Chapter 1: The Survivor
This sort of thing didn't happen to them often.
Hongo pushed aside a slab of concrete and let out a slow breath at the carnage that lay just behind it. He still called to his companions. "More Shocker Riders, but they're all smashed."
He heard Ichimonji grunt something that sounded like approval. "Just as long as we don't have to take 'em."
Hongo examined the corpses. "They're old models. The coloring is different from the ones we fought in the Philippines. They got crushed under the concrete wall."
"I'm kind of worried about what kind of kaijin could possibly manage this." Yuki was somewhere behind him. His voice was muffled - he was probably trying to hack into what was left of the computers.
"Well, whatever it was, it got away." That was Kazami, and he sounded weary. Kazami never allowed himself to sound like he was anything. It was like he tried to keep himself cordoned off from the others. "No traces of anything alive or otherwise in the area. I checked the surrounding woods, just to be safe."
"I cannot believe the Americans never found this. They're the most suspicious people I know of, and that's sad to say." Ichimonji shoved a busted console away from the wall. "I mean, first they put up these inhumane containment camps, and then they don't even bother to monitor what goes on inside them? It's no wonder Shocker relocated to this country."
"They're just trying to build up some momentum before the return to Tokyo," Hongo said evenly. He didn't like thinking about that. "They tried it in Russia, they tried it in China, they tried it in Manila, and now they're here."
"Mexico is probably next," Yuki said, tapping the monitor he was trying to work with. "They have a lot of markers on that part of the map."
Hongo groaned. Mexico was full of people with potential... people that could disappear. Shocker had been going to the most overpopulated countries in the world for some years now, picking out the dregs of society and stealing them away in the dark of the night. Entire families vanished; towns dwindled; people literally disappeared off the face of the Earth. It was depressing. And people had no idea what was going on. They blamed the terrorists of the Middle East, they blamed drug lords and gangs, but Shocker was still very, very unknown. And none of the Riders could come forward and volunteer what they knew - the last time one of them had appeared in the general public, it had been mass hysteria. It was general consensus that the strange motorcyclists with the bug masks were some kind of madmen, a crazy motorcycle brigade. Hongo had decided not to challenge it.
They continued sifting through the wreckage, and Yuki continued to mess with the computer. From the words he was muttering under his breath, Hongo could guess it wasn't going well.
"Having trouble, Riderman?" Ichimonji's normal teasing tone sounded out of place in the destroyed lab, but it did make Yuki chuckle.
"Indeed, I have never met a computer that I couldn't work with in some way." Clearly at the end of his rope, Yuki gave the monitor a sound smack.
"Don't break it," Kazami admonished. "It might be useful."
"Can't break it any more than it already is." Yuki threw up his hands and turned away from it. "I've gotten all I can from that smoking pile of circuts."
Hongo smiled under his mask. Yuki didn't often express exasperation. The computer must have been totaled.
Yuki joined them in throwing aside the debris. He had put his regular hand back onto his bionic arm and was mostly working one-handed. Even so, Hongo appreciated it. They'd probably get through more of the wreckage with him helping physically.
The lab was pretty small by Shocker standards. They branched out in each direction, and checked for signs of life. Yuki called back a clear. Then Ichimonji. Then Kazami.
Hongo was about to tell them they could clear out when he heard a small sound. It wasn't a dangerous one, but it was definately the sound of someone breathing.
"I think I've got something--"
Hongo turned to face the metal cabinet that the small sigh had come from. He gripped the sides of the door and gave it a pull with all of the cyborg-imparted strength Shocker had been stupid enough to give him.
The door tore away like wet tissue, and Hongo's helmet immediately reacted to the change in light, flicking on the eyes' beams. It took a second to adjust, but eventually he was able to make out a small humanoid figure, curled into a ball and tucked into the corner. He was quickly able to ascertain that it was a young woman, barely out of adolescence. She was wearing a flimsy hospital gown that looked like she'd worn it through a warzone, and she was staring at him with the same sort of eyes that a deer caught in headlights tended to give. She froze at the sight of the imposing figure that Hongo probably seemed to be.
"Oi, oi, it's okay," he said quickly in English. He unlatched his helmet's chinpiece and pulled the whole thing off. "I'm not with Shocker. I'm here to help you."
