The sun was barely up when Kujou Kiriya leaned in the window of the compact car, a dull beige hatchback with a child seat installed in the back. “You really my ride to Fuuto?” He asked, looking over his sunglasses at the tall man in the driver’s seat. He was wearing bright red motorcycle leathers, which clashed with the decidedly unsexy car he was driving. He also looked like he'd been in one hell of a fight, and recently.
“Captain Terui Ryu, Fuuto PD. Picking up Dr. Kujou Kiriya for emergency transport.” He said tonelessly. There was a plump red bruise under his left eye that made it look like he was winking, but his expression was anything but jovial under the cuts and scrapes. “If that’s you, get in the car and stop asking me questions.”
‘Oh, this is gonna be a fun ride. ’ Kiriya thought as he hefted his equipment cases into the back.
“I’m just gonna turn on the radio, hope you don’t mind.” Kiriya’s fingers were hovering over the stereo buttons as he spoke. Terui didn’t react, so he took it as permission. They’d been driving in complete silence for almost five whole minutes and Kiriya was near breaking. There were very few things worse than tense silence in a small car. Dying, for example. That was definitely worse and Kiriya could say so with personal authority. Probably a bad topic to bring up, though. He found a music station and that helped a little. It broke up his bouncing thoughts a little, at least.
He lasted two whole songs before he couldn’t stand it anymore. “Soooooo… I didn’t get much of a briefing on the situation I’m heading for. Maybe you could fill me in?” Kiriya said. He put his sunglasses away and tried to look friendly and non-threatening. Terui didn’t even glance at him.
“We have five patients showing symptoms of the game disease at Fuuto General Hospital. As we haven’t had any cases here, we don’t have equipment to identify and treat it available. Train service is interrupted and the most direct route into the city is currently impassable. We’re entering Fuuto from the north, it’ll take about two hours.” Terui rattled details off easily, but the picture was still full of gaping holes. And he hadn’t mentioned the monsters. There had definitely been monsters of some sort in the news broadcasts.
“Alright, I get that much.” Kiriya started. “I was hoping to hear a bit more about the whole monster thing. The ones that trashed the city? And Secretary Hinata said something about a mystery, I’m pretty sure.”
Terui’s mouth twitched as though in annoyance, but he spoke again. “Dopants. Twelve of them went on a rampage last night. Eleven were successfully neutralized by Fuuto’s Kamen Riders. One is in police custody and showing signs of the game illness. It’s restrained for now but Double’s Memory Break was ineffective. It doesn’t seem to be able to revert to a human form at all.” Kiriya nodded along. He rummaged behind the front seats for his personal bag.
“There’s a dangerous technology known as ‘Gaia Memories’. When inserted into the body the user acquires superhuman abilities and a monstrous form, that’s a Dopant. Repeated use can damage the users’ body and mind.”
“So that’s one of these right? And the driver makes it so this thing doesn’t kill you?” Kiriya grabbed the door handle desperately as the car swerved out of its lane suddenly. Terui snatched the red memory out of his hand even as he pulled the car back into line.
“Yes.” He growled. “This is a Gaia Memory. The department is not aware I’m Kamen Rider Accel. I’ve been up all night fighting ridiculous super powered monsters, I had to borrow the family car to pick you up with. I’m exhausted, and my secret identity is blown after 15 minutes.” His teeth were clenched so hard Kiriya imagined he could hear the enamel squeaking. Yikes.
“Hey, it’s ok! I was reaching for mine when I saw yours on the floor.” Kiriya held up the violently fluorescent green and pink Gamer Driver. It was a lot bigger and more garish than the handlebar thing on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Kiriya surmised it must have been stashed underneath the seat and slid out during the drive.
Terui glanced at it. Without taking his eyes off the road this time. “You’re Ex-Aid?” He said with a tone of surprise.
“Nope! I’m Kamen Rider Lazer. Ex-Aid wasn’t available.” Kiriya raised the Gamer Driver as though toasting with it. “Nice to meet you. Let’s get along for the duration, alright?”
Terui’s jaw had released at least. “So you have the same driver?”
“Yeah, there’s five people using one of these and another Rider using something different so that’s six.” Kiriya mused. “Seven when Nico was still using Chronicle. It was chaos at first, but now we’re all employed by the Ministry of Health and Dan Kuroto is locked up where he can’t hurt anyone.”
