?

Log in

***

Ken lands with a soft thud under the scattered window frames and raises up slowly removing his cast with a flinch. Thinking he should have taken it off before the climb. Tracing the location of the lab from the e-mails and phone records between Alberts and Ami was not difficult; it was leaving HQ without Ami noticing that was the challenge. He could not take his motorcycle, but luckily Yusei had a sedan prepped and ready for him without asking too many questions.

As he walks around the offices of ImagiTech the first thing he notices is the overwhelming scent of lemon and pine cleaner. The second thing is the deep cuts and slashes along the floor and wall. Whatever Viron had been here was not a nice or particular neat one. But someone had to clean up after it, but where are they now?

He advances to the back of the offices and into the lab area that looks as if a twister had been through. Desks, tables, chairs, shattered glasses cover the floor. But again, no blood and the overtaking scent of fresh lemon product. A whiteboard catches Ken’s eye and goes to flip it over. The board is a jumbled mess of formulas and equations, but Ken studies the words written in heavy black and red with lines and circles connecting certain phrases that jump out at him.

TOO BIG, THINK SMALLER?

LINK NOT HOLDING

ALL IN?

DEBUG? ? ? ?

STAGE 1 FAILURE

TRANSFORMATION MECHANISM?

ELITE COMPATIBLE?

Ken untwists his lips and shakes his head trying to make sense of the board before flipping it back over. He continues to search the lab; thumbing through discarded notebooks, checking drawers, even trying several computers but they appeared locked or frozen. Ken makes his away to the back of the lab set up for testing and with wide eyes he finds open steel barrels full of tokenroids of different shapes, colors, and sizes.

But before Ken could get any closer, he jerks suddenly in the direction of a low purr behind him.

Jagstalker sits at attention like a house pet waiting on a treat. The Viron glares at Ken from the darkness as his right eye glows softly in rhythm with the sway of his tail.

Jagstalker: You’ve trespassed in my den, Kamen Rider. (his deep and regal voice drenched in confidence)

Ken: What can I say? (shrugging) Trespassing on Viron is a hobby of mine.

Jagstalker: I will enjoy eating you.

Ken: Choke on this, furball.

Ken holds up his driver’s controller.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: HENSHIN!

Ken slams the controller into the driver and is immediately engulfed by gridlines that are covered by flowing pixels. As they fade away, they reveal his armor as his green segmented eyes flare brightly.

Arcade Driver: GAME START: ARCADE!

Arcade points to Jagstalker.

Arcade: Now, let’s aim for the high sco-

Jagstalker leaps forward curling into a ball, smashing his spiked tail across Arcade’s chest harder with each arc. The Rider rolls out of the path holding his scorched chest and the Viron lands perfectly on all fours, eyes locked on his new prey that stinks of his prize.

Arcade charges and swings down at the cat monster but it twists and dives out of the way of each swing. The Viron backflips away on the sixth wild swing and mule kicks Arcade across the room before landing perfectly on a lab table. Arcade hits the wall with a loud crunch and grips the side of the arm that should have a cast on it. He falls to one knee and stares at the Viron lying idly on the edge of a lab table like a black house cat on a porch in the summer.

Arcade reaches for a tokenroid and Jagstalker’s eyes snap wide. His optic sensor hums before firing a shot that knocks the coin from the Kamen Rider’s hand.

Jagstalker: No, that comes later.

Arcade shakes his still sizzling hand and rises slowly to his feet. Arcade charges forward again, but Jagstalker leaps off the lab narrowing avoiding being snapped as Arcade brings both of his fists down breaking the table in two halves. The Viron lands hard on Arcade raking his blade sharp claws across his armor. Arcade stumbles back as the Viron gracefully lands and begins snap kicking him in the center of his chest. Arcade grimaces beneath his helmet and on instinct blocks a strike with his bad arm. He cries out and staggers back against the wall. The Viron raises a brow and his lips curl into a jagged smile when he notices the Rider nursing the side of his arm.

Jagstalker: I smell pain. Give me more.

Jagstalker falls to all fours and sprints like lightning to the wounded Arcade. He kicks off the ground on his hind legs and turns smashing his spiked tail into the side of the Kamen Rider’s injured arm. Arcade screams out when the tail hits him a second time forcing him against the wall and leaving a large dent in the side of it.

Arcade shoves off the wall and finally manages a clean hit on the cyber cat with a sloppy uppercut under the Viron’s maw. Jagstalker’s head snaps up then methodically down to stare at Arcade. The cat licks his lips and takes a step back producing a small tokenroid from the metal piece attached to his waist. The tokenroid fights to transform against the Viron’s iron palm.

Arcade: (eyes wide under his helmet in both pain and disbelief) What the-

Jagstalker: I told you this would come later.

Arcade’s HUB display flashes a warning as Jagstalker purrs and inserts the tokenroid into a metal piece on his chest.

Jagstalker’s Systems: UPGRADE: STRENGTH BOOST.

The Viron deathly howls and grabs the Rider by the collar and smashes him repeatedly into the dent in the wall. He smashes and scratches and shoves until daylight breaks through the cracks of drywall and plaster and when the Rider is barely standing he spins around and hammers him again with his tail on the side of his injured arm forcing Arcade outside.

Meanwhile, in the back of the lab, a figure who had hoped for rescue steadies a shaking hand and quickly reseals the vault they had been hiding in…

Arcade rolls against the ground before skidding to a stop as the Viron follows calmly. 

Arcade: Okay… He’s kicking my ass…

Arcade pulls out the Shotokan Load Card but before he can activate it the Viron peppers him with a volley from his eye optic. Smoldering and blackened, Arcade falls back and drops the load card.

Arcade: Not my finest hour right now…

Jagstalker growls but is immediately sent flying as a sedan rams into him.

Arcade struggles to stand as Dan and Gunpei sprint up from behind and support him on both sides.

Arcade: Good timing guys.

Dan: I say that was worth three points.

Gunpei: Ken, what the hell, the Director told you to stay out of the field.

Arcade: You always do what you’re told, Trigger?

Gunpei: (clicking his tongue in frustration) You need to fall back. 

Arcade: I can handle this…(he holds up his controller with his bad arm and drops it almost immediately)

Gunpei: Not today. Damn that traitor, if she were worth a damn she’d… Doesn’t matter now, (nodding to Dan) it’s been a while hasn’t it?

Dan: (stretching) If ya ask me, right on time.

Dan and Gunpei pull out driver controllers.

Scope Driver: Player 3, get ready for the next mission!

Faust Driver: Player 4, are you okay?!

Gunpei: HENSHIN!

Dan: Hen (yawning)…shin.

Gunpei slams his controller into the belt materializing around his waist as he leans forward with his forearm stretched out in front of him.

Dan lets the controller fall out of his hand slide into the belt materializing around his waist.

Instantly Gunpei is engulfed by a gridline and a swirl of pixels as armor pieces snap onto him with the sound of a gun cocking. With red segmented eyes shining underneath a visor Gunpei now donned in steel blue accented with urban camouflage colored armor invoking imagery of a futuristic assault rifle has become Kamen Rider Scope!

Dan is caught in a swift gust of pixels that fade away leaving behind burgundy highlighted in timberwolf color armor resembling an armored version of a MMA fighter’s gear. Dan raises his arms to stretch as armored fist guards snap into place. Easing back into a non-defensive stance Dan has become Kamen Rider Faust!

Both Drivers: GAME START: SCOPE! FAUST!

Kamen Rider Scope shoves a tokenroid into his driver without giving it the time to transform.

Scope Driver: ACCESSORY: SNIPEFIRE

A long sniper rifle materializes on Scope’s back. He pulls it overhand from his back and takes aim.

Scope: Bang. You’re next.

Faust: (yawning and smacking his lips) Try not to take all day. (he glances at Scope) And YOU make sure you're careful with that thing. Not like we can just buy a replacement at the store...

***

VS Room...

As Inara watches, Lumine is busy testing her limits with the Strength Boost Tokenroid, lifting a small car over her head.

Inara: Not bad. Now try it one-handed.

Lumine: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I can barely do this with BOTH arms!

Inara: That just means we'll need to work on your upper body strength, too.

Lumine: Well excuse me for not realizing I was going to be gang-pressed into the role of a superhero!

She starts to say something else, but the display inside her helmet suddenly changes, adding three more signatures to her own in the tally.

Lumine: What the? Ken?

Inara: Hmmm?

Lumine: It's Ken! He must've changed! I can see his info on my visor.

Inara: What? He wasn't supposed to-

Lumine: Wait... There's two others... Scope? Faust? Who in the world...?

She accesses the feeds, and what she sees startles her so much she drops the car, which just misses her foot.

Lumine: DAN!? GUNPEI!? YOU GUYS ARE RIDERS?!?!

Faust: Oh, hey. Forgot you'd be online. How’s Inara treating you?

Scope: Get off the comm, you-

Lumine: WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOU WERE RIDERS?! IT WOULDA BEEN NICE TO KNOW BACK WHEN THAT SPIDER THING WAS TOSSING ME AROUND... Oh, and WHEN I ALMOST GOT ENSLAVED ALONG WITH MY ENTIRE SCHOOL!

Faust: Ummm… you never asked…?

Arcade: Now isn't a good time, Julie. I'll explain things later, but right now-

Lumine: Oh no... NO! I am SICK of you people not telling me the important stuff!

Scope: GET OFF THE COMMLINK!

Lumine: YOU can shut up! I want answer and-

She jerks suddenly as Inara grabs her suit by the collar and yanks her around.

Inara: That's enough. If you're going to keep bothering them, you're more than welcome to go out there and join them. Otherwise, shut up and get back to training so you don't die the next time you get into a fight.

Lumine glares at her, furious.

Inara: Well?

Slowly, Lumine deflates and cuts the comlink.

Lumine: Which one's next?

Inara: I thought as much. You have a great deal to learn about being a Kamen Rider. A great deal indeed.

***

Jagstalker leaps to his feet as a fresh smell of his prize overtakes him. He prowls toward the two new Riders, stretching his limbs with a pop on each stride.

Jagstalker: New Riders make no difference. I’ll have all your bones.

Scope: (cocking the pump under the barrel on the Snipefire once) That’s what they all say.

Snipefire: Assault Mode.

The barrel of the Snipefire shrinks and the gun shifts into a more compact size as Scope begins walking forward firing into the cat monster the gun churning out shots like a SMG.

The Viron hisses and tries to dodge the hits, but each blasts curves and finds its mark knocking him down.

Scope: (smirking under his helmet) I don’t see why Ken had so much trouble with you.

Arcade: Don’t get cocky, this Viron can use tokenroids!

Scope: What?

Jagstalker pounces toward Scope, a tokenroid in each fist. The Viron roars slamming the tokens into his chest.

Jagstalker Systems: UPGRADE: JUMP BOOST, UPGRADE: FIREBIRD

Jagstalker’s cybernetic armor flares red as he bounces into the air out range of Scope’s shots. The Viron comes down hard on the Rider’s shoulders before sending a sharp kick to the side of his helmet.

Scope rolls off the ground into a crouching aim stance and fires but the Viron frog-leaps into the air again.

Scope: (to Faust) A little help?

Faust sits Indian style on the ground resting his chin on both fists.

Faust: Nah breh, you got this.

Scope: Why I…(cocks the Snipefire three times) 

Snipefire: Launcher Mode.

The Snipefire’s gun barrel completely retracts into the body revealing a slightly large slot while the handle and sight folds into the sides giving the weapon a vaguely tube-like shape. Scope mounts the weapon on his shoulder and holds it in place; his visor sensor pings as he tracks the Viron’s movement.

Scope: That’s a good kitty.

Jagstalker howls as he falls forward Scope, claws first. Scope’s target systems ring signaling a lock-on.

Scope: Gotcha!

The Snipefire flares and launches a tiny rocket that hits the Viron dead on. The resulting explosion knocks Scope on his backside and sends Jagstalker through the roof of a nearby car.

Scope Driver: CLEAN HIT.

Scope: (slowly standing) Let’s finish this and-

Before Scope could take a step forward he is bound in place by three heavy chains.

Arcade: Trigger!

Faust: Okay, I’m getting up.

But soon they too find themselves restrained by similar chains.

The rattling of more chains fills the air followed by a gasping wind as a nearly transparent figure lowers from the sky.

Jagstalker rolls out of the vehicle and supports himself on the hood as he watches the newcomer descend.

Jagstalker: I told you not to disrupt my hunt, Phantex.

Draped in a white cloak and red chains and a scythe slung over her shoulder, the apparition sighs and glares down to her partner.

Phantex: This hunt has taken too long and you have revealed too much to our enemies.

Jagstalker: They will be dead soon enough.

Phantex: You are far too damaged. Come.

The ghost waves her hand creating a spell circle under the cat beast that shallows him whole in a blinding light.

Phantex: (to the Riders) You’ll forgive my familiar. We were unprepared for this encounter but rest assured your times will come.

Arcade: (struggling to break his chains) A-Are you another Vice Lord?

Phantex: (her skeletal face almost stretches into a smile) You flatter me.

Phantex swings her scythe creating a gale that knocks the Riders back and shatters the chains. When the heroes stand, the spirit is gone.

Faust: So, raise your hand if you’re creeped the heck out completely.

Arcade and Scope glance at each other then back to Faust then back to each other again.

***

Outside Julie's room

Bone-weary, Julie trudges towards her quarters, Inara behind her.

Inara: That was almost adequate.

Julie: Fifty... trips... up and down the stairs... of the entire building... Is ALMOST adequate?

Inara: Indeed. I had hoped for a hundred. Your stamina is still lacking. You've got three hours to refresh yourself and rest, and then we resume your training.

Too tired to respond, Julie slides her passkey through the door's scanner. As it opens up, Inara adds one last comment.

Inara: Oh, and so you know, you now have a roommate.

Julie: EH?!?!

Her door opens and she stumbles through, startled by Inara's bombshell. She immediately sees, of all people, Kasumi sitting on what are now twin beds, talking to Yamiya on the videoscreen.

Kasumi: Oh, you're back!

Yamiya: SIS! Where the heck have YOU been? That full-immersion acting course must be brutal.

Dumbfounded, Julie finds herself absolutely speechless.

Yamiya: You look thrashed. We'll talk after you've gotten some rest, Sis. Later!

The screen goes blank, and all Julie can do is stare at Kasumi.

Julie: But... How... When...

Though exhausted, she manages to compose herself.

Julie: Kasumi... I... I've got no excuse. Just give it to me straight. I deserve it.

Kasumi: Okay... THANKS!

Julie flops.

Julie: NOT the response I expected.

She regains her balance and gapes at Kasumi.

Julie: Thanks?! After what I did?!

Kasumi: Well, yeah. That gig was a dead end job and I was in a rathole apartment I couldn't afford to stay at. And now I get to stay here, I've got a cushy new job as a spokesmodel for ComCon. What's not to love?

Julie's jaw hits the floor.

Kasumi: Oh, and don't worry about your family. I just told them you were doing a class that was keeping you away from our room and that you weren't allowed to break character as a part of it. That brother of yours is hilarious... and kinda cute, besides.

Julie: You've... been talking... to my family... Why not? My life just got even more surreal than it already was...

Kasumi: So, roomie, what's it like? Being a superhero?

Julie sighs and sits on the bed, too wiped out to stand anymore.

Julie: It's about the worst thing to ever happen to me.

Kasumi: Oh come on! You get to go around helping people and doing things no one could even imagine! It must be the best job EVER!

Julie groans and flops down onto the bed, spread eagle.

Julie: Oh god, why couldn't YOU have been Lumine?!

Kasumi: That's what I said! There was a lot of talk about auras and stuff that went over my head... Ami uses a LOT of 100 yen words, y'know... But that's not important anyway. So, I wanna ask...

She pauses and sees that Julie's out cold, resting peacefully for the first time in a week. She smiles softly.

Kasumi: It can wait. I guess being a hero can be kinda rough after all.

Julie's only response is a light single snore.

***

Mori Residence,

Yamiya chuckles as he ends his connection to Julie's room.

Yamiya: Sis always DID tend to throw herself into her work. Ah well.

He moves to turn the computer off when it beeps, signaling a call over Skype.

Yamiya: Guess she wasn't as tired as I thought.

He clicks on the notice. A window opens, but the picture is blank. Words scroll across the black screen in dark green letters.

“Things are not what they seem.”

Yamiya: Man, these viral advertisements are getting more cryptic every year.

“You have been lied to, Yamiya Mori.” 

Yamiya: And more personal…

“Your sister is not what she appears to be.”

Yamiya: What about my sis-

“We’ll be in touch.”

Before he could reach the keyboard the call ends and backs out to his desktop.

Yamiya: Now that was freaky…

***

ComCon Technologies, Med Bay

Ami just finishes wrapping the last bandage around Ken’s arm before she takes a step back and nearly vents steam out of her ears.

Ami: Of all the idiotic…! (She smacks Ken a few times upside his head)

Ken: Ow, ow, ow! (only managing to dodge a couple of hits) I said I was sorry.

Ami: The Director told you to stay out of the field, I TOLD you to stay out of the field. You could’ve been killed!

Ken: So I overestimated my healing time… (rubbing his newly recast arm)

Ami: What were you even thinking!?

Ken: (looking at his bandaged arm) You were hurting and I wante-had to help any way I could.

Ami presses her lips together and fights her cheeks from puffing up as she turns six shades of red.

Ami: You don’t get to say stuff like that when I’m trying to be mad at you…and it was still a dumb thing to do.

Dan: (spinning around in a wheelchair he clearly does not need) S’all good, Doc. We were there for the save on Sir Stone Face.

Gunpei: WE? (lowering the ice pack from his forehead)

Dan: I held his shoulder. That was a thing I totally did to help. And by the way, anybody notice Julie was eerily cooperative today?

Gunpei: I noticed she needs to leave useful personnel alone.

Ami: I try not to notice her at all.

Ken: (sighing) You guys shouldn’t be so ha-

Ami (cutting off Ken) Back to the matter at hand,

She picks her tablet off the med table and reviews the combat data again.

Ami: This (she punctuates by holding the screen up at them) is insane. You need to tell me everything you guys remember about that Viron.

Ken: Outside of what our systems could read he was crazy strong.

Gunpei: And fast.

Dan: And had a really nice voice.

They give Dan “the look.”

Dan: What?! He did!

Ami: (Biting her lip) How can a Viron use tokenroids? That shouldn’t even be possible.

