you.”

“I’m new,” Tommy said while falling back into a defensive stance.

“Don’t you think you’re in a little over your head, boy?” Omino asked.

Tommy cracked a smile. “Actually…I’m on vacation.”

Tommy somersaulted forward through the air and launched a flying sidekick towards the sensei’s head. Omino dodged to the side and slammed a knifehand blow against the back of Tommy’s neck. The villain followed with a backfist that cracked across Tommy’s face.

Tommy spun with the blow and slammed a reverse sidekick against the sensei’s chest, and he followed with another sidekick that knocked Omino off his feet, sending him crashing backwards against a bookshelf.

Footfalls sounded down the hall as another contingent of assailants appeared, these armed to the teeth with rifles and blasters.

Tommy looked to Fortunado. “These guys really want you dead, huh?”

Tommy snapped off a volley of throwing daggers, disarming some of the soldiers, as he dove for cover.

Mason started to throw himself forward into the battle, but Fortunado reached out to stop him.

“No. This attack was anticipated. Come…stand next to me…” Fortunado said.

Fortunado activated a small control on his staff, triggering a relay of electric grids underneath the mansion floor.

“What the-” Tommy shouted as massive radiants of electrical energy surged across the floor. There was no where for him to run. No where to hide. The surge struck against Tommy, Omino, and the assailants.

“Can’t…” Tommy muttered from his clenched jaw as electricity coursed through his veins, “give…in…”

Tommy and the others were knocked unconscious, except for Fortunado and Mason. Fortunado walked along the floor after the electricity powered down, looking upon the fallen bodies.

“Now that our enemy’s ranks have thinned,” Fortunado said, “we can make short work of this war of theirs…”

A group of men in dark green robes filed into the room and stood behind Fortunado. Each of the cloaks had hoods concealing most of their face, and a red octopus-type symbol was imprinted on the chest of their garments.

“I have one eye, but they are blind to the power of those who stand behind me,” Fortunado said. “Call a meeting, Mason. Those who oppose me will be given a choice. They can come to us in peace and at the stroke of midnight witness the death of one of our shared enemies…or they can die with him. You have returned to me at the dawning of a new era, my son. Today, all shall witness what happens to those who stand in the way of Fortunado and his allies.”

The green robed en lifted their hands. “Hail Hydra!”

***

A warrior clad in red and black leapt across Angel Grove’s rooftops. He made his way towards a bank downtown, one of the city’s oldest. He had the symbol of the Hayate Way on his chest. His mask covered his face except for his eyes, which were covered with the shadow of the mask. Few alive knew his identity. He was a Harrikenjaa, and that was all that mattered.

The Harrikenjaa watched as the entrance to a nearby bank exploded open. A bank robber walked through the gaping hole with a handbag full of cash. The robber wasn’t typical, however. He was dressed in a dark orange, bulky suit of armor. The gauntlets were large super-charged batteries capable of delivering powerful electric blasts.

The Harrikenjaa leapt down towards the robber and slammed a flying sidekick against the assailant.

“Harrikenjaa!” the villain yelled while being slammed through a nearby brick wall from the kick.

The masked Harrikenjaa landed and assumed a fighting stance. “Try to say it a little louder when the media arrive…I’m working on a personal public relations campaign.”

“I didn’t think you freaks were real!” the robber shouted as he extended his gauntlet and fired an electric pulse blast towards the Harrikenjaa.

When the blast faded, the stranger was gone.

“What the..” the high-tech criminal said as he rose to his feet. “Where’d he go?!”

The robber suddenly felt a pair of legs wrap around his own.

“Not to worry,” the Harrikenjaa said. “I’m still here.”

The Harrikenjaa twisted his legs, tripping the robber to the ground. “The armor is good, but you don’t fight like you were meant to wear it. And as good as it is…”

The Harrikenjaa twisted while rising to his feet and arming a short staff. He slammed the staff through the armor plating. “…it appears to have one or two chinks.”

The robber fell backward as his head started to spin.

“We’ll continue this chat in a few minutes…” the Harrikenjaa said. “After you return consciousness. Sayonara.”

***

The robber returned to consciousness a few minutes later to find his helmets and gauntlets removed. The Harrikenjaa was standing above with his short staff pointed downward at the robber’s throat.

“Time to wake up…” the Harrikenjaa said. “Let’s start with your name…”

The robber looked up at the masked man with fear in his eyes. “L-Lawrence. Lawrence Evans.”

“Okay, Larry,” the Harrikenjaa said. “I want you to start by telling me where you got that armor…and what were you thinking?”

***

Fortunado stood on a stage in the wide open courtyard behind his mansion. The most powerful underworld players were gathered in a field before him. Hydra soldiers and clansman formed a perimeter around the field, making it perfectly clear who was in charge.

