[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 16

Have you ever looked in the mirror and found you weren’t quite sure who was looking back? That was today in a nutshell. Let me start at the beginning.

I woke up, totally stressed out, and got ready to go see the Riders. Glenn gave me some crap about smoking — and I suppose he has a point — and Razmus was hanging out on the roof and probably got up at an ungodly hour to watch the sunrise. Never mind that the smog makes Tokyo the Land of the Rising Brightish Haze. And Suzuka came by to glom onto him. The usual stuff.

When gramps finally showed up, it was after lunch time. He took me up to the spaceship, showed me around some, and took me in to see the Rider Council. It was kind of anticlimactic. I was expecting to have to beat one of them in single combat or something else appropriately cliche. Instead he offered me a chance to walk away from the whole thing. Having a conscience is a bitch, not to mention the whole thing about the oncoming alien hordes. Did they actually think I was going to say no? They probably did; that’s how they think. They had me swap transformation braces, and when I tried the new one, I was me, in this new armor. It felt right. It felt perfect. In hindsight, I’d describe the feeling like this: Imagine in one instant suddenly knowing that you had arrived at the true purpose of your existence.

Gramps gave me another toy, which I’m supposed to keep a secret: a new sword, one that talks. I need to take some time to have a chat with it (him/her?) when I get a chance, and come up with a name. And I need a name for this new Rider version of me.

When I got back to the house, it turned out that where nearly three hours had gone by on the ship, about a minute had passed for my teammates. Then… I got a little bit crazy. At first, I was thinking that I was just in a really good mood for some reason — which, knowing how I’ve been for the past four years or so is kind of a dumb thing to think — and the guys were a little worried about me. Still, I went out shopping, and did kind of an image change thing. I got contacts, a new haircut, and a new outfit (grandpa complains that it’s too “revealing”). I can’t remember the last time I wore a skirt that wasn’t part of a uniform. Sam didn’t even recognize me at first, even with the molecular biology book I was reading.

It turned out Razmus had gone out trying to find Magical Land, that weird little amusement park, and Sam and I wound up going to join him. So not like me. I even helped distract the security guards while Sam crashed the little pro wrestling show they had going on, but then I got kinda bored and went for the roller coaster nearby. And when I got off, I felt sick. My stomach was a little churned by the ride, but I think it was something more than that. I wanted to lie down, but it was as much to cover my head with a pillow and be alone as it was to make my head stop spinning.

After that I was calmed down a bit, but I was and still am a little weird. Glenn told me he’d checked out the museum, and it’d turned out that dad’s bike they had there had been stolen. When Grandpa finally showed up, we had a big pow-wow about where things stood. I was acting kind of dumb there, making stupid jokes that no one except my deranged self found funny. The Riders are testing me, Earth could be the site of the final decisive battle between the Riders and the Beast Race, and our earthling villain guys could well know about the alien invasion themselves (save the world and then take it over kind of thing). Amalgam had been aiming to create some kind of power to manipulate nuclear forces, but it got divided, half and half, between him and Dynamo, and Wash may have gotten the complete version. And gramps had no clue why I’ve been funny in the head ever since I transformed.

Glenn is appropriately concerned, but Raz just doesn’t seem to give a shit. This new Hikaru is more to his liking, so I guess it doesn’t matter to him that I could be completely losing my mind, in more ways than one. Different bits of me feel different things right now, but every snap decision gets deferred to this new Hikaru. But another piece of me is scared shitless about this whole thing. I have to tell Ryo the truth, but to do that I have to figure out what the hell is true. This new brace feels different — a better fit — but there’s still that same feeling of being loathe to take it off. The fact that there was a new one in front of me was the only thing that let me take off the Mega-Brace. I’m acting more like my dad, only much more impulsive, so far.

There. Just now. I started seriously thinking about quitting smoking. I mean, I’ve been thinking about it for ages, but just now I was thinking that putting up with withdrawl symptoms would be worth it. The old me always said it was too much trouble and not worth the effort, like a lot of things in life. I am exhausted, and as usual everyone’s fucking with me. I really wonder if all this isn’t part of something one of the Riders did on purpose. I never did figure out what was going on with Void Rider. For a bunch of guys so intent on setting up a boys-only club, they let me off the hook relatively easy.

God damn it, I’m going around in circles again, just faster than before. I am Hikaru Hirose, and so is she. Now what?

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