Ken: (his mind wandering back to what he saw at the lab) You don’t think that’s what Dr. Alberts was working on do you?

Ami: I refuse to believe that.

Gunpei: It’s not about what you want to believe but what the person is capable of doing.

Ami: Why would Alberts be working for the Viron?

Ken: We’re not saying he was working for…Maybe working on?

Gunpei: What are you thinking?

Ken: I’m saying, Trigger, maybe we should ask the Director why Alberts had a lab full of tokenroid prototypes.

Gunpei: I thought all that was handled in house now after they perfected our Rider systems.

Ken: I thought so too.

Gunpei: Maybe we should speak to Bus-

A loud static filled pop comes in over their Bluetooths on an emergency channel.

Female Voice: C-n anyon- hear -his? Ple-se s--- help! L-t them find it. I’- scared, please anyo-e, help. 

Ken: Did you guys just get a-

Gunpei: Ya, jumbled to hell though.

Ami: I’m running a trace. (She flicks her tablet menus to run a tracking software program to the signal’s source) But that’s…that’s back at Alberts’ lab…

Ken: Impossible. I was just there and I didn’t see a sign of anybody.

Gunpei: Could be trap. The cat man waiting to get us back down there and finish us off.

Ami: Well, if there’s even the smallest chance that there could be a survivor from the attack we have to trust this real and rescue them. Maybe learn what was going on at the lab.

Ken: (standing quickly) That’s right let’s-

Ami puts her hand in his chest and pushes him back down.

Ami: Oh no, you aren’t letting anywhere until that arm heals, hot shot. Gunpei, Dan?

Gunpei nods to Dan.

Gunpei: We’re up.

Dan: But can’t we be down for twenty minutes first…?

***

Phatex hovers above ImagiTech tapping her scythe carefully against her shoulder.

Phantex: They are taking longer than expected. I am disappointed. 

A flurry of black feathers descending on the roof catches her eye and she floats down to greet the emerging winged Vice Lord, even in day light his form cloaked in distorted shadow.

???: Progress.

Phantex: Jagstalker had bested the Riders but he nearly overloaded his systems using two at once. The process is nearing perfection save for one piece that soon will be ours.

???: Excellent, I await the final status report.

Phantex: I will deliver it in the skull of a Rider.

???: I hope not that blasted girl. We would want not to upset Gukkedon. But tell me, why did you take the bodies of the humans from this lab?

Phantex: I find the human anatomy…fascinating. I wish to study it closer for understanding. And my familiar so provided for me many serviceable specimens.

???: And cleaning the lab?

Phantx: No reason to leave a perfectly usable lab filthy.

???: Valid point. You know where the item is, yes?

Phantex: Of course I do, the human hides nothing from my eyes.

???: Why not take it and end this.

Phantex: My familiars do enjoy the hunt and so rarely get to play…

***

Gunpei and Dan return to ImagiTech to find all signs of the previous battle gone save for a hole in the wall.

Dan: Somebody’s a neat freak…

Gunpei: Eyes sharp, we don’t know what to expect.

The two tread carefully into the dark labs.

Dan: (cupping his hands to his mouth) Hello? Any one hiding from freaky monsters still in here?

Gunpei waves his hand at Dan as he goes into a hallway.

Gunpei: Will you shut up and try to preserve some element of surprise?

Dan: Eh, surprises aren’t worth it unless there’s cake.

Dan takes a few slow struts before stopping in front of the nearest table and peers under it.

Dan: Hello? Anyone home?

Jagstalker: (from behind) No one here but us cats.

Jagstalker leaps for Dan, but without turning around or looking Dan twirls on his back heels out of the way and the cat man crashes head first into a group of tables. Dan stretches his arms as he turns to face the Viron.

Dan: You need to wear a collar with a little bell on it, dude.

The Viron rakes his across the ground.

Jagstalker: You’re fast, human.

Dan: Who? Me? Naah.

Having come running at the sound of the crash, Gunpei skids to a stop next to Dan.

Gunpei: Can’t leave you alone for a second, I see.

Dan: All the pussys want some of my action.

Gunpei: That was terrible.

Dan: Best I could do since you guys aren’t letting me sleep today…

Gunpei: You’ll get a catnap later.

Dan: Haha, nice one.

Jagstalker: Welcome to your doom, Riders.

Gunpei: (sizing up Dan out the side of his eye) You got my back this time?

Dan: You can trust me, we’re partners.

Dan and Gunpei pull out driver controllers.

Scope Driver: Player 3, get ready for the next mission!

Faust Driver: Player 4, are you okay?!

Gunpei: HENSHIN!

Dan: Henshin, I guess.

In a flash of gridlines and pixels, Dan and Gunpei transform into Scope and Faust.

Both Drivers: GAME START: SCOPE! FAUST!

Kamen Rider Scope flicks a tokenroid the air and transform into bull’s-eye before he catches it and inserts it into his driver.

Scope Driver: ACCESSORY: SNIPEFIRE

Scope: Bang, (swinging the Snipefire off his back and aiming at Jagstalker) you’re next.

Scope cocks the weapon twice.

Snipefire: Shot Mode.

The center of the Snipefire pops out exposing a metal bar at the center. The sight folds into the side and the barrel retracts into the gun to be replaced by a larger barrel. Scope fires; the front part of the gun churning like a cylinder against the newly exposed metal bar before snapping back into place.

Jagstalker leaps out of the way, but Scope fires again and again. The buck shots taking out chucks of a tables, chairs, and monitors. Jagstalker jerks as a spread nicks him in the shoulder. He growls and tosses a gray cartridge toward the Riders that shatters into a platoon of Bytes. 

Jagstalker hisses and runs for the open hole in the wall on all fours as Scope rushes behind firing shots into the chests of Bytes as he passes.

Scope: You mop up the small fries; I’m going after the fat catfish.

Faust: Say guys, can’t we talk this out?

A Byte swipes at him and he steps back.

Faust: Suppose not…

Another Byte takes a swing at him but Faust moves with the flow of the punch out of the range. A third jumps him from behind, teeth bared, and Faust guides him with his palm into the first Byte.

Faust: Come on, wouldn’t you rather eat nachos and watch a movie instead?

Two more charge forward kicking and punching, but the Rider side steps between each strike until he catches a stray leg from a Byte and shoves it into its comrade.

A group surrounds him, their mouths crackling with electricity.

Faust: That’s ne-(something on the floor catches his eye) HEY!

Faust bends down as the Byes unleash bolts of energy from their mouths that strike each other with deadly accuracy, but leaving Faust untouched. The Bytes crumble into smoldering blacken piles and Faust rises with a shiny tokenroid in hand.

Faust: Never seen this model before. Okay, let’s (looking to the downed Bytes) Oh…Nevermind then. Go me.

Female Voice: Hey, hey listen! Over here!

Faust looks to the direction of the voice.

Faust: Where are you?

Female Voice: Over here! Quick! Hurry!

Faust palms the tokenroid and follows the sound of the voice toward the back of the lab.

***

Outside...

Jagstalker narrowly avoids his leg being taken out mid jump as Scope fires again with the Snipefire in Shot Mode.

Jagstalker: You use the weapons of a coward…

Scope: And you jump like a bitch. (cocking the Snipefire once)

Snipefire: Assault Mode.

The weapon shifts into Assault Mode configuration and Scope braces his arm against his side and strays the area with a barrage of gunfire.

The first clean hit goes straight through Jagstalker’s leg bringing him to ground level and Scope runs foward as each bullet plows into and through the Viron forcing it back into a wall. When Scope nears the cyber cat he removes his driver from his belt with his free hand and it converts into a short sword.

Scope Driver: Sword Mode.

Scope presses the blade of the driver against the cat’s neck before ripping it out. The Viron hisses in agony as sparks and green ooze scatter against the wall. Jagstalker holds the open wound and slumps to the ground.

Jagstalker: C-curse you, Kamen Rider.

Scope: They say that a lot too.

Scope shifts his driver back into a controller and places it into his belt. He cocks the Snipefire four times returning the weapon to its default sniper rifle configuration.

Scope: Now I end this.

Scope enters Forward, Forward, Down, X into his driver controller.

Scope Driver: SCOPE: SUPER COMBO!

The driver sends a charge that travels through Scope’s armor and into the Snipefire. He levels the pulsating rifle, point blank, at Jagstalker’s head.

Scope: RIDER…

As Scope steadies himself to pull a trigger a roar like thunder shakes the ground and the side of a brick wall shatters like glass as a massive armored and horned form charges straight for him.

Scope jerks and levels his weapon to aim at the charging mass of gray, but Jagstalker catches his second wind , pounces up, knocking the Snipefire from Scope’s hands, and grabs hold of the Rider from behind.

The cat man licks his lips and purrs into the Rider’s ear.

Jagstalker: My brother must’ve gotten bored waiting his turn; won’t you amuse him?

The new Viron’s eyes glow red as it stomps and fumes like mad bull and continues to charge forward, horn out and aimed right at Scope’s eyes…

Do You Wish to Continue? [Y/N]

Julie: What does it even mean to be a Kamen Rider?

Ken: He’s upgraded himself!

Dan: He’s taken her!

Scope, Faust Drivers: DOUBLE COMBO FINISH!

Next Time: The Unseen Hands!
Previously on Kamen Rider Arcade: Hiding her inability to read kanji hindered Julie's efforts to master Lumine's abilities, which led to difficulties in the field when she and Ken were assigned to face Tripigatus at a technology convention. Splitting up, she was soon confronted by Gukkedon, who attempted to turn her to his side, but instead inspired in her the idea to trade her Driver to the Viron for freedom. The plan backfired horribly, forcing Ken to come to her rescue using his Shotokan Load. As the dust settled, Ken was injured and Julie was locked in a security cell, branded as a traitor.

***

GAME START!

Dr. Alberts stumbles through the back alleyways of the business district gripping the slick black briefcase close to his heavy chest. The rain had just stopped though that did little to help him see better in the narrow paths beyond the trashcans and boxes right in front of him. Each of his strained breath fragrant with the liquid courage he had downed in a gulp before fleeing his offices. He checks his back again. No, it is not following him. Thank heavens for that.

He closes an eye and runs a hand across his wet and balding head. His involuntary trembling leans him into the side of a building as he holds his chest tighter fighting the ball forming in the center.

At least the throbbing pain in his arm and side is finally numbing. He could just close his eyes and rest here but when his eyes shut all he could see is the parts…the fingers, the thighs, the pools of red…

Albert’s face strains as he fights to keep the rotting trash smell out of his eyes and his mind focused. He could not stop now; he had to keep going for everyone in the program now. He had to make it to Bushnell.

A rattling startles him out of his haze. Alberts jerks to his left. He drops the briefcase as a shade of a scream etches across his face. That purring! I-it’s…no, no, just an alley cat…

He reaches for the briefcase when a stripped claw snatches him off the ground. He barely manages to scream before his body hits the rain slick ground with a firm thud.

A nimble figure follows shortly after landing gracefully on all fours. Crouching low to the ground it sniffs around before seeing its prize. It licks its lips and tears open the briefcase in a single swipe. It reaches in and from it pulls out a collection of oddly shaped and sized coins.

The creature snarls lightly gripping a fist full of tokenroids tighter…

***

Ken sits alone in his quarters. The room is bare saved for the bed, a desk, a flat screen television, and a window overlooking the skyline. He rubs his cast with a wince before picking up the Shotokan Load Card in his good hand; his mind racing through the recent battles before Ami’s words echo through his head.

[Ami: I didn't design them for your ego. I designed them to make our work easier and to keep you safe.]

Ken places the Shotokan Load Card back on the desk next to two more memory cards; one gunmetal grey and forest green and the other gold and navy blue. 

Ken: Doesn’t mean they have to be a crutch…

*KNOCKKNOCKKNOCK*

Dan: (from the other side of the door) Hey Sir Stone Face, the big cheese is calling us…it’s time.

Ken exhales slowly.

Ken: I’m ready.

***

Kamen Rider Arcade
Created by: Aaron Thall and Jamion McNeil

Level 7: Burden of Trust
Written by: Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

***

ComCon Technologies, Rec Room, 7:12am

Bushnell: Sorry to keep you waiting.

Bushnell addresses Ken, Gunpei, Dan, and Ami. Ken is nervous; Ami looks as if she has not slept in days (mostly due to repair work on the Arcade system); Gunpei stands rigid and looks annoyed; and Dan leans against a sofa with his eyelids resting low.

Bushnell: I know the last week hasn’t been easy on anyone. (Nodding to Ken) You especially, but that’s why we’re meeting now. We’re here to solve several admittedly gross errors.

Gunpei: I hope that’s corporate speak for “skin a traitor,” sir.

Bushnell: Ah, yes, I knew something was missing. (He runs his hand down the front of his polo before pressing the Bluetooth in his ear) Inara, bring her in won’t you?

Inara escorts Julie in. She looks visibly paler than before and looks down at the floor. The biggest difference is in her demeanor. Where before she was furious and terrified, now there seems to be nothing but hopelessness.

Ken: Julie...

Julie does everything she can to avoid Ken’s glances. She just walks past him and stands before Bushnell. It is obvious that there is no fight left in her.

Bushnell: I had to put serious thought into what we should do about what you did. Gunpei suggested we process you but we all know that isn’t an option nor can we keep a resource as valuable and important as a Rider locked in a cell.

Julie’s head hangs solemnly low.

Bushnell: Nothing to say? I believe that’s a first.

Julie clenches her fists and exhales.

Julie: N-no, sir.

Bushnell: Well, mistakes were made; I will be the first to admit that. We haven’t been as open as I’d thought or like us to have been, and it was never my intention to terrorize you, Ms. Mori. We handled your inclusion into operations a little less than spectacular. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an outsider in these walls. As a businessman, I’m use to solidary in all the ships I pilot and rough patches usually smooth themselves out. What I’m saying is, in your position, I can understand why you did what you did and I take some responsibility for that.

Bushnell crosses his arms.

Bushnell: Having said that what you attempted to do has no rational excuse. (his face iron and his eyes piercing) But going forward, I hope we all can be more honest with each other. I’m not out to torture you, but what you did demands…redress.

Ken: What are you going to do, sir?

Bushnell: For the time being when she is not on a mission, Inara will be responsible for Julie.

Ken: I thought you said you didn’t want to torture her…

Ami: Sir, is that really enough of—

Bushnell: We can’t fault her for not knowing all at stake with the Viron. (Looking down on Julie) We’ll just have to forgive her, and moving forward be more open with each other. You only get one second chance here.

Julie: I'm not looking for forgiveness...Just let me make this right…

Bushnell: You’re asking me to put a lot of trust you, Ms. Mori.

Julie: You can trust me to do what’s right by my family, sir.

Bushnell: Now that I can believe. If there isn’t anything else to discuss we can-

Inara steps from behind Bushnell showing him a screen on her tablet.

Inara: Sir, this just came in over our monitoring software.

Bushnell: I see… Team, hm Ami, I’m afraid Dr. Alberts was found dead this morning. And from the looks of the attack it may have been a Viron.

Ami’s eyes go wide. She puts both hands to her mouth as the rush of lost and pain hit her all at once.

Ami: (struggling to speak between breathless sighs) A-re…you sure?

Bushnell inhales and nods slowly.

Ami: I-I…Excuse me.

She adjusts her glasses and moves to leave the room, but Ken catches her hand as she passes. She stops and turns to him, her eyes glossy.

Ken: We’ll talk. Okay?

Ami nods slowly and leaves the room without second glance.

Julie: Who’s-

Ken: Dr. Alberts was her mentor.

Julie nods softly.

Bushnell: A part of me wants to believe that this was a random attack but with the recent revelation that there exists Viron “Vice Lords,” I’m inclined to believe this was deliberate. Gunpei and Dan, investigate this matter and report back immediately. Ken, you’re benched until your arm heals.

Gunpei: But, sir, what about our order to-

Bushnell: Consider it cleared.

Gunpei: (sighing) Oh joy, I bet that just makes your day, eh Dan? …Dan?

Dan jerks from a deep sleep and wipes his eyes.

Dan: Huhwha, we vote her off the island yet?

Gunpei: (rubbing his temples) Come on, we got field work.

Dan: Five more hours…(nestling himself deeper on the side of the couch)

Ken: Director, I’ll be fine for duty once I get my driv-

Bushnell: I don’t want to hear it. You are not fit for field work. I don’t even want to think about we’d do if something serious were to happen to you. Let Dan and Gunpei investigate this and report back. Now, dismissed.

Bushnell and Inara are the first to leave, followed by Gunpei who makes sure he shoulder shoves Julie on his way out.

Gunpei: I’ll be in the garage, Dan. Hurry up.

Dan: Yeah…(wiping the sleep from his eyes) Now that that’s over, (to Ken and Julie) you guys wanna grab breakfast?

Ken: You plan on pissin' off Trigger this morning?

Dan: That’s not always the goal but we sure seem to end up there.

Ken shakes his head and guides Julie toward the door with his hand in the small of her back.

Ken: C’mon, we have to talk.

Dan: Wait up; I’ll walk with you guys. (coming up alongside Julie taking her from Ken) So. Work on a tan while in the boiler?

Julie: I mostly just stared at the walls and floor…

Dan: Ya, I’ve been trying to get Ami to install televisions in the floor. That way I won’t ever have to look up when I wake up.

Julie: What?

Dan: Huh?

Julie: (after a beat) You’re not-you’re not mad at me?

Dan: I could be, but it's exhausting having to remember why I'm not speaking to someone.

Julie: I wish a few other people felt that way.

Dan: Oh don’t mind Gunpei. You’ll find that under than tough and impersonal shell…I’m sure there’s an even tougher and more impersonal shell underneath. Well, hey, what’s the worst he can do? Use you for target practice?

Julie: (blinking) What?

Dan: Hmm?

***

Tobesei, Warehouse District

Gukkedon awakens from his meditation with a low snarl.

Gukkedon: A Viron moves against the humans without my knowledge.

???: But it moves well within mine.

The winged Vice Lord watches from the rafter as Gukkedon stirs in his den.

Gukkedon: What are you plotting now? (rubbing the scar Arcade left across his chest).

???: I merely couldn’t wait for your wounds to heal. And an interesting opportunity presented itself to me.

Gukkedon: What do you mean?

???: What do you know of the Rider’s weapons, well, aside from firsthand experience?

Gukkedon: I know that their trinkets won’t protect them forever.

