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Two Alizo clones stagger to their feet as Arcade’s eyes flare bright.

Alizo: We can take him if we work together!

Arcade: That’s the theory, anyway.

The Alizo charge forward swinging wildly, but Arcade’s dashes in and between their dagger strikes and the blades only manage to pass through the afterimage.

Alizo: Why won’t you die?!

Arcade catches a blade in both palms and breaks before kicking the Alizo in the chest. Arcade’s afterimage dissipates and the rider’s hand hovers upon his driver. The clone casts his sai to the side and pulls out a pair of twin hatchets.

Alizo: DIE DEVIL!

Arcade spins around entering into his driver controller the command BACK, DOWN, FORWARD, B, A in one smooth motion.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

Arcade crouches an inch for a brief second as the driver sends surges of crackling electricity to his feet. He launches himself off the ground with his back leg yelling,

Arcade: RIDER DIVIDE KICK!

Arcade smashes into Alizo’s face with a flying crescent kick sending a jolt of crackling electricity through his body. The clone cries out and explodes into a bright flash of pixels. Arcade lands on a knee, scooping up a hatchet.

Arcade: One down.

Lumine's armor sparks as the Alizos both score a hit simultaneously, sending her flying. She lands hard on the parking lot asphalt and pulls herself up.

Lumine: Not good! They're keeping up with me now!

She sees that her HP is down by half. She also sees that the two clones are weakened as well, no doubt from the Katamari Special.

Lumine: One more good attack should do it though... Right?

Ami: Probably.

Lumine: PROBABLY?! Not raising my hopes here!!!

Ami: LOOK OUT!

Lumine turns in time to take another massive strike from one of the clones' blades. She staggers back and barely ducks under a second swipe that had been meant to take her head off. She jumps backwards to put distance between herself and the two clones. She repeats the maneuver and quickly pulls the Lumine Driver off, switching it to gun mode.

Lumine Driver: GUN MODE!

She fires a few quick shots to keep the clones back.

Lumine: Open to suggestions here! I need a curtain call!

Ami: Already on its way.

Julie sees the new data.

Lumine: Okay!

She replaces the Driver on her belt and taps the buttons, and then twists the Rubix Baton to a tri-colored position.

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

She quickly uses the Baton, which begins glowing in an oscillating pattern of red, yellow, and blue, to draw a square in the air out of pure energy. She uses the Baton to blast it forward where it engulfs both Alizos and forms into a massive energy version of a Rubix Cube.

Alizo: What's this?!

Slowly, the three horizontal sections of the cube begin spinning in random directions. As the Alizos pound on the walls, trying to get free, Lumine charges the clones, the Baton still changing colors rapidly.

Lumine: RIDER...

She runs past them, swinging the Rubix Baton into the energy cube as hard as she can. As she goes past, it erupts into an even larger fireball than her last attack.

Lumine: RUBIX BREAKER!

She turns, exhausted, as the smoke clears, showing that both clones were incinerated.

Lumine: FINALLY!

The last Alizo attempts to back away but Arcade hurls the hatchet at his feet pausing his retreat.

Arcade: No escape.

Arcade stands and rushes at the last Alizo entering into the CyGaunt UP, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, Z.

CYGAUNT: POWER BLADE!

His arm coating in a sharp arc of energy Arcade slashing downward and slices the last clone in half who erupts in a vivid flash of bits.

Arcade: Outta clones, Viron! I’m ending this!

Arcade points at the real Alizo with the Power Blade.

Alizo: B-but i-impossible, you d-d-destroyed them so easily…w-w-what are you?!

Arcade: Kamen Rider Arcade!

Arcade reaches into his back holster revealing a tokenroid that shifts into rabbit that hops for a second before changing back into a coin as he flicks it in his belt.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: JUMP BOOST.

Alizo draws a dagger and stills himself for his final assault.

Alizo: Nothing is true…

Arcade hops lightly twice before springing up off the ground and clear out of sight. Moment later he comes down hard with both feet right into Alizo. The Viron chokes as the Rider bounce kicks repeatedly off his chest and head, each strike bringing the Viron lower and lower until he’s trembling on his knees with a thick neon substance pouring from open wounds. Arcade kicks off Alizo one last time and comes down into a knife chop as the CyGuant vibrates with the energy of the Power Blade coursing through it. The Viron weakly holds his daggers up to block as the arc of energy slices through the blades and him in one clean motion.

Arcade lands with his back to the Viron as it explodes in a dazzling array of bits and pixels.

Arcade Driver: PLAYER ONE WINS!

Arcade: And that's what I like to hear!

Arcade Driver: PLAYER BONUS!

Arcade: ... Wait, how many of this guy did I kill again?

He looks up just in time for a torrent of Tokenroids to rain down upon him.

Arcade: ACK! OW! OW OW OW!

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO WINS! PLAYER BONUS!

Two Tokenroids materialize in front of Lumine, changing into a Firebird and a lamb. They shift back into coins and land in her hand.

Lumine: It's over! Thank god!

She turns towards Mako and several of her classmates. To her relief, their hair begins turning back to normal. Exhausted, the students collapse. Mako's transformation takes longer, but it takes only a moment for even her altered skin to regain its original pigmentation. Like the rest, the girl falls to the ground, unconscious.

Lumine: That was WAY too close...

She makes her way over to Arcade, even as both their armors fade away.

Ken: Good work. Don't worry. They'll be fine when they wake up.

Dan runs up with Ami, who's already making another call with her Bluetooth.

Dan: I missed it? Aw man!

Ken: Maybe next disaster.

Dan: That's what you ALWAYS say.

Ami: Situation resolved, Director. But we're going to have some MASSIVE clean-up on this one. Hundreds of students and faculty, and more than a little property damage.

She glances over at the wall Julie's Katamari Special had hit. Or, rather, what's left of it. A gaping hole in the side remains; a testament to the move's power. Julie winces.

Julie: Oh, I hope I don't have to pay for that...

Ami: You won't. Listen, Ken, I've got to take care of the cleanup here. You and Dan should get Julie home. She'll need to pack.

Julie's heart sinks as she hears that. She glances at her unconscious classmates and at the damage to her school.

Julie: I really don't have any choice... Do I?

Ken just shakes his head and gently guides her away, doing his best to steel himself against the pain in her eyes. Dan and Ami watch them go.

Dan: Ami... This seriously sucks. Are you sure you can't-

Ami: If I could, I would. We've been through this before.

Dan: Yeah, that's what I thought.

He sighs.

Dan: Ami? I think I just got a great idea.

***

Mori Home,

Ken and Julie walk up to the door. She hesitates as she unlocks it.

Julie: ...What do I tell them? I can't just disappear. They'd be worried sick.

Ken: It's covered already. Just follow my lead.

Julie: Follow your what?


Not explaining, Ken opens the door and goes in.

Julie: HEY!

She forces her way in past him.

Julie: What the hell did you mean by-

Mr. Mori: Julie? You're home early. Did classes let out already?

Julie: You... could say that...

Dad: And who is...?

Ken steps forward and, smooth as glass,

Ken: My apologies, Mr. Mori. I'm with the Ishinomori Fine Arts Academy. I assume you've met with my associate already?

Mr. Mori: Yes.

Ken: I apologize for our presumptiveness, but we felt it essential to make our case to Julie in person as well, especially since we have an immediate opening available.

Mr. Mori: She said you've started dancing again.

Julie: Well, I...

Mr. Mori: I'm glad to hear it. It broke my heart when you quit. You shouldn't have blamed yourself for what happened, Julie. There was no way you could have known, and nothing you could have done differently. And you know your mother would have been disappointed in you for walking away from what you love.

Julie can't meet his gaze and looks away, ashamed.

Julie: Dad. I'm... I'm going. It's something I... need to do.

He simply nods and places his hand on her shoulder. Tears fill her eyes and she hugs him as hard as she can.

Julie: I love you so much, Dad.

Ken: I'll... wait outside.

He quietly leaves, not wanting to intrude on the moment. As he steps out the door, he hears something curious.

Yamiya: ...Is that scary woman gone yet?

***
Inara looks up from her tablet and glances at Gunpei at the driver’s seat from over the edges of her glasses.

Inara: Did you say something, Mr. Iwane?

Gunpei: No…

Inara: Hm.

Inara goes back to checking the messages in her inbox.

***

The drive to ComCon is agonizingly silent. Ken keeps glancing in his rear view mirror to see Julie, sullen and depressed, sitting with her head tucked between her knees. He's only known her for two days, but it's obvious to him that she's barely holding herself together. He soon reaches the building and pulls into its underground garage.

Ken: We're here.

Casually, he parks the car and lets her out. She climbs from the car slowly, not really paying much attention. It's obvious her mind is still replaying her goodbyes to her father and brother.

Ken: Someone will come to get your stuff. Right now, there's something I need to show you.

Julie: Fine...

The single word speaks volumes. It is completely devoid of any emotion except resignation. She continually looks down at the ground as he guides her towards a maintenance bay. Once they're in an open area, he pulls out two Tokenroids. He tosses one to Julie and holds the other up.

Ken: These are our Machine Summoning Tokenroids.

The one in his hand shifts to form a cycle, then changes back to a coin. Julie's does so as well, but she isn't even looking.

Ken: When we need to move quickly, just insert it into your Driver.

He demonstrates.

Arcade Driver: ACCESSORY: MACHINE BATTRIDE!

Right on cue, his Rider Machine drives up and parks itself right in front of him.

Ken: Try it.

With a depressed sigh, she wordlessly complies.

Lumine Driver: ACCESSORY: MACHINE TEMINOS!

A second Rider Machine drives up, one she recognizes from the night before. To Ken's dismay, she still doesn't react.

Ken: Julie? Are you... okay?

Julie: ...It's pointless.

Ken: Pointless?

Julie: ...I CAN'T DRIVE, OKAY?! I don't even have a learner's permit! So YEAH... POINTLESS!

Ken flops for a second and groans.

Ken: You can't be serious...

Yusei: Not THAT surprising.

They both turn to see a mechanic walking up wearing goggles and coveralls that are remarkably grease free.

Ken: Our mechanic, Yusei. Best there is. Hell of a card player, too.

Yusei: Heard you had a newbie joining up. Must be her.

Julie mutters a vague greeting.

Yusei: Aw, buck up, little lady. I'll just hook you up with our latest model auto-pilot and you'll be good to go. But for now... Ken, make sure I'm NOT doing their maintenance when you summon them, huh? Last thing you need is a trail of engine fluid behind you.

Ken: Oh. Right. Sorry, Yusei. We'd better get going, anyway. Come on.

Julie just follows, still not in much of a talking mood.

***

Tobesei Police Precinct 64,

Director Bushnell sits across a boardroom table facing three visually displeased high ranking officers. Bushnell is looking down as the center officer, Chief Suzuki, finishes reading from a report in a manila folder.

Suzuki: …and thousands in property damage, damnit Bushnell. I thought you and your people had these creatures under control. Now these things and your science fiction reject brigade are tearing up the streets and endangering lives. If this goes on, I’ll have to shut you down!

Bushnell: (still looking down) I assure you, the Viron are more than controlled.

Suzuki: And today, at a damn high school? Now our children aren’t safe!?

Bushnell: ComCon is already on the scene handling that situation. And no one is safe from the Viron.

Suzuki: Would you stop fidgeting and look at me when I’m talking to you!

Bushnell holds up a silver dollar he had be polishing with a handkerchief in his lap. The glare from the ceiling light reflects off the coin right into Chief Suzuki’s face.

Bushnell: I came down here to see how the news got so much information about the Viron surrounding the CapuCreep tournament in the first place. I came down here in the spirit of good will (Chuckles) I certainly didn’t come down here to be berated by an over-decorated security guard. 

Suzuki: Now you look here,

Bushnell No, you look here. ComCon provides generous amounts of money to several policemen fundraisers and charities as well as pouring, I mean pouring, money into the policemen retirement fund. Which by extension means I, personally, pay for it. Your new equipment, this new building, the uniform off your back, down to the very pot you’ll shit in when your old; I paid for it.

Suzuki: Um, we’re aware of all tha-

Bushnell: I’m not finished. With all the time and effort I spend supporting the police here as well as aiding in the defense of the public I would like to think when I asked for something to be done. It will be done. All you people have to do is keep Viron out of the news, keep the locals blissfully unaware, and ComCon will take care of the rest. So, can you explain to me the leak in your department which led to the public learning about the Viron’s existence?

Suzuki: There’s no leak here, Mr. Director. I trust every officer here explicitly.

Bushnell: That a fact? (Motioning to the officer on Suzuki’s left) Why not ask Lt. Hardy how he can afford that expensive watch on his salary.

Hardy covers the watch quickly.

Hardy: It was a gift and I don’t think that’s any of your business.

Bushnell: Son, please. Did you not just hear how I know how the money flows through here? Hn, I thought you people were police officers.

Suzuki: (Clearing his throat) The issue at hand is still the Viron, Mr. Director.

Bushnell: Again, the Viron are taken care of. All these latest and more open attacks go to prove is that if there’s an advantage we have over the Viron is that they’re disorganized. They are against the ropes and victory will soon be ours. They’re nothing more than wild beasts with no central base of power or leadership. 

Meanwhile, across town in an abandoned warehouse district…

Gukkedon watches from a gem the destruction of Alizo at Arcade and Lumine’s hands before closing his clawed hands around it crushing it into powder. He snarls as he bows to one knee before a shimmering tear in the fabric of space and time flanked by rows of slumbering Bytes.

Gukkedon: King. Your humble servant brings you news.


***

Ken: These'll be your quarters.

He opens a door to a largely undecorated room. It's small but does the job. Julie can see her stuff is already lying next to the bed.

Ken: You need anything?

Julie: The only thing I need is the one thing you can't give.

She walks inside and flops face down on the bed, instantly staining the sheet with her tears. Ken closes the door behind her, shaking his head.

Ken: Bushnell...

Ken walks down the hall right into Gunpei.

Ken: Now’s not the time, Trigger.

Gunpei: (Fidgeting with the words) Look, about the other day. I wanted to a-apologize.

Ken: What? (Blinking) Who are you what have yo-

Gunpei: Hahaha, cute. Don’t make me take it back. (Rubbing his jaw) We might not always agree, but I do understand how you feel about Hayao and Bushnell dumping this gir-

Ken: (holding a hand up) Leave it. I don’t want to talk about it.

Ken walks pass Gunpei towards the elevators, his rugged face solemn and introspective.


In her quarters, Julie just lies wallowing in misery for a few minutes.

Yamiya: Wow, you look MISERABLE.

Her eyes go wide and she pulls herself up, looking around.

Julie: Yamiya?!

Yamiya: Over here, Sis.

She turns towards a computer screen sitting on top of a small dresser. Now active, it shows her brother, who gives her a jaunty wave.

Julie: BRO! But...

Yamiya: Yeesh, you act like you're never gonna see us again. You really ARE a drama queen, you know that?

She wipes her tears. She can't believe she's seeing him. Talking to him.

Julie: I miss you already...