She shrank away from him, making a small, high-pitched noise that reminded him of a wounded dog. He heard glass tinkling out in the demolished lab.
"Listen to me," he tried softening his voice. "I'm not going to hurt you."
She closed her eyes, squeezed them shut, and hid her face. He heard her murmur something-- "don't wanna fight don't hurt please no more no more no more..."
"Let me take you away from here." Hongo whispered. "You won't have to fight if you don't want to. Just let me take you somewhere safe."
"Oh my God," he heard Ichimonji say. "Someone call Taki."
Hongo shot a glare over his shoulder, and the other three backed off. The girl was hyperventilating now. He did not need this.
He turned back to the girl and she met his gaze. Her eyes were a vibrant magenta. Shocker had definately done something to her.
"Will you come with me and my friends?" Hongo asked, as gently and quietly as he possibly could.
She broke their staring contest to look over his shoulder at the others. She seemed to size them up.
"Take me away from here," she whispered hoarsely.
Hongo offered her a hand, and she took it with one hand, clutched it like it was life support. She had something in the other, something that she clasped to her chest and refused to let go of. Hongo didn't press the issue. He put an arm around her bony shoulders and ushered her out of the cabinet. Yuki came back into the room carrying a battered blanket, and Hongo threw it around her shoulders.
"C'mon," Kazami said brusquely. "Let's get you somewhere less depressing."
No one was surprised when they got back to the apartment to find Taki waiting for them, obviously annoyed. He clearly was about to tear into them when he saw the girl nestled between them, clearly still in shock. He bit off whatever he was about to say and looked at Hongo in a questioning way. Hongo shook his head. Explanations later. They needed to get her into warmer clothes and get some warm fluids in her.
Thank god Ruriko had insisted on coming overseas with them. She took one look at their stray and switched into mother-hen mode. Being the only non-Rider there, it often fell upon her to make sure everyone took care of themselves. Of course, Tachibana and Anri were helpful on that front, and Hongo was immensely grateful for Ruriko's help. He handed the girl over to her, and Ruriko whisked her into her bedroom.
Taki waited until the door was shut and then whirled on the four Riders. "What in the hell is going on? I've been fielding investigations all day, and I haven't heard a damn thing from you guys!"
"Sorry," Hongo said quietly. "We didn't expect to find a victim. There were no obvious signs of life."
"Well, do you have any idea what happened? Anri is at the headquarters trying to stall our superiors, but I need to give them an answer, guys!" Taki was fidgeting like a man possessed, and Hongo realized, as he often did, how stressful Taki's situation could become.
"We don't know much," Yuki said truthfully. Taki whirled on him, and Hongo was silently grateful for Yuki's attempt to distract him. "Their central mainframe sustained heavy damage from whatever happened. I couldn't even get into the project files."
Taki looked ready to punch a hole in the wall. "Well, that's great. So we know nothing." He ran his hand through his hair, and Hongo thought it looked as if he hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in a long time.
"Sorry." Yuki didn't really seem apologetic. "Just tell them that the entire facility sustained heavy damage and you weren't able to glean any information from it."
"Only make it sound less pretentious," Ichimonji added as a jest, but Yuki scowled at him.
"You need coffee," Hongo told him. "Your good humor is gone."
"My good humor is dead, along with any hopes I had of actually getting a full night's sleep." Taki sighed and messed with his hair again. "Okay, I'm headed back to headquarters. Let me know if anything else happens. Seriously." With that, he departed. He even refrained from slamming the door.
"Well, that went well." Ichimonji commented flippantly.
Hongo didn't think he could deal with his comrades at the moment. He deactivated his belt and collapsed on the couch nearest to him, sighing heavily.
The others followed suit. For some reason, Hongo had been designated the leader. It was a group decision that he never quite understood. He did regret it, sometimes.
He cracked his first smile of the day when Ruriko snuck out of her bedroom and sat down on Hongo's lap. "She's sleeping," she reported, flicking her eyes back at the closed door. "I got her into clean clothes and she just collapsed."
"I guess that's good," Hongo ventured. The others made assorted snorting noises.