???: There you go again not thinking tactically. What better way to understand or cripple our enemies then by understanding their technology.

Gukkedon: What do you mean?

???: I mean for you to watch and see how a strategist fights a war.

***

ComCon, En route to the lab,

Ken: I didn't get the chance to say this before... I'm-I'm sorry, Julie. Bushnell's not the only one that screwed up. I should have taken the time to try and be a better partner. I kept holding back when I should've been reaching out and-

Julie: No... No, it was me. I've just been a burden... I was so focused on finding a way out... I... Nevermind.

She looks away, quietly berating herself.

Julie: Stupid... Stupid ugly duckling...

Ken: Huh?

Julie: Oh, it's... nothing.  How's your arm?

Ken: Still broken.

She winces.

Ken: But it's healing. And my Driver should be ready, too.

They stop just outside the lab.

Ken: I have to go in there anyway to get my Driver. I could pick yours up, too.

Julie shakes her head.

Julie: I have to do this. Might as well rip the Band-Aid off, right?

The door slides open and they immediately see that Ami's already hard at work on something.

Ami: Ken, your Driver is on the table over there.

He shakes his head, amazed that she knew it was him without looking.

Ken: Thanks.

He picks up his Driver and elbows Julie. She glances at him, and he motions towards Ami with his head. She sighs.

Julie: Ami...

Ami immediately stops and turns to face her in a deliberately slow manner.

Julie cringes.

Julie: I... I just wanted to...I... just needed to pick up mine, too...

Ami: Table.

Ami turns her back on Julie and resumes her work. Beaten, Julie picks up the Lumine Driver and glances at Ken once more. He shrugs.

Ken: Give it time. You better head on to the VS Room before Inara comes looking for you.

Julie gulps and heads out the door.

Ken: Ami, do you want to talk?

Ami: I have nothing to say to or about the American.

Ken: I mean about Doc Alberts.

Ami sets the device and its mess of wires down on her work table.

Ami: I’m fine.

Ken: You didn’t look fine.

Ami: What does Bushnell think?

Ken: (exhaling) Viron.

Ami: Why would the Viron want to hurt Dr. Alberts? It doesn’t make any sense…

Ken: Nothing the Viron have done since Julie joined has made sense. (He taps his lips with the edge of his controller)

Ami: He sounded so happy the last time we spoke…

Ken: When was that?

Ami: A few weeks ago, he was finally gonna retire and step away from the Project.

Ken: The Project? Why is that still running? I thought Bushnell would’ve shut that down once it was refined.

Ami: Stubborn old man, still looking for a breakthrough for the cause.  He was so sweet and kind… why would they ev-(she stops and closes her eyes choking back the tears)

Ken: That’s what I intend to find out…

***

The Viron stalks the rooftops taking deep sniffs of the air before howling in impotence. Where were they hiding the rest from him? He could smell them, he could sense them, and he could feel them in his bones. Crouched on all fours Jagstalker appears as a massive man sized jaguar with vaguely cybernetic pieces attached to various parts of his body. The optic sensor over his right eye hums as he scans the city; his spiked tail sways confidently behind him with each step.

A faint smell catches his nose and he zeroes in on a sedan headed in the direction of his last hunt. He stands slowly the fresh smell of his prize enthralling him.

They must be found. He wanted, no, he needed the shiny metal tokens.

***

Dan shifts uncomfortable in the passenger seat of the sedan and Gunpei tries his hardest to suppress his sighs. 

Dan: Why couldn’t I sit in the back?

Gunpei: Because I’m not your chauffer.

Dan: So I guess Kato is just the style choice you’re going with…?

Gunpei: You know what, fu-

Dan: Geez, man, lighten up.

Gunpei: (exhaling) Not until the job is done.

Dan: You do realize in our line of work the job is never do-oh, I see what you did there.

Gunpei: Try to stay awake; we’ll be at the crime scene in five minutes.

Dan: I promise nothing.

***

CEO office, ComCon Technologies

Inara enters the offices and finds Director Bushnell facing the window and staring into a small shot glass. He downs the last gulp and does not turn to face her. She approaches the desk and clears her throat.

Bushnell: I read what you didn’t say to the others.

Inara: I felt it best the less they know about what the Project is doing at this time the better.

Bushnell: I’d agree but that would me a hypocrite wouldn’t it? (a light smile forms across his lips) Why was Alberts carrying them with him?

Inara: He may have been trying to bring them back to you.

Bushnell settles into a deep sigh.

Bushnell: He was a brilliant man and threw himself into whatever I asked of him.

Inara: Although Doctor Alberts and I rarely saw eye to eye I respected him for the work he did for you, Director Bushnell.

After a moment, Bushnell raises his glass to the light and gazes intensely into it.

Bushnell: Inara, remember what I told you when we first met. When I found you?

Inara: I try not to think too often of my nights on the streets of Delhi.

Bushnell: But do you remember?

Inara: I remember the look in your eyes when you told me this world must be protected no matter the cost.

Bushnell: Yes, even if it costs me my soul…

Inara: You’ve worked too hard and too long for it to come to that, Director.

Bushnell: (chuckling) That’s my girl; you always know what to say to cheer the boss up.

Inara: You bring out in the best in m-in all of us, Director.

Bushnell: Depending on whom you ask. (Now starting at his reflection in the glass.)

Inara raises a hand to touch him but lowers it quickly.

Inara: I’m leaving to begin training Ms. Mori, Director Bushnell.

Bushnell: Try not to break her, dear. 

Inara: I will do my best.

***

Chief Suzuki takes a deep breath and motions for the swarm of press to keep calm and behind the yellow tape. The migraine he was fighting this morning was only made worse not by the news of the murder in the business district but by the “express orders” to “have your boys show up and look busy until we arrive.” And against all his instincts he had detectives and lab techs bustle about perimeter and give off the appearance that they knew what was going on.

The chatter and snapping flashes were not helping the throbbing on the side of his head either.

Chief Suzuki: Settle down, settle down, you can rest assured we are investigating this matter and when we are ready to make a comment you will be the first to know.

A slightly small female reporter easily shoves through to the head of the pack and leans forward tape recorder first.

Madison: I’m sure around the same time you inform us about what happened to those kids from the CapuCreep tournament.

Suzuki: Ah, a pleasure as always, Ms. Paige.

Madison: Chief, how would you address the allegations that monsters walk the streets of our city and are attacking civilians?

Suzuki: Easy, I don’t address fantasy. I watch it on television.

Madison: What about the sightings of the thought urban legend Kamen Rider?

Suzuki:(scoffing) Kamen Rider? Monsters? I thought you were a reporter, Ms. Paige. Please save those fringe theories for the conspiracy blogs; you might harm your reputation. Oh, and how is that podcast by the way?

Madison bites her bottom lip and suppresses a roar.

Madison: You can’t pretend what’s happening isn’t happening, Suzuki. The people are being lied to.

Suzuki: Yeah, and when the UFOs finally come down to pick up Big Foot, I’m sure you’ll be there for the page one. Okay, you people need to clear out and let us do our job.

He turns his back on the reporters as a couple of lieutenants take his place to keep them back and calm.

His head started to feel a little better until he sees a familiar company sedan pull in and park in front of his police cruiser. An irritated young man gets out of the driver’s side and stomps over to the passenger side to drag out another young man who appears to be limp.

Gunpei: So help me if I have to scrape you off the pavement!

Dan: (stretching his arms out like a well fed cat) You know what long drives do to me.

Gunpei: This wasn’t even a ten minute drive.

Dan: Long enough.

Suzuki rubs his temples, thinking "not these two", as he approaches the sedan with hesitation.

Suzuki: Now that you’re here, hurry up so I can shut this circus down and have my people do actual police work.

Dan: Don’t worry, officer. We’ll have you back at the station and dunking donuts in no time.

Suzuki glares at Dan.

Gunpei: You’ll forgive the idiot. Show us to the body, please.

Still in the crowd of press, Madison lowers her camera and raises a brow at the arrival of the newcomers.

Madison: Hm, they don’t look like officers.

The three pass the glaring eyes of the onsite officers and techs. Dan offers a few smiles and thumbs up and Gunpei listens carefully as Suzuki goes over the details before they arrive at the black plastic body bag.

Suzuki: Call came in this morning from a couple of love birds who were taking an extra fifteen out in the back. Romeo tripped over the body, pants down. Looks like the poor bastard fell or jumped.

Gunpei crouches down and lifts the plastic to check the body then up to spaces between the buildings.

Gunpei: Or dropped…

Suzuki: What?

Gunpei: What else we got?

Suzuki motions to the case that has been circled off and marked as evidence.

Suzuki: He was carrying that but it was all cut to pieces like an animal had been at it.

Dan crouches down on to his knees to examine it. His eyes snap wide he sees several tokenroids from the open hole at the top.

Dan: You might wanna take a look at this.

Gunpei goes over to Dan and looks down at the briefcase.

Gunpei: What the…

He reaches into the case and pulls out a tokenroid that transforms into a gorilla before returning into the shape of a coin.

Dan: What do you think this means?

Gunpei: The doctor’s been a busy man.

Dan pulls a slightly shredded card of case.

Dan: According to what’s left of his business card, where he worked is a few blocks from here.

Gunpei: Let’s back track and check em out. (turning to Suzuki) Officer, keep your people away. And if you sent any there tell them to be gone before we get there.

***

VS Room,

As Julie enters the room, she sees Inara standing arms crossed, waiting.

Inara: You're late.

Julie: Sorry! Sorry!

Inara: We begin your training immediately. Since you're already familiar with Lumine's basic abilities, we'll focus first on the additional options, namely the tokenroids. Transform and we'll begin.

Julie nods and looks at the Lumine Driver.

Julie: I think the only thing I'll miss about that cell was not doing this...

Inara: NOW.

Julie presses the start button. The belt appears around her waist.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO, READY?

Julie: HENSHIN!

She brings her arm around in an arc. As the Driver snaps into place on the belt, she continues that arc until her arm is pointing out to her side. At the same time, she looks down and away as the tetris themed lines surround her, forming her armor. The lines quickly fall away, revealing her Rider identity once more.

Lumine Driver: GAME START: LUMINE!

She sighs.

Lumine: Okay, now what?

Inara motions to the wall of the room, which opens to reveal a board with multiple Tokenroids on it.

Inara: These are training versions of the Tokenroids. Not as powerful and they don't vanish. You'll use these to master the various abilities.

Lumine nods and walks over to the wall. She picks up one she already knows.

Lumine: Okay, I know a couple of them already... Strength, Rest...

She looks at the wall.

Inara: And the remainder?

Lumine: Hmmm... Jump... Speed... Firebird...

Her eyes fall upon one she doesn't recognize.

Lumine: Never seen this one...

Inara: Try it.

Lumine replaces the training strength tokenroid and picks up the unfamiliar coin. She inserts it into her Driver.

Lumine Driver: UPGRADE: GRAPPLE!

A grapple launcher materializes on her left arm... and a spool of high tensile wire appears on her back. Immediately thrown off balance, she falls backwards and lands hard.

Lumine: OWWW!!!!

Inara: And now you understand why that one is only used in the Rider Machines.

Lumine: NOT! FUNNY!

She ejects the tokenroid and the grapple boost vanishes. She pulls herself up.

Inara: You will study each one. Their effects and their weaknesses. You will then MASTER each one. Then and ONLY then will you be ready for the next phase of your training.

Lumine rotates her shoulders, trying to loosen up after landing on the grapple spool.

Lumine: You don't happen to have one that takes away pain, do you?

Inara: You would be surprised.

She shoves a manual into Lumine's hands.

Inara: Change back. Start studying. You have thirty minutes. Then we begin using these again.

Lumine groans.

Abra Kadabra AlakaNOPE

I want to get into Harry Potter; honestly, I do. On the surface it seems to have everything I would want in a story; deep mythology, rich backstory, complex world building, strong prose, imaginative imagery, and delicious drama. Then to make the pot even sweeter, all of that is wrapped in a little pointy hat for battles of the SUPER SCIENCE known as magic. Really, the only strike against it is the basically high school setting, but I am willing to let that pass for a good told story. I have seen all the movies more than once; however they have not clicked with me in a way I feel they should. Initially, maybe it was because I never read the source material to create that bond and excitement I am expecting? So, to prepare for planned eventual readings, whenever I would meet someone knowledgeable of the franchise I interrogated them and devoured all tidbits of the universe I could in what I was hoping was laying as much ground work as possible. It was in these talks where I learn what may be keeping me for connecting or even allowing myself to read the books. In this fictional world magic in humans or the lack thereof is an inborn attribute inherited and carried on by "dominant resilient genes.”

It was in this fact that I finally saw what has been keeping me from investing in this universe. In principle, I do not like the concept of magic being predetermined by a genetic factor. Not because of any separation of fantasy and science nonsense, but for a simpler reason. Genetic excuse for powers may work for the X-Men, but that is not how I like my super sciences. I am used to role playing games and other instances in fiction where magic is a trait that anyone can learn with enough time and sweat. Now people I have spoken to that are huge Harry Potter fans like the genetic explanation because it makes the magic special and some might feel that is how magic should be otherwise everyone would be spinning twenties on broomsticks. That is a weak argument and faulty comparison at best.

Having magic being able to be learned by everyone equally does not make magic any less special or wondrous. Every person can swim, but most people cannot. Everybody can sing, but not everybody can carry a tune. Anyone can learn astrophysics, but not everyone is going to. I am not saying I want in the world of Harry Potter or any other fictional universe for everyone to be able to cast magic missile but I do like for the potential for it to be present. True some can learn or be more adaptable to magic than others, but I enjoy the thought that anyone can obtain the trait and that the characters we follow are specifically adept at using it. Admittedly, it is a small nitpick, but so far it has created a huge barrier between this particular work and myself.

My Top 10 Retweets of May 2013

@primegundam Just a friendly reminder that American slavery isn't ancient history. It was abolished only a mere 148 years ago. That's 2 grandmas, fam.
@primegundam Some days you're just in a BURN IT ALL AND PISS ON THE ASHES mood. For me, that's basically every day #thatsmysecret
@primegundam I had that dream where I was riding that zombie dragon through space again.
@primegundam Look, I'm not tryin to be your boyfriend when I tell you I wanna sit in our underwear and play video games with you. I just like boobs.
@primegundam That's a superpower I want. To hate something out of existance.
@primegundam You ain't lived a life worth living unless Sam Jackson has called you a motherfucker to your face
@primegundam Some cats so soft they can't even beat their meat talkin about how they gonna fight somebody #ninjaplease
@primegundam You know what, fuck alligators and their "look-at-my-steel-snapping-jaws" attitude. Hope you get metal poisoning, punk bitch.
@primegundam I might not be into what you're into but that doesn't give me the right to think what I'm into is better than what you're into.
@primegundam I don't care how you dress it up or "sell toys" or "target an audience," superheroes punching shit is the same in any medium.

My Top 10 Retweets of April 2013

@primegundam Actual convo this weekend: "OMG BATMAN IS BEST NEW52 COMIC" "Are you reading any others?" "No." "...Are you reading Batman...?" "No." "..."
@primegundam Primus is coming. Look busy. http://t.co/2omQ5IdcCo
@primegundam Somebody asked me why do I want Black Panther in Avengers 2 when clearly Falcon is gonna be in it. I didn't know there was a black quota.
@primegundam My home is a douchebag free zone. So naturally I'm not allowed to sleep there.
@primegundam Dat MGS3 ending. If you didn't tear a little at that ending, you is a straight up bitch.
@primegundam Primus willing, if I had kids, let me catch my daughters shakin they ass for YouTube. I'll show y'all what an ass beating is.
@primegundam I get veggie burgers with bacon #becauseimagangsta
@primegundam Don't tell me a deadline is two weeks away. That sounds like to me I ain't gotta do shit for 13 days.
@primegundam I'm starting a rock band called Milked Nipple.
@primegundam Don't worry, fam. If you go to Hell I'mma play the devil in War for Cybertron for your soul.
***

ComCon Technologies, Garage,

Ken and Julie ride into the garage, Yusei, as always, waiting for them to return.

Yusei: About time you two got back.

Ken: We won't be here long, Yusei.

Yusei hears the tension in Ken's voice.

Yusei: It's bad this time, isn't it?

Ken: They've crossed the line.

He gets off of Machine Battride and starts for the door, pausing as Julie dismounts from Machine Teminos.

Ken: Come on.

Julie: You... go on ahead. I'll be up in a few. I have to start training how to use this thing without the autopilot tomorrow and I wanted to get a few pointers from Yusei.

Ken nods.

Ken: Don't take too long.

He heads for the elevator. As it closes behind him, she turns to Yusei.

Yusei: So, what do you want to know first?

Julie: Can it be programmed to go... anywhere?

***

Ami's Lab...

Ken enters without knocking.

Ken: Talk to me, Ami.

Ami: Just another few seconds. Where is she?

Ken: The garage. She's learning about Teminos.

Ami: Ah...

Her terminal beeps, and she sighs, relieved.

Ami: FINALLY! Maybe now this'll make sense...

Her eyes quickly scan the data. The more she reads, the more visibly upset she becomes. By the time she finishes reading the data from Julie's encounter with the infected Kasumi, she looks physically ill. The entire process takes her only five seconds. She turns to Ken faster than a bolt of lightning. She can see that he's read the information just as quickly.

Ami: GET TO THE GARAGE RIGHT NOW! Whatever you do, DON'T LET HER LEAVE!

Ken: On it!

He turns and rushes out of the lab. Not wanting to wait for the elevator, he slams a Tokenroid into his Driver.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: SPEED BOOST!

In an eye blink, he reaches the stairwell and begins flashing down the flights, reaching the bottom in seconds. As he slows down, the boost wearing off, he shoves the door to the garage open. Julie's standing by Teminos, her back to him. He can't see Yusei at all.

Julie: You know, don't you?

Ken moves closer.

Ken: Julie, you can't do this.

Julie: It's already as good as done. I can't back out now.

He can see she still isn't moving. He walks up behind her.

Ken: There's still time to make things right.

Julie: This is best for everyone. I'm in the way. I'm just holding you back and getting people hurt. You can always get the Driver back from them later, after all.

Ken: I'll stop you. You know I will.

Julie: I know you'll try.

He grabs her arm to pull her away from Teminos, but the second he does, he begins to feel woozy.

Ken: (fighting to keep his eyes open) Wha..

Julie: Rest Boost.

He lets go and staggers backwards, finally seeing Yusei, asleep on the ground, behind Battride.