Yamiya: Well, now you don't have to. They called us and told me how to set up this feed. Now we can talk whenever we feel like it. Didn't get the chance to say it before, Sis, but I'm glad you're getting back up on the horse. You were born to be on the stage. That school doesn't know how lucky it is to have you.

Julie: Yamiya...

Just outside the door, Ami smiles softly. She turns towards Dan.

Ami: Excellent suggestion.

Dan: Hey, I do have some from time to time.(He yawns) Now I’m going to bed.

Ami: Dan, it’s four in the afternoon…

Dan: Shit, I’ve already missed two hours sleep then…

***

Bushnell stands in his office facing the window, overlooking the city as dusk settles in.

Bushnell: Can’t you feel it in the air, Inara? This is an exciting time.

Inara, at Bushnell’s desk, goes through a YouTube video filmed from a cellphone of the attack on Julie’s school which ends with her double transformation with Ken.

Inara: I’ve isolated the uploader’s IP address, Director Bushnell. The upload has been blocked.

Bushnell: (without turning to face her) Wipe the source but be sure to keep a copy for my records. Just in case.

Inara: Very well sir.

Bushnell: Oh and when you’re done find the uploader and process them, would you?

Inara: As you wish.

Bushnell: (smiling) Exciting times, indeed.

DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE? [Y/N]

Bushnell: Welcome to ComCon, Miss Mori.

Julie: You son of a bitch!

Ken: We can't let the Viron destroy that convention!

Gukkedon: We both know you don't belong in this fight, Princess. Join me, and you can have that which you most desire.

Julie: ...Home...

Ken: Next time: Forked Tongued Promises 
Last time, on Kamen Rider Arcade: Even as Julie did her best to forget about Arcade and ComCon and return to a normal life, she was unaware that she was being stalked by Vice Lord Gukkedon. To that end, the villain assigned one of his minions, the cloning-assassin Alizo, to capture her and lure Arcade into a trap. As Ken, Ami, and Dan went to her school to convince her to go with them, Alizo put his plan into motion, infecting many of the students and using them to flush the Riders out. Ken engaged Alizo in battle with his CyGauntlet, while Dan found Julie, but neither of them were able to keep Alizo from finding the girl. As Ken battled furiously, Alizo prepared to infect Julie and make her Gukkedon's permanent slave...

***
RESUME GAME!
Alizo: Welcome... to the Viron.

He reaches for Julie's face. The girl can't even look away.

Arcade: NO!

He punches one of Alizo's clones out of the way, but he realizes he won't get there in time. Then, suddenly, he sees he doesn't have to. Something small strikes Alizo, knocking him away from Julie. The small object stops, revealing itself as the Tokenroid Julie had been holding onto. Changing into a cube again, it streaks forward and slams into the enslaved students, forcing them to let Julie go. She wastes no time getting to her feet and backing away from them as the small cube circles her head and lands in her hand.

Julie: Okay! Okay! You can stay!

Seeing that she's momentarily clear, Arcade quickly punches two more Alizos away and pulls out another Tokenroid. It shifts briefly into a black cloud before he slams it into his Driver's slot.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: SMOKESCREEN BOOST!

Several small smoke bombs launch from the CyGaunt and spread around the room. They erupt, and everyone is enveloped in the thick cloud.

Alizo: NO! You won't escape me that easily!

Arcade: We already have.

The smoke clears quickly, but to the monster's frustration, Arcade, Julie, and Dan are already gone.

Alizo: This isn't over, Arcade!

***

Kamen Rider Arcade
Created by: Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

Level 4: Ready! Player Two!
Written by: Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

***

Just outside the school, Julie coughs as she waves away the fumes from the smoke bombs.

Julie: Too close... WAY too close!

Dan: Oohhh... Did anybody get the number of that truck?

He shakes his head, still dazed from the blow he'd taken.

Arcade Driver: GAME SAVED!

Ken's armor vanishes and he moves to check on them.

Ken: Good thing Rubix Tokenroid was with you.

The tiny cube flies around Julie's head.

Julie: Rubix? Like the puzzle?

Ken nods.

Ken: It seems to like you.

Julie: He's... I mean, it's growing on me.

Rubix Tokenroid changes back to a coin and puts itself in her jacket pocket.

Dan: Okay, we've got her. Now what?

Ken: Now we get ready. We can't leave things like this.

Julie: All the students...

She clenches her fists.

Julie: It's all my fault. They're after me...

Ken: No, you didn't know.

Ami runs up to them, breathing hard.

Ami: I've gotten as many people out as I could... But if those kids remain infected for much longer...

Ken: I know. Do you have it?

Ami holds up the Lumine Driver.

Ami: Of course. Who do you take me for... Dan?

Ami turns towards Julie and holds out the Driver. Julie looks at it, and at Ken, who nods.

Ami: It'll protect you.

Hesitantly, Julie takes a hold of the Lumine Driver. Immediately, they hear a moan and turn to see a small cluster of infected students led by Mako.

Julie: Oh come ON! AGAIN?

Ken: That's what =I= said.

Mako: Rider...

She steps forward, but stops and clutches her stomach suddenly, crying out in agony.

Mako: AAAAHHHHH!!!!

Slowly, her skin begins changing colors, becoming red and black, forcing her to the ground in pain.

Julie: OH MY GOD! What's happening to her?!

Ami: She's beginning to enter stage two infection.

Ken: If we don't end this fight quickly, the students will all begin turning into Bytes...

Julie's memory flashes back to the creatures that had knocked her off the rooftop.

Julie: Oh my god...

Ken: Remember, if this Viron dies, they'll revert to normal, but if he escapes, the Viron will have an army of these things.

Julie: ...And all those families will be ripped apart...

Ken: I know it's cruel, but what's better? All of their families suffering or just yours?

Julie looks away. She doesn't need to answer.

Ken: Okay then. Will you fight with me? This guy's too slippery for me to beat alone without hurting your classmates.

Julie: I... I don't have any choice at all, do I?

Ken: No. No, you don't.

Julie: But... I'm no fighter.

Ami: No, you're a dancer. That's why I also brought this.

She reaches into her coat pocket and produces another Tokenroid, one that looks like a cartoonish smiley face. It activates as headphones pop out of the back and snap into place atop it.

Ami: Rhythm Boost. It was a Tokenroid prototype when we began developing the technology.

It flies out of Ami's hand and lands on Julie's shoulder.

Alizo: No amount of Tokenroids are going to save you, little girl! My master demands your presence, and I always accomplish my missions!

The Viron steps forward, followed by a virtual army of infected students. He steps OVER Mako and keeps going.

Alizo: Now be a good little slave and give up.

He gestures and his four clones materialize.

Ken: The time for talk is over.

Rhythm Tokenroid changes back into a coin and lands in Julie's hand.

Ken: Just watch my back and do what you can.

Julie nods slightly as Dan and Ami step back. Both Ken and Julie hold up their Drivers.

Julie: Let's just do this before I realize I'm being an idiot, okay?

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 and going out to her side as she looks away. Gridlines appear around Ken as his armor materializes. Tetris bricks engulf Julie as her armor forms.

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

Arcade points at Alizo.

Arcade: Now, let's aim for the high score!

Lumine: For the record, I hate being Lumine...

She looks at the monster and points in his direction.

Lumine: But you're standing between me and home!

Alizo: So, you're finally going to put up a fight, huh? That just makes the job more fun for me!

Arcade: Julie, try to draw off some of his clones. I know you're scared, so I can trust you to not be reckless.

Lumine: Reckless? I'm trying very, VERY hard to not run away screaming.

Arcade: Relax. Focus. You can do this.

Out of a holder on her side, Rubix and Rhythm Tokenroids fly out, transform, and begin circling her.

Arcade: They want you to use them. Hurry!

Rubix Tokenroid changes back into a coin and lands in Lumine's hand.

Lumine: Here goes...

She inserts Rubix Tokenroid into her Driver's slot.

Lumine Driver: ACCESSORY: RUBIX BATON!

A small multi-colored cube materializes before Julie and unfolds, changing into a short staff. She takes a hold of it.

Lumine: Well, that's different...

She looks at Rhythm Tokenroid, which reverts to a coin.

Lumine: Your turn!

She takes it and inserts it.

Lumine Driver: UPGRADE: RHYTHM BOOST!

The Driver begins emitting an unfamiliar hiphop tune, and to her surprise, Lumine begins tapping her foot to the beat. Slowly, she looks up and right at Alizo.

Lumine: Let's dance. I'll lead.

Two of the Alizos take the bait, coming at her blades raised. She moves backwards, skipping a bit as she does so. They quickly catch up and she ducks limbo style. As she does this, she kicks up with her right leg, cracking one Alizo in the back of the head with her boot. The monster clone stumbles as she pirouettes and swings the Rubix Baton into the gut of the second, raising sparks.

Arcade watches this, amazed.

Arcade: When the heck did she learn how to fight?!

Ami's voice comes over his comm system.

Ami: She hasn't. She's focusing on dance, not the fight. It's why I gave her Rhythm Boost. The music keeps her calm, centered, and focused enough that she won't be a burden. That she's using the dance moves to defend herself's just a bonus.

Arcade: Glad to know

Two Alizos charge at Arcade with sais in hand. The Rider falls into a defending stance blocking an oncoming sai with his arm and punching the first Alizo in the lower side. As the Viron swaggers to the left from the blow, Arcade’s foot snaps up in fast secession striking the second Alizo in his lower knee, then into the assassin’s abdomen, and finally a sharp kick to the side of his neck. Arcade grabs hold of the still dazed and stumbling Alizo by the shoulders and throws him into his ally.

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.

Arcade: Come on, boys. Let’s dance.

The Viron stumble to their feet and leaps into the air entering into the CyGaunt LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B.

CYGAUNT: DOUBLE DRAGON!

Arcade’s jump ends in an arch appearing to produce a shaky afterimage mimicking his moves. The Rider lands on top of both Viron like lightning as his fists blur pounding into the chest of the first Alizo punctuating every three blows with a jumping elbow into the same spot. Whenever the second Alizo attempts to move closer a quick jab from what seems to be the second Arcade forces him back at every step.

The second Alizo clone growls and slashes at the second Arcade but his dagger passes right through him. Confused he swipes again and again each time going harmlessly through the Rider. He raises his arm for another strike but between blinks Arcade turns to Alizo and delivers an uppercut that lifts the Viron off the ground.

Alizo 2: H-how?!

The Arcades, still moving in blurs, dashes right under the still in midair Alizo and both deliver a standing ax kick to the Viron’s back that sends him hurtling in the opposite direction.

Lumine snakes her body left, then right, avoiding slashes of Alizo's blades.

Lumine: You're really pushy, you know that?!

Both Alizos come at her from opposite directions at the same time.

Lumine: SPLIT DECISION!

She drops down, doing a split a second before the blades would have perforated her. She immediately begins doing a breakdancing spin, kicking both Alizos repeatedly and forcing them back before she flips to her feet and moonwalks back a bit.

Lumine: You're not very good at this, are you?

She twirls the Rubix Baton and throws it, smacking one of the clones in the face before the weapon returns to her hand.

Lumine: NEAT! You're just like a boomerang!

Ami: Julie, you can't afford to mess around. Use the new code I'm sending you and follow the prompts.

Julie sees the images on her visor.

Lumine: RIGHT!

She taps the buttons on the Lumine Driver and twists the handle of the Rubix Baton, switching a central color in the hilt to blue.

Lumine: A! A! B! B! BLUE!

The Rubix Baton begins glowing with blue energy.

Lumine Driver: LUMINE! SUPER COMBO!

Lumine: RIDER KATAMARI SPECIAL!

Lumine twirls the Rubx Baton and throws it low to the ground. It begins rolling end over end, forming an energy ball that grows as it rolls. As it strikes the Alizo clones, it picks them up and takes them with it. As the gigantic energy ball strikes the wall of the school, it erupts in a massive fireball. The Alizos stagger forward, smoldering.

Lumine Driver: EXCELLENT!

Alizo: You're... DEAD girl! I don't CARE what the master wants anymore!

The two clones come at her again, murderous gleams in their eyes.

Lumine: ...eep!

***

Mori Residence,

Inara adjusts the hem of her skirt as she sits at the edge of the Mori’s living room sofa holding her hands up to refuse an offered cup of tea.

Inara: No thank you, please. I have to get back to work. Now, as I was saying Mr. Mori…

Mr. Mori: (Blushing) Please, call me Yoshi. (Sitting across from her in a chair pulled from the kitchen table)

Inara: Very well, Yoshi Mori, your daughter has been selected to attend Ishinomori Fine Arts Academy. Our board was quite impressed with a recent performance of hers and has offered her a full scholarship.

Mr. Mori: Wow, really? I didn’t know she was dancing…

Inara: Yes. (She adjusts her glasses) She is very talented and having someone trained under Keiko Mori would not only benefit the other dance students but we would like to sharpen her skills. She has raw talent but we want to prepare her for the professional world of dance. Our school hates to see wasted talent.

Yoshi: Th-that sounds amazing. Yes, yes.

Inara: Also, I am here on behalf of the school to request she move on campus as soon as possible.

Mr. Mori: On campus?

Inara: Yes, studies show that commutating students have a more difficult time focusing on their crafts and struggle in grades and integrating into the student body.

Mr. Mori: Oh. Well, I don’t-

Inara: Money is no issue. It will be covered in her scholarship.

Mr. Mori: Oh, I guess I can talk to her about. See if that’s what she wants to do.

Inara: That would be best.

(A knock startles Yoshi and he instinctively turns toward the door.)

Inara: That would be my associate, Mr. Iwane. It seems we’re due back on campus.

Inara stands and extends a hand to Yoshi.
Inara: It was a pleasure meeting you.

Yoshi attempts to lightly shake her hand but Inara clasps down in an iron hold and looks him down in the eye.

Inara: Please consider our offer. Thank you, for your time.

Speechless, Yoshi nods as Inara excuses herself from the living room.  Yamiya had been watching from the hallway studying the pressed and polished woman. As she passes Inara’s nostrils flare as she catches whiff of a lingering odor. She stops and glares at Yamiya out the side of her eye.

Inara: Shower.

Yamiya eyes go wide as Inara continues on and out the front door where Gunpei is waiting by the company car.

Gunpei: Well, what they say?

Inara: They are considering it. Your report, Mr. Iwane?

Gunpei: A Viron was here definitely. And from the looks of it a big one.

Inara: Director Bushnell would want to know of this immediately. Get in the car.

Gunpei: Will do.

Inara moves to get in the car, but stops and glares back at the Mori House straight through to Yamiya peeking out from a window. From the distance and between the curtains she grabs eye contact and holds it until beads of sweat roll off Yamiya’s forehead. Once the sweat rolls off his chin, she gets in the car and they leave.

***

Contact Theory

Continuing from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
“You!” Bryan snapped.

~Look at her, pitying you. It’s almost sounds like she wants to take in a stray puppy. It’s sickening.~

“Where have you been?! What do-” He growled and stopped trying to remain calm. He looked at Lori with slow deliberate breathing. “It’s back.”

She blinked at him, holding her sandwich in both hands.  "Uh.." Lori said quietly, before realizing -- the suit was back.

She set down her sandwich, watching him closely.


