Category Archives: in-character

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episodes 23-24

I feel empty, empty as a high school student. I should be feeling all kinds of things right now.

Raz and Sam left for Utah, intent on doing detective work or some such to find Raz’ mother. I went out for a long ride around the city, to clear my head. I took long enough that they’d already left. It was somewhere along the Embarcadero that the numbness set in.

It turned out Raz’ actions forced the monks to move up their schedule. We were teleported to a safe house, which was the ultimate in spartan living. Raz and Sam were brought there too, though they weren’t really happy about it. They’d apparently gotten lots and lots of guns from somewhere and, unsurprisingly, they turned out to be worse than useless. Worse, because for some reason Sam decided to shoot the tire of the van. I remain of the opinion that superheroes shouldn’t need them, and experience has yet to prove otherwise.

Anyway, our mission went relatively smoothly, considering. Raz went off on his own, which proved every bit as pointless as the gun and grenades he brought with him. We wound up side-by-side on the same stairway anyway, after all. He calls that his “insurance policy,” whatever that means.

The guards were just normal humans, and bored, tired ones at that. The real problem was in the office. It was Razmus’ mother, sort of. The woman there was definitely the one in the photo, except the she didn’t smile once. She threw a punch that sent me flying, and had no qualms about sparring with Raz, easily deflecting each and every attack he brought to bear, while the rest of us freed the imprisoned metahumans.

Then, this woman gave us more pieces of the puzzle, but unpleasant ones. She’s part of Project Perseus, and one of the Beast Race aliens, a Devourer. She’s working to help protect Earth, but apparently purely for her own selfish reasons. She showed us the true face of the enemy: she is cold, inhuman, and vicious. And according to her, everything Raz has believed was a lie. He and the others like him were created by fusing the DNA of Rekemi herself and a human, a living weapon intended to protect Earth from the invasion. He is unique only in that he is the pure, general-purpose model, while the other, of which there are over 100 remaining, have been more extensively modified. She feels nothing more towards him than she would a laboratory specimen. His childhood, his adolescence, that town in Colorado, everything until about 10 months ago, was a fiction.

I can’t imagine what he’s going through. What would it be like if everything I thought I knew about myself was a lie? I don’t know. He used me up, and I can’t make myself care right now. We’re as close as he’s ever had to family, and like a family there was little choice involved. Even now I can’t abandon him, but I also can’t be what he needs right now. Sometimes not feeling is convenient, but sometimes the yawning cavern of silence presses down too hard.

No future, no name, no hope. No choices, just someone else’s script.

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episodes 21-22

I don’t even know where to begin. Things are moving way too fast for me right now, and I feel like I’m about ready to snap and either kill someone or just curl into a ball and hide. And as usual, Raz has placed himself at the center of it. Caring about him drains me, and I think I’m just about dry. Every time I think he’s growing up a little and acting like a decent human being (though now that I think about it, from his genetic structure I doubt he could produce live offspring with a human, one of the most important tests of whether two organisms are the same species), he manages to turn around and find some way to be infuriating. One step forward two steps back. If not for him, I think even with the bad business with Ryo, the dark future and everything, I could handle this superhero thing. Right now it’s hard to be strong, much less civil.

Anyway, I should talk about what actually happened yesterday, with BAIN and all that, and how it gave me something new to worry about, more dark dreams pressing me flat against the ground, making it hard to breathe.

The battle against the giant robot that BAIN put together out of tank parts and such came down relatively easily once Raz got inside of it. BAIN himself, who resided at the center of it, was a whole other problem. His near indestructibility made it almost impossible to do a damn thing to him. I couldn’t even knock him over, much less immobilize him. And then the nonsense with the rocket happened. The warhead-less rocket was programmed to launch, presumably somewhere calculated to cause World War III. Raz wanted to put him in the top of the rocket, ensuring that he’d land in some foreign country and roam free (he later explained how he had a plan — one that couldn’t possibly have been carried out in time), while Jack for some reason decided to put BAIN under the rocket, making sure we’d lose track of him. In the end Glenn and I wound up doing our combination move — his acceleration to launch my Rider Drill — through the rocket. My suit normally protects me from motion sickness and loud noises and such, but it was still unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The pressure wave of the exploding rocket knocked all of my teammates unconscious, leaving me with a choice between (a) doing nothing at all to BAIN, or (b) taking steps to keep my teammates from dying of sunstroke and such. I went with B.