Ken: J-Julie... You don't...

Julie: You're a hero, Ken. I can count on you to save Kasumi.

Ken lurches forward in a desperate attempt to slow her down, but he only manages to fall to his knees. His vision blurs as Rest Boost takes full hold of him.

Julie: Goodbye.

And his eyes close completely as he collapses to the concrete.

***

Ami: KEN! WAKE UP!

Ken's eyes snap open as he feels Ami shake him awake.

Ken: JULIE!

He looks around, but he knows it's pointless. Teminos is long gone, and Julie with it.

Ken: I had her and I let her get away!

Ami: You were only out for a few minutes. There's still time to stop her.

Ken looks and sees another member of the medical staff working to wake Yusei up. He clenches his fists and pulls himself up.

Ken: I'm dragging her back here kicking and screaming if I have to.

Ami: Ken... It's time.

He glances down to his fist, realizing he's holding the red memory card.

Ken: I was afraid you were gonna say that...

He turns and mounts Battride, donning his helmet.

Ken: I'll do what I have to, Ami.

Without another word, he takes off, burning rubber.

***

Angry Rovio’s Junkyard...

Machine Teminos rolls to a halt and Julie dismounts. She walks inside, tossing her helmet aside.

Julie: I'M HERE!

Her voice echoes throughout the lot.

Julie: Come on! Let's get this over with!

Gukkedon: My pleasure, Princess.

She turns, startled at the sound of his voice behind her. He's standing there with Tripigatus, currently in his king form. Also present is the infected Kasumi, but she's busy tending to Tripigatus's treasures.

Tripigatus: The wench is certainly prompt at least, though I care not for the tone in her voice.

Julie: YOU can shut up. My business is with Gukkedon.

Tripigatus: Why you-!

Gukkedon silences him with a gesture.

Gukkedon: You want to get right to it, huh? I can respect that.

She holds up the Lumine Driver.

Julie: You'll hold up your end?

Gukkedon: I'm a Viron of my word.

He reaches to take it from her.

Before Gukkedon can step forward to claim his prize, a wood fence explodes as the Machine Battride revs through the lot skidding to a stop a few feet from the exchange.

Ken: This is NOT happening.

Julie: Get out of here, Ken!

Ken: Can’t do it. You said it yourself, I’m a hero.

Ken dismounts from the Battride as he slams his controller into the Arcade Driver.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: Henshin.

Ken’s armor appears in a flash of pixels as he calmly walks toward the Viron.

Arcade: Release the girls. This is your only warning.

Gukkedon: (suppressing a laugh) You kill a few of my weaker brethren and you think you can stand against a Vice Lord? You humans are amusing if anything. Wait just a moment, Princess. We won’t be long.

Tripigatus: (holding an arm up) Allow us the pleasure; we still have words for Arcade!

Arcade: Here, piggy.

Arcade pulls out a tokenroid from the holster on the back of his belt. It shifts into the form of a hand briefly before he flicks it into his driver.

Arcade Driver: ACCESSORY: CYGAUNT

A swirl of pixels form over Arcade’s right arm before dissipating and revealing an armored glove with a wrist mounted controller input.

Tripigatus charges forward as Arcade enters into the weapon enters the combination DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN, A.

CYGAUNT: PUNCH-OUT!

The Viron runs face first into a barrage of light speed jabs. On the last strike, Arcade grabs hold of the monster by the snout and brings him down into a hard knee. The Viron reels up and Arcade spin kicks him to the side and goes straight for the Vice Lord.

Arcade: One moment, Pork’ums. I see I got bigger fish to fry.

Gukkedon: (crosses his arms over his chest and smirks) Then come, Kamen Rider.

Arcade leaps into the air entering UP, DOWN, RIGHT, RIGHT, A into his weapon.

CyGaunt: SHATTERHAND!

Arcade screams out aiming right for Gukkedon’s head but the reptile Viron catches the Rider’s arm and jerks him out of the air and to eye level.

Gukkedon: Let me explain what happens next, Kamen Rider. First, I am going to beat you within an inch of your life. Depending on my enjoyment of the act, I might take the full measure. Then, I’m going to leave here with both of my prizes.

The turtle-man snarls and head butts Arcade clear across the lot and into a tower of trashed cars. The Rider pulls himself from the metal but Gukkedon is at his side in a heartbeat. The Viron throws haymaker after haymaker as Ken barely manages to dodge each blow.

Snorting as he approaches, Tripigatus joins in throwing hard boot after boot as Arcade narrowly manages to stay on his feet and throw a counter punch and kick at both Viron.

Arcade shoves Tripigatus to the right opening some breathing room just as Gukkedon delivers a palm that topples the tower of cars. Arcade sees the opening and scales to the top of the downed vehicles in a leap. Tripigatus follows but Arcade shoulder throws him off the car pile and runs toward where the girls were left. Gukkedon calmly follows through the car field casually smacking the overturned vehicles out of his path.

Before the girls could even come back into his view, Arcade’s route is blocked by a thrown SUV and Gukkedon is on top of him again swinging his dagger sharp claws across the Rider’s armor. Arcade shoves off Gukkedon holding his smoldering chest before entering DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN, A into the CyGaunt.

CYGAUNT: PUNCH-OUT!

Arcade punches out at the crest on the left side of Gukkedon’s chest, but the Vice Lord catches his arm and crushing down on the CyGaunt until it shatters in an explosion of pixels freeing Arcade from his grip.

Ken’s eyes go wide under his helmet as he stumbles back to find his footing. Tripigatus hobbles to Gukkedon’s side and chuckles.

Tripigatus: (General) Impressive, sir!

Gukkedon: Not entirely.

Ami: Ken! You’re vitals are spiking and there’s a massive Viron signal where you are! Are you okay? Ken? Ken? KEEEEN?!

Arcade: I’m…I’m f-fine…

Gukkedon: I promise you, you won’t be for long. Tripigatus, hold him. I will end this.
Arcade: Looks like I have no choice now…I should’ve done this a long time ago.

Arcade holds up the red and white memory card with a symbol of a punching fist surrounded by flames engraved in the center. He presses the center of it and slides it into a port on the right side of his belt.

Arcade: Rider Change.

Arcade Driver: MODE LOAD!

Instantly Arcade’s armor becomes engulfed in gridlines spreading from his belt. His armor changes to red accented in white as his green eyes shift into orange. Around both arms and ankles four large devices that look similar to training weights appear and flare blue. He jabs out quickly with both fists and pivots into two spin kicks trailed by thick arcs of flames. Flicking the place on his helmet where his nose would be, Arcade positions himself into a karate ready stance.

Arcade Driver: BOOT UP: SHOTOKAN LOAD!

Arcade: Now, let’s aim for the high score.

Tripigatus: (General) He changed colors! (Soldier) Oooh, pretty reds. (King) Those things on your arms and legs!? GIVE THEM TO US!

Arcade: Come and get ‘em.

***

ComCon, CEO offices,

Inara: (dropping his tablet with wide eyes) Director, are you seeing Arcade’s combat dat-

Bushnell: Yes, yes, I see. (leaning back in his chair staring at his computer displaying a read out of Arcade’s systems) He used a Load (smiles into a hard chuckle) He FINALLY used a Load!

***

Tripigatus leaps forward but his thrown back by a hard kick to the chest. Arcade bounces over on nimble legs and sends a cross into the side of the Viron’s head. Dazed, Tripigatus reaches for a bacon bomb, but Arcade sidekicks it out of his hand. The monster switches to soldier for brute strength but Arcade snaps back with three step seikens sending the monster to his knees. Gukkedon charges for Arcade but the rider parries the rush with his forearm and looks the Vice Lord straight in the eye.

Arcade: You still want that inch?

Arcade’s eyes flash and the devices on his arms and legs flare into rings of flames. He raises his right arm up and brings it down in an arc of fire; the Vice Lord attempts to catch the arm but the flames scorch his palms and Arcade chops down across the Viron’s chest opening a deep gash straight through the Viron crest on his chest. Gukkedon, enrages, roars and attempts to grab the Rider but Arcade ducks down out of reach and comes up into a swift uppercut that lifts the turtle-man off the ground and onto his back.

Tripigatus: (General) Vice Lord, sir!

The pig dashes at super speed behind but Arcade reels back and clotheslines him. The Viron switches to King face and takes root in ground.

Tripigatus: (King) Bah, a color change won’t save you! You cannot penetrate our defense!

Arcade: Wanna bet?!

Arcade takes the Shotokan Card on his driver and on the back pressed the “A” button before loading it into the device on his right arm.

Arcade Driver: MAX LEVEL!

Arcade runs up to where Tripagtus has grounded himself, his right arm engulfing in a ball of fire that seems to take a serpent shape and coil up and head his arm.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

Arcade: (He smashes his right fist into the Viron’s stomach, the fire around his arm appearing to open “eyes”) RIDER...(He brings the fist up and out into a hard thrust into Tripigatus chest) RISING… (He brings his arm up in a sharp uppercut right under the Viron’s chin) SHINRYUKEN!

The flame serpent around his arm erupts out in a pillar of fire engulfing Tripigatus in an instant. Under his helmet, Ken winces as he hears several pops in his arm as the force of the impact shoves him back. Tripigatus scream something but the roar of the flames and the sound of his flesh sizzling drown him out. The pillar sizzles for moment before shooting into the air and disappearing into the clouds leaving only a black spot where pig monster once stood.

Kasumi immediately returns to normal and drops to her knees.

Kasumi: What…I, why am I in a junkyard…with an arm full of cell phones…each better than mine…? And why do I smell roasted pig…? (She tries to turn toward the source but finds her body is too heavy. Her eyes go dim and he slumps there as exhaustion takes hold, and she welcomes it after her day and falls into its embrace.)

Gukkedon pulls himself slowly to his feet and death glares at Arcade.

Gukkedon: It seems I’ve…miscalculated. No matter. (He pulls a large segmented scimitar from under his shell) I can easily fix this.

He steps forward but stops as the crest on his chest cracks. The sudden pain shoots through him and blurs his vision.

Gukkedon: You…

Arcade: (pointing weakly at the stumbling Vice Lord) You’ve already lost.

Gukkedon grips his chest and staggers back.

Gukkedon: Th-this isn’t over, Kamen Rider…(pulls a warp pipe out of the ground and goes in head first)

Arcade: I didn’t think it would be…

Arcade grunts in sheer agony as his mode load cancels, returning him to his base form. His right arm dangles uselessly.

Julie: NO! YOU SON OF A BITCH! YOU'VE RUINED EVERYTHING!

Arcade: Yeah, that... was the general idea.

Julie: I've got to find him! Maybe there's still time!

She starts to move past him.

Arcade: DAMNIT, JULIE! KNOCK IT OFF! It's OVER!

She goes five feet and stops. She swings around, furious beyond description.

Julie: "Over"? "OVER?!" YOU HEARTLESS BASTARD! I swear to god, if you've ruined my only chance to do this...

She holds up her Driver.

Julie: No... No, there's still time... But now I see... I'm gonna have to go through you to do it.

Arcade turns to face her. He grunts in pain.

Arcade: Julie...

Julie: SHUT UP!

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO, READY?

Julie: HENSHIN!

Julie brings her arm around in an arc, snapping it into place and going out to her side as she looks away. Tetris bricks engulf Julie as her armor forms.

Lumine Driver: GAME START: LUMINE!

Lumine: If you want Lumine so bad, well here she is!

She points at Arcade.

Lumine: Now get the hell out of my way before I PUT you down!

Arcade: Sorry. Promised Ami I'd drag you back.

Lumine: I warned you!

She charges him, spinning and kicking him right at the point of his fracture. Arcade screams in pain and staggers back, giving her an opportunity to tap buttons on her Driver.

Lumine: A! B! A! B! ENTER!

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

She leaps into the air as it begins raining digital blocks all around Arcade. He looks up as she begins coming down, more blocks forming at her feet.

Lumine: RIDER TETRIS KICK!

In spite of the white-hot agony in his arm, Arcade dives, barely avoiding the kick as it lands, creating an explosion. He comes up and grasps his arm as she charges out of the explosion, unhurt, and already entering another code.

Lumine: B! A! B! A! ENTER!

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

Her right fist emits a shining puzzle and she swings at him.

Lumine: RIDER JIGSAW PUNCH!

He leaps back, avoiding the swing.

Lumine: GET BACK HERE YOU SON OF A BITCH!

Arcade: I'm sorry...! I thought... you wanted me... to go away! Make up your mind!

She screams and lunges at him, swinging her energized fist. Moving quickly, he grabs her wrist with his good arm and slams her fist into the pavement, creating an explosion and separating them. Arcade lands hard, but Lumine tumbles through the air and lands gracefully.

Arcade: Any chance you're willing to listen now?

Lumine turns and holds up Rubix Tokenroid.

Arcade: ...Didn't think so.

Lumine: Rubix? Let's go.

Rubix Tokenroid changes to its cube form and flies out of her hand and towards Arcade. She snatches it back.

Lumine: No arguing. Do it!

With apparent reluctance, the Tokenroid complies, changing back into a coin. She slams it into her Driver.

Lumine Driver: ACCESSORY: RUBIX BATON!

Immediately, the Baton materializes before her. She grabs it and charges at Arcade again.

He ducks as she swings it at his head and shoves her away. She immediately recovers and spins quickly, slamming it into his fractured arm.

Arcade: AAAAAAHHHH!!!!

He stumbles back, breathing hard as he tries to recover from the pain. He ducks as she swings at his head and shoves her back.

Arcade: DAMNIT, CUT IT OUT! You don't understand!

Lumine: Oh, I understand perfectly!

She swings wildly at him several times, missing as her attempts go wide.

Lumine: You just want to make sure you don't lose the damn Driver!

Giving up on striking him with the Rubix Baton, she screams with inarticulate rage and tackles Arcade, sending them both sprawling to the ground. Not wanting to hurt her, and needing to shield his useless right arm, Arcade just tries to shove her off of him as she begins hammering at his armor with her fists, so furious that she forgets to use the Baton altogether.

Lumine: YOU'VE TAKEN EVERYTHING FROM ME! EVERYTHING!

Arcade: That's not... true! And you know it!

Lumine: LIAR!

She stops hitting him and goes for his throat in an attempt to throttle him, tossing aside the Rubix Baton. He lets her, knowing she can't get through his armor.

Lumine: Until you came along, I was an ordinary girl! Maybe I wasn't completely happy, but damnit, it was my life! And you SWEPT IT ALL AWAY!

She slams his head into the ground a few times.

Arcade: That's... ENOUGH!

He shoves her back with his good arm. She scrambles for the Rubix Baton as Arcade gets to his feet.

Arcade: Believe me, the last thing I ever wanted was for anyone else to get involved in this fight! But you'd been turned into Lumine before we'd even met! All I did was get you to transform!

Lumine: AND THEN YOU AND THOSE BASTARDS KEPT FORCING ME TO FIGHT! I'VE HAD IT! NO MORE!

And then he hears the one thing he doesn't want to hear.

Lumine: B! B! A! A! MULTI!

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

Arcade: Julie... You don't want to do that...

Lumine: THE HELL I DON'T!

She draws a cube of explosive energy in the air before her.

Lumine: RIDER RUBIX BREAKER!

She swings, launching the cube right at Arcade. Cursing, Arcade quickly slams a Tokenroid into his Driver's slot.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: STRENGTH BOOST!

He swings his left arm as the Rubix Breaker comes into range; swatting it and sending it right back at Lumine.

Lumine: NO!!!!

She has no time to react as it engulfs her and explodes, sending her flying right into a stacked pile of crushed cars.

Lumine Driver: GAME OVER! YOU LOSE!

Julie's armor vanishes in a flash as she collapses to the ground, smoldering but more stunned than truly hurt.

Arcade: I told you you didn't want to do that...

He shakes his head sadly.

Arcade Driver: PLAYER ONE WINS! PLAYER BONUS!

His armor vanishes in a burst of light, and Ken runs to check on her, ignoring the new Tokenroid materializing in his holder. He gets within two feet before realizing he just made a mistake.

Lumine Driver: GUN MODE!

Quickly changing her Driver to its blaster configuration, a disshelved Julie aims directly at Ken's head. She struggles to her feet, but she's unsteady.

Julie: If... I kill you... Maybe... Maybe they'll still...

Ken: They're long gone, Julie. It's done.

Julie: NO! NONONONONO! THAT CAN'T BE TRUE! IT CAN'T!

Silence fills the junkyard as a horrified realization comes over her.

Julie: Oh god... Oh god no...

Tears fill her eyes.

Julie: You have no idea what you've done...

Ken: I know all right.

Julie: YOU JUST GOT MY FAMILY KILLED, YOU SELFISH BASTARD!

(flashback)

Julie: Oh my god... Kasumi... I... Tell them I've changed my mind. I promise, I'll make this right and save you. I-

Kasumi: My master, King Tripigatus, sends you a message from his Lordship Gukkedon. Your offer is rejected. Since you will not join the Viron of your own free will, you must be forced. Surrender yourself at Angry Rovio's Junkyard by nightfall or our forces will kill your father and brother.

(end flashback)

Ken: I did?

He taps his Bluetooth.

Ken: Gunpei?

Gunpei's voice comes loud and clear over Ken's Bluetooth.

Gunpei: You wrangle that moron yet?

Ken: She's right here. With a gun in my face.

Gunpei: Listen up, you stinkin' traitor. Your family's fine. Ami sent me and Dan to keep an eye on your place the second she found out what you were up to. Had to deal with about a dozen Bytes, but neither of them have any idea they were even in danger.

A yawning Dan's voice comes over the device next.

Dan: Oh, and we've got security keeping an eye open here, just in case.

He yawns.

Dan: My nachos better still be there when I get back…

Slowly, Julie lowers her Driver and sinks to her knees.

Julie: They're safe... Thank god, they're safe...

Ken kneels down to be eye level with her, wincing again as he accidentally bumps his broken arm.

Ken: It's over, Julie. It's over.

Overwhelmed, she breaks down completely, sobbing as he takes a hold of her with his good arm. Her tears stain his jacket. He doesn't let go.

***

The Rec Room, ComCon Technologies

Ken: How long does she have to stay in there?

He looks down and rubs his cast and bandaged arm only to look away from the monitors showing Julie alone and in dark and dirty holding cells breathe the building.

Ami: Inara wouldn’t say. Just that it’s the Director’s orders and he’s furious. I am too.