"Bryan?" Lori said, questioningly.

~You spoiled my surprise. It’s a good one.~ It said sounding like a sigh. ~She knows a lot more than your average human and we’re sitting in the middle of her house of secrets.~

“Shut up.” Bryan snapped.

~It’s not me you should be mad at.~ The suit sneered.

“Oh, I think I have every right to be mad at you.” Bryan fumed.

~I couldn’t see as much as I would like, weakened state and firewalls, but I did manage to see enough on my trip.~

“Trip?” Bryan blinked. “What are yo…-you didn’t.”

~But I did. Not all of me,  just enough to wirelessly look here and there. And the treasure troves I found. This little girl knows more than she’ll let on. You can’t trust her.~

“Shutup” Bryan growled.

"Bryan?" she repeated, looking wary.  She bent down to catch his eye, concerned.  The suit was obviously talking to him.  Angering him.

"Hey," she called, leaning forward.  "Don't listen to it; it's trying to upset you."


Bryan nodded at her. “I know…it’s hard…”

~Ask her about the laptop.~ The suit urged.

“I said shut up!”

"What is it.. telling you to do?" Lori asked hesitantly, remembering that she'd dropped her rifle in the kitchen.

“It’s not telling me to do anything it’s just…talking.” He clasped his hands over his arms and shut his eyes. “I’-I’m trying to drown it out.”

"Talking …?" Lori wondered.  She watched him for several long moments, shifting her weight a little.

"What is it, uh…what's it saying?" she asked, sounding uncertain, as if she wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.

Bryan opened his eyes and noticed her fidgeting. Was the suit was right…he was right?“It-it wants me to smash things.”

"It-.. c'mon, not in my house," she joked weakly. Lorelai gestured toward the tarped corner.  "If it wants to smash things, why can't you talk it out of it?  It's your body, not its, right?"

“I-I think I have it under control now.” Bryan rubbed his chest.

~You liar.~ The suit laughed.

"You think or you know?  This is kind of important, Bryan," Lorelai said, leaning uncomfortably against the kitchen counter.  She folded her arms, unfolded them, then stepped closer to Bryan.

She looked at him closely, weighing whether she thought he would actually start flipping out and busting up her house.


Bryan took a slow deep breath. “I know, it…it likes to taunt me.” He folded his arms across his chest and stared at the floor.

~Don’t believe me then. Access the computer in the bedroom. See the wonderful secrets your new friend is hiding.~

“What do you do for a living?” He asked looking at her feet.

"Um... ha, well.  I don't know if you noticed.. .flying... in, but this is a federal radar array field.  I'm responsible for the maintenance of the arrays."  She spoke of the job fondly, gesturing to a huge framed poster on the wall of several ground-lit arrays pointed nobly toward the clear, star-studded sky.

His eyes followed the wall and up to the posters. “I don’t understand. Array? A ray of what?”

She actually chuckled, tension in her shoulders easing.  "No, an array is when you arrange things in rows.  Like the At-Cats -- um, the ALMA antennas."  She turned to the window, tugging the curtains back to point out toward the twenty-five foot wide discs outside, pointed toward the darkening sky.

His head titled slightly to the side like a confused dog. “What are they for?” After a beat he added, “And why are they so big?” 

"Deep-space imaging and aero-radiation testing..." Lori said, pausing.  She squinted at him a little, mulling over something before she answered again.

"They catch and focus radiation from space.. why do you want to know?"

“Never had a job. Wanted to know what other people do.” He peered out the window at the large discs. “Why test radiation in space?”

"Never had a job...?  Lucky," she muttered, the word sour in her mouth.  "No, no.  They test -for- radiation from space.  Here."  She reached over and flicked on the light over the tiny dinette, gesturing to the lamp.

"Light travels only so far before it eventually fades out.  Only traces of that light's radiation is left.  Everything has a radiation signature -- you, me.  Um... maybe you more than me."

She folded her arms again.  "All those deep-space pictures from Hubble are composites of radiation signatures, not photographs."


“I. See.” He nodded, placing his hand on his chin. “Theoretically speaking once a radiation signature has been found it could be easy to follow it to its originating location.” He paced over to the window and glared out at the array. “Depending on the intensity or density of the yield…” But it was too late, he was in his head.

She stared at him openly, blinking in surprise.  "Um.. yes.  Theoretically..." she said, looking at him strangely."You know theoretical aero-particle physics?" Lorelai asked, a little smile tugging at her lips.  It was rare to meet people interested in the same hobbies as she.

“…thereby paving the way for possible first contact!” He snapped back. “What?” He blinked a few times and looked at her through foggy eyes.

My Top 10 Retweeets of February 2013

@primegundamGreen Robot Waifu, COME BACK #DCNation #greenlanterntas
@primegundam ...I pray to Primus that wasn't the Iron Man 3 Super Bowl trailer I just saw. If it was, I be mad.
@primegundamI watched Love and Hip Hop lady night. My coonery quota is filled for the month now.
@primegundam Look, porn is like gum. You either wait til you get home or share that ish with the class.
@primegundam Third, if your child is getting their body image and self esteem from toys then you are doing parenting hella wrong.
@primegundam If Hollywood had a face, I'd throw acid in it then punch it. With a spiked brass knuckle. That was laced with ebola.
@primegundam Women in general are mad sexy.
@primegundam It's a Good Day to #sendnudes
@primegundam Count the UCHUU Showtime
@primegundam Okay Soulja Boy, if we can Superman a hoe can we also Batman a hoe? Spider-Man a hoe? Iron Man a hoe? Flash a hoe? Hulk a hoe?
***

Dan banks a turn into a group a hall filled with infected.

Dan: You’re in for it now, buds. (Reaches into the uniform’s jacket pocket, his face shifts into a grim realization before he hastily pats himself down) …And of course it’s in my other clothes…

He back-steps into the previous hall and makes a line for the stairs where he sees Ami leading a group into the stairway.

Ami: DAN! Over here!

Dan: Oh Ammy, you are a sight for a sore eyes.

They nod as a wave of zombies stagger towards. Dan slams the bright red door shut and wedges and breaks the metal latch from their side with a few well-placed kicks. Ami encourages the group to stay calm and together as the scuttle down the flights of stairs. A smaller girl trips, but Ami catches her from behind and helps to stand. Ami and Dan reach lobby of the school with the train of uninfected students in tow, panicked but unharmed.

Ami: I’ll get these kids to safety and contact HQ; you do another sweep and try to find Julie. Make sure she’s safe.

Dan: Right…what does she look like again?

Ami: (Sighing) The red headed American girl…

Dan: Gotcha, doc!

Ami: And stay in Bluetooth contact!

Dan: You got it, Ammy! (He calls back)

Dan paces through the halls peering into classroom after classroom in hopes of finding Julie.

Dan: Figures, the one assignment I volunteer for I get high school of the dead…

Dan stops in the music hall where five of the infected as stumbling and banging against a closed door. Dan’s sneaker give out a loud audio screech causing the zombified students to turn in his direction.

Dan: For the love of…

Dan frantically pats his clothes for something, anything to defend. A sudden idea hits him and he drops down and his butt and goes through his socks with both hands producing four tokenroid coins. Laughing wildly he kisses them repeatedly before coughing and spitting.

Dan: Now that’s what I’m talking about!

He rolls the tokenroids along the ground and they spring up into the two firebirds and two rhinos. The firebirds lift the rhinos off the ground and ram them into the heads of two infected before circling around and pecking at the heads of the others. The rhinos hit into a roll and start stomping on the feet of the transformed students.

Dan scrambles to his feet and makes a hard turn into another hallway when an arm grabs him by his collar and pulls him through a doorway.

Dan: HEY, let go of me you undead-mindless-sons-a-bitches!

His arms flail wildly.

Julie: Hey, calm down. Stop swinging. No zombies here.

Dan stops and looks around.

Dan: Well, I sure showed them!

She doesn't laugh.

Dan: So... Red hair, not Japanese. (He snaps his fingers) Julie, right?

Julie: I'm... Not so sure these days.

She absent-mindedly picks up a baton and twirls it without looking.

Julie: Listen, you should probably not be around me right now.

Dan: Why…?

Dan looks closer. He can tell she's been crying.

Dan: Try me.

Julie looks around the auditorium.

Julie: I used to belong on the stage, once upon a time. My mom... My foster mom, I mean... She was a ballerina. From what I've been told, a pretty famous one. People would come from all over the country to see the amazing Keiko Mori perform...

Dan: Wait... Keiko Mori?! THE Keiko Mori!?

Julie: You've heard of her?

Dan: Heard of her? She was a performing legend two decades back... Quit to start teaching ballet after she got pregnant. I've seen recordings of all her work.

Julie: Yeah, having my brother... put an end to her dancing career…When the Mori family adopted me, she began teaching me, too. And not just ballet.

Unconsciously, Julie begins dancing, remembering happier times.

Julie: She called me a dancing chameleon. I could always master a new form in a matter of days... Hours if I really gave it my all.

Dan watches as she dances to music only she can hear. It's graceful and elegant, not staying with a single style, but shifting between multiple forms of dance to become something wholly unique.

Julie: She said my birth parents would have been proud of my talent... I wouldn't know. They died when I was just a baby…

She tosses the baton into the air. It twirls several times, and she casually catches it behind her back and spins it some more as her silent dance continues.

Julie: Then a couple years ago, she encouraged me to try out for a show that was casting. She said that with my training and heart, I could land any role I wanted.

Dan nods

Dan: Uh, that’s nice but shouldn’t we be leav-

She tosses the baton into the air again and catches it with her other hand, spinning as she does so.

Julie: And I got the part. Not the lead... I was too young for that, but still a major role, almost unheard of for someone's first professional work. She couldn't have been prouder. But the day the show was about to officially launch, she was running late. She had a seat saved for her in the front row. Dad and Yamiya were already there, but Mom was running late. She was running late…A-and, um, I didn't want to go on without her there, but I had no choice... The show must ALWAYS go on.

Dan: Okay…

She twirls the baton with her fingers.

Julie: The show was a success. The audience was applauding us... applauding me... And Mom's seat was still empty. Dad tried calling her... He'd been trying to call her. But there was no answer.

She stops twirling the baton and stands still.

Julie: On the way to the performance, someone had tried to rob her at gunpoint... She'd tried to drive away but…b-but…

She drops the baton and lets it roll off the stage.

Julie: It was the last time I ever took the stage. I gave up dancing... It was too hard without her there. All I have left are my dad and brother...

She sinks down into a sitting crouch, holding herself. Dan can't bring himself to cross the distance between him and her. The pain she's feeling is a physical entity radiating from her.

Julie: And now I'm losing them, too! All I wanted was to help my brother with one of his projects, and suddenly I go from being me, the would-be dance prodigy to freaking Pandora... and I've opened the goddamned BOX!

She gets up suddenly and looks at Dan.

Julie: Those things are here because of ME. Every single person out there's in danger because some monster wants MY head. And if by some miracle I survive, that only means I’ll put my family in danger, too.

Dan: Julie...

Julie: He says he needs me to be some kind of hero... I'm no hero! I'm Typhoid Mary, destroying everything I touch! Everything I care about!

She looks at him with genuine concern.

Julie: You should go. It's not safe to be around me.

Dan: I'm not going anywhere.

The zombified students bang on the doors.

Dan: ...Even if I could.

***

Mori Residence,

Gunpei and Inara drive up to the curb. Gunpei parts and walks around, opening the door for Inara.

Gunpei: Okay, I know why I'm here, but why you? You NEVER leave Director Bushnell's side.

Inara: Special case, I'm afraid. I'll handle business inside. You just make certain that the area's safe.

Gunpei nods and begins searching the grounds. Inara, meanwhile, walks right up to the front door and rings the bell.

Mr. Mori: One moment!

After a few seconds, the door opens.

Mr. Mori: Yes? Can I help you?

Inara: I apologize for coming unannounced, Sir, but it's about your daughter...

Out back, Gunpei's eyes scan everything.

Gunpei: Looks quiet enough... Wait... What's that?

He moves closer to Julie's window and kneels down, looking at the ground. To his consternation, he sees reptilian footprints, far larger than any natural reptile.

Gunpei: Damnit, one was here... A big one.

He glances through the window and into Julie's room, where he has a clear view of her bed.

Gunpei: So if one was here... Why the hell is that girl still walking around?

***

Alizo marches down the wall dragging a sai against lockers as he goes. A group of infected students pass him but one motions for down the hall.

Alizo: Is that where she’s hiding? Thank you.

Alizo draws another sai from somewhere in his cloak and quickens his pace.

Alizo: I smell a scared little girl…I can’t wait to have a taste…

Arcade: Not if I have anything to say about it.

Alizo’s back erupts in a volley of explosions causing him to drop both sais. He glares back as Arcade lowers his blaster.

Arcade: Not so fast, gruesome.

Alizo: Arcade. (Scoffs) My people fear you. They shouldn’t.

Arcade: You really should. (He pulls out a Tokenroid that shifts into the form of a hand briefly. He flicks it right 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. Arcade slowly balls his right hand into a fist and using the left enters the combination DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN, A on the CyGaunt.

CYGAUNT: PUNCH-OUT!

Alizo laughs and charges at Arcade who catches his face in one hand before jump punching him in the chest. The Alizo cries out as the force of the blow sends into a wall with Arcade following delivering rapid hit after hit. As Alizo crashes into the wall, Arcade reels back and enters into the CyGaunt UP, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, Z.

GYGAUNT: POWER BLADE!

Arcade’s right hand is encased in a translucent energy blade as he arcs his arm up and back and slashes across Alizo and through the wall in a slanted line. The wall crumbles behind the Viron as it places a trembling hand on the thin red line forming down its chest.

Alizo: I-impossible…

The Viron falls back through the hole and explodes into a swirl of bits and pixels.

Arcade: Now that was…

Alizo: Easy?

Arcade spins around and sees Alizo clapping his hands somberly at him from down the hall.

Alizo: My, you are impressive. I shall enjoy breaking you.

Arcade: Neat trick. I got a few myself.

Arcade and Alizo run down the hall to meet each other. Arcade launches into a sweep air kick that Alizo rolls under. The cloaked Viron comes up behind Arcade and tries to grapple him, but the Rider tosses him off his shoulders and chops at the creature’s neck. Alizo barely catches Arcade’s neck and snap kicks the hero in the stomach. Arcade stumbles back as Alizo takes the open opportunity to rake two daggers across the Rider’s armor. Arcade blocks the last of the bows with the CyGaunt and uses his free hand to strike at the Viron’s chest. The Viron staggers as Arcade levels his Driver in blaster mode dead center at the creature’s chest and fires off several rounds point blank.

Alizo flails madly as each blasts hits full force.

Arcade: Time to end this! (Holstering his driver)

Arcade shoves off his opponent and enters into the CyGaunt as quickly as possible DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, DOWN, A.

CYGAUNT: PUNCH-OUT!

He drives his fist dead center into Alizo’s face; a spark erupts from Arcade’s knuckle and sends the cloaked figure reeling back hitting the ground…and splitting into two.