When we regrouped, they recovered relatively quickly. The problem was that BAIN had disappeared, and the satellite that had been tracking him went down somehow. I really didn’t want to come crying for help, but I wound up calling my grandfather for help. It turned out that what I thought had merely been interference to my sword had been a hacking attempt, and probably responsible for the business with the satellite. We wound up using it to locate BAIN, and having Raz use his super-strength — with a few wrestling pointers from Sam — to break BAIN’s internal mechanisms without too much concern about the invulnerable armor. In the end he managed to completely disable BAIN, but it kept staring at me.

When we got back, my grandfather’s teleport didn’t work at first, and once it did, I was unable to contact him. He also had some odd news about future Ryo’s memories being scrambled, remembering things that never happened. So, something else to worry about, something that could change everything.

And then Jack’s churchy friend showed up with a mission, and it turns out that the facility they want to raid to free metahumans who are being used as guinea pigs apparently has Raz’ mother. Hence Raz is determined to go off half-cocked and run off to Utah, never mind that even Jack hasn’t been given the location and such, and that a coordinated raid with actual intelligence will probably do his mother more good than detective work and a smash-and-grab. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to know one’s mother is being held hostage and experimented on. I mean, I really can’t imagine it; at the moment I don’t have enough left in me to be capable of that kind of empathy. Am I turning into High School Hikaru again?

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 20

Okay. So. The Super Mentors hooked us up with a lawyer who’s very experienced in dealing with metahuman cases. And it doesn’t look good. One of the things I like about Japan is that people aren’t nearly as litigous. The brainy part of me wants to point out that tort reform is a very complex issue. Anyway, Razmus continued to react with his usual machismo BS, and apparently was serously thinking of trying to defend himself (fool for a client and all that) basically because the lawyer told him stuff he didn’t like.

And in the middle of it, Sam got all weird in the head and was drinking insane amounts of water even for him. We took him to the hospital, but… he just went back to whatever passes for normal for him a few hours later.

Which was just as well, since Glenn’s General friend asked us to go on a mission to find the guy. It turns out that there was this android called BAIN, created to end the threat of nuclear war. It’s
just that BAIN’s methodology involves obliterating humanity. It’s like a sci-fi B-movie plot, except that we have to deal with a virtually indestructible monster for real. All the military guys they sent in never came back. Then Glenn didn’t come back, until the general sent us out and we found him unconscious inside of a suit of power armor that was running on autopilot. Rescuing him was a step in the right direction, to be sure, but now we’re confronted with a massive humanoid weapon built from all the tanks and such that failed to come back from confronting BAIN. No sign of the soldiers yet.

We’re in for a hell of a fight… And there’s a possibility he could control my armor, like he can most machines. Hopefully its partly organic nature and alien origins will let me function normally. Otherwise I’m going back to the base. If Raz thinks I can be of any use to anyone with a gun (i.e., the exact opposite of a superhero’s weapon), he’s even more delusional than I thought.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Swan said she’d call off the lawsuit if Raz apologized on national TV? I find it completely hilarious that he doesn’t want to do it because it would mean she’d “win.” Words almost never mean anything to him — actions speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean words are mute, and most of Raz’ words say that he’s a jerk — but when his idiotic pride is at stake, suddenly “I’m sorry” becomes worse than a bullet to the head. I have seriously never known anyone who has tried quite so hard to make me not want to care about them. I must have really seriously inherited my dad’s heroing streak to not have completely given up on him. Or something.

Anyway, giant robot to fight. Gotta go!

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episodes 19

I did the best I could, trying to talk to Ryo about things. At first he wouldn’t talk to me, and I just started crying and couldn’t help it. Mom came in and told us something that shocked me. When dad first came to earth, he was a timid young man, practically scared of his own shadow, and he grew into the hero that we’ve always heard about. His shoes don’t seem quite so big to fill anymore, and if anything I feel like I take after him that much more. There was a time when I was a crybaby too.

I also did Razmus’ little test, giving present-day Ryo something to memorize and sending someone else to the ship to ask future Ryo if he remembers it. I used a tanka poem by Ishikawa Takuboku:

原稿氏でなくては字を書かぬと
かたく信ずる、あ我が子のあどけなさ
(Firmly believing you can’t write characters
except on lined paper, Oh my child’s innocence.)

I sent Glenn up to deal with it, and future Ryo passed the test. I wonder if he understands the poem. And I wish I understood what it meant. That time travel is even possible is something that blows open our conceptions of physics, and it’s frustrating as hell that I have no basis for even guessing at how it all works, beyond science fiction movies. So, I’ve chosen to irrationally believe that time can be changed for the better.