Ken: It’s not her fault. She was scared. Confused.

Ami: She should’ve opened her mouth. (glaring at the monitor) Stupid girl. (She switches the monitor off, biting down on her tongue) Stupid, stupid GIRL! (She throws the remote across the room and takes a deep breath)

Ken: Ami…

Ami: You, that girl, and Julie could’ve been killed, Ken. Worse of all, look at what happened to you.

Ken: I’ll manage.

Ami: (rubbing her temples) Until I repair your systems and weapons you’re going to be out of action for a while.

Ken: I could use the break. (He’s about to laugh but rethinks it when he sees the sour look on Ami’s face)

Ami: You don’t get to joke about this. Not today. We are at a serious disadvantage now and if the Viron knew…That stupid girl…

Ken nods.

Ken: How’s her family?

Ami: Dan is still watching them with the security detail. He didn’t want to leave. I can’t tell if it’s concern or if he just found a comfortable spot.

Ken: As long as they’re safe.

Ami: Your friend is, too. She was a little dehydrated but none the worse for wear. She was about to be processed when Inara stepped in and stopped it.

Ken: (Blinking) What? Why?

Ami: (shrugging) Who knows. Listen, I need to go and start on your systems in the lab, are you going to be okay here?

Ken: Without Dan hoggin-um, taking over the TV? I think I’ll be fine.

Ami pats the side of his good arm and smiles. She leaves Ken alone who sits in silence momentarily before going to retrieve the remote and turning the monitor back on. He taps the remote to his lips and sighs.

Ken: It didn’t have to be this way…

***

Holding Cells, ComCon

Against her better judgment, Ami finds herself trudging down the spiraling flight of stairs into the lower levels of the building. Her legs and chest as heavy as iron with each step as she nears the holding area. When she reaches the thick plexiglass, Ami gently taps on the door to Julie’s cell.

Julie: Go away.

Ami: It’s me.

Julie: I said GO AWAY.

Ami: I-I just came down here to try to understand why you did what you did. Why didn’t you trust us…me to help you through whatever you’re going through?

Julie: Trust you? Why the HELL would I trust you? You've forced me away from my home and my family! You've endangered my life REPEATEDLY! Your stupid Driver convinced that turtle bastard to start STALKING me!

Ami: That was all out of my hands. And Ken saved you from becoming Gukkedon's slave!

Julie: He didn't save me! In case you didn't notice, I'M ALREADY A SLAVE! =YOUR= SLAVE! Look at what you've done to me, and tell me... What part of this DOESN'T scream enslavement? You can act all high and mighty. I messed up... I know I did. But at the end of the day... You guys aren't much better than the Viron, are you?

Ami had balled her fist so tight they started to turn as red as her glasses frames.

Ami: My slave…MY SLAVE? You selfish American little girl. All you’ve done since you got here is complain, did you even ONCE consider anyone but yourself? Do you think Ken or Dan or Gunpei asked for this life?! This life was thrown on to them as much as it was thrown on to you or me. Instead of opening up to us you instead go and try to make bargains with creatures that would soon KILL US ALL because you “miss home?!” THEN you have to AUDACITY to act like this is everyone else’s fault?! HOW DARE YOU?!

Julie: YOU should have never sent that thing to my house in the first place.

Ami: I agree. That way I never would have met you.

Julie: Well I’m glad we agree.

Ami: (steps back from the cell and throws her hands up) From now on, you are on your own. I’m done with you.

Julie: I’m not complaining. Now if you'll please leave, I need to get some sleep. God only knows how long I've got until you bastards get me killed.

Ami turns her back to Julie and leaves without another word or second glance.

***

Rec Room,

Gunpei: C’mon, move over.

Ken shakes awake as Gunpei plops down on the sofa next to him with two bottles of pineapple juice.

Ken: Must’ve dozed off…

Gunpei: You’re a brave man sleeping where Dan eats.

Ken: …Ew…

Gunpei: I’m sure the cleaning staff got most of the cheese up. Mostly. Here (holding Ken a bottle) I already opened it for you.

Ken: Thanks, Trigger. (He takes the bottle and puts it between his legs)

Gunpei: How’s the traitor. (He takes a long sip)

Ken: Miserable.

Gunpei: Good.

Ken: It’s not her fault.

Gunpei: The hell it is.

Ken: You know how it feels when this first gets tossed on you.

Gunpei: Yeah, but we didn’t sell out our species because we were homesick.

Ken: Still.

Gunpei: What gets me is we should’ve seen it sooner. She was acting funny…In the VS Room she was saying some strange things. I told her I would’ve done almost anything to have my family back.

Ken? Really?

Gunpei: Yeah, ALMOST anything. I’d never betray the team.

Ken: I shouldn’t have acted so distant with her; I could’ve been more open with her…She didn’t want this life.

Gunpei: Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve; it doesn’t matter now. Not when Bushnell is done with her for this.

***

Ami’s Lab,

Ami had been staring at print-outs of the damages done to the Arcade suit and repairing a holographic CyGaunt when Director Bushnell catches her off guard with a quick tap to her shoulder. 

Bushnell: Dr. Kawata, a moment of your time.

Ami: MY LORD. I really need to invest in some locks in here…

Busihenll: Excuse me?

Ami: Nothing…yes, sir?

Bushnell: First, let me say I appreciate you working with our boys. They’ve all taken a shine to you (laughing) a shame you’re too young to be mother.

Ami: Sir, I’m extremely busy and if you could-

Bushnell: How is Ken’s overall progress?

Ami: He’s doing as well as he normally does. Why do you ask-

Bushnell: When were you going to tell me he reached 75% total progress with his Rider system?

Ami: How did you kno-

Bushnell: (his mood now completely shifts from bubbly to solemn) I keep close ties AND eyes to all my investments, Doctor.

Ami: I didn’t tell you because I know what that usually means.

Bushnell: Oh? (his mood becomes bubbly again) Well don’t worry about that (smiling) it’s a good thing. But in the future, keep my appraised of all progress.

Ami: Sir, about Julie-

Bushnell: Her “incident” was unacceptable and will be dealt in a manner in which I see fit. I don’t need you to plead her case.

Ami: I wasn’t going to. (Adjusting her glasses) Let her burn as far as I’m concerned.

***

Abandoned warehouse district,

Gukkedon tosses Bytes and crates against the wall cursing and frothing at the mouth.

Gukkedon: DAMN YOU, ARCADE. I will not be denied again!

The shadowed winged vice lord watches from the rafters.

???: Calm yourself.

Gukkedon: Calm? CALM?! I WILL DESTROY THEM ALL UNTIL THE PRINCESS IS MINE!

???: All things in their time, mighty Gukkedon. (He calls behind as the reptile storms away shoving more Bytes out of his way)

The winged Vice Lord holds his hand up watching as it pixelates and static jumps before solidifying into a slender and toned arm.

???: And my time will be soon.

DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE? [Y/N]

Gunpei: Damn that traitor.

Ken: They’ll never trust her again.

Inara: A homing beacon has gone active.

Ami: This is the birthplace of the Tokenroids.

Gunpei: Bang. You’re next.

Ken: Next time: Burden of Trust
Last time, on Kamen Rider Arcade: Julie's training went extremely poorly, but that didn't stop Bushnell from sending her into the field with Ken to track down a monster attacking convention-goers. What they didn't know what that the monster was part of a trap laid by Gukkedon's mysterious fellow Vice Lord, specifically sent to lure Julie away from Ken. While Ken made the acquaintance of one of the models, Kasumi, who took an instant liking to him, he almost lost an unusual digital memory card. When the trap was sprung, Gukkedon easily defeated Lumine and made her an offer... join the Viron willingly and go home. They soon got an answer as she pummeled Tripigatus... and then pulled back and told the monster that she wanted to make a deal.

***

RESUME GAME!

Lumine changes her Driver back to it's controller form and replaces it on her belt. The confused monster just looks at her, completely bewildered and annoyed at it's treatment.

Tripigatus (king): A deal? You treat me thusly and then expect me to behave as some common messenger?!

He begins to make a move, but she quickly spins and kicks him in the chest, knocking him back into the wall. She holds him there with her foot, preventing him from getting leverage.

Lumine: Yeah. Kind of do.

She reaches for her Driver again, and Tripigatus changes heads.

Tripigatus (soldier): Your message, Ma'am?

Lumine: MUCH better.

She lowers her leg, releasing the monster.

Lumine: It's obvious I don't belong in this fight between you guys and Arcade, but I can't do anything about my Rider Aura either. My suggestion? We do something where everyone wins. I go home, you guys get one less Rider to worry about, and I get out of Arcade's way so he can do what he has to. So the deal is simple... If Gukkedon can give me permanent safe passage... a guarantee of never getting attacked by the Viron...

She sighs heavily.

Lumine: ...I'll give him the Lumine Driver.

Tripigatus: Understood.

They both hear the sound of Machine Battride coming.

Lumine: Go. I'll put on a good show.

Tripigatus (general head): Of course. We shall be in touch.

The monster runs off at superspeed as Lumine inserts Rubix Tokenroid in her driver's slot.

Lumine Driver: ACCESSORY: RUBIX BATON!

The Baton materializes and she immediately taps in a code and twists the handle of the Baton.

Lumine: B! A! A! B! YELLOW!

The Rubix Baton glows yellow.

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

She begins drawing heavy weights and boulders in the air with energy.

Lumine: RIDER... CRAYON WAND!

She swings down, and the weights crash all around, wreaking havok and creating quite the mess as Arcade drives up, stopping right next to her as she powers down the Rubix Baton.

Arcade: JULIE! We lost contact again! What happened?

Lumine: Sorry... I must've accidentally switched off the feeds accessing the codes menus.

She rubs the back of her helmet.

Lumine: I blew it. I had him... But I couldn't control the Crayon Wand. He... got away in the confusion. Sorry...

Arcade: Don't worry. We'll get him. He's not that tough.

He sees the damage wrought by the Crayon Wand.

Arcade: How did you manage to...(sighing) Whatever, let’s head back to base.

Under her helmet, Julie looks towards the direction of her home, her eyes grim with determination.

***

Kamen Rider Arcade
Created by Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

Level 6: "Arcade Vs. Lumine!"
Written by: Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

***

Tripigatus (general): And that's the entire message, Sir.

Gukkedon growls and flexes his claws.

Gukkedon: She's refusing me?! WHY?!

???: Now now. It's not that unexpected. You did attack her school and stalk her, after all.

From the shadows, the winged vice lord chuckles.

???: Honestly, this may even be better. This may become a golden opportunity.

Gukkedon: What are you saying?

???: I'm saying that it would behoove us to respond to her generous offer.

***

ComCon Technologies, Infirmary 

Ami: I worry about you… all of you. You need to be more careful.

Ken: I'm fine, Ami. OW!

He winces as she checks a particularly strained nerve in his arm.

Ami: You're not fine. You know Shatterhand's dangerous. I'm just glad you had enough sense not to use Rampage this time.

Ken: I was tempted, believe me. But... Something he said...

Ami: I heard all of it. You're not a monster, Ken. You STOP monsters.

Ken: I haven't stopped this one. And he was right. I was doing more damage than he was. What if it had been any worse? Somebody could have been seriously hurt if I'd...

Ami: ...That's what this is really about, isn't it? You're worried you'll have to start using THOSE.

Ken sighs.

Ken: I never liked them. Shouldn't have to use them...

Ami: I didn't design them for your ego. I designed them to make our work easier and to keep you safe.

Ken: Since when have I EVER done "safe?”

Ami: Since right now, damnit. I saw your portions of the last two fights, and I don't like what I'm seeing at all. You can't go it alone anymore Ken, and you need to stop treating that girl as if she's Hayao! She's not!

Ken: No kidding...

Ami: I'm not saying that she wasn't equally responsible for what happened out there, but you're not even TRYING to include her in your strategies half the time, and the rest you're giving her tasks that only Hayao was ever capable of. She doesn't have any experience at all. You've got to look out for her or you're going to lose another partner before you've even successfully become a team.

She adjusts her glasses.

Ami: Neither of you asked for this...

Ken: She's made that MORE than clear.

Ami: But all we can do now is support each other. (playful push on his shoulder) But she is getting better. Snaking an enemy from you takes more than luck.

Ken: Yeah. It takes terrible driving. And she STILL lost the damn thing. Seriously, Crayon Wand? She should have known better than to try that out without any practice.

Ami: Oh? And remember when you unlocked the CyGaunt for the first time?

Ken: ...I'm still not allowed on the fifth floor..,.

Ami: Still, I'm concerned, too. We've lost a lot of data from the last two encounters between her A/V getting shut off and her accidental suit cancellation. I've been working at recovering the data, but it's slow going.

Ken: Still hasn't read the manual has she?

Ami: She clearly is, since she's unlocked her Driver's gun finishers. Which is why this second glitch worries me so much. She had the situation against this monster under control. She had no reason to use Crayon Wand at all.

Dan: (peeking in from around the corner) You two finished making googly eyes at each other? Some of us don't like waiting in places without chairs.

Ami: (sighing and ignoring Dan) At least go talk to her. I'll follow up when I'm done in here.

Ken: And where is she, anyway?

Ami: Making up for lost time in the simulator. Finally.

Ken nods and walks toward the exit as Dan enters with a big smirk on his face.

Dan: Sup Sir Stone Face? (patting the side of Ken's injured arm) You don't seem as sour today, she give you a lollipop? I hope mine's cherry.

Ken rolls his eyes and leaves without a word or second glance.

Dan: (plopping down in front of Ami) Okay Doc, did you ever think about my nacho cheese IV idea?

***

Vs. Room,

Lumine weaves between Alizo's clones and the two Spindars as she blasts each with an energy number. As she releases the 8th, she turns to face her simulated opponents.

Lumine: RIDER SUDOKU SHOT!

She fire's the final blast right into the center of the group, triggering multiple explosions that swallow the simulations completely, obliterating them.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO WINS! LEVEL COMPLETE!

The battlefield vanishes around Lumine. She looks up, expecting to get pelted by a hail of Tokenroids, but nothing happens.

Gunpei: Doesn't work like that.

Lumine's armor fades away and Julie looks at him as he enters the room.

Gunpei: You only really get them for actual fights. Best you'd've done here was to get Teminos, and you already have it.

Julie: Oh... I see.

Gunpei: Look at the bright side. You're past the first level, and you get to learn how to drive.

Julie: (deadpan) Yippie. Except what good is that when the one place I want to go is the one place I CAN'T?

Gunpei: You're going to keep being bitter and miserable no matter what, aren't you?

Julie: Pretty much.

He sighs.

Gunpei: You're not making things any easier on yourself, you know. I know it's not easy dealing with Ken. He can be... single-minded at times.

Julie: It's not him. It's everything. I... I just want to go home so badly that it HURTS. I don't belong here. I'm not a hero... I'm not even brave...

Gunpei: Yeah yeah, so you keep saying. But really, from where I'm standing, you're actually pretty lucky.

Julie: Yeah, SO lucky. Chased by monsters, dropped off buildings, dragged away from my family...

Gunpei: (his voice filled with venom) At least you have one.

Julie's taken aback by Gunpei's sudden revelation. He takes a deep breath and centers himself.

Gunpei: Sorry. It's... a sore subject. But I'm serious; you at least still have someone to fight for.

She looks at him, saddened.

Julie: And... if you could get them back? What would you do?

Gunpei looks her in the eyes.

Gunpei: Just about anything.

***
Angry Rovio’s Junkyard,

In the heart of the abandoned junkyard, Tripigatus has his stolen electronics stacked and arranged into a makeshift castle complete with tower and throne. He sits upon a throne made of touchscreen tablets and littered at his feet are several wrappers and boxes from various fast food restaurants and his armor stained in the grease and crumbs from what appeared to be a hodgepodge feast.

Tripigatus: (King) Unacceptable! Unacceptable! The expansion of our domain moves too slowly! We must gather more materials from the filthy humans! (General) Sir, we were told to wait here while the Vice Lords complete their plan for the girl Rider. (Soldier) Yes, the winged one was displeased with our performance.

Tripigatus kicks at the chicken box under him.

Tripigatus: (King) Fools! Peasants! WE are unpleased with OUR performance! We must gather MORE! (General) What do you suggest? Go against a vice lord's orders? (King) WE ARE THE KING! And THAT is a great idea! (laughs into a snort) Come fools, we shall collect more for our kingdom.

***

ComCon, Loading Docks

Inara stands against a stiff breeze adjusting her dress jacket. She looks down at her tablet checking the projected arrival time to the current time.

Inara: (grinding her back teeth) Four minutes late.

She's about to turn her Bluetooth on and tell the Director she will retrieve the package from the processing center herself when a brown and white delivery van pulls into the lot and backs into the bay she's standing near. The back of the truck opens and several material handlers begin unloading unmarked brown boxes.

The driver of the delivery truck comes around the side of the bay and trying to keep his hand steady hands Inara the handheld tracker to sign.

Driver: H-hello, I-Inara.

Inara: You are late, Mr. Bedard.

Driver: I, um, was c-caught in, um, traffic.

Inara: Hm. Next time you should prepare more adequately for all contingencies. (signing her name sharply with the stylus)

Driver: Yeah, um, o-okay. (Watching his men unload the truck) That's a lot of um parts Mr. Bushnell wanted.

Inara: We're developing (pausing to think)...something for a new home console.

Driver: Wow really? But why so many touchscreen components? I thought Mr. Bushnell thought that was just a fad? 

Inara: DIRECTOR Bushnell is nothing if not adaptable to the times.

The men finish unloading the truck and the driver sheepishly takes his leave.

Inara watches them go before pressing the on button to the Bluetooth in her ear.

Inara: The parts are here as you requested, Director Bushnell. I'll have R&D collect them at once.

***

E-PO,

Ken and Julie walk inside, the latter truly confused as to why. Ken's carrying a small plastic bag.

Julie: Okay, why did we come back here? We chased Porky off already.

Ken: I told you already, he's struck here several times. He's not going to stop just because we showed up. He can't help himself; it’s in his programming.

Kasumi: KEN!

They turn as Kasumi runs up.

Julie: ...Oh. NOW I understand why we came back.

Ken gives her "the look" as Kasumi reaches them.

Kasumi: (slight smile) You really came back.

Kasumi glances at Julie.

Kasumi: Oh, is this your…girlfriend...?

Julie's eyes go wide and she vigorously shakes her head and hands, waving off the notion with extreme prejudice.