Arcade: …That’s new…

Both Alizos stand producing daggers from their cloaks and tossing them at the Rider. Arcade holds his arms up as each dagger strikes various points on his suit producing sparks and singing his armor. Grunting as he bears the blunt of the attack, Arcade enters into the CyGaunt RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, RIGHT, DOWN.

GYGAUNT: DEFENDER II!

A large prism-like barrier appears from the CyGaunt shielding Arcade from the throwing daggers.

The first Alizo leaps up and kicks off the shoulders of the other sailing overhead and raining daggers down on Arcade. The Rider draws his blaster and shoots the Viron out of the sky with wild shots. The Viron falls to the ground with a thud as the second charges for Arcade.

Arcade moves quickly, pressing the buttons BACK, DOWN, FORWARD, B, A on the controller on his belt in one smooth motion.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

Arcade: RIDER DIVIDE KICK!

Arcade crouches an inch for a brief second as the driver sends surges of crackling electricity to his feet before leaping into the air and bringing his leg down onto Alizo’s face in a flying crescent kick. Kicking off the Viron as it explodes into pixels, Arcade enters into his belt controller the command Forward, Forward, B+A as he swings around midair and comes down on the second Alizo.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

The belt surges sending crackling electricity into his fists.

Arcade: RIDER PULSE PUNCH!

Before the Viron could get up or move, Arcade brings both energy covered fist into the remaining Alizo’s chest. The energy construct swelling and surging into the Viron’s body causing it to explode in a bright flash of bits.

Arcade Driver: 2-in-1, AMAZING!

Arcade kneels on one knee before coming up into a ready stance. He looks around then down to his driver and taps it a few times with a flick of his finger.

Arcade: No win confirmation. Then that must mean…
***

Auditorium,

The bangs on the door get louder and louder.

Dan: Come on, Twinkle Toes, we gotta get out of here.

Julie: Just leave…

Dan: Sorry, I’m not the type to leave someone at a pity party.

Dan wraps his arms around her waist and lifts her up.

Julie: Get off me, you loon!

Dan: No can do. C’mon, we’re getting out of here befo—

The doors finally give in a stammering crack and the infected students pour in.

Dan: That happens.

Dan tugs and drags Julie along the stage bumping back first right into a shadowed cloaked figure.

Dan: Oh, sorry about that, sir, my friend and I…

Dan goes pale when he realizes he just bumped into someone on the once empty stage.

Dan: Viron…(He looks slightly over his shoulder into the glowing eyes glaring at him from under a thick hood).

Alizo: Correct.

Alizo spinning backhand’s Dan off the stage into a row of empty seats down in the fourth row.

Julie screams and the cloaked creature slaps his hand over her mouth before bringing a finger to his in a

Alizo: Shhh, girl. This’ll be over quick.

Arcade: We can agree on that!

From the entry way, Arcade elbows and knees his way in before slipping a tokenroid into his belt.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: JUMP BOOST!

In a single bound, the Rider kicks up off a downed infected and clears the room to the stage landing into two hops.

Arcade: I don’t think we were done. (Pointing at to Alizo) Let the girl go.

Alizo: You can’t win this one. You can’t fight me and the clock, Arcade.

The Viron motions to the room slowly filling with infected students. He casually shoves Julie back, and several students grab her. One shoves her to her knees and holds her head still while two others restrain her arms.

Arcade: Don’t think for a second I can’t.

Alizo: Oh, I know you can’t.

Alizo’s arms snap forward and he cracks his knuckles slitting into a second Alizo. Both Alizo stretch their necks and divide again. Now four, Alizo laughs and begin to pace around Arcade.

Arcade: Right. I forgot you can do that…

Alizo 1: Time is on our side, Kamen Rider.

The four Alizo circle Arcade drawing their daggers and pointing them at the Rider’s heart.

Alizo 2: Your game is over.

Alizo 2 and and Alizo 4 charge forward, Arcade spins around lashing out with the Power Blade of the CyGaunt trailing sparks with each strike. Arcade flips Alizo 2 over on his back and stabs hard at the ground with the energy blade. He reels back twirling out of Alizo 4’s reach and charges straight for Alizo 1 entering UP, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, Z into the CyGaunt.

GYGAUNT: POWER BLADE!

Alizo 1 steps back, pulling Alizo 3 into Arcade’s path.

Alizo 3: What are yo-

Arcade slashes out striking through Alizo 3 as Alizo 1 leaps back narrowly avoiding the tip of the energy blade. Alizo 3 chokes before exploding into an array of pixels. The pixels swirl momentarily before gathering and flowing into Alizo 1.

Arcade: (smirking under his helmet) I figured out your secret.

Alizo: Little good it will do you now.

He snaps his fingers and four more Alizo copies appear.

Alizo: Keep the do-gooder occupied. I need to see to the Vice Lord's primary request.

The four clones charge Arcade, coming at him from all sides. Alizo ignores the battle and turns towards Julie, who struggles uselessly in the iron grasp of the enslaved students.

Julie: Let me go! Please? I swear, I didn't WANT to be a Rider! I still don't!

Alizo chuckles.

Alizo: You're a pitiful one, aren't you? Now that I've had enough contact with your Rider energies, it's child's play to get through the field.

His hand begins glowing blood-red as he walks towards her with clear intent. He holds his hand out before him.

Alizo: But you should rejoice, for you are about to be reborn. No more mortal frailities. No more pain or fear. You don't wish to be a Rider? In a moment, you will be MUCH more.

He reaches for her face. She can only watch in horror as it gets closer.

Julie: No... NO DAMNIT! NO!

Alizo: Welcome... to the Viron.

DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE? [Y/N]

Julie: This is crazy! What are they all turning into?!

Ken: We have to put a stop to this.

Julie: "WE?!"

Ken: There's no choice.

Julie: Dad... Yamiya... Goodbye...

Ken: Next time: Ready! Player Two!
Previously on Kamen Rider Arcade: After being forced to transform to fight off a horde of Bytes, Julie is taken back to ComCon where she learns she was somehow selected by the Lumine Driver to become a Kamen Rider. Not wanting any part of this, she storms off and leaves the Lumine Driver behind. Meanwhile, Spindar was reborn and attacked an arcade before Ken arrived to stop him. Gunpei abducts Julie and drags her to the battle where she learns her classmate Mako is responsible for the Viron’s attacks. After Mako’s life is endangered, Julie resolves to save her and transforms once more into Kamen Rider Lumine. After defeating Spindar Julie leaves vowing to want nothing more to do with ComCon…

***

GAME START!

Julie was thankful her dad did not ask too many questions because she was not going to give him too many answers. She did not bother eating and took a long soak to clear her mind. She had wanted to wish her dad and Yamiya a good night but instead headed straight to bed. As she lay in her bed staring at the ceiling and fighting the images in her mind, she remains thankfully and dangerously unaware of the shadow outside her window peering between the cracks of her curtains.

The pale moonlight reveals the shadow to be a tall and muscular reptilian body with thick sharp spikes running down the back and arms. A head similar to a crocodile adorned with rows of teeth that looks like they could puncture iron with a nibble. The crest of the Viron, black and white 8bit pixels formed into a skull, emblazon on his left breast. His golden eyes move methodically as he watches and times her breathing. His three fingered hands pressed against the frame of the house, his claws digging deeper into the sides each time Julie turns away and back again to the ceiling. His forked tongue lashes in and around his lips as he calms the predator instincts in his chest.

???: Sleep well, princess…

***

Kamen Rider Arcade

Created by Aaron Thall and Jamion McNeil

Level 3: I Refuse To Fight!

Written by Aaron Thall and Jamion McNeil

***

ComCon Technologies

Inara and Director Bushnell stand side by side in an elevator. Every few floors Inara glances to Bushnell from behind her clipboard.

Inara: Director Bushnell, sir, wouldn’t you rather wear a suit…? This is the first time you’ve spoken in person to them in—

Bushnell: Nonsense. Besides (He adjusts his polo collar) those things make me itch.

The exit the elevator into a busy hall that parts and lets him stroll through unhindered. Bushnell waves and smiles to employees but does not slow or break stride into his reaches the doors of the rec room which he opens with both hands.

In the rec room, Ami, Gunpei, and Ken stand facing the door while Dan still looks like he hadn’t moved an inch since we last saw him. 

Ken: You son of a bitch.

Bushnell: Good morning!

Ken: How DARE you have the GALL…

Ken breaks from the group and stomps up to Bushnell, but Inara steps up from behind him blocking Ken’s path. Ken stops short of getting right in her face and continues to address Bushnell.

Ken: What were you thinking? Sending a driver out to a civilian? Without bringing them in first?

Ami: Ken, calm down. I’m sure Director Bushnell has a good reason why none of us, especially me, were informed that he selected a new Rider. (She adjusts the oversized frames hanging from her nose)

Dan: Pssh, I don’t care. She’s kinda hot.

Gunpei: (Rolling his eyes) You wouldn’t.

Ken: We don’t need a new Rider and I don’t want a new partner.

Bushnell: Ken, my boy, you’re still upset over what happened to Hayao. You’re not thinking rationally. And, son, I miss him too, but this is a partner system. Arcade needs Lumine.

Ken: She isn’t Lumine. She’ll never be Lumine.

Gunpei: Just because she gave the driver back that doesn’t make her not Lumine. She’s in play. The Viron will know about her. And the longer she’s out there alone without a driver the more chances are a Viron will sniff her out and try to infect her.

Bushnell: Unfortunate. I assume you both were too preoccupied with the Mako girl to retrieve her then?

Gunpei: More like embarrassed.

Bushnell: Hm. Inara, be a dear and go retrieve Miss Mori?

Inara: Yes, Director Bushnell.

The Others: WOAH!

Ami: Um, Director Bushnell, I don’t think sending Inara would be a wise choice of action. The girl is just a little spooked right now.

Dan: And we don’t want her spooked and broken… Did I mention she was kinda hot?

Ami: (ignoring Dan) I think it would be best if I went to see her. At her school. In a more personal setting. And Ken should come with me.

Ken: Ken should not.

Bushnell: I’ll allow it.

Dan: You guys are going to school? I wanna come… (He slides up slowly and yawns)

Gunpei: (catching whiff) …I hope after you brush your teeth…

Dan: Hey, you don’t get sour cream and cheese chips and expect me NOT to eat them.

Bushnell: Yes… well Ami, take who or whatever you need and bring our new Rider home. I expect exciting news when you return.  

Bushnell turns and leave with Inara backing out keeping both eyes focused on Ken. Once they’re gone, Ken crosses his arms and turns to Ami.

Ken: I’m not-

Ami: Oh you are coming. Like it or not this girl is now our responsibility. Both of you, get changed and meet me out in the garage.

Dan: So, um, does this mean we get to cosplay as high school students? Sweet!

***

Mori Residence

Rested but still uneasy for a hard night’s sleep, Julie leaves her house in rush for school.

Julie: (Calling out behind her) Bye dad, I’ll be home later. And tell Yamiya we’re going to run out of air freshener if he doesn’t start showering more regularly!

After the other day, Julie decides to take a route to school that’s more public and keeps her away from game rooms. No need for any repeats of the other day.

She passes a café and notices a familiar figure in the crowd.

Julie: Mako? Mako!

The girl turns and Julie presses through the crowd to her. She takes Mako by the arm, no longer in a cast, and pulls her close to keep their conversation a little private.

Mako: Hi. Um, Julie?

Julie: Look, about last night…I’m glad you’re okay and I hope things don’t get strange or you tell anybody…

Mako: (uneasy laugh) What are you talking about?

Julie: What am I talking about? Are you off your rocker? I’m talking about the Kamen Riders and Viron.

Mako: Kamen Rider? (She laughs a little harder) And what’s a Viron?

Julie: What? The mutant monster spider you had attacking people over that stupid game.

Mako: Um, what are you talking about?

Julie: I saved your life last night. You’re welcome, by the way.

Mako What? No, I was home all last night getting ready for the tournament…

Juile: No, you were watching your pet monster spider pick people apart laughing like some deranged looney tune.

Mako: Okay, this isn’t funny anymore. What the hell are talking about?

Julie: …You really have no idea…

Mako: No, I have no clue. Get away from me, weirdo.

Mako jerks away and pulling her backpack strap and walking away leaving a confused Julie.

***

Miyamoto High School, Rooftop

The reptilian creature looks down at the students entering the building, scanning the crowd.

Beside him a slender figure in a white and red trimmed tunic with a hood and straps for various blades across his chest, arms, and legs steps up to the ledge. His real face hidden by a dull silver mask with a vague humanoid features.

Alizo: Vice Lord Gukkeddon, taking an interest in the locals now are we?

Gukkeddon: Only of one in particular, Alizo. I want to you test a new Rider.

Alizo: It will be my pleasure. Will this be a (he produces a blade and twirls around his finger) standard assassination?

Gukkeddon: You will not kill this one. Use it as bait to draw out Arcade. Arcade, you can kill. The girl, you will bring her to me.

Alizo: (bowing) Everything permitted. (He vanishes into a puff of smoke)

***

Meanwhile, in the parking lot an unmarked black sedan pulls into a visitor’s parking space and Ami, Dan, and Ken exit. Ami is still in her lab coat, Ken in a shirt and jeans, and Dan fully decked out in the high school’s uniform. They head toward the building with Ami leading the pack and Dan appearing a little pouty.

Dan: I want the after action report to state for the record I think you two are very lame.

Ami: Nobody told you to dress like that…

Dan: We’re going undercover. We totally could’ve been the new cool transfer clique. Ken got to be a doctor the other day.

Ken: How did yo-

Dan: I do read the mission reports, Sir Stone Face. Poor Ami doesn’t type them up for her health.

Ami: We’re not going to be here that long. Just long enough to convince Julie to come back with us.

Dan: Did you bring a flak jacket just in case?

Ami: No.

Dan: You should've. Heard she's got killer aim… You could learn from her, man.

Ken: (absent-mindedly rubbing the minor welt he got from the Lumine Driver) Why are you even here?

Dan: For the schoolgirls of course.

Ami’s head turns slightly to him.

Ami: What?

Dan: I meant to bring back our wayward Rider. Yeah, that’s what I said.

Ami: (Ignoring Dan) I had HQ call ahead. We’re going to meet her in the nurse’s office.

Dan: Naughty.

The three enter the building and almost immediately Dan goes the opposite direction as the others.

Dan: You guys have fun with that. The cafeteria is calling my name.

Ken: Damnit, Dan-

Ami: Let him go, he’ll stay outta trouble. I’m more concerned about getting to Julie before a Viron.

***

Second period,

PA: Julie Mori, report to the nurse’s office for a lice check.

Julie's eyes go wide and she immediately flushes red and sinks deep into her seat as she hears the snickers.

The teacher raises an eyebrow.

Mr. Sakamoto: You're excused, Miss Mori.

Humiliated, Julie slinks from her seat and heads for the door, hearing the laughter as she exits. As soon as the door shuts, Mr. Sakamoto begins to resume his lecture when there's suddenly the sound of shattering glass. Everyone in the room turns to see Alizo standing before them.

Alizo: My apologies for the intrusion... But you all belong to ME now.