"What happened, anyway?" Ruriko pressed. She was completely unlike any normal Japanese girl that one would expect - outspoken and tough and stubborn and brave. She'd only gotten away with it because of who her father was. Hongo couldn't be thankful enough that he had her for a girlfriend. Sometimes, she'd push until they told the truth - and somehow, that would be for the best.
Like it was now. Ichimonji started talking when Hongo hesitated. "One of the detainment camps that the Americans set up in response to the attacks - Taki got a call that one of them had been blown up. No one was cleared to enter, so he held off the officials and we snuck in to examine it."
"Was it Shocker?" Ruriko asked, her eyes hardening. Shocker was the reason her father was dead.
Hongo nodded silently, and Ruriko's lips thinned into an angry line. "I don't want to think about what they were doing in that camp," she whispered angrily. "That girl was shell-shocked."
"Well, she was the only living thing in the complex." Yuki had gotten his phone out and started messing with it. "Who knows what she saw? Who knows what was done to her?"
"She does," Kazami said shortly. "I want to find out what she knows when she wakes up."
"I don't think that's a good idea." Hongo didn't know why he was speaking up, but he felt very strongly about it. Unfortunately, he was not very confrontational.
"What? What are you talking about?" Kazami demanded. "If that girl knows Shocker's next move, we should find out before they can make it."
"That girl--!" Ruriko butted in, to Hongo's immense gratitude. "That girl probably has PTSD."
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." Yuki, ever the encyclopedia on legs, supplied without even looking up from his phone. "Soldiers returning from the warzone are often diagnosed with it."
Kazami fell silent and appeared to be deep in thought. He finally seemed to come to a conclusion. "We have to find out what she might know."
Hongo grimaced. "I don't want to put her through anything. She might break, and she's definately a kaijin. We can't chance her losing her mind and going off."
Ichimonji made a sound of agreement. Yuki and Kazami stayed silent, but Hongo knew they could accept that.
"She--" Kazami started to say something, but cut himself off. He shook his head. "I'm going out. Clear my head." He got up off the couch without looking at them and left the apartment without a backwards glance.
Hongo let himself wonder about the mysterious and stoic V3 for a few seconds before returning his focus to the reason they'd gone out to the middle of the heavily-forested area of New England in the first place.
Yuki seemed to be on the same train of thought, because he spoke up next. "From the limited data I was able to gain from that busted computer, they were at work at developing a new form of kaijin. It said something about a specific genetic profile being necessary."
"And that's all we know?" Ichimonji asked it, but it sounded like a statement.
Yuki shrugged. "If our guest remembers anything more, maybe."
Hongo closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Ruriko's shoulder. She began to absentmindedly run her fingers through his hair.
This day could not have been any more unlike what they'd expected at all.
Chapter 2: Waking Up
Chapter by LinneaKou
Sometimes the coldness never leaves your hands.
MAJOR MAJOR TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR FLASHBACKS TO PHYSICAL/MENTAL/EMOTIONAL ABUSE.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She woke up.
The first thing her muddy brain processed was the fact that she was warm. Comfortable. Wrapped in something soft.
The second thing was that she wasn't in The Bad Place anymore. She couldn't exactly pinpoint why it was such a Bad Place, but she knew enough to be grateful that she was no longer there.
The third thing was that she was safe. She couldn't explain how she came to that conclusion, but there was no doubt in her mind that she was, in fact, very, very safe.
The fourth and final thing was that she had no. Idea. Who. She. Was.
She sat up and felt her heart rate pick up. She glanced around the room. It was cozy, and yet seemed like the person living in it hadn't really considered it a permanent residence. It wasn’t hers, she knew that much.
Slowly, she remembered being in a small, dark place. And then the light filled it, and a big man, a scary man with big glowing eyes... he held out his hand. Told her he could take her somewhere safe.
She was safe.
And who was she?
She forced herself to breathe. Panicking would not solve all of the problems, she reasoned.
The door opened, and she was out of the bed and pressed up against the wall, quickly sliding into a corner, in less than the time it took for the owner of the bedroom to blink.
“Oh,” the young woman said, surprised. “I am sorry, I did not mean to wake you.”
The nameless girl stared at her. “You gave me clothes,” she finally said.
The young woman smiled. “Yes, I did.”