Julie: No. Nonononono. No chance. Not even.

Ken: Kasumi, this is Julie. We work together.

Julie: Just started. Kinda hate it. I'd quit if I could.

Ken quickly elbows her.

Julie: OW!

Kasumi looks relieved.

Kasumi: Well, since you came, why don't I show you around?

Ken: Sounds like a plan.

Julie: Oh, you two go ahead. I'm not into the whole "third wheel" thing.

Ken: Okay... But take this, at least? You'll attract WAY too much attention with how you look.

He tosses her the bag. She catches it and looks inside. Puzzled, she pulls out a long pigtailed teal wig.

Julie: The hell?

Two convention-goers walk by and glance at her.

Girl: Cool costume, but you really don't have the right hair for it!

Her eyebrow twitches. Muttering obscenities under her breath, she puts the wig on. She watches as Kasumi guides Ken away. Once they're out of sight, she breathes a sigh of relief.

Julie: I swear, if those creeps don't get back to me soon with an answer, I'm gonna totally lose it.

Julie's Bluetooth beeps. She taps it.

Julie: Yeah?

Ami: Julie? What's the situation down there?

Julie: Everything's fine. I'm standing around here bored out of my mind and Ken's off with his new girlfriend.

Ami: Oh, goo- HIS WHAT?!?!

Julie: Her name's Kasumi. And she must be a model going by the teeny tiny little outfit she was wearing. At least, I assume she was wearing clothes at all. They could have been painted on, so...

She silently smiles as Ami sputters, trying to articulate a response.

Ami: That’s not a part of the mission? Are you sure? Was she selling him food or anything? Ken doesn’t talk to girls I mean it’s not like he hasn’t talked to girls before or wouldn’t it’s just-

Julie: Listen, Ami, I totally mean to be rude here, so unless you have something important to say, I'm really busy feeling useless here and I'm scheduled to start blaming you assholes for ruining my life again in about ten minutes, I'm hanging up now.

Ami: Now just a-

Julie (faked sweet): B'bye!

Julie taps the Bluetooth, turning it off.

Julie: Hmmm... That was kinda fun.

***

Ami's Lab,

Ami redials Julie's Bluetooth, but gets no answer.

Ami: Julie? Are you still there? Hello?

Giving up, Ami sighs and rubs her temples.

Ami: That little-! GAH!

She doesn't notice as Gunpei enters.

Gunpei: Everything okay, Ami?

Ami turns, startled.

Ami: It's shaping up to be one of those days.

Gunpei: So I see.

She turns back to her attempt to retrieve the data from the Lumine Driver. She's absorbed in the effort until she feels two powerful but gentle hands beginning to massage her shoulders. She lets out a sigh of contentment.

Ami: Oh, didn’t know how much I needed this…

Gunpei: You know you have to relax. Don’t think you haven't been sleeping much lately.

He continues to massage her.

Gunpei: You spend so much time looking after the team that you neglect yourself. It's not healthy. You've gotta let the tension out once in a while. What’s you and I leave the office for a few and grab a bite.

Ami: Gunpei, I-

Her console beeps. The moment is lost as she suddenly leans forward and looks at the screen.

Ami: FINALLY! I've located some damaged memory files. If I can just repair them, maybe we can gain some information on this Gukkedon.

Gunpei: (Sighing) And just like that, she's at it again...

***

Near E-PO...

Tripigatus watches as his newest target comes into range. He sniffs the air and chuckles to himself.

Tripigatus (soldier): Target acquired!

Oblivious, the young man walks down the alley, lost in thought.

Tripigatus (soldier): STAND AND DELIVER, HUMAN!

He leaps out from nowhere, startling the civilian, who stumbles backwards and falls onto his ass. Tripigatus wastes no time towering over the hapless victim.

Tripigatus: (King) And what say you have to offer for your pitiful life? (sniffing) Hmm, I think I smell a 4G on you.

Man: I don't have four thousand dollars on me...

Tripigatus: (King, snorting) What use is money to us, fool!? We smell your cell phone. GIVE IT TO US.

He grabs the man by his shirt and shakes him violently. Crying out, the man fumbles for his phone and pulls it out of his pocket, almost dropping it in his panic. Tripigatus snatches it with his free hand and drops the man like he was a rag doll.

Tripigatus: (King) Exquisite! Wonderful! Look at its beauty!

A shadow looms over the monster who changes to his General face as he turns to see a displeased Gukkedon.

Tripigatus (general): Gukkedon, sir!

Gukkedon: You were supposed to remain where you were!

Tripigatus changes faces again.

Tripigatus (king): We do not take orders. We GIVE orders.

Gukkedon leans in.

Gukkedon: Really now? Very well. You'll give orders. This is what I need you to do...

***

E-PO,

Kasumi: And of course, that's when his pants fell down, and he realized it was a bad day to go commando.

Ken laughs.

Ken: Was ANY of that true?

Kasumi: Every word. I swear. I've got pictures.

Her cell phone beeps.

Kasumi: Oh crud! I'm gonna be late for my next demo if I don't get moving! Wait for me?

Ken: Count on it.

Kasumi runs off. Ken watches her go and smiles. She quickly rushes down several corridors.

Kasumi: Oh crapcrapcrapcrapcrap! I'm gonna be late!

She turns a corner and stops suddenly. She backs up as Tripigatus stands before her.

Tripigatus (general): More than you can guess, Ma'am.

He reaches out, and Kasumi screams.

***

Ken taps his Bluetooth.

Ken: Reporting in. Still nothing.

Ami: Oh? How can you be sure when you're busy flirting at some girl in a bikini?

Ken: She is not a... How did you... JULIE.

Ami: Ken, you know better than to engage civilians unnecessarily!

Ken: Hey, last I checked, there was no rule about not having a life. Besides, it's not like I'm revealing I’m -

He hears a commotion coming from just outside.

Ken: Gotta run. Looks like he's back!

Ami: Ken... Be careful?

Ken: Never.

He runs towards the sounds of chaos, and almost right into Julie, who's coming from the opposite direction. He points his finger in her face.

Ken: When this is over, we are going to have a LONG talk about personal boundaries.

Julie: Bite me, Lover Boy.

Ken: STAY. HERE.

Growling, Ken runs past her and out of the building, where he sees several cars are already smashed. Julie doesn't even bother to watch him head towards the presumed attack. She instead turns away and walks a bit further into the building.

Julie: Not like I wanna go and risk my neck in the first place...

Frustrated, she spots an isolated corner and heads to it. No sooner does she reach it than she feels a hand on her shoulder. Surprised, she turns to see-

Julie: ...Kasumi?!

Indeed, it's Kasumi, but her eyes are yellow and her hair has turned white.

Kasumi: My master wishes me to pass on a message to you...

Rubbing his belly and oinking Tripigatus watches as a group of people run away leaving a trail of devices for him.

Tripigatus: (Soldier) Run, run as fast as you can but leave the treasures.

Ken skids to a stop a few inches away from Viron and calls out. Tripigatus turns and switches to King face upon recognizing the Rider.

Tripigatus: (King) We are pleased you can join us again, Arcade. (motioning to the smashed cars and small brush fires) Care to add to this carnage with us?

Ken: Alright piggy, time for the fryer. (Holding up his driver controller as the belt materializes around his waist.)

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: HENSHIN!

Ken slams the controller into the driver and is immediately engulfed by gridlines that are covered by flowing pixels. As they fade away, they reveal his armor as his green segmented eyes flare brightly.

Arcade Driver: GAME START: ARCADE!

Arcade: Now, let’s aim for the high score.

Tripigatus: (Soldier) Let’s smash-smash-smash instead!

The Viron rushes forward and Arcade meets the pig in a hand-to-hand grapple. The pig snorts and strains as he forces Arcade back into a nearby car leaving a line of torn and pulled concrete under the Rider’s boots. The Viron smirks as it evident that he is overpowering Arcade with shear brute force. Arcade struggles under palm as Tripigatus exhales and pushes Arcade with car against his back down the parking lot.

Tripigatus: (Soldier) What happened to your warrior’s fire, Rider? Did our majesty strike a nerve?

Arcade: (grinding his teeth under his helmet) No actually, it’s your breath. I can’t stand the smell of ham hocks.

Tripigatus: (King) You insolent little-

Arcade: Gotcha!

Arcade breaks the hold to wrap his arms around Tripigatus’s waist and suplexing him into the car behind them. The Viron wobbles on its back but sinks deeper into the dent in the frame of the car.

Tripigatus: (King) Most unbecoming…

Arcade jumps back from the car, rubbing his injured right arm.

Arcade: (under his breath) Forgot Porker’s stronger than he looks…

Tripigatus finally manages to roll out of the damaged car as Arcade catches his second wind. Arcade goes to punch at the Viron but it takes the blow without a flinch, and impact sends Arcade flying back. He catches himself mid-fall to charge forward again and snap kicks out but the Viron stands chest out and takes the strike. The Rider shakes his arm and leg and lunging punches at the monster’s chest but again Tripigatus appears unaffected by the attacks.

Tripigatus: (King) FOOL! Nothing shall pass our imperial wall!

Tripigatus shoves Arcade to the ground and kicks him across the pavement. The Arcade rolls to his feet and finds himself instinctively holding the red memory card again. His fist tightens around the device before he pockets it.

Arcade: No, not for this one.

He goes for a tokenroid when Ami chimes in over his comm link.

Ami: Ken, I'm detecting a stage one infection in Julie's vicinity, but she isn't transforming.

Ken: The Driver's not moving to protect her?

Ami: No... Which means there's no Viron with the infected person. You need to wrap this battle up quickly. Between all the recent corrupted data, her increasingly hostile attitude, and now this... Ken, something is very wrong here.

Ken: Yeah, but-

Tripigatus (soldier): Are you IGNORING ME?! Taste the superior pulverizing power of the pork!

Tripigatus tosses several strips of bacon at Arcade. Distracted by Ami's call, he doesn't react in time. The strips strike him and explode.

Arcade: GAH!

Ami: KEN! KEN, are you okay?!

Arcade waves away the smoke from the explosions. His armor is scorched, but there's no serious damage. However, to his annoyance, the monster has vanished once more.

Arcade: He snuck away AGAIN! He's slipprier than-

Ami: PLEASE, DON'T say "greased lightning".

Arcade: ...Forget it.

Ami: You should get back here. I'll have the data fully recovered by the time you return. Maybe then this'll start making some sense.

Arcade: No problem, Ami.

He runs back inside the building, tapping the save button on his Driver as he goes.

Arcade Driver: GAME SAVED!

His armor vanishes, and Ken rushes down the hall towards where he last saw Julie. He spots her, still wearing the wig, standing in a corner. She looks distracted.

Ken: Julie?

She looks up at him, visibly shaken.

Julie: They've got Kasumi.
Outside, Julie runs around a lamp post in and out of the reach of Bytes.

Julie: Get away-get away!

A Byte is nearing her back clawing for her hair when Ken hook kicks it back into its brethren.

Julie: FINALLY!

Ken: (landing beside Julie) Why didn’t you transform?!

Julie: You only said to keep them off me!

Ken: This isn’t real life… It can’t be…

Tripigatus: (King face) Ah, so this is Kamen Rider Arcade? We shall enjoy this challenge! (General face) Sir, permission to engage the enemy! (Soldier face) Let’s roast ‘em! Let’s smoke ‘em! Let’s break-break-break ‘em!

Ken: Now that’s just freaky…

Julie: (cheeks puffing up) I didn’t need to see any of that.

Ken: Come on, let’s slice up a slab of bacon. (Holding up his driver’s controller)

Julie: Talk about new meaning to a pig fry.

Ken: Okay, no more pig puns.

Julie: Agreed.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Lumine Driver: Player Two, Ready?

The belts materialize on both of them.

Both: HENSHIN!

Ken slams his Driver into place while Julie brings her's around in an arc, snapping it into place. Gridlines appear around Ken as his armor materializes giving away to glowing green eyes. Tetris bricks engulf Julie as her armor forms giving off a slight purple glow.

Arcade/Lumine Drivers: GAME START: ARCADE! LUMINE!

Arcade: Now, (flicking a tokenroid into the air and catching it) let’s aim for the high score.

Lumine: It's just one those days... I really freaking HATE being Lumine... (Pointing in the direction of the Viron) but you're standing between me and home!

Tripigatus: (King face) Unacceptable! BYTES!

Arcade: Here we go...

He removes his Driver and transforms it.

Arcade Driver: GUN MODE!

The Bytes charge the Kamen Rider and Arcade dives right into the center of them peppering each with blasts from his Driver in gun mode. A Byte leaps into the air straight for him, but Arcade pivots out of reach and reverse roundhouse kicks it out of the air. Arcade steps on the downed Byte marching toward a group of four others spraying them with blasts to keep them back. One braves the shots only to be sent to the ground with a firm elbow to the jaw. The remaining grumble before rushing forward and are met with a chop to the throat, a jumping kick to the chest, and a fist dead center in the face respectively. They go down and Arcade claps his hands together turning his attention to the Tripigatus.

Lumine: Rhythm!

Rhythm Boost flies up out of her holder, changing briefly into a smiley head with headphones before returning to coin form. She slams it into her Driver's slot.

Lumine Driver: UPGRADE! RHYTHM BOOST!

The Lumine Driver begins emitting a hip-hop tune, and she looks at the Bytes as she begins tapping her foot.

The Bytes come at her from all sides, and she immediately drops down and performs a windmill spin, kicking them away. As she spirals to her feet, a stray Byte throws a punch at her. She catches its wrist and pulls outwards, forcing the Byte into, of all things, a brief Tango walk before she shifts her weight and flips the minion onto its tailbone. She turns, and sees that the Bytes have regrouped. Again, they come at her, and she goes into a handstand. Turning with her hands, she performs several quick splits, kicking each in the head.

Lumine: I'd just spin on my head, but the damn antennae get in the way, y'know?

She somersaults to her feet and pulls her Driver off, transforming it.

Lumine Driver: GUN MODE!

She quickly does a tiny bit of Samba before spinning, blasting the dazed Bytes, which collapse around her and dissipate.

Lumine: VAMOLA!

Lumine hops over as Arcade runs by her side.

Arcade: Flank him!

Lumine: W-what now?

Arcade goes straight for Tripigatus in a flurry of punches by the Viron swats his fist away. The creature grabs Arcade by the shoulder and jumping head-butts him into his partner.

Arcade: (Stumbling back into Lumine) What are you doing? I said flank him.

Lumine: What does that even mean?!

Arcade: (Sighing) Come at him from the sides, I’ll go stra-

Tripigatus: (King face) Fools! Bow before our magnificence! (Soldier face) Permission to eliminate the ENEMY!

The Viron stomps on the ground spreading a massive ground shockwave that knocks the Riders on their backs.

Tripigatus: (Snorting) Now you face real terror, Arcade.

Arcade is the first and fastest to get up and finds himself holding the red memory card he had dropped earlier. He looks at Lumine struggling to stand then to the Viron then down to the fist symbol emblazed on the card.

Arcade: It’s been a while… but not today!

He pockets the memory card and goes for the Viron again who has switched to general face and vanishes in a whirl before Arcade can touch him. The pig appears beside Arcade and sends a palm into his chest forcing him back a few feet back. The Viron vanishes again and reappears behind Arcade's shoulder thrusting him in the back. The Rider stumbles into a flip and lands facing the Viron reaching into his tokenroid holster.

Tripigatus: (General face) We have the tactical advantage here, Rider.

Arcade: I wouldn’t be so sure! (Arcade slips a tokenroid into his driver that changes into hand momentarily before shifting back into a coin)

Arcade Driver: ACCESSORY: CYGAUNT

A swirl of pixels form over Arcade’s right arm before dissipating and revealing an armored glove with a wrist mounted controller input. He inputs into the controller LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B.

CYGAUNT: DOUBLE DRAGON!

A blurry afterimage of Arcade appears momentarily before they both vanish and reappear in front of Tripigatus returning the earlier strikes with dual elbow to the chest and rising fist to the face. Tripigatus’ faces spin rapidly from the strike before settling on the dazed General.

Tripigatus: If it’s a speed match you want, soldier! (The Viron steps forward and disappears again in a flash.)

Arcade: (pointing to Lumine) Cover me, I’ll smoke him out. (His afterimage bleeding into him as he moves to match the Viron’s speed)

Lumine tries to follow the two blurs, but quickly shakes her head.

Lumine: Ummm... Okay, I'm totally lost.

She wanders in closer to the speed battle as the blurs fly around her, completely unsure which way to go.

Lumine: What if I...

She doesn't get to complete the thought as a green blur slams into her, knocking her to the ground and right into the path of a black blur.

Arcade: Julie, mov-

Unable to stop, he trips over the prone girl and crashes to the ground, managing to dig a small rut into the ground in the process. Pulling himself up, he glares at her.

Arcade: What the hell is wrong with you?!

Lumine: Excuse me? Do I LOOK like a freakin' Dragonball character? I can't follow something that fast!

Arcade growls, frustrated.

Arcade: At least turn off the damn music!

Lumine: I don't know how! It just keeps playing until I change back! Rhythm! Stop!

Rhythm Tokenroid doesn't respond. The music continues.

Arcade: Unbelievable... GAH!

He cries out as Tripigatus, still moving at high speed, hits him from behind and sends him sprawling. The monster slows down and switches to its king face.

Tripigatus: You peasants fight each other more than me! Most unbecoming.

Lumine: Stay out of it, you freakin' ham hock!

She fires a few blasts at him, but a giant snout-shaped shield appears between Tripigatus and the blasts. They reflect off and strike Arcade. His armor smoldering, he glares at her.

Arcade: Whose side are you on, anyway?!

Watching the battle, Gukkedon chuckles.

Gukkedon: That's a good question, isn't it?

He tosses out a cartridge.

Gukkedon: What say we find out?

As the cartridge hits the ground, more Bytes emerge. Arcade sees them first.

Arcade: (Clenching his teeth under his helmet)...Go handle those Bytes and leave the porker to me.

Lumine: Fine! Be that way. Not like I wanted to fight him in the first place! (She shouts back at him holding her hands up to her helmet where her mouth would be)

She runs off after the Bytes. It doesn't take long for her to completely lose track of them.

Lumine: Where'd they go?

Gukkedon: I sent them away. They've served their purpose.

She turns, startled, to see the Viron general standing behind her. She instinctively backs away.

Lumine: Woah... Shouldn't you be off eating pizza or something?