Already out of earshot, Julie doesn't hear the screams. Instead, she storms down the hall muttering creative obscenities under her breath, all aimed at whoever decided to pull such an immature prank on "the school's pet gaijin".

Julie: I swear to GOD, when I get my hands on whomever told the nurse that I have lice, I'm gonna...

She feels something moving in her jacket pocket. She reaches in and pulls out the Tokenroid that had materialized after the battle with Spindar.

Julie: Oh GOD, I still have this thing?

She tosses it in disgust, but it immediately turns into a cube again and follows her like a puppy.

Julie: Quit following me! Go back to those psychos already!

The Tokenroid ignores her and begins orbiting her head. Julie groans inwardly as she reaches the nurse's office and goes in.

Julie: Can we please make this fast? I have enough trouble in history class with all the kanji and this is really...

She sees Ken and Ami.

Julie: QUIT STALKING ME!

She turns on her heel and starts back out the door, but they each grab a shoulder and yank her back into the room, shutting the door behind them.

Julie: Haven't you creeps done enough to me already?!

They ignore her as Ken shoves her into a seat and drops the Lumine Driver onto her lap. She immediately swats it away.

Ken: Well, this is off to a good start...

Ami: Julie, please hear us out. You're in terrible danger. The Viron know about you. That you're Lumine, and probably that you're refusing to take the Driver.

Julie: I'm NOT Lumine! I had to help Mako, that's all. No way in hell you're getting me to use that thing again.

Ami: You don't have any choice, I'm afraid. You saw what Spindar did to that girl? They'll do it to you if they get the chance.

Julie: Two problems. ONE, they have no reason to go after me. If they know about me, they also know I want nothing to do with them OR you! And even if they DID, I'd be fine as soon as you blow up the monster of the day.

Ami: No... You wouldn't. If a Rider gets infected... It's permanent. You'd be their slave for life.

Julie's eyes go wide. They can both see the fear there.

Julie: But I'm not a Rider...

Ken: Yes, you are. The SECOND the Driver activated in your hands, you were covered by an energy Ami calls a Rider Aura. Even if you don't want to fight, that Aura's stuck on you, and they can sniff it out anywhere. It's why I always keep my Driver with me. It protects me from infection. You need to keep your Driver with you. It's your sword and your shield.

Julie: So get it off of me, this aura thing! How do I get rid of it?!

Ami: ...You don't. That is to say, we don't KNOW how to break the connection between you and the Lumine Driver. And until we do, they'll come after you, anywhere, anytime... And anyone around you is potential collateral damage.

Images of her father and brother flash through Julie's mind. Tears immediately begin forming.

Julie: ...no...

***

In the cafeteria, Dan's somewhat disappointed to see that there's currently no food, just vending machines and students studying.

Dan: Serious letdown.

He spies several coeds going over notes for an upcoming test.

Dan: Then again...

He starts to head over when he hears a strange moaning sound. His curiosity piqued, he moves towards the door. And he doesn't like what he sees.

Dan: ...Well, there's something you don't see everyday... Unless you're me.

***

Julie: No, it can't be... Why would they even bother coming after me?

Ken: Paranoia. Revenge. A whim. For bait. Pick a reason, it's probably valid. The Viron don't think like humans do. That aura marks you as their enemy, and they won't rest until you're either dead or their servant. It's why you need to come with us. Even if you don't fight, you'd be safer at ComCon and your family would be out of the crosshairs.

Julie clutches the edge of her skirt tightly, trembling. Suddenly, she bursts out of her seat and for the door.

Julie: NO! You're lying! You've got to be lying!

She bolts down the hall before they can even get to the door.

Ken: Son of…

Ami: This isn't going to be easy... We're asking her to up-end her entire life, and she already blames us for all this happening in the first place.

Ken: Director Bushnell... What the hell was he THINKING. 

Ami kneels down and picks up the Lumine Driver.

Ami: We need to track her down. She's clearly in a fragile state of mind.

Ken sighs and rubs his hand through his hair, going over their meager options.

Ken: You're right. Let's-

His Bluetooth beeps. He and Ami both put their devices on.

Dan: Guys, you know how we were worried that a Viron might come after the hot chick... I mean the new girl?

Ken: Yeah?

Dan: I think they're doing it RIGHT NOW. We've got... zombies. LOTS of white-haired yellow-eyed teenage zombies!

Ken and Ami exchange glances.

Ken: You find the girl, I'll find the Viron. Dan, I'll find the sucker and take it out. You try to protect whatever uninfected students you can!

They rush into the hall, only to be immediately blocked by a small group of students, all clearly infected. To his annoyance, he recognizes Mako among them.

Ken: Really.

Mako: Rider...

Ken: Ami? Run.

Ken turns to face the mass.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: HENSHIN!

Ken slams his controller into the belt and instantly the pixel grind outline forms over his body and into his armor. As his helmet finishes forming the green eyes take on a luminous glow.

Arcade Driver: GAME START, ARCADE!

Ami: Wait, Ken try using the Rest Boos-

Arcade: (Turning to the zombies he flicks a token into the air and catches it) Now, let’s aim for the high score.

Immediately Arcade leaps into the horde sending an elbow inside Mako’s nose followed by a spinning kick downing three of the nearest infected. He dashes forward catching two in a clothesline carrying that momentum to spear a third. A zombie student tries to come up behind him as he stands, but the Rider turns and shoulder thrusts into him forcing the zombie against the wall.

Ami: Ken…

Ami watches only for a moment before turning away and sprinting as fast as she can move in the opposite direction.

Arcade draws his controller shifting it into blaster mode and takes aim but hesitates. Cursing he holsters the controller and pushes a group into a classroom as each student claws at his armor. Moving almost as a blur, the Rider swiftly punches and kicks until the group falls. Clapping his hands he takes a defensive stance when the zombies slowly begin to rise again.

Arcade: Of course. Map.

The map on his HUD display shows him a flashing red dot and an arrow marker directing him to the first floor.

Arcade: The Viron’s still in the building, eh?

Mako: Rider…

Arcade: Hold that thought.

The Tokenroid in his hand turns into a rabbit that hops for a second before changing back into a coin. Arcade inserts it in his belt.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: JUMP BOOST.

He springs forward rabbit kicking off Mako’s chest and goes sailing backwards out a window. Landing in the courtyard he takes off full speed following the marker.
 

***

The Game Room was in flames within minutes from the first scream. Panic and fear had gripped the survivors as the small light from the fire finally gave their attacker form. Tall and furry with pointy ears and long jointed arms with leathery wings attached at the bottom. Around its waist and chest two addition sets of long tarantula-like arms were accented by bent backwards legs forming into talons at the end. Its face highlighted with razor sharp fangs and yellow segmented eyes. The creature had tossed arcade cabinet and person alike with ease and broke metal and bone as if they were the same.

Kenzaki backed into a corner cowered as the winged creature drew nearer to him dragging along the limp body of a friend.

The creature chuckled.

Monster: I don’t see why the master didn’t just get rid of the root of the problem to begin with.

Kenzaki: S-s-stay back! Get away from me!

Monster: Your blood… The fear, the uncertainty, oh my, how it smells divine. I need a taste.

Before the creature could wrap its excited claws around Kenzaki, the front wall of the game room caved out in a thunderous explosion as a sleek motorcycle skid to a stop in the center of flames. The bike silver and black shared a body frame with a sporting touring motorcycle and had a panel of illuminating red lights running around the side. The Machine Battride, Arcade’s personal vehicle, screams speed and power just by its very look and shape. Ken revs the engine a few more times for effect. The creature turns to face the Rider and motorcycle with a hint of joy across its face.

Ken: Ami was right, it managed a DLC…

Creature: Arcade, we meet again.

It turns away from Kenzaki and strides toward Arcade.

Ken: So you can talk now, Spindar? Sorry to tell ya, but chow time’s over.

He holds up the Arcade Driver.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: HENSHIN!

Ken slams the Driver onto the belt as it materializes. He's immediately engulfed by gridlines that are covered by flowing pixels. As they fade away, they reveal his armor. His eyes shine as he revs the engine again before flicking a tokenroid into the air, which briefly turns into a small rocket, and right into a slot on the motorcycle.

Arcade Driver: GAME START, ARCADE!

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

Machine Battride: UPGRADE: JET BOOST!

Spindar: I won’t be bested as easy this time, Arcade!

Spindar takes to the sky in a single bound and Arcade kicks back on the throttle pressing button next to the ignition trigger. The motorcycle’s back thrusters flare to life and lift Machine Battride off the ground. Like a cannon it slams into Spindar sending him through and out to the roof. Arcade lands the bike effortlessly pulling three hard circles to face Spindar who has already gone airborne. Laughing manically the bat-spider flaps its thick wings sending air pulse after air pulse down. Arcade accelerates and darts in and out of the explosions as they strike around him. Spindar soars into the air and comes down talons first for Arcade’s head, but the Rider drives straight on with the Arcade Driver in blaster mode in hand firing a rapid barrage of blasts into the creature’s feet.

Spindar twirls out of the motorcycle’s path as they pass each other; its feet charred and smoking. Spindar’s other arms unwrap themselves from his body and fire a stream of webbing at the ground around the motorcycle. Arcade pulls back on the handle and the bike clears the webbing in a bounce. The creature curses and turns to flee.

Arcade: Not so fast!

He pulls out another Tokenroid, which briefly shifts into a hook. Without hesitation, he flicks it into his bike's slot.

Machine Battride: UPGRADE: GRAPPLE!

A hook launches for the Machine Battride and wraps around Spindar’s waist. Arcade hits the hard brake on the motorcycle and plants himself firm as the grapple begins pulling the bat-spider hybrid back down to earth. Spindar struggles and hisses turning with all its strength to pull free, but the cable and Arcade’s grip prove too strong.

Arcade’s HUD flashes warning him: “Enemy Buff!” as an orange gem strikes into Spindar’s back from an adjacent rooftop.

Arcade: What? Who?

Before Arcade could scan where the gem had come from, Spindar’s strength and speed increases and he drags the Machine Battride across the rooftop. Not waiting to reach the edge, Arcade kicks the brake off and clears the space between buildings going faster as he closes the gap between Spindar and himself.

Arcade carefully stands on the seat of the cycle, abruptly jumps, and firmly grabs a hold of Spindar by the ankle. Spindar squirms and kicks back but Arcade snatches him out of the air and into the ground below with a hard throw. As the Spindar hits then stumbles to his feet, the Machine Battride crashes into him full speed and sends him rolling to a hard stop, the cord linking them finally severed.

Arcade: (Landing beside his bike and dusting his hands off) When are you NOT going to let me do that?

As the battle rages, Gunpei's car screeches to a halt nearby. He hurries out and unlocks the door.

Gunpei: Come on!

Seeing the monster and Arcade, Julie presses her back against the other door.

Julie: No, I'm good. Really. A safe distance is good for my health.

Gunpei: Are you gonna make me DRAG you out of there?

Julie: eep!

Muttering under his breath, he moves quickly and grabs her by the wrist. Even as she yelps in protest, he pulls her out of the car.

Julie: LEMME GO! LEMME GO! I just want to go home and forget I ever met you lunatics!

Gunpei: KEN! I brought her!

Looking up from the battle, Arcade sees Julie trying to pull herself free from Gunpei's iron grasp.

Arcade: You did WHAT?!

Ami (over comm): Ken, she’s in a Game Saved state. She has to be here, otherwise….

Arcade: I don’t want to deal with her right now.

Ami (over comm): Tough, I’m sending her the Driver.

Before Arcade could argue the frame of a standard motorcycle skids to a stop next to Julie and Gunpei. Even struggling to pull herself free, Julie could tell that the white and purple cycle, smaller though it was, was still a twin to Arcade's.

Machine Teminos: Autopilot, disengaged.

Gunpei casually pulls Julie over and taps a button on the white with violet trim motorcycle, and a small panel slides open, revealing the Lumine Driver. Her eyes fall upon it and go wide in sheer terror.

Julie: KEEP THAT THING AWAY FROM ME!

Surprised at her reaction, Gunpei's grip loosens momentarily, letting her pull free. She backs away and tenses to run when she suddenly hears a girl laughing. Confused, she turns and sees Mako, who's watching the fight with keen interest.

Julie: ...Mako? You're Mako, right? From school?

Mako doesn't hear her; she's enraptured at the sight of Spindar's rampage.

Mako: Yes… Destroy the Kamen Rider so I’ll be strongest trainer.

Julie: Trainer? What are you talking...

Julie’s mouths a silent “couldn’t be” and looks over to Spindar then back to Mako. Her mind races as she pulls it all together.

Julie: Y-you’re responsible for this?

Gunpei: We don’t have time for this.

Gunpei reaches into his coat pocket when a voice chides in on his Bluetooth.

Bushnell: Stand down. Leave this to the girl.

Gunpei: Bu-…(Tensing) Understood.

He keeps the item in his pocket.

Gunpei: Better decide what you’re going to do, noob…

Aghast, Julie gapes at Mako, who cheers as Spindar gets up and begins attacking Arcade again.

Julie: A GAME?! THIS IS ALL ABOUT SOME STUPID GAME?!

Her fear momentarily replaced by fury, she rushes over to Mako and slaps her as hard as she can, knocking the girl to the ground.

Julie: ARE YOU COMPLETELY INSANE?! YOU WENT AND GOT PEOPLE KILLED OVER SOME STUPID VIDEO GAME?!

Mako: You wouldn't understand! I work at it every day... EVERY DAY! But I can never be good enough! This was the only way!

Julie: I... I understand never being good enough, but this is sick! It's just killing people and it's not going to stop! Is that what you want? Really?

Mako: I just wanted to be the best…

As if it by the weight of all she’s done, Mako finally sees the destruction and the horror she's caused clearly.

Mako: Spindar, s-stop…Stop!PLEASE!

Arcade charges at Spindar, who suddenly lashes out with its wings, slashing Arcade across his chest and knocking him onto his back.

Spindar: Finally!

The creature turns towards Julie and Mako and leaps, landing right in front of them. Julie instinctively steps back, her hands raised in front of her in a show of non-aggression.

Julie: Trust me; I want NO part of you.

The creature looks her over and grunts, convinced that she's no threat to it.

Spindar: You're wiser than you look, girl.

She starts to respond, but reconsiders. The creature turns to Mako.

Spindar: You are satisfied?

Mako: YES! Please, no more…

Spindar: Then the time has come to fulfill your end of the contract.

Mako nods.

Mako: Take it…Take it and go.

The monster reaches for Mako.

Arcade: Don't do it!

Spindar: Too late, Arcade.

The monster places a hand on Mako's face, and it crackles with blood-red energies. As he pulls it back, to Julie's shock, she sees that Mako's hair has turned white. Slowly, her eyes open, revealing a sickly shade of yellow. The creature chuckles softly as the girl kneels down before him.

Lumine Driver: WARNING: Infection Stage One!

Julie: What... What did you do to her?

Spindar: The girl had to pay a price for my service. Now she shall serve as my willing slave for the rest of her life!

Arcade: You son of a…!

He tries to get up, but the best he can do is roll onto his chest, his armor still smoldering from the last hits he took.

Spindar: Does it hurt, Arcade?