Hydra was a world-wide terrorist organization whose fingers extended even into the world of organized crime.

“The city…the world…is ripe for the taking,” Fortunado said. “But, in order to do this, we must put aside our past differences. We must not fight amongst ourselves like so many dogs over table scraps.

“You all know me. I am Fortunado. You also know those who stand behind me. They are the heads of the most powerful criminal organizations in the city. I, and my Hydra brethren, have brought you all here in the hopes of forging a new atmosphere of peace and prosperity for us all. A peace for which we are more than willing to fight.

“But I have not come here to make threats. Lest you think I come before you with empty promises. I now offer you proof of not only my good intent, but of my strength as well…”

Fortunado looked to his son Mason. “The curtain…”

Mason walked back towards the curtain and started to pull it open as Fortunado continued to speak to the crowd. “I give you one of those who has been a thorn in the side of our business operations for years. One of those who has constantly struck at us from the shadows…”

The curtain opened to reveal Tommy, leaning forward with his arms and legs bent back and restrained in a high-tech mesh of wiring and metal. The restraining deice was constantly sending low levels of damping energy through the teen’s system to keep him unconscious.

“A Harrikenjaa,” Fortunado said. “Tonight, this one will die, and you will know I am a man of my word.”

This is just great, Tommy thought to himself, struggling to make his muscles move. I came here to try and save this clown’s life! I hate irony.

***

In the trees far behind the stadium area, the Harrikenjaa sat perched in the branches. The armored bank robber had pointed the warrior in the direction of Fortunado.

Ah, the nameless warrior thought to himself. Hydra’s involved…Had a run in with them once. Charming bunch. Oh well…how hard can it be?

***

“Before we continue with my sign of faith,” Fortunado continued. “I require a demonstration of your own good loyalty to our cause. Here we have one of your own rank. Omino…”

A group of Hydra soldiers led the Ikkazuchi sensei towards the center stage. The sensei was bound in metal shackles that confined his arms together in front of him, and covered his upper body, holding his neck in place.

“It was he,” Fortunado said, “who led the unfortunate assault on my home. So I feel it is only fitting that it is he who shall pay for the indiscretion. These others…they are nobodies…civilians taken from the territories controlled by the rest of you. They too, shall pay for the indiscretion.

“Their blood will be on your hands. But more importantly, if there is even a hint of disloyalty from any of you, there will be much more innocent blood spilled. It will flow until your territories run red with the blood of innocents. How long could this go on? How long before you are hunted down like monsters and driven away? This is the price you will pay. Do you all agree…?”

The gathered villains said nothing, some shaking in their boots while others stood firm.

“From your silence I assume you agree to my terms,” Fortunado said. He turned to his son. “Mason, give them the weapons. They will perform this task personally..”

No! Tommy screamed mentally while trying to break free. I can’t let this happen!

Mason hesitated. Fortunado narrowed his eye while glaring at his son. “Mason…I said give them the weapons.”

Mason straightened his back. “No. This kind of thing is totally uncalled for. You want to kill Omino, fine. He’s in the life. He knew what he was signing for. But the rest…this is the kind of thing you get from Van Strucker and those green pajama-wearing Nazis of his. This isn’t you talking. This is why I left in the first place. I won’t do it.”

“Do as you are told, boy,” Fortunado said.

Keep stalling him, Mason, Tommy thought while tightened his muscles, summoning enough strength to start pulling. Just buy me enough time to bust out of this thing.

Mason lifted his gun and pointed at his father’s chest. Fortunado didn’t even flinch.

Mason switched off the safety. “I’m not going to let you kill innocent people, pop.”

Criminals and crime bosses in the audience were captivated by the turn of events. “Kill him, old man!” “You aint got the guts to whack your own son and you expect us to follow you?”

Tommy continued to pull as various cracks spread across the restraining device holding him. Just a few more seconds…

Fortunado pointed at Mason. “From this moment forth, you do not have a father. I will protect you no longer. You are dead to me. Someone…give them the weapons.”

“Don’t do this, pop,” Mason said while tightening his grip. “Don’t make me hurt you…”

A group of Fortunado’s men pulled out their weapons and aimed at the civilian captives.

“Call them off!” Mason shouted. “I’ll kill you if I have to, pop. I’ll do it!”

Almost there…Tommy was regaining full muscle control and his bindings were starting to buckle. Wirings exploded as Tommy ripped free and pounced forward towards the would-be executioners.

The henchmen turned and opened fire at Tommy, but the ranger stayed low and spun forward, pouncing up at the last second and snapping a reverse hook kick across a villain’s head. He pulled a knife from that villain’s hand and snapped it off, throwing it towards the other gangsters’ weapons. The knife knocked their knifes from their hands.