Gukkedon: We haven't been properly introduced, Princess. I am Vice Lord Gukkedon.

She takes a fighting stance, but the Viron holds up his hands.

Gukkedon: Now now, don't be like that. We both know you don't want to fight anyway.

Lumine: How... How'd you know that?

Gukkedon: I've been watching you. Studying you.

He pauses, then adds another comment with a grin.

Gukkedon: You're adorable when you're sleeping. Do you always wear the frilly pink pajamas or was that for me?          

Under her helmet, Julie's eyes go wide.

Lumine: H-how d-did you…you CREEP!

She instinctively fires a few blasts, but they just glance off of Gukkedon's natural armor, not even leaving burn marks.

Gukkedon: Well, that's not too friendly, now is it?

Lumine: Uh oh...

***

Tripigatus and Arcade appear and disappear in flashes exchanging strikes but neither managing a solid hit. In a loud clash they’re in a front of a row of cars with Arcade kicking and Tripigatus smacking his foot down. In a violent rush of wind they appear again near dumpsters with the Viron swinging his arms down and Arcade weaving out of reach with each pass. In a clap of what sounds like thunder they appear in a clearing in the parking lot, both smoldering and panting.

Tripigatus: (General face) Not bad for a human…(Soldier face) Speed isn’t working, permission to STOMP!

Arcade’s blurry afterimage fades as the CyGaunt timer chimes out on his upgrade. Arcade parries a strike from Tripigatus as he tramples forward, but the impact manages to lift him a few inches off the ground. Skidding to a stop he blinks a few times under his helmet.

Arcade: What are they feeding you…I don’t want to use this one but…

Arcade enters UP, DOWN, RIGHT, RIGHT, A into his arm mounted weapon.

CyGaunt: SHATTERHAND!

Arcade opens his palm and smacks the ground creating a ripple wave that uproots the ground and launches the Viron into the air. The tidal wave of concrete and debris spreads out in a circular radius flipping cars and downing posts. Arcade kicks up out of the crater he created and follows Tripigatus fist first delivering shockwave creating strike after strike into the side of the flying pig’s armor. The blowback from each hit sending a rush of wind that blows out virtually every nearby window, but each hit coming slower than the last as it appears the strikes are causing as much harm to Arcade as the Viron.

Tripigatus lands in a roll with Arcade walking calmly behind rubbing the side of his arm.

Arcade: Get up. I’m ending you. Now.

***

Lumine: You stay the hell away from my family, you turtle bastard!

Rubix Tokenroid flies out and changes into a cube briefly before landing in her palm, changing back into a coin. She inserts it into her driver after replacing it on her belt.

Lumine Driver: ACCESSORY: RUBIX BATON!

A small cube materializes before her before unfolding into a short staff. She immediately takes it and accesses the data on her weapon.

Lumine: Let's try something new... B! A! A! B! RED!

She turns the handle of the Baton, and it begins glowing red. A sigil appears on Gukkedon. She charges at him, aiming for the sigil.

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

Lumine: RIDER... COLOSSUS SLASH!

She hits the sigil dead on, creating an explosion that engulfs Gukkedon.

Lumine: Okay... That did it... Right?

She gets her answer a second later as, out of the fireball, Gukkedon's arm shoots out and backhands her in the face, sending her flying into and through a tree. The impact shatters her antennae and her right eyepiece, revealing her terrified eye underneath the armor. Already, it begins to swell and turn purple. She lies there, unable to move, as Gukkedon emerges from the explosion completely unscathed.

Lumine: ...no...

Gukkedon: It'll take a lot more than that little sparkler to do me any harm, Princess. Now, I didn't wanna hurt you. I'd rather not have to hit you again.

What's left of her internal HUD shows that her HP is down to almost nothing.

Lumine: Got to... reboot! Damnit, what did Yamiya always do... OH! That's right!

She presses down on both A and B and holds it for a moment.

Lumine Driver: GAME CANCELLED.

Lumine: Cancelled?

Her armor suddenly vanishes completely without any of the usual powerdown effects, leaving only the belt. Her clothes are torn, matching the points where her armor took damage from the last blow. She's covered in cuts and bruises, all thankfully superficial except for her already badly swollen black eye.

Julie: nonononono! I didn't want to change back! Gotta henshin again!

She presses the start button.

Lumine Driver: Error. Error.

Julie: Oh great. NOW you decide not to work for me!

She sees Gukkedon getting closer with alarming speed. She struggles to her feet and barely manages to reattach the Driver to her belt. No sooner does she do this than Gukkedon grabs her with both hands, pinning her arms to her sides and lifting her off the ground. She tries to kick him, but it's a feeble attempt at best. He doesn't even notice.

Gukkedon: And now that that's over, we've got business to discuss.

Unable to move enough for it to matter, she stops kicking.

Julie: This.. This is where you infect me, isn't it?

Gukkedon shakes his head.

Gukkedon: You're wearing the Driver. Couldn't even if I wanted to, Princess. No. I'm here because we both know you don't want to be a Rider. I'm offering you the one thing you want most of all.

Her eyes go wide.

Julie: ...Home...

***

Tripigatus snorts, rubbing the cracked spot in his armor as Arcade slowly approaches.

Tripigatus: (King Face) It seems what we have heard was spot on about you. You are a monster of most excellent caliber.

Arcade: (Stops) What?

Tripigatus: Look around, look at the destruction you’ve caused! Better yet, I could see it in your eyes. You enjoyed it. You didn’t even CARE or HESITATE!

Arcade turns slightly the shattered windows, downed power lines, cracked ground, and flaming cars coming into view.

Arcade: No…

Tripigatus: (Snorting) You’ve done most of our work for us! Most becoming! (General face) You do a Viron proud.

Arcade clenches his fist and turns to Tripigatus.

Arcade: You’re cooked.

Ami: (over comm) Ken! KEN! Where are you? We’ve lost contact with Julie!

Arcade: What?

Ami: She just went dark! It looked like she was fighting a second Viron signal. Where are you!?

Arcade: Shit, going back to her!

Tripigatus smiles and starts to move on the Rider while he’s distracted, but several tokenroids fly from the holster on his belt shifting into Firebirds and peak and claw at the Viron until it turns and runs off.

Arcade runs back to where he left Lumine reaching into his tokenroid holster and shoving the tokenroid into his driver not giving it a moment to transform.

Arcade Driver: ACCESSORY: MACHINE BATTRIDE!

The Machine Battride swerves in front of Arcade and he leaps onto the bike in one clean jump. Revving the throttle hard, he burns rubber toward where he left Lumine.

***

Gukkedon: I've seen how miserable you are with Arcade and his pals. Ripped from your family, your life, everything you know... And they go and make you fight when you're no fighter. It's clear even to a monster like me that your heart just isn't in it. So let me make you an offer... Join us. No infection. No fighting. All you've got to do is pledge loyalty to the Viron... to me... and you can get your life back.

Julie has no words. She just stares at him, confused.

Gukkedon: Oh, I'd still need you to perform the occasional service for me. Nothing major. We Viron don't really understand the humans, so having you around would help. But you'd never have to be Lumine again. And really... What have Arcade and his little pals done to earn any loyalty from you, anyway?

Julie: ...I...

She looks away, ashamed that the creature can read her so easily. Gukkedon hears the sound of a motorcycle getting closer. He sets Julie down and releases her.

Gukkedon: Don't answer right now, Princess. Think about it.

He punches into the ground and pulls up a pipe, creating a portal. He leaps through and the pipe recedes into the ground. Shellshocked, Julie stands there motionless as Arcade races onto the scene on Machine Battride. He dismounts and runs to her, seeing that she's been hurt.

Arcade: JULIE!

She looks at him, terrified.

Julie: I... couldn't even... scratch it...

The stress of the blow she took finally hits her and she collapses into his arms, barely conscious.

***

Ami: And that's all you remember?

Julie winces as Ami tends to her eye, which is still badly swollen.

Julie: Yeah. Vice Lord, weird symbol on him, WAY out of my weight class. STALKER.

She turns away from Ami and looks away.

Julie: I'm useless... All that power... and nothing. All I did was get in the way.

Ami: It's not unexpected. You're untrained. The Director had no right to send you into a battle like that. Trial by fire my... ahem...

She reaches behind her and pulls out a small pamphlet.

Ami: Here. It's an English copy of the manual. Ken told me about your literacy issues.

Julie winces as she turns to take it. Even as she does, Ken sticks his head in.

Ken: Porky just showed up again. Let's go.

Ami: Ken, she's hurt! You can't just expect her to-

Julie: No... I don't have any choice.

She gets up and heads out the door with Ken. Ami watches her go, the concern in her eyes deepening.

***

Already transformed, they ride down the road headed towards the sighting. Relying on the auto pilot, Lumine quickly flips through the manual pages. She reaches a bookmarked page and blinks under her helmet. She holds the page up and points to it.

Lumine: Is this...?

Arcade nods once and speeds up.

***

Tripigatus waves the Firebird Tokenroids away, finally making them back off.

Tripigatus (king head): Away from my royal personage, you robotic vermin!

Arcade: What's wrong? Not a bird lover?

The monster turns and sees Arcade standing behind him. He immediately backs away and reaches for a Byte cartridge. Even as he tosses it out, unleashing the creatures, Arcade hears the sound of another cycle approaching.

Arcade: Julie, just deal with the Bytes. I'll handle the walking roast.

To his surprise, as she rolls onto the scene, she doesn't slow down, but instead speeds up and rams into Tripigatus, carrying him with her.

Lumine: YOU take the Bytes! I need the practice!

Arcade just stares for a second as they get out of sight.

Arcade: Hey, you don't go sniping someone else's opponent! It’s bad gamesmanship!

Lumine: I'M NOT A GAMER! SUCK IT UP!

He starts to protest, but stops as a Byte swings at his head. He moves backwards and spins, kicking it in the chest. In seconds, they're out of his audio range as well.

Arcade: ...Good luck...

***

Tripigatus: STOP THIS AT ONCE!

The monster thrashes on the front of Machine Teminos.

Lumine: If you insist.

She stops suddenly, and Tripigatus goes flying, sprawling on the pavement. As she dismounts, she pulls her Driver off.

Lumine Driver: GUN MODE!

The monster changes faces, becoming the soldier.

Tripigatus: HA! The weak one wants to rumble with the finest fighter in this Viron's army! Bring it, little girl!

Lumine: Actually, I just needed to try something out.

With the Driver in gun mode, she begins tapping buttons.

Lumine: B! A! B! A! ENTER!

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

She aims carefully at Tripigatus, who charges at her.

Lumine: RIDER... TRAPPING BIND!

She pulls the trigger and streamers of energy launch from her Driver and spiral around Tripigatus. In seconds, they form into a gigantic approximation of a Chinese Finger Trap, catching the monster inside. The more he struggles and strains, the tighter they hold him.

Lumine: You see, I've been stuck on the first level of the simulator. Couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong because I couldn't read that pesky little manual. But now I can, and now I know that my Driver's gun form has combos, too.

Her eyes scan the digital menu inside her helmet. She doesn't seem to notice as she switches off the audio and visual signals.

Lumine: Want to see the other one?

She presses some buttons.

Lumine: A! B! A! B! ENTER!

Her blaster charges up.

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

She fires once, striking Tripigatus's left hip. A glowing number 1 appears there.

Lumine: You can tell you pal Gekkedon that he's right. I DON'T owe Arcade and his group anything.

She fires twice more, striking both the monster's shoulders. A 2 and 3 appear.

Lumine: But there's no chance in hell I'd ever side with you Viron either!

Again, two more shots. One to his other hip, and another just above. 4 and 5 appear.

Lumine: Not after what you bastards tried to do to my classmates!

She fires three more shots, filling 6 through 8, but leaving a blank space in the center.

Lumine: RIDER... SUDOKU SHOT!

She fires one last blast, which strikes Tripigatus dead center. As the 9 forms, it creates a massive explosion that sends Tripigatus flying. He slams into the wall of a building and leans against it, smoldering and barely hanging on. He hears a click as Lumine aims the blaster right at his head. He switches to his King head.

Tripigatus: You've won the day, girl. End it. Grant me a noble end.

Lumine: I'm not done! You can tell your boss something else, too!

The tip of her blaster glows... then suddenly dies down. She pulls the blaster away from him and glares.

Lumine: Tell him that I want to make a deal.

DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE? [Y/N]

Ken: Julie, you're making a dangerous mistake!

Gukkedon: My princess wants to make a deal?

Julie: If you stand between me and home, then I'll just have to go through you!

Ken: I didn't want to do this... But now I don't have any choice!

Arcade Driver: MODE LOAD!

Ken/Julie: Next Time: Arcade Vs. Lumine!
Last time, on Kamen Rider Arcade: After being rescue from Viron conversion, Julie finally accepts the Lumine Driver to save her school from Alizo. Together Arcade and Lumine defeat the Viron with Julie proving to be more than rough around the edges. Arcade destroys Alizo who delivers a cryptic message in his final breath to the Rider. After the battle, Ken brings Julie to ComCon where her decision to leave her family is made easier by being connected to her father and brother via webcam. Meanwhile, Vice Lord Gukkedon reports directly to the Viron King…

***

GAME START!

Lumine cries out as her armor is racked blow after blow by the dripping poisonous talons of second stage Spindar. Lumine staggers back right into a park bench holding her chest and patting herself down in a search for her tokenroid holder.

Lumine: Stupid belt, where is it? Where is…

The Vrion chuckling as a first stage Spindar leaps over him, kicking off his shoulders, and air tackles the Rider to the ground. The Rider and creature tussle on the ground a moment before the Viron stands and picks Lumine up by her shoulders and tosses her into the ground. Lumine fights to stand and holds her fists up at the monster.

Lumine: T-that all you go-ot, b-buddy?

She stumbles back into the path of a stream of throwing daggers, but before she could even raise her arms to shield herself five Alizo’s rush in and encircle her in a flurry of blades.

Lumine reaches for her driver blaster but a stray dagger knocks it out of her hands and the five Viron juggle blades back and forth to each other with the Rider caught in the middle.

Lumine’s armor sparks and strains against each blow as she falls to one knee, in her armor vanishing in a bright flash, and the Alizos stop and raises their blades for the final strike.

Lumine Driver: Game over! You lose!

Julie: NO!

She raises her hands to shield herself.

Ami (from the control booth): Simulation off.

The Viron freeze and distort before vanishing like images on an old cathode ray television set being turned off. The soon the trees and scrubs of the park flicker and disappear leaving behind the cold and sterile Virtual Simulation (VS) Room.

Ami takes her glasses off and massages between her eyes before taking a conference mic and speaking clearly into it,

Ami: Take a break, Julie. We’ll start again in ten.

Julie: Yeah boss, you can bury my shell at wounded knee…(passes out on flat on her back)

Ami lightly taps the touchscreen monitor to her right bringing up a “Player Stats” screen. She frowns at the flashing red “5% Total Progress” and rubs her palm across her forehead.

Ami: Five. (Sighing) Hours. And still on level one…

Dan drowsily looks over her shoulder and down at the test results.

Dan: Yo, that’s like bad. Even Gunpei cleared that in a couple of minutes.

Ami: DAN!? How did you get in here?

Dan: Hm, in-tru-da-window…? (Takes a spoonful from the giant bowl of cereal under his arm)

Ami: (Exhaling slowly and choosing to ignore the last statement) Yes, this is bad.

Dan: (Adjusting his bathrobe) And how many days has she been trying again? I lost count. 

Ami: Too long. Longer than anyone else put through the program…

Dan: Why doesn’t she jus-

Ami: She hasn’t read the manual yet. And I’m not telling her otherwise she won’t learn.

Ami’s eyes fall on the monitor and Julie’s simulation performance results.

Ami: (Her lips twist) Why this girl…

***

Warehouse District, Tobesei,

Gukkedon kneels before a tear in space between our world and an alternate world filled with darkness and cackling energy.

Gukkedon: This window closes soon, my King, but another opens. By my blood or by another’s…

As if responding to the words, the tear swells and shrinks with an ominous light.

Behind Gukkedon a shadowed figure watches, leaving a trail of black feathers…

***

Kamen Rider Arcade
Created by: Aaron Thall and Jamion McNeil

Level 5: Fork Tongued Promises
Written by: Aaron Thall and Jamion McNeil

***

ComCon Technologies, 8:41am

Ken sits alone the aimlessly turning through a newspaper and eating pineapple slices straight from the can. He’s more relaxed than we’ve previously have seen him and almost looks calm…

After a few moments of tense silence, Gunpei stops doing crunches on the other side of the room to ask,

Gunpei: We ever gonna finish that talk?

Ken: Not that I can see. (Turns a page)

Gunpei: Alright, fine with me. But on another note, I think you need to check on your partner.

Ken: She’s fine. Ami’s working with her.

Gunpei: Ken, six days in the VS Room is not fine. Maybe she could use, I don’t know, a guiding hand? Let her know she’s not in this alone.

Ken: I don’t think I like this world where you’re telling me about how to handle partners.

Gunpei: …My situation being beside the point…

Ken shakes his head and pokes around at the canned pineapples with his fork and pulls one out.

Gunpei: You’re eating pineapples?

Ken: Yeah, what about it?

Gunpei: I thought you didn’t like pineapples.

Ken: Since when?

Gunpei: Since I’ve known you.

Ken: You sure that wasn’t Dan? I think all your recent downtime is messing with your head, Trigger.

The doors to the rec room slide open and Inara steps in.

Inara: Mr. Shigeru, Mr. Iwane. Director Bushnell would like to meet with you in the boardroom for a mission briefing.

Gunpei: Personally?

Inara: Personally. (Adjusting her glasses)

Gunpei: Well, get a new Rider and suddenly Mr. Wiz-(eyeing Inara’s brow raise) uh, Director Bushnell wants to speak with us in person a lot. Careful, we could get use to this.

Ken: (Sitting up) I’ll go get Ami and the others.

Inara: Thank you for your cooperation.

***

Warehouse District, Tobesei, 8:41am

Gukkedon studies a gem replaying Lumine’s fight with Alizo and he studies her moves gently stroking the gem with a razor claw.

His eyes dilate then narrow when he recognizes an odor and presence in the room.

Gukkedon: Finally come out of whatever hole you’ve been hiding in?

???: Yes, it is a shame not all us where able to take form in this world immediately like you, Lord Gukkedon.