The monster turns and advances on the downed fighter.

Spindar: I certainly hope so! But let me make it worse!

Julie just stares at Mako, horrified at the girl's fate.

Julie: Mako...

Slowly, she reaches out and places a hand on Mako's shoulder. Mako looks at her, but does not truly see.

Mako: The master will come back for me soon. I should wait here.

Gunpei walks up behind Julie.

Gunpei: This is why Arcade fights. Why we fight. To save people from becoming like this. Or worse.

Julie: I... I didn't know. Can you help her?

Gunpei: The only way to save her is to kill that creature.

She turns to look at him. She's still terrified, but there's a look in her eyes.

Julie: Can Arcade win?

Gunpei: He's hurt. He needs time to recover…

Julie glances back at Mako. She clenches her fists. They hear an explosion and see Spindar peppering Arcade with energy blasts. Arcade, barely back on his feet, is sent flying by the barrage.

Arcade: AGH!

He hands hard and struggles to pull himself up once more. The creature laughs maliciously, ready to go in for the kill. Julie's fists clench so hard they white-knuckle.

Julie: I'll do it.

Gunpei's eyebrow raises slightly and he holds out the Lumine Driver. She takes it with extreme reservation.

Julie: But just this once. Hang on, Mako. I'll save you... I hope.

She holds up the Lumine Driver in her right hand and presses the start button.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO, READY?

Julie: ...IT'S MORPHIN' TIME!

Gunpei flops. Nothing happens. Gunpei recovers and just glares at her.

Julie: OH! I've got it! Ectop-

Gunpei: IT'S HENSHIN!

She winces.

Julie: Well excuse me for not looking forward to doing this!

She presses the button again.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO, READY?

Julie: HENSHIN!

As the belt appears around her waist, she brings her arm around in an arc, slamming it into place and keeping her arm moving out to the right, even as she looks down and to the left. She finds herself surrounded by tetris blocks. As they fade, her armor materializes, transforming her once more.

Lumine Driver: GAME START, LUMINE!

Hearing that, Spindar turns from pummeling the downed Arcade to see the transformed Julie standing there. Without moving she addresses him.

Lumine: I didn't want to do this, but I can't let you do that to Mako. I guess the name's Kamen Rider Lumine.

She looks at him as she swings her right arm forward, pointing directly at the creature.

Lumine: And you're standing between me and home!

Spindar: You've just made a fatal mistake, child!

Gunpei steps back at the creature charges. Lumine braces herself, but the creature impacts with the force of a Mack truck, sending her sprawling to the ground. She sees a HUD display on her helmet read HP: 180.

Lumine: Ow... Seriously, I don't wanna do this!

She staggers to her feet as the creature charges at her again. This time, she dives and rolls clear, but it's still uncomfortably close.

Lumine: Oh man oh man oh man, what do I do now?! I can't beat this thing! I've never even BEEN in a fight before!

Ami's voice crackles in her ears through a speaker built into the helmet.

Ami: Julie, relax. I can guide you.

Lumine: This is NOT a good time to relax! This thing wants to rip my head off!

Ami: You're a dancer, right? Then this shouldn't be too difficult. I'm activating the training mode on your display. Just try to copy the moves it shows you and don't hold back. Your timing will need to be absolutely perfect if this is going to work.

Lumine gets to her feet as the creature comes at her again. Spindar raises its wings and slashes down as he gets into range. On her visor, Julie sees an animated figure doing an arm block and she quickly moves to copy it, crossing her arms in front of her and catching both wings.

Lumine: I... I DID IT!

She pivots her body and twists away from the monster, crossing its arms in the process. Instinctively, she kicks up, hitting it in the abdomen before it pulls free. She quickly pirouettes and kicks it one more time. Spindar staggers back but recovers quickly and roars.

Spindar: YOU ARE DEAD!

Lumine: uh oh

It unleashes a blast of energy that strikes Lumine, creating an explosion. She collapses to the pavement, stunned. Not giving her a chance to recover, it storms over and begins kicking her repeatedly, raising sparks as she tries futile to protect herself.

Arcade: Lumine, CATCH!

He throws out a Tokenroid, which quickly changes into the rhino he'd gained earlier. The rhino charges forward through the air and slams into Spindar, forcing him away from Lumine. Satisfied, the rhino changes back into a token and lands in Lumine's hand.

Arcade: Insert it now!

Seeing that her HP has gone down to 60, she doesn't argue. She slams the Tokenroid into her Driver.

Lumine Driver: UPGRADE: STRENGTH BOOST!

Spindar comes at her again, slashing at her with his talons. She instinctively shields herself with her arms, and is shocked when she doesn't register the impact.

Lumine: Huh?

She looks and sees that Spindar's talons have actually SNAPPED on her arm.

Lumine: Does that mean that...?

Clenching her fists and swinging wildly, she nails Spindar in the face, sending him reeling. Arcade just shakes his head.

Gunpei: Not bad for a noob.

Ami's voice comes over her speaker again.

Ami: You need to press the advantage while you have it. Use the Driver. I'm sending you a combo now.

The prompt appears on the visor. Lumine nods.

Lumine: GOT IT!

She hits the buttons, calling them as she does so.

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

Her fist begins glowing violet as a shimmering puzzle appears in front of it.

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

Following the animated prompt, she charges at Spindar. As she gets in range, she thrusts her fist forward, slamming it into his chest. The energy puzzle shatters, creating multiple explosions as the monster is thrown back violently.

Lumine: RIDER JIGSAW PUNCH!

Lumine Driver: Outstanding!

Gunpei: Careful! It's not finished yet!

Lumine watches as Spindar, smoldering but very much alive, glares at her with hateful eyes.

Spindar: You haven't seen the last of me, little girl! Come slave!

Mako: Yes, Master!

To Lumine's horror, Mako begins walking to the monster.

Lumine: MAKO! Lady, if you've got any suggestions, I'm listening!

Ami: Thought you'd never ask.

Another prompt appears on her visor. She immediately hits the proper buttons on her Driver.

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

Lumine Driver: LUMINE: SUPER COMBO!

There's a loud rumbling, and Lumine and Spindar both look up, astonished, as gigantic blocks begin raining down. They crash to the ground on either side of the creature, pinning it in place and forming an almost complete line.

Lumine: Now THERE'S something you don't see every day...

The prompt tells her to jump, so she tenses her legs and pushes up. To her amazement, she goes soaring into the air. At the apex, her feet begin glowing yellow and materialize a line of four blocks.

Lumine: ...Eh? OH! I see!

She stars coming down, feet first, aiming right at Spindar, who looks up.

Spindar: NO!

Lumine: RIDER... TETRIS KICK!

She slams down right on top of Spindar, creating a massive explosion that engulfs him and the bricks holding him in place. Unprepared for the blast, she goes flying and lands on her back, her armor smoldering. Her HP reads 10.

Lumine: Please tell me that did it...

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO WINS!

Lumine: THANK YOU!

Her armor fades away in energy blocks. Julie is content to just lie there, exhausted, as the flames from the explosion fade.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER BONUS!

Above her, a Tokenroid materializes and transforms into a block briefly before falling into her hand. She's too wiped to notice. She merely turns her head and watches as Mako's eyes revert to their original color, as does her hair. The girl looks around, confused.

Mako: What? What happened? A minute ago I was...

Gunpei moves to take care of Mako. Julie barely notices as Arcade steps up to her.

Arcade Driver: ASSIST BONUS!

He holds his hand up and grabs a materializing Tokenroid, pocketing it without even looking. Ken's armor vanishes in a flash, and he kneels down to help Julie up.

Ken: Well, that wasn't too terrible for a rookie.

Pulling her to her feet, Ken chuckles.

Ken: A little practice and maybe you'll learn how to land on your feet instead of your ass.

Julie: A little prac- WAIT! You're not hurt! I thought you were hurt!

She pulls free of Ken and backs away.

Ken: I needed to get your head in the ga-

He gets no further before the Lumine Driver strikes him in the forehead.

Ken: OW!

Julie: LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!

She turns and runs as fast as she can.

Ken stares at the Lumine Driver then glances to Gunpei who can only offer a small shrug.

From the rooftops the spiked reptilian creature tosses a gem into the air and catches it in a sharp clawed hand. With viper intensity his eyes follow Julie as he licks his lips into a smile.

???: New players demand new challenges...

***

ComCon Technologies, Director’s Board Room

Inara switches off a television displaying Spindar’s destruction from several different angles.

Inara: Are we pleased with the results, Director Bushnell?

A man dressed in extreme business casual sitting at the head of the conference sets a pencil down atop a notepad and smiles.

Bushnell: More than you can imagine. Recall them and have them report to me directly.

Inara: Sir?

Bushnell: These are brave new times we are living in, Inara. (He stands and strides towards the door) And I plan to meet them with open arms.

Inara nods and follows. On the conference table, the pencil rolls down the notepad pass several scribbles and notes to a word written in all caps and circled several times:

ELITE.

Do you wish to continue? [Y/N]

Last time, on Kamen Rider Arcade: As the mysterious hero called Arcade searched for the reasoning behind a series of Viron attacks on gamers, high school student Julie Mori found herself in possession of the Lumine Driver. Thinking it was simply a defective game controller, she went to return it, only to be drawn into the latest Viron attack. Arcade killed the monster, but not before it released a strange websack and several of its minions, the Bytes. Unable to protect her, the latest victim, and fight them all at the same time, Arcade told her to use the Driver, which transformed her into Kamen Rider Lumine. Julie immediately freaked out.

RESUME GAME…

Julie looks down at her gloved hands then feels around the helmet now covering her face.

Lumine: W-wha is this?!

Her hands outline the antenna.

Lumine: What did you do to me?

Arcade swats a Byte away and takes aim with the Arcade Driver blasting two more back.

Arcade: Saved your life.

Lumine: What the hell is this--GET IT OFF ME

She begins tugging at the helmet.

Arcade: Are you nuts?

He sidesteps a Byte delivering a swift chop to its neck and tossing it over into a swarm of its kin like a rolling pin.

Arcade: We’re in the middle of a fight!

Julie: Wrong, bozo. YOU’RE in the middle of a fight

She strains bending over and pulling with all her strength on the helmet as a Byte sails clean over her.

Lumine: I’m getting this Halloween costume off of me and getting the hell outta of here.

As Lumine comes up with both hands on the helmet and elbows out she knocks two more Bytes on down.

Arcade slams the butt of the gun mode Arcade driver into the face of a charging Byte and glances around the roof for Kenta. It seemed only Spindar was interested in him and the Bytes are completely ignoring him in favor of two Riders. Thank goodness for small favors. As for the other problem...

Arcade: Look, I don’t have time to argue with you.

He catches a Byte’s arm mid swing and flips it over on its back taking aim and shooting it twice.

Arcade: You either defend yourself or you die.

Julie: Come on you stupid piece of-hhnnn-almost –got-it

She's hopping around one leg tugging on a boot. The helmet does not give an inch. An irritated groan escapes her and places both arms under her armpits and tugs at the gloves.

Lumine: Getoffgetoffgetoff.

Arcade: It’s not coming off.

Julie: The hell it is!

Arcade:  Listen, la-behind you!

Four Bytes come up from the side of the building and take hold of Lumine’s shoulders and pull her over the edge.

Julie: Let go of me you Tron rejects, wha-HEY!

Arcade: Damnit.

He attaches the Driver back to his belt and in one smooth motion enters the command Forward, Forward, B+A.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

The belt surges sending crackling electricity into his fists.

Arcade: RIDER PULSE PUNCH!

Arcade’s fist glow coating themselves in an energy construct as he takes a boxer’s stance and begins swinging and swiping at the horde of Bytes. Arcs of energy tear into them shattering them into pixels and scattering them to the wind.

Arcade Driver: Hey, nice combo!

Arcade: (Pointing to Kenta as he dashes full speed to the ledge.) Stay here!

Kenta: Yessir.

Arcade without pause goes over the side of the building into a swan dive. He clears the fire escape and sees Lumine in free-fall kicking and slapping at the four Bytes scratching and gnawing at her. Lumine lands in the alley below on a pile of trash, the impact thankfully forcing the Bytes off of her.

Julie: Ow...

She looks down at what she's lying on and immediately jumps up, not even registering that she just survived a fall that should have killed her.

Julie: OH GROSS! GROSSGROSSGROSS!

The creatures, also recovered, come towards her again. She begins backing up, only to bump into the building wall.

Julie: Oh no...

They come at her and she braces for the impact, but it never comes. She hears a thud and slowly looks to see Arcade standing between her and the Bytes. He's caught one's clawed hand in mid-swipe and he's casually observing her reactions.

He releases the Byte and swiftly punches it in the gut before spinning and kicking the four creatures all at once.

Julie: I'm dreaming. That's it... I'm dreaming. I must still be asleep because there's a bugman and I fell off a roof and I'm in this crazy armor that won't come off and nothing makes any sense. Okay... That's got to be it.

Arcade turns and whaps her in the head.

Julie: OW!

Arcade: Did that hurt?

Julie: YES!

Arcade: So you're not dreaming.

There's a pause. Then she shrieks in absolute terror and begins pulling at the helmet again.

Julie: OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD, HE TURNED ME INTO A MONSTER!

Arcade groans and shakes his head in disbelief before returning his attention to the Bytes.

Arcade: You know what, guys? I've got a hysterical girl over here, so I'll have to cut this short.

Arcade pulls out a small coin which briefly transforms into an image of a shoe. He inserts it into the Arcade Driver.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: SPEED BOOST!

And with that, he was simply gone, turned into a blur as he runs at the Bytes faster than the eye could hope to follow. Hitting each one more times than even he could count, he skidded to a stop next to Julie, who was still pulling at her helmet in a vain attempt to remove it. He didn't bother to watch as the Bytes exploded into pixels.

Arcade Driver: Player One Wins! Player Bonus!

Arcade holds out his hands and small mechanical rhino appears. It stomps on his palm before turning into a token and he slips into a compartment on the back of his belt.

Arcade: Well, that's that.

He looks at Julie, amused, as his armor faded away in a flash of pixels. She was hopping on one leg trying to pull off the boot of the Lumine suit again.

Julie: Oh god, I'm stuck like this! COME OFF! COME OFF COME OFF COME OFF!

He shakes his head, walks over to her, and quickly holds down the save button for a moment.

Lumine Driver: Game Saved!

And just like that, her armor fades away as well, falling away in blocks that dissipate before hitting the ground. Shocked, she looks herself over, relived to see she is human again.

Julie: I'm me! I'm me and... and... Oooohhhh...

Her eyes roll up and she immediately faints dead away, the man known as Arcade barely catching her.

Ken: Oh, perfect.

Ken slips a Bluetooth head set onto his ear.

Ken: HQ, we have a problem.

Meanwhile, on the rooftop in the debris of battle, a websack glows ominously as it sprouts thick wings…

***

Kamen Rider Arcade

Created by Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

Level 2: The Reluctant Rider, Lumine!

Written by Jamion McNeil and Aaron Thall

***

ComCon Headquarters, 5:02pm

Ami’s face scrunched up in disbelief as she leaves the operating theatre and it had been that way since she completed the tests on the unconscious girl still strapped in the machines. She sees Ken leaning against a corner, both arms crossed and his face solemn.