That was nice of her. “Thank you.”
“It’s no problem.” The nice woman crossed over to the bedside table and set down a bowl and spoon. “I am sorry, but we do not have much in the way of food,” she apologized with a hint of an accent.
The nameless girl edged away from the wall. “What is it?”
“Just some cornflakes. I sweetened it with sugar and cinnamon.”
The nameless girl’s stomach growled loudly. “Oh, thank you.”
The nice woman laughed. “You are welcome.” She patted the bed. “Go ahead and sit down.”
The nameless girl dropped onto the bed and grabbed for the bowl. She was ravenous, attacking the cereal with a vengeance.
“I am Ruriko.” The nice woman was still speaking very quietly, as if afraid to startle the nameless girl. “I am going to be taking care of you while you recover from your ordeal.”
The nameless girl looked up from her breakfast, confused. “Ordeal?” she repeated.
“Yes, whatever you experienced in the Shocker base.” Ruriko gave her a kind look. “I will not push you for details, but if you need to talk, you can come to me.”
“Talk about what?” the girl asked, the cereal forgotten.
Ruriko held a hand to her mouth, as if confused. “You do not kn... Do you...” She was clearly at a loss.
The girl felt really bad for making her uncomfortable. Then, unbidden, a terrible voice whispered in her mind.
Punishment... I will receive punishment... they’ll make me fight... they’ll make me kill... they’ll cut me open and put things inside of me and it will hurt and I’ll cry and they won’t care because I’m not a person I deserve this I deserve this I deserve this—
Someone was screaming... it was her. “NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!”
The cereal bowl tumbled to the ground as the girl launched herself over the bed and huddled into the corner. She curled into a tight ball and covered her head with her hands, expecting pain. Expecting sharp biting pain that would come and keep happening because she was bad, she was a miscreation, she deserved it—
“What happened?” The door slammed open and there was the man who had coaxed her out of the locker. He looked at Ruriko, who seemed to be staring at the window with a look of utter shock on her face. The glass was cracked.
The man seemed to decide that Ruriko was all right and hurried over to the corner. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice urgent.
“Please don’t hurt me I don’t mean to make mistakes please don’t make me fight anymore I don’t want to fight anyone please—”
Ruriko said something in another language and ran out of the room.
They are going to hurt me because I did something wrong—
The terrible voice was shrill, was panicked. The girl began to claw at her own face and pull at her hair. She didn’t like the pain, it wasn’t right, she didn’t want it.
“No one is going to hurt you.”
“I don’t believe you they want to hurt me I’m a miscreation I should be scrapped I shouldn’t have survived—“
“No!” The man put his hands on her shoulders and she froze, anticipating the shaking. Anticipating the slam of her head into the ground. It had to be coming, she’d misspoke. She’d reacted badly. Pain was always the consequence – pain made her learn.
“No,” the man repeated, less agitated. “No. You’re done with that. You’re not a miscreation. You’re perfect. I am so happy you are alive right now. Please believe me.”
“I d-don’t believe you—“
The man didn’t respond. He just kept his hands on her shoulders and sat there, staring into her face.
They sat there for a long time like that. Then...
“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry—”
“For what?” the man pressed gently.
“For making Miss Ruriko cry,” the girl answered. “She’s nice. I like her.”
“She’s crying for you, not at you. It makes her sad when good people suffer.”
“I’m sorry I made her sad please believe me—”
“I believe you.”
The girl finally met the man’s eyes. “Who are you?” she whispered.
He smiled. “Takeshi Hongo. Kamen Rider Ichigo. I’ll be protecting you from now on.
Yeah, short chapter. This is really hard stuff to write. Sorry.
Music for this story has been figured out. The playlist:
Evanescence - "Lost in Paradise"
The Birthday Massacre - "Kill the Lights"
Sia - "Breathe Me"
Plumb - "Cut"
Ayumi Hamasaki - "Heartplace"
Ayumi Hamasaki - "Curtain call"
Katherine Crowe - "9 Crimes"
How sad is it that I call this playlist "Kamen Rider Angst"? Sad, isn't it? I think it's sad.