Tommy turned to the civilians and started to herd them off as the Hydra soldiers readied their weapons to strike. “Move!”

The masked Harrikenjaa leapt down as if from nowhere and slammed his feet against a pair of soldiers’ backs, slamming them to the ground.

“Excuse me gentlemen,” he said while arming his club and bashing the weapon across a Hydra soldier’s head. “I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of…oh…there he is now. Go back about your business. Hope I didn’t interrupt anything.”

The Harrikenjaa leapt over to where Tommy was leading the civilians in a sprint away from Fortunado’s compound.

Bakka. I traveled all the way from upstate to save your tail,” the Harrikenjaa said to Tommy. “The least you can do is maybe limp a little.”

“Trust me,” Tommy said to the stranger. “You’ll have plenty of time to play hero. Now if you would be so kind, take up the rear. And make sure we don’t leave behind any stragglers…”

A group of Hydra soldiers swarmed towards the two Harrikenjaa and fleeing crowd, most were armed with high-tech blasters and rifles.

“Damn,” Tommy said under his breath, stopping in his tracks and turning to face the Hydra soldiers. He extended his hand towards the civilians. “Keep moving. This should only take a second…”

Tommy twirled his sword and stood back in a fighting stance while his enemies approached. The masked Harrikenjaa fell into place besides Tommy, twirling his small club.

“Ready to mix it up?” Tommy asked.

Yoush!” the Harrikenjaa said as he and Tommy charged forward.

Tommy double flying sidekicked a Hydra soldier in the chest. He landed and snapped a hook kick across another Hydra’s head. A volley of blasts streaked towards Tommy, and he leapt through the air to avoid being shot. Tommy spun down towards his opponents and started swinging his blade through a series of arcs, slashing through and destroying the soldiers’ weapons.

The masked Harrikenjaa casually slung his club across his shoulder and waved the Hydra soldiers forward. “Koi…” he said, Japanese for ‘come.’

The Harrikenjaa spun forward, slamming the end of his staff across a soldier’s face. He followed with a reverse sidekick that slammed against a Hydra soldier’s chest.

Tommy grabbed two soldiers by their heads and knocked their faces together, slamming them into unconsciousness before dropping them to the ground.

“That takes care of that wave,” Tommy said.

Tommy and the strange Harrikenjaa looked towards the gate exit for Fortunado’s property. The civilian hostages were crowded in front of the gate, trying to find a way to open it.

“Looks like they’re having a little trouble with the gate,” Tommy said to the Harrikenjaa while they darted forward to help.

The masked Harrikenjaa shook his head. “A place like this locks their door? What are they afraid someone’s going to break in and steal their hair gel?”

Tommy and the Harrikenjaa moved forward towards the gate. Tommy swung his blade, slashing through the bars, and the Harrikenjaa pulled his own blade from his club. The two quickly cut open a hole in the gate, but another wave of Hydra soldiers was quickly approaching.

Tommy turned to face the soldiers, holding his sword in an en-guard position. “Looks like we have to make another stand.”

The Harrikenjaa and Tommy snapped into defensive stances, ready to take on the incoming wave of Hydra soldiers. The green-robed villains were packing an arsenal of weaponry, aimed forward at the two heroes.

Explosive, high-yield gun fire suddenly exploded across the ground from the air, ripping a path between Tommy and his strange new partner and the Hydra soldiers.

The Harrikenjaa slung his staff over his shoulder. “Looks like we have an airborne angel lending a helping hand…”

Tommy tilted his head with confusion as he looked up at the craft that had laid down covering fire. “…from a Hydra gunship?”

The helicopter craft set down near the gate, and one of the men inside motioned for the civilians to hop aboard. The hostages ran onto the gunship at the call of its pilot, Mason.

“Mason?” Tommy said with disbelief as he and the Harrikenjaa approached the craft.

“What?” Mason said. “You didn’t think I could fly one of these here birds?”

“No,” Tommy said as the last of the hostages got onto the copter. “It’s just that-”

“Army airborne,” Mason said, “two tours of duty. Get your tails in here…we’re taking off.”

Tommy and the Harrikenjaa hopped on bored less than a second before the craft lifted off into the sky and started to propel away. Tommy leaned over to speak with Mason, feeling a touch of sympathy since the ranger had had to face his own father at one point.

“I know this has to be tough on you,” Tommy said, “betraying your father and all, but-”

Mason suddenly tipped the nose of his craft downward and opened fire, blasting at another group of Hydra soldiers. Super-heated bullets ripped through flesh and bone while the cannons blazed as loud as chain saws.

“Ok, so I guess you don’t have a problem with this,” Tommy said.