Ami: Nothing we can do now. She’s in game. I didn’t know Director Bushnell had cleared another Rider. (Her lips twist) I should’ve been informed.

Ken: All of us should have. Especially after what happened to…DAMNIT (He punches into the wall.)

Ami: Ken…(She pauses considering her words carefully before choosing to change the subject.) How’s the kid? (She flipped through her notepad) … Kenta?

Ken: Shaken up. We’re processing him for release.

Ami: (She places her hand on his back and starts to guide him along toward the elevators.) Come on, I need to get your shirt off.

Ken: …What?

Ami: UM, need to make sure you’re okay.

Ken: No injuries; I’m fine. But I’m going to see Director Bushnell. Now.

They stop at the elevator as the door pinged open revealing the young man who had been trailing Julie.

Ami: Gunpei! Where have you been?!

A suppressed sigh escapes from Gunpei’s agitated face as he holds up his shoes covered in webbing and litter.

Gunpei: I was indisposed.  YOU (Pointing at Ken) forgot about me.

Ken: I had a killer spider to deal with and you’re a big boy.

Gunpei: (A short tongue click pops out the side of his mouth) So, is it true? Did she really use it?

Ken: Yeah…

Gunpei: Of all the dumbest...I can’t believe YOU let a noob transform without proper training or at the least a clear understanding of what they’re getting into!

Ken: It was either she transform and defend herself or get turned into Byte chow. I made a field call -- something you used to know about.

Gunpei: What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Ken: Figure it out, Trigger.

The two men had cleared whatever distance there was between them and were staring eye to eye with each other before Ami squeezes between them and forces them apart.

Ami: Leave the pissing matches for the bathroom boys, what’s done is done. Now that poor girl is gonna need looking after when she gets up and I can’t do that while I’m bandaging two boneheads up. Gunpei get to the rec room and wait for debrief. Ken don’t do anything…

She looks and notices he’s gone.

Ami: That you would normally do…

***

Meanwhile, back on the edge of the rooftop where the battle had taken place, the winged websack cracks.

The spiked reptilian figure stands over the websack and drops a small gem into it.

???: Lucky day, you get to evolve, brother.

The websack shatters as it absorbs the gem and on leather wings something new yet familiar takes to the skies…

***

Ken storms into the CEO offices at the top floor; his encounter with Gunpei seemingly fanned his fire. The entire floor decorated in dark woods and utilitarian furniture.

Ken: How DARE you! (He demands as he marches toward the huge double doors.)

Bushnell’s secretary Inara Ranee, a striking woman of Middle Eastern descent and dressed impeccably with nothing out of place or line, does not even bother to look up from her typing.

Inara: One moment, Mr. Shigeru.  Director Bushnell is in a teleconference. How can I help you?

Ken fumes but stops short at Inara’s desk.

Inara: Rough day? (She offers a glance over the rim of her glasses while continuing to type.)

Ken feigns a smile.

Ken: Inara, I need to see Director Bushnell. Now.

Inara: Understandably so, Mr. Shigeru, but this teleconference takes precedence. (She adjusts her glasses to study the young man.)  I’m afraid he might not have time to speak with you today.

Ken: Do you have any IDEA what that man has done? (He sighs.) Of course you do. There's been a terrible mistake. She can't be a Kamen Rider.

Inara: I’m very sorry at any inconvenience our director has brought on to you. We value your commitment to ComCon and if you would like to speak to Director Bushnell, I’d be more than happy to arrange a meeting for some time later this week. Now if you will excuse me, I still have filing to complete.

Ken: I’m not leaving here until I see Director Bushnell.

Inara: Mr. Shigeru, I don’t want to throw you out. I respect you too much.

Ken: That’s good, now I-

Inara: I said “don’t want to.” (She leans back in her chair and crosses her legs.)

Ken eyes her carefully, but deciding it’s not worth the exchange and it’s not her he’s mad at, he turns and leaves.

Ken: This isn’t over.

Inara: (Smiling brightly) Have a wonderful day.

***

In the operating theatre...

Slowly, Julie's eyes open.

Julie: Ooohhh... What... What happened? The last thing I remember is...

She turns her head slightly and sees the Lumine Driver lying on a small stand under a lamp. Her eyes immediately go wide and she scoots away from it, managing to fall right out of the bed and onto her butt.

Julie: What?!

She looks around, not recognizing her surroundings.

Ami: Oh, you're awake. Good. I was getting worried.

Julie pulls herself up and backs away from Ami.

Ami: Your name's Julie, right?

Julie: How do you know my name?

Ami cocks her head towards Julie's bag, where her wallet is sticking out slightly.

Julie: ...Oh.

Ami: Julie, you need to calm down. You've been through a serious shock.

Julie: This is... a hospital?

Ami: No, you're in the infirmary here at ComCon. Ken brought you here after you fainted.

Julie: ComCon... YOU! YOU'RE THE SICKOS THAT SENT THAT... THAT THING TO MY HOME!

She points a fearful finger at the Lumine Driver.

Julie: Where the hell do you get off sending that nightmare generator to my brother?! Thank GOD he couldn't turn it on!

Ami: He... He couldn't get it to work? And you could?

Julie: I... I was on my way here... I wanted to know why it turned on for me and not him, so he could beta it or whatever the term is. The next thing I know I'm almost a monster snack and then that turned into a gun and the armor and... And...

She shudders involuntarily, remembering the experience vividly.

Ami: I see... How strange. Your brother... Is he a gamer?

Julie: Yeah... Kenta said he was considered a genius with puzzles. But all I knew was that he gets tons of packages and forgets to use deodorant regularly.

Ami looks at the girl then back to the data she’s collected.

Ami: Well, you’re certainly not my first choice for a Kamen Rider but Director Bushnell must now something we don’t.

Juile: …Kamen  Rider…? What’s a…--

Julie's eyes go wide and she looks at the clock on the wall.

Julie: Oh no! I was supposed to get back home over two hours ago!

She rushes past Ami and grabs her stuff, intentionally doing her best to ignore the Lumine Driver.

Ami: Wait! What are you doing?

Julie: I've got to get out of here! My dad and brother'll be worried!

Before Ami can even think to try and stop her, Julie bolts out of the infirmary.

Ami: Oh no... She doesn't know.

She sees the Lumine Driver lying on the stand.

Ami: Damnit...

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a bluetooth. She places it into her ear.

Ami: Gunpei? She just ran out of here, and without the Driver. You know what to do.

***

In the rec room of ComCon, Ken plops down on the nearest couch and tries to gather his thoughts.

Ken: What is Bushnell after…

Dan: Maybe he wanted to break up the sausage feast we had going…

In the center and on the biggest television a young man laid sprawled out with half his body touching the floor and the rest dangling from the edge of the couch whilst playing a game with one hand and the other deep in a bowl of chips. A half drowsy look in his eyes he fights back a yawn and keeps tapping on the controller.

Ken: Dan…(He blinks) Are you…comfortable?

Dan: Yeah, I’m good. (He nods barely pressing the buttons on the controller.) New Rider is a girl? And you brought her in? Nice.

Ken: No, the new Rider is not a girl. Director Bushnell is fixing this mistake.

Dan: Is she hot?

Ken: Does it matter?

Dan: Yea, she must be smoking then. (He giggled heartily) I didn’t think you had it in you, Sir Stone Face.

Ken: What? No, it’s not like that.

Dan: Yeah, you know it is.

Ken: (After glancing around the room) Where’s Gunpei?

Dan: Ami sent him back in the field. Your girlfriend woke up and she was pissssed.

Ken: (Growling under his breath) And you didn’t think to say that sooner?

Dan: Figured somebody’d text you. Look, it’s my night off man and I gotta finish this stage…Pass me a pillow?

A couch cushion flies pass his head.

Dan: Thanks. Terrible aim though.

***

Iizuka Residence, 6:11pm

Mako’s bedroom is dark and not what you’d expected from the bubbly and sharp dressing young lady. But at one glance you’d know the dominating force of her life, CapuCreeps. Posters, manga, video games, DVDs, and more things featuring the nightmarish but cutesy monsters cover every inch of her room. On a shelf near her bed are trophies and ribbons from various divisions and seasons of CapuCreeps tournaments most are third or second place.

Mako is sitting on the bed holding a cell phone to her ear with her shoulder and stroking a plush doll with her good hand.

Mako: Yeah, tell him I’ll see him tomorrow and to get well…oh, and tell him not to worry about the tournament either, we can still enter if sub him out or enter the doubles portion. What? Yes this is the time to be talking about this. I want to beat Kenzaki this year and I know you do, too! Don’t give me that, Ji! This IS important. ELGH.

Revolted, she lets the phone drop to the bed and she turns over the eight legged plush and strokes its belly.

Mako: This is important…

***

Mori Home

Julie closes the door behind her and tiptoes in. She gets all of five feet before she hears a familiar voice.

Dad: AHEM... And just where have YOU been, young lady?

Julie: DAD! I errr... It's really hard to explain. I went out to buy groceries and I got... sidetracked.

Dad: It's all right, but next time, call if you change your plans, okay sweetie? With those reports of monster attacks...

Julie: Oh god, I'm so sick of... I mean...

Her mind flashes back to the Bytes, then to Arcade, and Ami “…you’re certainly not my first choice for a Kamen Rider…”

Julie: Dad? Have you ever heard of something called a "Kamen Rider"?

He thinks for a moment. Then laughs.

Dan: Kamen Rider? Those urban legends? Supposedly they fight monsters, criminals, and aliens.

Julie: Like a superhero?

Her mind flashes on Arcade, and then to her own unwanted transformation.

Dad: I guess so, why do you ask?

They hear a ding.

Dad: Ah, you've gotten home just in time. I've got our usual emergency stand-by ready to go.

Julie: Microwave Chinese food?

Dad: It's either this or macaroni and cheese.

Julie: No... No, Dad.

She hugs him.

Julie: It's perfect.

***

Outside, Gunpei sighs.

Gunpei: Damnit, she really doesn't know... (He taps the Bluetooth.) She went home, like you figured. What should I do?

Ami: She's safe for the moment. If we're lucky, the Viron don't know about her yet.

Turning off the Bluetooth, Ami turns to the Rider Compatibility profiles. On the screen are Yamiya's and, just completed, Julie's.

Ami: How strange... Her brother's stats indicate that he should have been able to activate the Lumine Driver with ease.

She looks at the 97% total on the screen, then at Julie's 2%.

Ami: And she shouldn't have gotten any reaction at all, much less been able to transform.

She turns and looks at the Lumine Driver.

Ami: Why did you choose her?

The Lumine Driver offers no explanations.

As Ami is about to shut the system down for the night when a flashing icon on the desktop catches her attention. Cautiously she double clicks it and has to catch her glasses from falling off her face.

Ami: No… (Tapping her Bluetooth) Ken? Ken! We have a problem.

***

Pop Shots Entertainment game center, 7:18pm

Kenzaki Sagura pocketing his handheld console laughs louder at his latest opponent. Surround by his four man deep entourage, Kenzaki shoves the poor boy back as he makes his away to a different game cabinet.

Kenzaki: At least give me some type of challenge. Think of it this way, I did you a favor, kid; you’re not tournament ready.

He motions with bravado of a conqueror to the room filled with kids and teens alike on various games from racing to fighting or driving.

Kenzaki: No one here can take me in CapuCreep and I promise you my team is taking the title again.

Friend 1: That’s right!

The room mostly ignores him.

Kenzaki: Pssst, monster attacks my eye. All of those chickens just didn’t want to get embarrassed again (High fiving his friends and laughing some more).

From the rafter of the arcade, a set of predator eyes watches patiently, its mouth open a low pitch emitting from its fanged mouth.

Kid 1: Hey…(Banging on the side of a claw machine) Stupid thing took my quarter.

The lights in the game room flicker and the machines reset.

Kid 2: What’s going on?

Kid 3: MAN I almost beat that one too!

The eyes glow as and it opens its mouth wider, the pitch getting louder and louder. Screens fizzle out and most other cabinets begin to smoke as electronics burst from within.

Kid 4: What’s that sound?

Kenzaki almost recognizing the pitch looks up and around toward the rafters. As the lights flicker out and the sounds of flapping wings fill the room…

***

Back Outside the Mori Home,

Gunpei hears a beeping and puts on the Bluetooth.

Gunpei: Yeah? Forget something?

Ami: Change in plans.

He listens for a moment.

Gunpei: Understood.

Inside, Julie's finally beginning to feel like her old self.

Julie: Dad? I'll take the garbage. You just relax.

She pulls the bag out of the can and heads to the back porch, where she opens the can and places the bag inside. As she replaces the lid, she feels a hand over her mouth.

Julie: MMPH!

Gunpei: Sorry about this.

A moment later, Julie's dad looks outside.

Dad: ...Julie?

He sighs.

Dad: Teenagers.

***

Julie: THIS IS KIDNAPPING! ARE YOU INSANE?!

Riding in the back of the small car, she watches the streets fly by. She glares at Gunpei.

Gunpei: I'm not any happier about it than you are.

Julie: ...Oh god, you're one of those ComCon guys! Let me out! LET ME OUT OF HERE!

Gunpei: Can't. Won't. They need me to take you somewhere.

Julie: Oh no... I know too much, don't I? I'm gonna wind up in a building's foundation or under the ocean or-

Gunpei: WOULD YOU PLEASE SHUT UP?!

Julie: yessir

Gunpei sighs.

Gunpei: You don't seem to grasp the situation you're in.

Julie: And what situation would THAT be?

Gunpei: You'll see...

He drives on. She gulps, terrified.

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[KRA] Level 1 "Game Start!" (2/2)

We pick up as Julie's on her way home after school. She passes by Gunpei's vantage point, not noticing him, and, just for a moment, remembers a slightly earlier time. Hearing music in her head, she does a few graceful moves as she reaches her doorstep... and almost trips over MORE packages. She groans inwardly and, after removing her shoes, picks them up and goes inside.

Julie: I swear, if you get any more boxes, we'll be able to build another HOUSE out of them!

She closes the door with her foot and manages to drop her bookbag without losing her grip on the packages.

Julie: Yamiya?

Yamiya: DAMNIT! WORK BLAST YOU!

Muttering under her breath, she heads back to his room. She pauses, bracing herself for the smell that wouldn't die, and heads in, dumping his boxes on his bed. Thankfully, the smell is gone, and she breathes a sigh of relief.

Julie: I swear, I am NOT cleaning this crap up for you, bro.

Yamiya: Work already!

Yamiya's smacking a strange looking game controller, which stubbornly refuses to power up.

Julie: What's wrong?

Yamiya: Oh, it's some new gaming device from ComCon. They want me to beta test it, but the damn thing won't charge up.

Julie: Check the batteries?

Yamiya: That's the weird thing. There's no battery case, no plug... Nothing!

He smacks it again, tries pushing each button, then shakes his head in defeat.

Yamiya: I give up!

He tosses it behind him in frustration. She reflexively catches it.

Yamiya: I'll just have to tell them this unit's defective and won't start up.