Chapter 3: Snow falling
Chapter by LinneaKou
Sometimes it's okay if it never stops hurting
WARNINGS FOR VIOLENCE. SERIOUS FREAKING WARNINGS FOR VIOLENCE AND BLOODSHED.
Tellytubby101 is responsible for the fact that this got written. I wasn't in an angsty mood this morning.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kazami thought he would be alone for a while, but unsurprisingly, it was Yuki that found him.
"You've been gone a while."
Kazami made a neutral sound, took a drag from his cigarette, and kept his eyes on the horizon.
Yuki took a seat next to him on the roof's edge and peered off into the distance, trying to see what held his comrade's gaze. "Thinking deep thoughts, V3?"
"What do you want, Joji?"
"She reminds you of Yukiko, doesn't she?"
Kazami grit his teeth and flicked the cigarette away. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Of course you don't." Yuki didn't look at him. "I don't blame you."
Kazami moved back to get his feet under him. He stood up and stalked away.
"You know, Dr. Shinigami was a bit... well, shocked to find that you and your sister had the same compatibility." Yuki sounded curiously unemotional. It was a given that he was ashamed of his previous career as a top scientist under Shocker's employ, and it was even more obvious that he regretted every second of every year he'd spent on finding and exploiting the people who would end up as kaijin. "I don't think I've ever told you how hard she fought to protect you. She really chewed me out. I deserved every word," he added, turning slightly yet still not meeting Kazami's eyes. "You should be proud of your sister. She cussed like a sailor."
Kazami snorted. "She probably learned that from me."
An uncomfortable silence overtook them, and then Yuki sighed again. "Kazuya came back. The taskforce has been thrown off again. Anri will be arriving in New York in about two hours. We're planning on having a meeting, and we'd like to have you there."
Kazami didn't answer.
Yuki climbed back onto the rooftop and hesitated, then clapped Kazami on the shoulder. "See you soon," he said quietly, sincerely. He left Kazami alone.
A bright smile, and Yukiko was clasping his hand, pulling him onward.
"I don't see why I have to take you to the school fair." He dragged his hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable.
Yukiko laughed. "Because you're my big, scary older brother! No guy will be dumb enough to bother me."
"Scary, am I?"
He wasn't surprised when Yukiko turned out to be right. He had ducked into a booth to grab the proffered snacks when he caught sight of Yukiko, surrounded by a bunch of middle-school boys wearing their uniforms.
Yukiko had an annoyed look on her face, and she was trying to shove through their circle, but they blocked her every attempt. One of them was exceptionally persistant.
Kazami grabbed the persistant boy's wrist and they all swiveled to stare at him like a bunch of frightened rabbits. Kazami was sure his face was like a thundercloud.
"Did my sister," he growled, "tell you to leave her alone?"
The persistant boy actually squeaked. His friends scattered and Kazami threw his captive's arm away in disgust. "If I hear that any of you bothered my sister..." He didn't bother to finish the threat. The boy ran and disappeared into the crowd.
Yukiko immediately latched onto Kazami's arm. "I told you," she said, pouting.
"This happen a lot?"
"A bit. Apparently I'm a prize."
Kazami patted her hand. "I could have told you that."
They had an uneventful evening from there on out. Kazami won her a few prizes. She made him laugh.
When they got home, the found two bouquets sitting on the doorstep.
Someone was waiting for them.
Kazami only had a vague sense of wrongness, of reality becoming a horrible nightmare. His head reeled with the metallic scent of blood. His parents were--
Next to him, Yukiko had been crying. She was silent now, limp in the arms of their captors.
Horrible pain exploded at the back of his head, and he knew no more.
"Congratulations! You have been chosen!"
Kazami shook his head, but it hurt too much. He felt as if his mind was underwater. "Chosen...? By who...?"
Cold, black eyes met his, and a sharklike grin made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
"You have been chosen to become a glorious soldier for Shocker."
"This one is much more agreeable than his sibling."
Kazami twitched but neither of the Shocker riders noticed.
"Her body has accepted the cybernetic enhancements, but she has stubbornly refused to succumb to the reprogramming."
Kazami felt a flame of anger ignite in his chest. How dare they--
"Well, if need be, we can always discard her. They both are compatible with the nanotreatment."
"Indeed. Joji was commenting on it earlier."
"Have any other orders come through from the Doctor?"