Terui nodded, indicating he was listening. Good enough for Kiriya. He deftly steered the conversation to family, which seemed to go over better. It couldn’t exactly be called gushing, but he was speaking of his own volition with only minor prompting. His expression relaxed and his voice was warm as he spoke of his wife (“She’s 160 cm, she jumps to hit me with her house slipper, and I love her so much.”) and his daughter (six years old, in the first grade, starting to read books on her own already.) Kiriya filed every tidbit away in case it became useful later, as was his habit.
They were waved through a cordon after Terui showed his badge to the workers directing traffic down an alternate route. Terui threaded the little car around torn up asphalt and chunks of concrete from damaged buildings. Kiriya whistled at the destruction. Their first stop, at Kiriya’s insistence, was the hospital to evaluate the normal patients. Most of them had minor injuries from the night before.
Kiriya introduced himself and explained the test he was about to run with a sunny smile in each room. Each time the GameScope came up with the same result, every patient infected with the Bakusou Bike virus. Only one person came up with an infection level over 20%, mostly low level infections that could wait a day or two. He had two copies of each of the completed vaccines in his luggage. And some of the stronger release candidates, just in case. Thankfully, Bakusou Bike was considered complete and had tested effective in human patients.
The attending doctor was eager to learn the procedure and asked questions constantly, attentively absorbing the instructions Kiriya was giving as they set up the equipment. After their sickest patient had been on the vaccine drip for 30 minutes without adverse reaction Kiriya deemed it safe for him to leave. The hospital was busy but the doctors were capable of monitoring the patient with the spare GameScope, they didn’t need him right here. And he had a special patient to investigate.
Terui was leaning against the wall in the hallway. He didn’t look any better than when they’d arrived. “Done here?” He asked.
“For now, I’ll have to come back after we finish with your mystery patient.” Kiriya said as Terui fell into step next to him. “You know you coulda sat down or something.”
“If I sit down I’m gonna stiffen up, I can rest after you get a look at this mess.”
“Guess you’re pretty dedicated, you coulda fobbed me off on someone else by now.”
“Like hell I’m letting some rookie drive my wife’s car.”
The patient was a bike.
To be specific an oversized, unpleasantly organic, and angry motorcycle. It was restrained in a warehouse and when it saw them it revved it’s motor and spun its wheels aggressively. Crackles of amber light broke out on its skin, if it could be called that. Chrome and steel and rubber and leather all seemed to be connected by red-brown flesh that flowed from inside the monstrosity somehow like it had been leaking epoxy and suddenly froze that way.
It wasn’t particularly threatening because it was upside down. Chained in place on a flatbed trailer, balanced on its seat and handlebars so it had no way to right itself. The bike had eyes. Under the handlebars, above the front wheel. Not all that dissimilar to Lazer’s level 2 form, really. At least structurally. Kiriya felt a twinge of pity. He’d been stuck for almost 3 hours the first time he’d used level 2, and he was sure Dan Kuroto had been cackling to himself somewhere while he did donuts in a parking lot trying to get the damn lever on his driver to flip open. Not that he would tell anyone that story.
Kiriya shifted into patient care mode and made eye contact with the Bike Dopant. “I’m a doctor, and I’m here to try to help you. I’m sure you don’t want to be stuck like this.” The bike revved emphatically. “Right. I’m going to run a test. It won’t hurt, I’m not even going to touch you for this. And then I’m going to ask you some questions that I need you to answer honestly. Can you blink once for yes, and twice for no?”
The bike blinked, a long and deliberate one.
“That’s perfect. I’m assuming if you could turn back into a human and walk out of these chains you’d have done it by now, is that correct?”
Another long blink.
Kiriya pulled the GameScope out of his bag and explained its use as he scanned the Dopant. It came up Bakusou Bike, again. Infection level just over 50%. Serious, but not imminently lethal. As long as the patient remained calm, at least. Six patients infected with the same virus, possibly on the same day. A single point of infection wasn’t certain but was a strong possibility.
He paced as he asked yes or no questions, the bike’s eyes tracked him. You used a Gaia Memory? Yes. Do you remember seeing a Gashat, and he’d held up his own as an example, anywhere recently? No. He retrieved the BugVisor Zwei from his bag. Have you seen something similar to this? No. That wasn’t a lot to go on, nearly anything electronic could act as an infection vector. This line wasn’t going anywhere right now, focus on this patient. He excused himself to confer with his “colleague.”