Mason shook his head. “My father’s got to fall.”

“What about Omino?” Tommy asked. “Did you see what happened to him?”

“Does it matter?” Mason said as he squeezed the trigger again, blasting away a group of Hydra soldiers.

“Yes,” Tommy said. “I need him alive…”

Tommy looked out the side of the helicopter towards the ground below. He saw Omino, still restrained with the chest and arm braces, fleeing from a group of Hydra soldiers.

“We have to help him,” Tommy said, looking to the Harrikenjaa.

The Harrikenjaa sighed and shook his head. “I don’t suppose there’s any sense to arguing.”

“No,” Tommy said as he leapt from the helicopter and flipped towards the ground. The Harrikenjaa followed, and the two landed in crouched positions on the ground below. Tommy looked to his new ally. “Keep the Hydra soldiers back while I get Omino.”

Omino turned and glared at the ranger. “I would rather die than be saved by one of you.”

“I’ll take note of that,” Tommy said as he ran towards the Ikkazuchi master.

Omino closed his eyes and concentrated, his body slightly cracking with navy electric power. The master growled while ripping free from his bindings with a flashing force of lightning. He collapsed to his knees, exhausted from the display of power, but not too tired to fight. Omino looked up and glared at Tommy. “Come…”

Tommy rolled his hands into fists and charged forward. “Looks like I’ll have to do this the hard way…”

Tommy launched a flying sidekick towards Omino. Omino crossed his arms in front of his chest. The impact of Tommy’s kick sent him skidding backward. Tommy landed and swung a backfist towards Omino.

Omino blocked the blow and slammed a knifehand strike against the back of Tommy’s neck. The Ikkazuchi warrior followed with a round kick that Tommy blocked. Tommy slammed a palm-heel strike upside the man’s head and spun forward with a reverse sidekick that crashed against his chest. Omino was knocked backwards and fell against his tail bone.

“I could do this all day, Omino,” Tommy said. “Now come on…let’s get out of here before those Hydra goons get here.”

“Your concern is touching,” Omino said sarcastically as he rose back to his feet. He placed his hands in front of his chest as his body started to crackle with navy electric energy. He chambered his fist back to strike and charged forward towards Tommy.

Omino swung his electric fist towards Tommy’s head, howling with rage at the top of his lungs as energy coursed through his muscles. Tommy caught the punch, creating an explosive backlash that tossed the sensei backwards.

Behind the two combatants, the Harrikenjaa swung his baton downward to disarm a Hydra soldier, then slammed the end of his weapon against the soldier’s face. He followed with a hook kick that smashed the soldier’s temple. Harrikenjaa looked over his shoulder to see another legion of Hydra troops approaching.

He shook his head and muttered under his breath. “Kisaima…” he looked back towards Tommy. “take your time!” he shouted sarcastically.

Omino laughed as he rose to his feet, his body shaking with fatigue. He glared at the ranger. “It looks like we will die together…”

“You’re insane,” Tommy said.

Omino howled and charged towards Tommy again. The villain leapt forward with a flying-spinning heel kick aimed towards Tommy’s head. Tommy instinctively grabbed hold of Omino’s ankle and spun forward, slamming his opposite elbow against the man’s head. The impact shattered Omino’s skull, driving bone fragments piercing into the man’s brain.

Omino’s body fell to the ground. Tommy narrowed his eyes as he stared at the sensei’s body. He didn’t realize he had struck so hard. He was still used to fighting demons and monsters. Rage boiled up inside of him. He was angry for losing control.

The Harrikenjaa leapt forward and grabbed Tommy by the jacket while leaping towards the sky. He fired a grappling hook that connected to Mason’s helicopter in the distance. “Time to go.”

The two reeled up inside of the cockpit as Mason pushed forward, guns blazing until he cleared his father’s property.

***

Hours later, Fortunado sat by his fireplace, petting the wolf at his side. He spoke to an unseen figure in the darkness. “Mason has escaped…Omino’s death has splintered what could have been a glorious alliance…the Harrikenjaa continue to plague me at every turn…In a matter of hours…all in a matter of hours…everything I sought to create has been destroyed.”

“So,” the voice in the shadows said. “Your desperation has brought you to me.”

“Not desperation,” Fortunado said, “knowledge. Knowledge that my own superior does not take kindly to failure. Knowledge that your strength, added to my own, will be unstoppable.”

Hmph,” the man said. “Very well…perhaps it is time for the Black Tarantula to return to America.”

“My father warned me never to trust a man who referred to himself in the royal ‘we,’” Fortunado said.

The Black Tarantula stepped forward. “Your father was wise.” The villain raised a glass of red wine for a toast. “Here is to new alliances…may the Gorma Empire be reborn.”

END