Gukkedon rotates to face a shadowed and cloaked figure sitting atop a crate; his shape and face masked by a flurry of descending black feathers.

???: Some of us found our data…fragmented in the transition to this realm. We all can’t be as mighty as you.

Gukkedon: Hm, probably for the best. (He lets off a haunting distorted chuckle) I am the only agent our King requires in this world.

???: True, but even a powerful warrior such as yourself would be a fool not to take counsel.

Gukkedon: Speak quickly.

???: I see how you eye the newest Rider. Perhaps I can assist you in acquiring her.

Gukkedon: I don’t need help… especially from you.

???: Hear me out, the Riders use a two-fighter system. You had the right idea in sending the cloner after them but you error in facing them head on. Divide and conquer, fellow Vice Lord, that’s how you’ll win this game.

The shadow figure tosses Gukkedon a green gem.

???: Follow this to a particular Viron that will be of some use for this purpose. I’ve already spoken with him; he’ll know what to do. In fact, he’s already started a plan to get on the Riders' radar.

Gukkedon: I don’t know if I should take this. Don’t think I can pay your prices.

???: Then there’ll be no charge. Just the assured destruction or corruption of our enemies.

Gukkedon snarls and reaches into the ground seemingly pulling out a large green man sized pipe. The lizard man leaps into the warp gate and the pipe sinks back into the ground.

???: This shall be entertaining.

***

Angry Rovio’s Junkyard,

Gukkedon steps from the other side of the warp gate into an abandoned and cluttered junkyard. The ground is brown and barren and the air tastes of rot. Inside the fortified fence are the skeletons of gutted and scrapped vehicles. The junkyard is filled with either overthrown or stacked into towers vehicles. The Vice Lord stops himself from feeling nostalgic and follows the gem to what looks like a makeshift throne. Sitting on top of the front is a giant man-shaped pig; hide covered in heavy rusting brunt umber armor and head covered in a Viking inspired helmet. Tripigatus snorts and his jungle green and camo painted face lights up when he sees Gukkedon.

Tripigatus: The other told me you would be coming, sir. (His face spins around in his helmet changing into a teal face with an imperial style mustache and the outline of a baron coronet on his forehead) WHO DARES APPROACH THE KING?! (That face spins around into a hunter green face with red eyes and an eye-patch) Sire, this is Vice Lord Gukkedon! We have been contracted to perform a mission for him, sir!

Gukkedon: Yes. (Blinking) Yes, that is me.

Tripigatus: (The king face spins around to center) Yes, we remember this now, General, thank you. Approach us, peasant. Since you have not come bearing gifts we shall get right to the matter at hand.

Gukkedon: Peasant?! How dare you add-

Tripigatus: (The jungle green face spins to center) What he means to say is we have already attacked the humans and taken from them thei-. (The king face spins to center) SILENCE Soldier, this commoner shall not have our lovely treasures! We stole them from the humans; they belong to our coffers now! (The general face spins center) Vice Lord, sir, do not worry, we are ready and we will engage and destroy the Riders upon contact, sir! 

Gukkeddon: See to it that you are. I shall try this…Divide and conquer.

***

ComCon Technologies, 9:17am

Ken, Julie, Ami, Dan, and Gunpei found themselves in the oddly open and tableless boardroom.

Dan: (Still in his bathrobe) I don’t think I’ve ever been up here…

Gunpei: For the love of…DAN, where are your pants?

Dan: Washing. I think. I don’t know. I lose track of em sometimes.

Gunpei: At least cover up.

Dan: What’s the matter, too sexy for your eyes (gyrating his hips)

Ken: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was talking about…

Julie: Yeah, well, it’s worse when you can see two of him…

Ami: Here.(Giving Julie a bottled water) Relax and try not to pay Dan any mind. Ever.

Bushnell entering the room by opening both sides of the double doors.

Bushnell: (smiling brightly) Good morning, angels!

Silence and dead pan looks. Inara files in line behind Bushnell and everyone but Julie stiffens up.

Bushnell: What? Oh, you people need to lighten up some. You’re all always so serious when I come talk to you. (Chuckling) Have a little fun once in a while.

Julie: Fun? FUN? Tell that to my SPLEEN. Who the hell is this basta-

Ami’s snaps her hand around Julie’s mouth.

Ami: Good morning, Director Bushnell.

Julie pulls her mouth free.

Julie: THIS guy is Bushnell?! The Bushnell that sent the driver to my house!?! THIS is the guy who ruined my life?! …In khakis?!

Bushnell: Oh, that’s right. We haven’t met. My, six days fly by, how is your training coming along by the way, Julie?

Julie: YOUSONVABITCH!

Julie stomps towards him.

Julie: I should kill you! You RUINED my lif-AWWW..

Before Julie could raise an arm to point at Bushnell, Inara has her on the ground and her arm in a vice grip.

Inara: You will show Director Bushnell the respect he deserves.

Julie: OWOWOWOW, who are you?!

Dan: Wait, they haven’t met? Julie, Inara. Inara, Julie.

Inara: Thank you, Mr. Takemura. I’m charmed. (She twists Julie’s arm).

Julie: OWOWOWOW.

Bushnell: Inara, please, the girl meant no harm. She’s just venting. I mean, who hasn’t been upset with me at some time or another?

Inara frowns before releasing Julie. Julie stands and dusts herself off keeping an eagle eye on Bushnell.

Julie: Oww…I’m cool, I’m cool…

She suddenly charges at Bushnell.

Julie: YOU BASTARD!

Inara grabs Julie’s arm and twists it behind her back, leading her out the door.

Inara: If it is alright with you, sir, I would like to speak with Ms. Mori in private.

Bushnell: By all means.

Julie: OWOWOWOWOWOW LEMME GO …

Inara leads Julie out of the room and closes the door.

Dan: (whistling) I do NOT envy her…I wouldn’t mind watching though…(He strains his neck to try see if the door could be open a crack)

Gunpei: Focus, man…

Ami: Umm, Ken said you wanted to meet with us about…?

Bushnell: Recent Viron activity. Seems our adversaries are becoming more brazen.

Bushnell pulls a remote from his polo’s top pocket. An overhead lowers from the ceiling and projects bloated images across the clean white wall and Bushnell. 

Bushnell: This Viron has been spotted around the convention center hosting the Electronics Expo this year.

Dan: E-PO?! I always wanted to go to E-PO but it’s always super hard to get in.

Bushnell: Yes, well you might want to skip this year, son. The Viron is attacking convention goers and stealing knick-knacks from them.

Gunpei: I’m not following, sir.

Bushnell: Cell phones, tablets, handheld games, pagers…

Dan: Pagers? (Giggling) Who still uses pag-

Bushnell: Whatever device the victim has this Viron takes it. We’ve kept it out of the media as long as we can…

Ken: But with the convention’s largest crowds due today and tomorrow,

Bushnell: You can see how that’s going to be impossible moving forward.

Ken: Director, this is the third time the Viron have directly targeted…

Bushnell: I know. There has to be a pattern here. Random attacks we can deal with it, but I’m almost afraid to think if there’s a larger scheme at work here. It goes without saying, but we need to investigate and stop this Viron immediately. I’ve already secured passes, Arcade and Lumine are to deploy at once.

Julie: (from the other side of the door) AAAOOOOWWWW, MAKE HER STOP.

Bushnell: Make that once Julie has a little time to rest.

Ami: Director, I must protest. This girl isn’t ready for the field; she hasn’t cleared level one yet.

Bushnell: Then consider it a trial by fire. We can’t keep her sidelined forever. Besides, she’ll be out there with Ken and we can trust he won’t let anything happen to her. Sometimes, action is the best teacher.

Dan: (raising his hand) Director Bushnell, if they’re going out in public I think it would call for a disguise.

Ken: What? You still on tha-

Bushnell: That’s an excellent idea, Dan.

Ken: Come again.

Dan: Thank you sir. I say rookie wears most humiliating costume. Or most revealing.

Ami grabs Dan by the ear and pulls him towards the door.

Ami: What’s that, Inara? You need to speak with Dan too?

Dan: SHEDOESNOT, SHEDOESNOT.

Bushnell: (Raising a brow) Yes, well, I leave this to you all. I have some actual company business to take care of. No rest for the wicked or so they say. Dismissed.

***

Wonderlic Convention Center, 10:03am

The Machine Battride and Machine Teminos with their respective drivers park in lot 3B behind the convention center. The lot is packed with a steady flow of people going and leaving the center. Ken scans the crowd before placing his Bluetooth piece in his ear.

Ken: You feeling better?

Julie: (rubbing her left arm) No…why didn’t you warn me about the Termi-secretary?

Ken: I honestly thought you already met her. (After a beat) Are you sure you want to wear that…?

Julie: Ami asked me the same thing before we left and Dan couldn’t stop giggling…(Looking down at her gray and teal dress uniform set) What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?

Ken: Um…well-

Julie: Let’s hurry up. The sooner we kill this Viron the closer I am getting back to something that looks like a normal life.

Ken: And faster we can have you off the field and back in the VS Room. Six days, really?

Julie: What? That thing is hard…

Ken: It shouldn’t be. Have you even read the manual?

Julie: …I perused through it…

Ken: You didn’t read it.

Julie: You can’t prove that I didn’t.

Ken: Okay, rookie, what’s the command for a Game Save?

Julie: A what?

Ken: Game Save, cancels transformation but keeps your timer in the green.

Julie: Timer?

Ken: You didn’t read it.

Julie: Because I don’t know the technical terms that doesn’t prove ANYTHING.

In the midst of their conversation the two had been walking and now find themselves in the bustling convention center. The hall is flooded in with a sea of people and numerous booths and displays are spread out from various companies showing off the latest in tech and gadget porn.

Ken: Okay (pointing to the banner suspended above the main doors) What’s that say?

Julie: (Gulping at the kanji and katakana) Um, Technology Fair Thingy…?

Ken: Not even close. It says bathrooms are located in the back lobbies.

Julie: (pouting) I’ve been having a little trouble reading Japanese…

Ken: How little we talking?

Julie: Um, I can’t read it…At all…

Ken: …You can’t be serious…

Julie: Well, I’d still be working on it if I wasn’t SNATCHED out of school, you know.

Convention Attendant 1: WOAH! Nice cosplay (Giving Julie the thumbs up).

Julie: What? Um, thanks?

Convention Attendant 2: (Walking by snapping a picture) Killer costume, but you got the hair all wrong.

Julie: Beg pardon… (turning to Ken) What are the--

Ken: Okay, here’s the plan. We do a general sweep, split up and see if we can find this Viron.

Julie: Can I take the outside? The smell in here is starting to remind me of home…(Holding her nose) and I don’t mean pleasant memories…

Ken: Fine, you take outside but if you run across the Viron do not engage. Contact me immediately.

Julie: If I find the Viron I plan on running the other way THEN calling you.

Ken and Julie separate while from the rafters a pair of watchful eyes following her out the door, snorting as she exits.

***

ComCon Technology, CEO Offices

Gunpei tentatively sticks his head in the door as Bushnell motions from his desk for him to come in. The Director leans back in his chair as he is finishing a conversation via Bluetooth. Fighting his trepidation, Gunpei tiptoes in as if striding on eggshells.

Bushnell: That’ll be fine. I expect prompt delivery. Yes, Inara will be there to sign for it. No, you cannot just drop it off. Let me call you back for shipping details, an appointment just walked in my door.

Bushnell removes the Bluetooth and motions again for Gunpei to sit down.

Bushnell: Gunpei, how the hell are you, son?

Gunpei: Um, fine, sir.

Bushnell: I know recent developments have put you in a place you’d rather not be in, but I appreciate your commitment and dedication to our work.

Gunpei: T-Thank you, sir.

Bushnell: I know it must be tough on you. And really, thank you. Now, the reason I called you in is Inara tells me when you were at the Mori home you found something of interest?

Gunpei: Yes, sir. There seems to have been evidence a Viron had been there, and, from the looks of things, a big one. And like it had been there all night which leads me to wonder why it didn’t kill or infect her, sir.

Bushnell: I see, have you told anyone else besides Inara and me?

Gunpei: No sir, I was told to wait before filing an official after action report.

Bushnell: Good, don’t tell anybody else about this.

Gunpei: Sir?

Bushnell: Well mainly because we don’t want to alarm our new recruit. We had a hard time getting her to agree to become a Rider. I don’t want to exacerbate the situation by letting her know she could possibly have a potential stalker. (Feigning a shudder) No, time being, let’s keep this between us.

Gunpei: Um, yes, sir.

Bushnell: Well, is there anything else?

Gunpei: Sir, does Dan really have to be a member of-

Bushnell: (Laughing) Is there anything else?

Gunpei: I guess not then, no sir.

Bushnell: Okay then. You get some rest and when you can see Dr. Kawata. She’s been bugging me about you guys not coming to her when you get back from the field, and we gotta keep Ami happy. (Winking) We all know she runs this place.

Gunpei: Yes, sir, I will. Thank you.

Bushnell nods and Gunpei stands and leaves. Once the door is closed, Bushnell settles into his seat and clasps his hands in front of him on the desk with the ghost of a smirk forming on his lips.

***

Ken had been searching the ins and outs of the convention hall for a while and found nothing except a lot of annoying salesmen and eager and ill-informed gadget enthusiasts. He had declined several offers to try a new whatever was being sold several times and he checked everywhere inside the hall but the women’s restroom. He was about to call it a day inside as he slipped his Bluetooth in his pocket when he is pulled aside by a very aggressive booth model (wearing barely more than a good smile) and dragged toward a display for the latest iteration of a company’s long line of ever adapting smart phones.

Booth Model: Almost. (Straining as she tugs) There!

Ken: No, really…(tugging back) I don’t want to see…

Booth Model: But you’ll like it. You can play all the latest games on it.

Ken: I get enough gaming in without it. Trust me.

Booth Model: Our new 4G network promises seamless video chat to talk with your girlfriend. 

Ken: I bet it does, but I don’t care…and I don’t have a girlfriend.

Booth Model: Oh? Well you gotta have this phone because it’s new a shiny.

Ken: Where is that even a thing and how does that make any sense?

Booth Model: Look, man. (She stops, sighs, and puts a hand on her hip) I’mma level with you. I need more visitors to come by before the end of the day or I could lose my job.

Ken: Oh. Really?

Booth Model: Yes really. It’s bad enough I gotta wear this. (Gesturing to her exposed midriff and thighs)

Ken: Hadn’t noticed.

Booth Model: Can you help me out, PLEASE?

Ken: Listen, -

Booth Model: Kasumi.

Ken: Kasumi, I was in the middle of something really important that I have to finish.

Kasumi: You can’t spare three minutes, five tops, to watch a tech demo and save a poor girl’s job?! (Batting her eyes at him)

Ken’s lips twist into a frown before waving and breaking.

Ken: Alright, fine, fine. But this better be quick.

Kasumi: Thanks! You’re a life saver!

Ken: I can be time to time.

Kasumi takes Ken by and runs towards the phone company’s stand.

***

Outside, Julie completes her tenth circle around the convention center.

Julie: Rock, rock, twig, stray tennis ball, more rocks. (Sighing) This is sooo boring and pointless. I don’t even know why I’m here.

Julie kicks a pebble into the asphalt parking lot and continues on her lap.

Julie: Car, car, truck, a swarm of Bytes with a pig monster, lamp post, motorcycle…(stops and looks at the approaching Viron)…GODDAMNIT.

Tripigatus: (General face showing) Bytes! Prepare to-

Julie: Hold that thought. I don't actually give enough of a shit to fight you. Hang on, I'll call someone that does.

Julie presses the button on the side of her Bluetooth.

Julie: Ken, there’s a giant pig outside wishing to speak with you. (No response) Ken? Ken? KEN?!

Tripigatus: (the king face spins to center) How fortunate for us. We get to skin this common girl. Fetch us our tongs, Bytes. We wish want to see what’s in the underbelly. 

Julie: Look, I’d love to fight with ya but I have this thing about keeping my fights kosher…(Pressing the Bluetooth) KEN?! Answer damnit!

***

Inside, Ken turns away from the phone demo gripping the vibrating pocket he placed the Bluetooth in.

Ken: Shit!

He pulls out the Bluetooth and gets an ear full of Julie, not noticing something small falling out of his pocket.

Julie: GIANT PIG OUTSIDE, MR.SUPERHERO PLEASE REPORT TO THE BACK OF THE BUILDING.

Ken: Keep him off you, I’m on my way!

Ken shrugs at the concerned Kasumi and moves to leave when she rushes over to him and grabs his arms.

Kasumi: Hey, hey wait. You’re gonna miss the best part. He always messes up on the apps, it’s hilarious.

Ken: I bet, I’m sorry. I gotta go now.

Kasumi: Than-hey, you dropped this. (she picks up the small card shaped device that fell out of Ken’s pocket) What is this? It looks like a Playstation memory. (Laughing as she inspects the red and white memory card with a symbol of a punching fist surrounded by flames engraved in the center) You weren’t kidding when you said you played a lot of games. What are you? One of those retro gaming hipsters?

Ken: Never that. And thanks. (He takes the memory card and slips into his pocket) But I really gotta run.

Kasumi: Hey, will…will you be here for the rest of the convention?

Ken: What? N-(eyeing the look in the girl’s eye) Oh, oh. I could be.

Kasumi: I’d like that.

Ken: I-I’ll find you when I get back

Kasumi: I’d like that more.

Ken smiles then remembers the reason he was leaving and rushes for the nearest exit.

***

My Top 10 Retweets of March 2013

@primegundam I like super heroes and giant robots.
@primegundam And it is when people overlook the fact that we are all human and concentrate on our differences that gives rise to atrocities.
@primegundam Illiterate people should not be allowed to speak to me for their safety.
@primegundam Next costume party I'm going to I'mma dress up as a slutty taco.
@primegundam Was Gem truly outrageous? Was she truly? Truly outrageous? Aquaman thinks so.
@primegundam There are some men who only want to watch marshmallows burn. Then put them on a graham cracker with chocolate.
@primegundam Hmm, my black man senses are tingling...Either something extremely racist is about to happen or a big booty chick just entered the building
@primegundam Post workout meal. Cooking up a multi-meats sandwich. I'm about to eat Noah's Ark on a bun. Come at me PETA.
@primegundam Somewhere they're attempting to combine Gangnam Style with the Harlem Shake. The result will be the summoning toll of an elder demon.
@primegundam Dr. Strange possesses the All Seeing Eye of Agamotto but can he see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

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