Terui just raised his eyebrows inquiringly as Kiriya lead him back into the hallway, to talk where the patient couldn’t hear them. Kiriya threw an arm across his shoulder and dragged him down to his level.
“First, if we want to find the source of the infection and make sure it doesn’t spread further we need to figure out where these people were infected. You got someone who can find out where the other patients have been in the last few days, and this part is really important, without freaking them out?” Kiriya’s voice was low and serious. “Stress can turbocharge the infection and it’ll go from mild to life threatening like that .” He snapped his fingers for emphasis. “So if you don’t have someone you trust to be real goddamn discreet, it’ll have to wait ‘til after they’re all treated.”
Terui sighed and rubbed his nose carefully, avoiding his swollen cheek. “Yeah. I can get that done. And the Dopant?”
“Little more complicated. I don’t trust the vaccine to work with the patient in this state, so I’m gonna have to ‘operate’ manually. I have my gear but I’m thinking I’m going to need your assistance if this attempt fails.”
“If the virus is interfering with the Memory, the Memory might also be interfering with purging the virus normally.” Terui offered.
“Bingo, you’re sharp!” Kiriya’s smile was bright and his cheeks dimpled. “I know you’re beat but you’re here and you said you can break those Memory things. The green and black guy is probably wiped too, and I don’t know where to find him. So you’re up.”
“Alright. I’ll have to get rid of the guards on the door first.”
“Secret identity, won’t breathe a word.” Kiriya motioned as though zipping his mouth shut and winked.
Terui sighed heavily. “Just tell me what you need me to do.”
“I know you said you ride a Ducati, how do you feel about riding a Honda you’ve just met?” Kiriya said, with what could only be called a shit-eating grin on his face.
Terui Ryu’s head was throbbing. He wanted this day to be over, to kiss his wife and daughter and go directly to sleep for approximately 14 hours. He definitely did not want to be in a warehouse with a messed up Dopant and an obnoxious doctor, who never stopped talking and always seemed like he knew something you didn’t want him to. There was something infuriating about him. From his gaudy floral shirt and ripped jeans to the way he always seemed to know too much, it got under his skin.
“This is the plan I’ve got right now. You use Accel, I’ll use Lazer level 2. I’ll be a bike, so you’ll ride me and we’ll hit the target with both of our finishers at once. I’m thinking that’s our best chance to free this poor sap. I have a few more ideas but I’d have to call in my ringer and I doubt you’d like him, he’s annoying.” Kiriya was rattling on.
Terui was torn between ‘I’ll be a bike’ and Kiriya calling someone else annoying. His brain stalled out and refused to turn over.
“You- you’ll be a bike.” He managed.
“Ok I know it sounds weird, but we have levels like a video game. My level 1 form is a fat little dumpling man with wheels I can throw. Level 2 is a whole ass motorcycle. Bakusou Bike is a racing game with combat so once we’re in the game world we have to catch Motorz before we can hit him to free the patient.”
“That’s- I-” Terui stammered. “Okay. I’m going to tell the guys guarding the door to leave and make a call. You… get ready for that. I guess.” He walked away without waiting for a reply.
Kiriya shouted at his back, still obnoxiously cheery. “Gotcha! I’ll be talking to the patient!” He might have been waving. Terui didn’t look.
Outside the air was cool and blessedly quiet. He texted Akiko again to update her, then he took out the Beetle Phone and called Shotaro. He gave a terse description of the information he wanted and the names of the patients at the hospital, warning Shotaro to be discreet and if he had to talk to them don’t alarm them. And look up this doctor when Philip is done with the rest of it.
He snapped Beetle Phone closed and almost put it away, then thought better of it and switched it to Beetle mode. It hovered out of his hand and waited for instructions.
“Watch this place. If the Dopant gets out or anything bad happens, get Double.”
The Beetle zipped off into some nearby trees, where it would have a good line of sight on the warehouse.
He dismissed the patrolmen in the warehouse keeping an eye on the prisoner, and the two guarding the entrances, despite their protests.