"At the moment, no. The female gets one more chance, and then she is terminated."
Kazami hated what had been done to him. He hated the feeling of his cold skin, he hated that he could hear his every breath and altered heartbeat, and he hated that his humanity had been torn from him. But he hated the fact that his sister was suffering as well even more so.
At least she seemed to be fighting back. He heard comments of her spitting on her captors, he caught the hints of her screaming insults and curses at the labcoat-clad men who tried again and again to recondition her. And he heard her screaming for him.
One day, he would be powerful enough to tear off his restraints and rip the cell door off its hinges. One day, he would be fast enough to find her and sprint to her containment cell. One day he--
The Double Riders attacked two months after Kazami and Yukiko were kidnapped and altered. Shocker was preparing to recondition him, using the data they'd gathered from their failed attempts on Yukiko.
Kamen Rider Ichigo was the one who freed Kazami.
"I'm sorry?" The masked man seemed to jerk back in surprise.
"My sister! They have her here! I have to find her--"
Kazami sprinted out of the cell and into the maze of the fortress, the startled Rider's shout echoing behind him.
Kazami was frozen, numb, at knifepoint.
Scissors Tiger smirked under his mask. He carelessly waved the empty blade in Kazami's face as he lifted his other arm. Yukiko was impaled on the other blade.
"This one was a failure. A miscreation." Scissors Tiger's black eyes, flinty and frozen cold, bored into Kazami's brain. "You show promise."
She went limp, crimson streaks running down her naked torso and legs. Her eyes were wide and staring and glassy, and something in Kazami snapped.
He let out a wordless roar and ran at Scissors Tiger, drawing a fist back and driving it into the mask as hard as he possibly could. The kaijin was too surprised to even attempt to defend himself with his blades. The one that he'd run Yukiko through clattered to the ground, and Kazami managed to get his hands around the monster's neck.
Scissors Tiger cursed and managed to pull Kazami off and throw him away. He yanked the bloodstained blade out of the corpse of Kazami's sister, and then obscenely ran his tongue through the bloody mess. Kazami felt the rage explode behind his eyes. The belt they'd put onto him activated in a double whirlwind. He didn't even notice the armor sliding over his skin, nor the mask that clattered to the ground. He just ran at Scissors Tiger once more and threw another punch, another kick, drawing on every fight he'd ever fought to land as many blows on the kaijin as possible. The blades were knocked from his opponent's hands again, and the fight was finally even.
He didn't know when he managed to get his hands around the kaijin's neck again. He didn't know when he got ahold of the kaijin's mask and threw it aside. He didn't know when his hands found purchase on the jaw and back of the kajin's head. He didn't know when he twisted, felt the neck snap, felt the monster go limp under him--
Kamen Rider Nigo had pulled him away, but the damage was done. Scissors Tiger was dead, nearly torn limb-from-limb in Kazami's mindless rage.
Kazami heard the second Rider curse in shock, but he ignored it. He fell to his knees next to his sister's body and felt his throat close up. He tried to scream, howl, but he couldn't.
They buried her next to her parents, silently and with no fanfare, no ceremony. Kazami would mourn privately, forever.
He had sworn to protect his sister for as long as he lived. Now, he swore to destroy Shocker in her name.
He turned to Hongo, held out a hand.
"Make me like you. Make me a Kamen Rider."
Kazami sighed and climbed down the fire escape. It had grown dark and cold, and New York in the winter was an unkind place to be. Snow was lightly falling, and his breath misted in the air in front of him.
He turned the key to his motorcycle and slipped his helmet on.
"My big, scary older brother--"
"She was probably someone's sister," he said aloud, quietly. He put up the kickstand, pulled away from the curb, and took off.
Yukiko would understand.
Kamen Rider background: Yukiko is Kazami Shiro's younger sister who, along with Kazami's parents, was murdered by Deathtron in the original series. In the movie "Kamen Rider The Next" Kazami's younger sister is named Chiharu. She is mutilated by Shocker and slips into a limbo state between life and death, turning into a vengeful ghost. Kazami is forced to kill her to end her suffering - and the curse she invoked. (Weird movie, really. Could've done better without the ghost subplot.) I attempted to cross the two versions.