On our last day in Japan I had lunch with Eri and Takeshi, and wound up telling them about the whole superhero thing, albeit not in much detail. It turned out Suzuka had caught some kind of really nasty cold or flu, and somehow because of it she’d decided she didn’t need to see Razmus. Which means something’s up and neither of them is willing to tell me; Suzuka doesn’t generally act that rational unless she’s using her brain to better accomplish something irrational. At her apartment most of her stuff was packed in boxes. So my best guess is she’s moving to America and doesn’t want to tell me. Part of me would like to see a familiar face from home now and then, but Suzuka is like Razmus in that she’s not exactly a source of stability in my life. Suzuka because of her insanity, and Razmus because he’s apparently incapable of letting anything be simple and straightforward, and for his ability to make sensible advice sound like he’s lecturing a child. (And I especially like how he called the Riders “racists.” Him of all people playing the victim card).

Oh, I did actually do a little training with Raz — and as New Hikaru it’s a very different experience by the way — but when he asked about what had gone down the night before I got too depressed to continue. The good news is I didn’t really get rusty, probably partly because I’ve been applying it as a Rider.

So. On our last day Sam decided to be an idiot and show off his powers to the whole neighborhood (man, I’m bitchy today), Jack went and bothered the monk at the Buddhist temple down the street, and Glenn didn’t seem to be able to figure out what he wanted to do. In the evening, we went to the neighborhood’s summer festival. I actually wore a yukata, and Ryo came too. It made me feel a lot better.

And then when we got back to the house, it turned out that Glenn had gotten an emergency call. Mom had dropped him off at the U.S. airforce base, and was to relay a message that we need to call the Super Mentors about Raz’ trial. I did that quietly, on my cell phone from my room — it would be very like Raz to pick up an extension of the house’s phone or creep up behind me. We need the information from his summons to get things moving properly, but at least I got the ball rolling.

I wasn’t in the mood for talking much on the flight back to America. I listened to music and read the rest of that genetics book I bought in Aegis, and tried to think things over some more. Victory Rider is getting slammed in the Japanese press, not that I trust or care about them. I was a bit concerned about PR before — and I think even Raz is starting to understand why it’s important — but with the invasion and war hanging over our heads it suddenly seems pretty trivial. All I could really figure out is that the next bad guy who gets in my way is going to regret it.

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 18

Things are really starting to get to me lately, and I feel like the old me would be better at handling all of this, but apart from an occasional moment of clarity, it’s just not an option. “Take one day at a time,” says grandpa, but each day feels like a month lately.

The Wild Rider I fought at the ceremony is (if we believe what he’s said) Ryo from about seven years in the future. The brace he wears appears to be the Mega-Brace from the future, but he says it was damaged, and repaired with components from the Wild Brace. I want it to not be true, for him to be some especially clever clone or something, because everything he says is scary and hurtful. Future Ryo hates me for “stealing his heritage,” and he’s a broken, ragged person, a survivor of two wars and (in his time) humanity’s last hope. And he wants to kill Raz, to keep him from going insane and calling down the shapeshifting aliens a second time. And the rest of the Gatekeepers, starting with me, get assassinated two years after the first war ends. It sounds stupid that I’m here thinking “I don’t want to die.” I mean, I knew there was danger when I signed up for this ride, and I never had a problem with jumping into the fray, but having it hanging over my head two years and six months from now scares the bejeezus out of me. And naturally, Future Ryo doesn’t know the details of how it happens.

And yet, the part that hurts the most is that he hates me. He’s known me longer than anyone, except for mom, and we always got along. And now it seems like it’s me — not even Victory Rider, but Hikaru — who’s going to totally fuck it up. I tried to talk to him about it, but I think it’ll have to wait for tomorrow. I hope I feel a little better tomorrow.

Oh, and we got to find out a bit more about Jack today. A monk — a Western monk in brown robes — just showed up at the door (and sunk into the ground when he left!). The Catholic Church had its own version of Project Perseus, and his family was part of a splinter group that broke off over believing that metahumans should be worked with, and science used. His parents were geneticists no less. So, there is a group withing the Church that wants to come after him, and now this splinter group wants him to do a mission when he gets back to America. I’m glad someone else’s past is going to be dumping stuff on us for a change.

And since coming clean about stuff was the order of the day, Razmus (who of late has been remarkably tractable and non-jerky, come to think of it) told the group something he mentioned to me the other day. Since he left that town in Colorado, he’s been hearing a girl’s voice in his head. She’d tell him what to do, and if he doesn’t do it he gets monstrous headaches. And joining us was one of the things she ordered him to do. Sam did hear her once, and I’m wondering if this third helix business has something to do with inheriting some of Razmus’ latent psychic potential.

There’s not too much time left before we’re going back to America. I really need to talk to Ryo. At this point time travel is all theory, but if he really is from the future, maybe we can change all this somehow. I sure got the kick in the pants I needed to actually sit down and talk to him. What else can we change? I don’t want to die, because I’d be letting too many people down. I don’t want Glenn and mom and Ryo to lose a second Rider, I don’t want to leave Razmus and Sam and Jack behind, and I don’t want to stop protecting the things that matter to me.