When he went back to the trailer Kiriya was sitting cross-legged on it, apparently showing Bike Dopant something on his phone. Kiriya waved when he noticed Terui watching them and hopped down.
“Check it out, isn’t my boyfriend hot?” Kiriya was holding his phone out, showing a picture of a man with wavy brown hair and a claw necklace who appeared to be trying to smack the camera out of the hands of whoever was taking the picture.
“This is isn’t either of the guys you showed me in the car, and anyway something is wrong with this whole situation.”
“Oh? You think so?”
“The person using the Bike Memory is infected with the virus of a motorcycle racing game, the doctor who specializes in treating this virus takes the form of another bike, and the detective in charge of the case…” Terui let his words trail off. He half expected the doctor to finish the sentence, but the man’s eyebrows just rose inquiringly. “Kamen Rider Accel has a bike form-”
“-NO FUCKING WAY!” Kiriya interrupted him, looking downright jubilant, and threw an arm across his shoulders again. “That’s crazy! I didn’t know there was someone else who turns into a bike, we gotta have dinner or something. You come too, if you’re not in jail!” The last part was directed at the Bike Dopant, who struggled a little causing the trailer to rock.
Terui shook him off. “What I’m trying to say is, it’s suspicious. Bike Dopant gets bike virus causing Detective Bike Rider to have to bring in Doctor Bike Rider. That can’t be a coincidence. It’s just too perfect.”
Kiriya hopped back up on the edge of the trailer, swinging his legs. “Told you he was smart, for a cop.” He said over his shoulder to the Bike Dopant. The Dopant responded with a roll of the eyes. “We were just talking about that. Well I was talking, she can only do yes or no in that condition. Little bit of Twenty Questions, little bit of me just talking out loud, but yeah it’s too much of a theme to be an accident.”
“We shouldn’t do the simultaneous finisher plan.”
“But we can’t leave the suspect like this, either.”
“I got some alternative options to try, less explosive ones. If those don’t work I should be able to keep the virus suppressed while we figure out how to transport her to Seito hospital. But I’m thinking with the double knockout being the most obvious solution, if someone wanted her to be caught and expects us to do that…” Kiriya trailed off
“Then we don’t want to play into their plans, they may know something we don’t.” Terui finished the sentence. It was unsettling being on the same wavelength as the cocky Doctor. Well, medicine could be a type of mystery solving, too.
Kiriya pulled his phone out and dialed a number. “I’m gonna call my backup, and we’re gonna try a combination of plans C and D.” Terui was going to ask how long it would take for his backup to arrive, but Kiriya was already talking to someone. “Yo, noodle boy. Gonna need your assistance after all. What do you mean where am I? Fuuto, of course. Read your texts sometime. It doesn’t matter if you know where that is, just come to where my phone is.” He hung up.
The phone immediately rang again. When Kiriya accepted the call, phone held at arm’s length, it spewed particles of amber light that swirled and formed into a tall man wearing a high collared black coat. He looked around curiously, the USB cables threaded through the belt loops on his open coat swinging. He was wearing purple sweat pants with colorful squares on them.
“I’ve lived in better warehouses.” He sniffed, then seemed to notice they had company. “Hi, I’m Parad. You’re Lazer’s friend?” He held his hand out expectantly.
Terui took it cautiously. “Just colleagues. Terui Ryu, Fuuto Police Department.”
“Neat. Wow, what is that .” Parad pushed between them to get a better look at the Dopant secured to the trailer. Kiriya snagged his sleeve before he could grab at her.
“That’s our patient, she’s stuck like that.” Kiriya motioned towards some crates against the wall as he spoke to Terui. “He’s a Bugster, don’t worry about it. Might as well take a load off. It’ll either work or it won’t and either way it’s probably gonna be boring to watch.”
He was right, it was much less exciting than anything involving a Kamen Rider should be. Kiriya transformed into Kamen Rider Lazer Turbo which, slightly disappointingly, was just motocross themed and not an actual motorcycle. Terui had kinda wanted to see that, even if he didn’t want to admit it.
Lazer Turbo squatted on the trailer next to the Dopant and kept a hand on her frame, keeping up a line of chatter to keep her engaged. Parad was using the GameScope and calling out readings as whatever Kiriya was doing caused the infection level to drop. It seemed to stop around ten percent, and refused to go any lower.