Julie shrugs and looks at the device.

Julie: Well, maybe it's for the best. You're getting a bit pale... You should get some sun.

Yamiya's not listening. He's already moving on to the next game to beta.

Julie: ...And I'm talking to myself. Great.

She walks out his room carrying the device. In spite of herself, she glances at it. Not seeing anything particularly special about it, she casually begins pressing the buttons.

Julie: Gamers...

Her finger glides over the start button and presses it for a fraction of a second. It beeps.

Julie jumps, startled.

Lumine Driver: Player Two, Ready?

Julie: Hey! I got it to work! Yamiya!

She rushes back in.

Julie: Yamiya! I got it to work!

That gets his attention. He turns and she tosses it to him. He presses a few buttons. Nothing happens.

Yamiya: What the? NOT funny, sis!

He tosses it back to her and returns to the new game. Confused, she looks at the Lumine Driver and shrugs.

Julie: That's weird.

She tries the button again.

Lumine Driver: Player Two, Ready?

Julie: Freaky.

Forgetting to set it down, she heads to the kitchen and opens the fridge. Seeing that there's nothing to eat, she closes the door and heads for the front door.

Julie: Yamiya? I'm headed out to buy groceries. If Dad gets home, tell him I went to the market, okay?

He doesn't answer. She isn't surprised. She grabs her purse and opens the door, pausing to consider what to do with the Lumine Driver. She sees the ComCon box in the trashcan and picks it up.

Julie: Hey, these guys are local! I wonder...

She looks at the Driver and places it into her purse. She heads out the door and slips on her shoes. As she walks past, the watcher notices a signal on a device he's carrying.

Gunpei: I've got a signal. The Lumine Driver's gone active.

A voice comes over his headset.

Bushnell: You know what to do.

Gunpei looks at the device, then at Julie.

Gunpei: I think we've got a problem. The GIRL has it.

Bushnell: And it's ACTIVE? Follow her. Don't let her out of your sight!

***

The spider-bat hangs in the shadows of an abandoned warehouse clinging upside down to a web with ribs and femurs caught in it. There is a light gash over its left eye and the top of an ear has been nipped off. It’s frothing at the mouth staring at the daylight seeping through the dirty and broken windows. It wants to feed. It wants revenge. However, the daylight and injuries forces it to wait. It hobbles down its webbing to chew on a bone when a voice from below startles it.

Voice 1: Stupid creature, I should put you back in your ball.

The spider-bat cringes at the sound of the voice scurries back the top of the web. The figure below paces back and forth under it sighing between each step.

Voice 1: Now isn’t the time to lick your wounds.

The spider-bat tilt’s its head at the words then closes its good eye as a small light shines from below.

Voice 1: Let your trainer make it all better now.

The spider-bat takes the light itself and rapidly scales back to the top of its webbing.

Voice 1: Next time…

A low snarl and chuckle cuts the first voice off

Voice 2: You would do wise to appreciate the opportunity you’ve been given, human.

The outline of a large reptilian creature with spikes rises out of the darkness.

Voice 2: The Viron have offered you our power for your goals, but don’t forget you still must pay me our due.

Voice 1: You will have what you want once I have what I want and the competition is out of the way. And how do we plan to deal with that thing that keeps attacking my pet? What did you call it…?

Voice 2: Kamen Rider.

Voice 1: How do you plan to stop it?

Voice 2: Forcefully.(Lets out a low distorted laugh.)

***

Business District.

Julie's walking towards the business district, unaware that she's being followed.

Julie: I have GOT to invest in a bike one of these days...

She pauses a moment to rest and looks up, seeing a dance academy with a class in session. Through the window, she watches as the dancers move gracefully, elegantly, perfectly in time with the music. Her thoughts wander to the past, to a somewhat happier time, when she was dancing across a stage...

Julie: OOF!

Her reverie is interrupted as someone bumps into her. They both fall to the ground.

Kenta: Oh! Sorry!

The boy is on his feet first, and moves to help her up.

Kenta: ...You're Julie, right? Kenta. Kenta Watanabe. Class 3-B.

He pulls her up.

Julie: Yeah. And it was my fault. I got... distracted.

Kenta: No worries. Hey, isn't your brother the guy that-

Julie: Writes those gaming articles? Yeah. He's a bit of a gaming geek.

Kenta: Are you kidding? He's a freakin' genius! I heard he's beaten every puzzle game on the planet.

Julie: Puzzle games? I thought he was into video games.

Kenta: ...Man, you really DON'T know anything about gaming, do you?

Julie: Well... I played Duck Hunt. Once. Scored a 2.

Kenta: ...Wow. That's bad.

Julie: I've always been more interested in REAL life. So, where are you headed in such a hurry?

Kenta: I'm practicing for the CapuCreep tournament, and I've gotta hit the arcade before all the machines get taken.

Julie: Well, I won't keep you. Just watch out, will ya?

Kenta chuckles a bit and takes two steps... then stops. Confused, he looks down and sees that his foot is stuck in something.

Kenta: What the?

He pulls his foot up, but it isn't easy. It's covered in some kind of sticky thread.

Kenta: Man, that's freaky...

He starts to lose his balance, but Julie instinctively catches him.

Julie: Now what did I just say about being careful?

Gunpei keeps back, noting the exchange with Kenta indifferently until he notices the boy seems to be stuck.

Gunpei: The Viron… Here? But that means it can sense... (shaking his head, he pulls his comm up) Gunpei to HQ, we have a problem. I’m moving to eng-

He tries to run but doesn’t move in inch.

Gunpei: Wha…?

He looks and notices he’s stuck to the ground as well.

Gunpei: Of all the…

With Kenta steadied, she starts to move away, only to find that her feet are stuck.

Julie: Huh? Oh gross! What is this stuff?

She starts to look down at it... when more suddenly drops down, attaching to both their backs. Then they feel a tug... and go flying up into the air!

They both cry out, surprised and terrified, as they're pulled up over the buildings to the top of the studio's roof. They land with a thud.

Julie: Ow...

Kenta: Wh-what just happened?

Julie: I don't know. One second we were down there, and then...

At that moment, they hear a strange hiss.

Julie: ...Please tell me that's a radiator or a furnace or a-

Kenta: SPIDER!

Remembering the story she'd heard earlier, Julie groans inwardly as she turns to see the very creature that had been described by her classmate. It takes a few steps towards them.

Julie: I... don't suppose you're just a guy in a rubber costume, are you?

The creature merely growls and advances.

Julie: Oh crap...

She tries to scramble backwards, but finds that more of the sticky thread lies under them. Kenta's stuck on his back, and her hands are firmly affixed to the roof. She looks at it, terrified, but as it draws closer

Before Julie could be drawn closer, a figure tackles the creature, knocking it away from the two high-schoolers. Rolling to safety, Ken quickly glances at the two, not seeing any injuries.

Ken: Get your friend. Get out of here. Now.

Julie: What... who are…

Ken turns to face the hybrid, one arm back to keep Julie back and the other outstretched holding a controller.

Julie:  (Seeing the controller) Are you insane!? Are you gonna play it in Mario Kart?! Let's get outta here!

Ken, completely ignoring her, stands with eyes filled with fire.

Ken: I’ve done my homework, Spindar. We've got a dance to finish.

The spider-bat’s maw drips with venom before it roars at Ken but keeps distance--mindful of their last encounter.

Ken presses the center button of his controller, a belt materializing around his waist.

Arcade Driver: Player One, Okay? READY!

Ken: HENSHIN!

Ken slams the controller into a part at the center of the belt as a grid outline of pixels forms over his body shaping into a black and white armored suit with red trim that finishes at his head with an oddly insect reminiscent helmet with green eyes. The suit itself, fashioned after an arcade cabinet, shines in the sunlight as he glares at the monster.

Arcade Driver: GAME START, ARCADE!

Julie: WHAT IS THAT?! WHAT ARE YOU?!

Spindar: Arckcaido!

Arcade reaches to his side pulling out an almost comically oversized token. He flicks it into the air with his thumb and it takes the shape of a red bird squawking momentarily before turning back into a token. Catching it without looking, he inserts it into the side of the driver.

Arcade Driver: UPGRADE: FIREBIRD!

Arcade’s HUD flashes “ATTACK BOOST UP!!” as the armor glows red for a brief second.

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

Arcade rushes forward, but Spindar leaps back spraying a line of webbing directly at Arcade’s face. The hero stops and snatches the webbing out of the air effortlessly, wrapping the thread tight around his fist and forearm.

Arcade: Get over here.

Arcade tugs on the line launching Spindar forward and into his fist and a swift knee to the side. Spindar doubles over but springs up bring back racking its single-taloned arms back and forth across Arcade’s chest trailed by a sparks. The hero stumbles back as the Spindar wraps its arms around him in an iron grip and bites into his shoulders.

The Rider grunts breaking the grip by bringing his forearms up and out. Spindar stumbles back as Arcade hammers him with a stream of punches. Arcade stops short at his last punch using the momentum to shoulder thrust into Spindar then lift him off the ground into a hard throw followed with a snap kick to its back. Spindar crashes into the ground growling and pounding at the rooftop in frustration.

Arcade: Now to finis—(he notices Julie and Kenta never left) What the… are you two insane? Get outta here.

Julie: Trust me, Iron Bugman, I’d love to go but…

She tries to raise her hand but it’s firmly attached to a bed of white goo.

Kenta: (stuck back first to the roof and wailing like a turned over turtle) Help us! HELP!

Arcade sighs and goes to reach for his belt when Spindar blindsides him to the side in a blur of movement.

Arcade: A speed boost?

Arcade’s HUD reads his HP at 178/200, Enemy HP 97/200 with an icon of a boot next the bar.

Arcade: That’s not good…

Spindar kicks off the ground and seeming vanishes only to appear directly in front of Arcade and throwing him against the side of the roof.

Arcade: Why not give him one of those evolution stones while we’re at-…!!

Arcade barely manages to roll out of the way as Spindar comes down hard with both feet leaving cracked concrete.

Julie: OHMIGOD! WE'RE DEAD! WE'RE TOTALLY DEAD!

Inside her bag, the Lumine Driver beeps softly, registering the foreign substance and the energy being given off by the creature and Arcade.

Lumine Driver: Enemy Detected! Defense!

Julie: Huh? What the?!

She can only watch in awe as the device begins floating out of her bag, sheathed in some strange form of energy.

Lumine Driver: GUN MODE!

Then it begins shifting, extending and folding until it forms some kind of futuristic blaster. It charges up.

Julie: NO! WAIT!

It ignores her and fires a wide angle beam over her and Kenta, vaporizing the webbing holding them down. Its task completed, it shifts back to a game controller and drops to the ground, landing right in Julie's lap. She can only stare at it, flabbergasted and very much afraid. Kenta scrambles to his feet.

Kenta: Oh god, I'm outta here!

He runs for the fire escape, completely forgetting about Julie, who's too stunned to even think about moving.

From an adjacent rooftop, the spiked reptilian figure watches this new development with great interest.

??? : Fascinating.

Arcade rolls out the way of another swipe when his HUD display in flashes over a blank HP gauge “Player 2, Standing By”

Arcade: Player what?!

He scans the rooftop and sees the Lumine Driver, which is identical to his, in Julie's lap.

Arcade: W-Where did you get that?

Julie: I don’t know! Some company sent it to my house! What is this thing?!

Arcade: Damn Bushnell, he wouldn’t dare…

Julie: What the hell are you talking about? What is this thing and who are you?! Who is he?!

Spindar looks on momentarily somewhat irritated at the destruction of his webbing. It had planned to eat the girl after it killed the boy… The boy? Where had he gone? The creature’s eyes rapid move across the rooftop until it finds Kenta still struggling with the chain attached to the fire escape.

Prey.

Spindar howls and with a speed boosted jump clears half the roof, opening its arms in a pounce as it nears Kenta.

Arcade: (Noticing the airborne blur motions at Julie.) Hold that thought.

Arcade dashes full sprint getting right under the monster and snatches Spindar out of the air slamming him back into the rooftop. The dazed Spindar stumbles to its feet producing a small grey square out of thin air.

Arcade: Sorry webs, spiders don’t get to fly.

Arcade moves quickly, pressing the buttons BACK, DOWN, FORWARD, B, A on the controller on his belt in one smooth motion.

Arcade Driver: ARCADE: SUPER COMBO!

Arcade crouches an inch for a brief second as the driver sends surges of crackling electricity to his feet before leaping into the air and bringing his leg down onto Spindar’s face in a flying crescent kick.

Arcade: RIDER DIVIDE KICK!

The beast roars in pain on impact, the blow sending him back into two rolls, his body crackling with energy and exploding in a violent flash of pixels… but when it came to a stop on the second roll, Spindar dropped the gray square. The effect is immediate, as the cartridge begins to glow... and erupt! As it does so, it releases several red and black entities, humanoid, with mouths full of razor sharp teeth and claws to match. At the same time, a small bundle of webbing goes flying over the edge of the roof and out of sight.

Arcade: Great. Bytes. Just what I needed.

Julie shrieks at the sight of the new creatures, which immediately begin spreading out. Three immediately attack Arcade, but two more head towards Kenta. Arcade ducks under the swipes of the first two Bytes and kicks the third, before pulling his Arcade Driver off and converting it to a blaster.

Arcade Driver: GUN MODE!

He fires at the Bytes going for Kenta, driving them back... But then they stop and sniff the air, before slowly turning towards Julie.

Julie: Errr... Why are they looking at me that way?

They begin to advance on her.

Julie: K-keep back!

She scrambles backwards, but they ignore her and keep coming closer.

Arcade: Hang on!

He moves to help her, but the Bytes from before grab him and pull him backwards.

Arcade: I can't fight these guys AND protect you!

His eyes fall to the device on her lap.

Arcade: The controller! You've got to use it!

Julie: But... But I-

Arcade: DO IT NOW!

Trembling, her fingers grasp the device, one touching the start button.

Lumine Driver: PLAYER TWO, READY?

Arcade elbows one Byte and spins, punching a second, even as the ones advancing on her prepare to lunge.

Arcade: Now hurry up! Henshin!

Julie: Henshin?

She's confused by why he says this, but as she does, a belt forms around her waist. The Lumine Driver pulls itself from her hands and attaches to the belt. At the same moment, the Bytes leap at her.

Lumine Driver: GAME START, LUMINE!

Julie's immediately engulfed by strands of energy resembling Tetris blocks. The strands knock the Bytes to the other side of the roof. They spiral around her body for a moment, and as they fade away, they reveal a beautiful light violet armor with white trim. As it leaves her head, it reveals segmented light blue eyes shaped like puzzle pieces, antennae, and a tiny gem between both.

Shocked, she looks at her armored hands.

Julie/Lumine: W-WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME?!?!?!

Do you wish to continue? [Y/N]

Julie: What have you turned me into?! I can't get this armor off!

Ken: There's been a terrible mistake! She can't be a Kamen Rider!

Julie: The monster's back?! You've gotta stop it!

Ken: I can't! This time, it's up to you!

Julie: But... But I don't WANT to be a superhero!

Ken: Next time: The Reluctant Rider, Lumine!

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