I’m not giving up without a fight.

That’s right. The old me and the new me agree 100% on this. We’ve come so far already. No surrender, no retreat.

[In-Character] Truth & Justice, Episode 17

I really don’t know what to make of Razmus anymore. Or myself, for that matter. Somehow, his errand to the base turned into an unannounced trip to Arizona. I tell myself I don’t care about him anymore, and that this is the last time, yet again. He doesn’t seem to give a shit about me or any of our other teammates (weird, considering it’s not like he has anyone else to turn to in the entire world). And as usual he’s medically incapable of admitting he’s done anything wrong. See, I had grandpa teleport me into his Greyhound bus, and I tried to find out what the fuck he was thinking, and why he felt the need to run away. And naturally, he brushed off the talk of running away, unable to face the situation even verbally. I get that trusting people isn’t always easy, especially when your adolescence was as screwed up as his, but I’m really not clear on why he would think it’s okay to just run off like that without a word. It’s not like we’d be able to force him to stay if he told us he was quitting. I want to smack him so damn hard sometimes, but he can kick my ass and if he did he’d probably convince himself that he was somehow right to do it.

And Swan is suing him, and he’s acting like its some kind of goddamn game. I really hope Glenn knows a good lawyer. One that won’t let Raz talk too much. He really is a teenager; he says otherwise, but he doesn’t understand mortality. He can’t fit into his tiny little mind that everything he has and does and says will eventually be completely gone from the universe. That’s the way things work.

But who am I to talk? I don’t even know what’s going on in my own head anymore. The Victory Brace sort of took away my limited, so I have a hard time not saying every damn thing that pops into my head. At first I was brimming over with confidence, but right now I feel like a class clown who got sent to the principal’s office. Gotta get it together. I explained to Ryo about how I’d become a Rider, and I think the old me would’ve done a better job. He was giving me some weird looks and saying “What about me?” Being a world-renowned soccer player isn’t enough, huh?

Pop quiz time! Which is worse:
(a) Not being able to express emotions.
(b) Not being able to stop yourself from expressing emotions.
(c) Not being able to express emotions unless it’s calculated and fake.

And then Razmus came back. He sent me an email asking for a teleport, and I laughed out loud. I really don’t know what the fuck to do with him, but unless my head gets even more messed up, I’m probably not going to be willing to waste my time trying to talk sense into him — being immune to that must be one of his other superpowers.

I was lucid enough to let my mom pick out my formal wear for dad’s memorial ceremony, so I wound up going in this expensive black kimono. It looked better on me than I expected. The same goes for Jack in a suit. We got through most of the ceremony before bad stuff happened. I started crying during the speeches — especially Glenn’s — and couldn’t stop. I’m starting to realize just how incredible dad really was, as a person and not just some guy in a mask. Those are some damn big shoes to fill.

And then a cargo plane buzzed the Tokyo Dome. Seriously. A bunch of black-suited military guys dropped down, along with Wild Rider. We split up jump into the fray. And I figured out my hero name. (drum roll) Victory Rider! And the sword, the Victory Blade. Wild Rider thought the name was stupid (but at least he was talking), but I kicked his ass in a big way. (Oh, shit, I’m thinking like Raz. Someone shoot me.) That Rider Delta Combination move I came up with was just plain cool, if I do say so myself.

By the time I finished, my teammates had dealt with all of the soldiers (who were actual guys this time and not clones, thank god). And then things got freaky, because I swear to god under the mask Wild Rider looks like an older version of Ryo. A lot. He was fighting a lot better than last time too, like a trained martial artist instead of Captain Punchy.

Raz jumped onto the plane and brought it down from inside, apparently, and the others did some pretty crazy stuff too. I gotta watch the news to see more of that.

And then the media came in. I told them that I’m MegaRider’s daughter, and that since Japan is so well-protected I’ll be in San Francisco, with Dynamo as my mentor. (I saw Glenn shake his head at that, as he usually does when I say something unpleasant yet true). I bowed, and resisted the urge to make a big V-sign with my hands, because it wasn’t that kind of day.

So, we’re a little closer to figuring out what the hell is going on with Wild Rider, which’ll hopefully also give us something to work with for when the time comes to deal with Wash and Pinnacle. My head is screwed up, and I need to go up or down, not this inbetween crap, and I’m thinking I should see someone about it — it could be some brain chemistry thing. And maybe, just maybe, Razmus has some inkling of how good he has it. I am so messed up right now.

[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?