Parad joined Lazer Turbo on the trailer, GameScope still hanging around his neck. It seemed like they were just talking for a while. Finally, when Terui was thinking about asking if anything was going to happen, the tall man put both hands on the Dopant and pulled.
It was like he was fighting with something invisible, something that made amber sparks appear in the air between his hands and the Dopant’s body. She thrashed, making the trailer rock violently, and he gave one last great heave and tumbled off with a cloud of amber sparks that formed into some kind of blue and gold vaguely humanoid robot-looking thing.
Kiriya was scanning the Dopant again, having dropped his transformation, and the readout floating in the air showed a slight response flickering back and forth from zero to one percent. The Dopant herself looked exhausted, eerie eyes half closed and front tire drooping.
Kiriya gestured for Terui to come closer. “There’s still an infection response but it’s just barely registering. I don’t know how the whole Gaia Memory deal works so--” His words were cut off when the Dopant suddenly lurched and was no longer a gross fleshy motorcycle-beast but a short, chubby woman in a black leather jacket and Doc Martens clutching something in her fist.
With a great effort she rolled over onto her stomach, the chains that had bound the motorcycle rattling as she did so, and hurled the object across the room. It skipped and bounced across the cement floor, plastic sounding and not very heavy. A dull brown Gaia Memory with a B stenciled on the plain case. “Fuck!” She yelled. “Fucking hell, I can talk.”
“That’s good. You’re also under arrest.” Terui said as he clipped a handcuff around her wrist.
“Shit. Ok. Lemme catch my breath first, you don’t wanna know where that thing breathes from.”
“She’s going to the hospital first, she needs an exam and treatment before I’ll clear her for release.” Kiriya said as he helped his patient sit up, carefully.
“Yes, but she’s going in custody, so she doesn’t vanish on us.”
“You really don’t trust me, huh?”
“I think you’re dangerously clever, and you really don’t trust the police.”
“Oooh, Parad! Did you hear that? He thinks I’m clever!” Kiriya yelled at the tall Bugster.
“More like a smart ass. Is Motorz in trouble?” Parad asked. The gold Bugster, Motorz, was sticking close to his side. His body language fearful.
“Captain Terui?” Kiriya wanted to say no, but deferred to the Detective.
“I’d like to question him.” He said, unsure if he even could charge a disease with anything but loathe to let a witness and possible suspect go.
“Alright, let’s do this then.” Kiriya retrieved the BugVisor from his bag. “Motorz, I’m going to put you in here for a while, so we know exactly where you are. Then the police want to ask you some questions, will you cooperate with us?”
“Um.” The Bugster was clearly nervous. “If I do this, will Ex-Aid really give my bike back? And I can stay in that Carnival game?”
“If you cooperate I’ll put in a good word for you with the Ministry and with Ex-Aid. I can’t promise he’ll write your bike back into existence, but he’s pretty nice about stuff like that.” Kiriya said. Parad patted Motorz’ shoulder reassuringly.
“Ok, I’ll go.” Motorz stood stiffly at attention and Kiriya sucked him into the BugVisor. He turned it so Terui could see the Bugster in the screen. Terui nodded, a little uncertain.
Kiriya turned to Parad. “I’ll call you later to pick him up, after they question him.”
As Parad turned away, Terui suddenly spoke. “Your boyfriend doesn’t seem that annoying, to me.”
Parad wheeled all the way around. “LAZER! STOP TELLING PEOPLE WE’RE BOYFRIENDS!” He shouted, pointing at Kiriya. “Dating the same people does not mean WE are dating. And if you call me annoying again, I’m gonna tell Emu you’re picking on me!” He added, and stuck out his tongue as he disappeared in a shimmer of colorful light and pixels.
Kiriya laughed so hard he rolled off the trailer and fell to the ground with an undignified thud. Terui called for transport while the doctor tried to collect himself.
When Terui got home to his own apartment it was half past noon. No one was home, which meant Akiko and Haruna would be over at the Detective Agency. He brushed his teeth and crawled into bed for the most needed nap there ever was or, hopefully, ever would be.
He texted his wife and set an alarm for four hours.
Fuuto General Hospital was quiet that afternoon, at least in the area set aside for the Game Illness cases. Three of the original five patients were now reading clear after a course of the Bakusou Bike vaccine, the remaining two still receiving their infusions would also be cleared soon. Then there was Yuri, the ex-Dopant.
