[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 14

I think I’m finally coming into my own.

So. The old Project Perseus building. The upper levels had since been leased out to other companies, but it was entirely too easy to get into the basement levels through the back. The research labs had been completely gutted, as though someone was trying very hard to make it appear as though there had never been a high-security government facility there. The equipment — including some really massive stuff — had all been removed, probably disassembled, and even the industrial electrical outlets were removed, the wires covered up by a new layer of drywall. The first four basement levels had a few desks, and nothing else. Apart from a keypad lock on the back entrance, there were no traces of the project’s extensive security systems, no cameras, magnetic locks, key card readers, retinal scanners, nothing.

The fifth level — which I’d never been to before — was an entirely different matter. The room was pitch-black, save for a single cone of white light coming from the ceiling. The man who stepped into the light was Sam’s missing tag-team partner, Wash. In spite of his tacky Hawaiian shirt, he began speaking of world-shaking events. And he had some friends with him: Pinnacle, and more clone soldiers. Pinnacle was unusually quiet, while Wash started gloating about how the experiment to create new metahumans was a resounding success. Raz was impulsive as usual, and found out that they had another force field set up. He did at least give us a few puzzle pieces. Glenn was not part of their plans, for example. And they still know far too much about us. He offered to answer one question, and while I was trying to formulate a question about the nature of the catalyst, Jack asked him how to take down the force field. Wash’s answer was, “Take out the power for 15 city blocks.” Which tells us a bit more than he probably intended. Their force field device doesn’t have an independent power source, and it uses a large amount of electricity. The big question is whether they need to set it up in advance or they can simply deploy it quickly had have it somehow drain the power automatically.

They tried to work their vanishing act, but when Glenn opened the elevator, there was Pinnacle with four soldiers, and more started pouring in through the doors. Pinnacle was a formiddable opponent to say the least, but this time he seemed virtually invincible. He went beyond his usual inhuman combat skill, and everything we brought against him he either anticipated or outright ingored. He batted Glenn away, took Razmus’ claw attack unfazed, my Rider Drill did nothing against his armor, he happily inhaled the burning steam vapors Sam brought to bear and ignored it when Sam froze them in his lungs, and he simply stepped out of the way every time Jack tried to use his shadow powers. Seeing that this was getting us nowhere, I used the Mega-Beam, firing it past him at the soldiers in the elevator and sweeping it upwards until I blasted the ceiling above Pinnacle. The falling rubble made a massive dust cloud, and when it cleared, there was no sign of him. The soldiers faded away and were gone. We beat a hasty retreat as the klaxons began to sound.

But there was still more in store for the evening. A massive motorcycle growl sounded in the streets, a 1000cc engine, and a sound I knew. A custom Fenrir bike streaked past us, and I swear I saw a long red scarf streaking behind it. The other Rider.

Razmus decided to spend the night at a hotel, to avoid my grandfather. The old man is proving to have a lot of information, though as Glenn pointed out, he’s undoubtedly not telling us everything he knows. What he did tell me was that we were probably dealing with Wild Rider, a maverick Rider who wanders the universe on his own, and unusual in that he fights hand-to-hand. But what he was doing on Earth, he had no idea. When I asked him if it was normal that I was having so many dreams about my father, he just said, “I miss him too.”

The next day Razmus showed up in time to go to Akiba with Suzuka, who had already made a little plushie of him to hang on her bag. She makes those of most of the boys she likes, though some wind up with pins stuck in them. I don’t know how it went, and I’m not sure I want to.

Glenn and I went to visit the auto shop where dad’s motorcycle was built. Mr. Shige Matsumoto was there, and he took us down to his hidden underground shop where he was working on his secret custom bikes. When we asked about Wild Rider, he was shocked too. He’d made three bikes for my father. One was destroyed in Paris (so it was the Eiffel tower), one was in the National Historical Museum (we need to check to see if it’s still there), and the third was there in the garage, an updated version that was intended to be a present for Ryo’s 18th birthday. Matsumoto was unfazed when he found out that there had been a change of plans, and he was happy to give me the key.

It turned out to be just in time, because Wild Rider himself pulled up in front of the garage just as we got back upstairs, pointed at me (and how the hell did he know that I’m a Rider?) and said, “RACE ME.” So, I raced him. We both had a couple of the most powerful bikes in the world, and we tore through city streets before we found our way onto a mostly empty highway loop. I never quite got ahead of him, but I never fell behind either. I always liked motorcycles — it’s one of the few things where I’m a lot like my father — but this was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Even now I’m itching to ride some more, just for the hell of it. But Wild Rider wasn’t content to just race; he screeched to a halt, hopped off his bike, and took up a fighting stance. With the helicopters circling overhead, we fought. His punches hit hard, sending me flying a couple of times even in my heavy armor, but the Rider Gemini Slash apparently did enough damage to convince him to turn tail and leave the scene.

I got back to the house as quickly as I could without being followed. We’d been on the news, which was now buzzing with that “Rider Lady” nonsense. I really need to come up with a name of my own, but then I have no idea what my adapted armor will even look like. From the picture I took with my cameraphone before the race, my grandfather was surprised to find that Wild Rider’s armor had changed somewhat, and from the description I gave, he said the voice had changed as well. If there is someone new who took up the mantle of being Wild Rider, then it had to have been someone with the Rider’s genetic factor that makes transforming possible. With the sighting the Watcher mentioned, plus the two times I saw him with my own eyes, it can’t be a normal human. Grandfather said the only other person on the planet who could do it would be Ryo, except he’s not old enough. It could explain his simplistic fightng style — nothing but big, powerful punches — but I’m not about to jump to conclusions. If the catalyst let me use the Mega-Brace in spite of being a woman, there’s no telling what might’ve happened to someone else. Even still, I took the opportunity to look through Ryo’s room (I used Sam the wrestler to distract him) just in case, but there was nothing apart from the usual boatloads of Mega-Rider merchandise, even more than I remember (I should’ve guessed they’d have “10th Anniversary Memorial” merchandise coming out). I really hope he was just playing soccer. Oh, and Razmus called me to congratulate me on a cool fight.

The thing that’s still bugging me is that Pinnacle and his friends have such good surveillance on us. They seem to know every move we make, though details of the conversation proved that they didn’t know what was said in my house, at least, even while my grandfather wasn’t there. I wonder if we could use their watchful eyes to our advantage somehow. And I can’t believe Razmus actually thought I’d look at him differently because of his ancestry. Just being Raz is more than enough. And I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and someone to come tell me I can’t be a Rider because I’m a girl. My mother has been quiet as ever (do I take after her?), my grandfather was a little surprised, but mostly just took it in stride, and Wild Rider said all of two words to me in the whole of his little test. I can’t stop now; heroism is just as addictive as nicotine (my grandfather smokes too, indoors), and probably worse for your health in the long run.

Next up is Ryo’s big soccer match, and we have four hours to kill until then, which isn’t enough time to go to the museum. At the rate things have been going, we’re probably due for another incident there. With more media coverage.

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