Handcuffed to her hospital bed, under the watchful eye of a uniformed officer. Mostly she’d been sleeping when Kiriya checked in on her. Motorz was watching TV to pass the time, the BugVisor propped up on the windowsill where he could see the TV. It was under guard and less dull than being jostled around in Kiriya’s coat pocket all day.
Kiriya had been waiting for Terui to turn up again. It was nearly five when the detective strolled in wearing another bright red set of motorcycle leathers, this one not sporting any damage, and a marginally less sour expression. His expression didn’t change when Kiriya and Yuri both waved hello to him at the same time.
“Ms. Misaki, Dr. Kujou.” He said by way of greeting. “Having fun?”
Yuri jingled her handcuffs against the bed rail. “A blast.”
“She’s pretty funny. Gonna question her again?” Kiriya asked.
“Wasn’t planning on it, unless you’ve remembered something you want to share?” Terui looked at Yuri, who shook her head. She’d told everything she knew this morning, having no loyal feelings towards the people who’d set her up to be stuck as a monster all night. “Then I just want to ask your Bugster some questions. At the station, preferably.”
Kiriya picked up the BugVisor that had been moved to the nightstand. “I think we can handle that.” He said and turned to Yuri. “Be good. Eat your dinner and get plenty of sleep, we’ll talk about treatment tomorrow.”
“I got it, I got it. Thanks, doc.” She waved him away. They left the hospital, bugster in tow, after Kiriya handed off his patients at the nurse’s station. Terui suspected Kiriya was delaying the game illness treatment to keep Yuri out of jail, but kept that suspicion to himself. She wasn’t going anywhere.
Motorz’ memory picked up when Yuri had been infected, and he didn’t remember much distinctive about the infectious source. “Some kind of computer, pretty slow.” could be anything. It was in a busy place where people eat, but he didn’t remember the name of the place. In the first few hours of existence he hadn’t paid much attention to what was going on outside his host, Kiriya made a mental note of that, but after that he was able to give an account of where Yuri had been and what she’d done for the last two days.
It lined up pretty neatly with Yuri’s testimony, more certain of exact dates and times. Something niggled at the back of Terui’s mind, and he clicked recorder off when he was done with the formal questioning.
“Dr. Kujou. You didn’t coach him, did you?” Kiriya blinked in surprise at the accusation.
“AB-solutely not.” Kiriya said, Motorz shaking his head emphatically next to him. “What brought this on?”
“You’re protecting my suspect and it seems like you had them together all day.” Terui’s tone was matter of fact.
Kiriya rubbed his face. “I-- shit. Ok. I am giving Yuri an extra day to recuperate before I clear her for discharge, but that’s it.” Motorz nodded along with Kiriya’s words. “I did not coach either or both of them, I’m not trying to fuck up your case. I’ll say that on the record and under oath if that helps. I honestly didn’t consider that when I left the BugVisor in her room. It seemed safe, and he could watch TV instead of bumping around in my pocket.”
“Um. We talked, just a little bit.” Motorz piped up nervously. “She asked me a couple questions about my game and being a Bugster. Is that bad?”
“Can you tell me the contents of that conversation, truthfully, for the record?” Motorz nodded vigorously in response to Terui’s question. He clicked the record button again. “Alright, you had a conversation with one Misaki Yuri in her hospital room, is that correct?” Questioning continued for a while more. Kiriya slumped in his seat.
‘I really do this to myself, don’t I.’ He thought, checking the time on his phone as the evening seemed to stretch on forever.
It was almost eight pm when they finally finished up and Kiriya called Parad to retrieve Motorz. Kiriya paid him off with fruit snacks because he was still being petulant about earlier, and the Bugsters left together in a crackle of light. Kiriya stretched and popped his back, he was stiff from sitting in the hard plastic chairs in the interrogation room.
“I just have to file some things, and then we can leave. Sorry that took so long.” Terui said, his voice reflecting the exhaustion he clearly still felt.
“No way, it’s my fault it took extra long.” Kiriya hopped to his feet. “Look, I’m sorry. We kinda got off to a bad start and that’s mostly my fault, I’m a bit of a shit stirrer.”
“I can tell.” Terui didn’t look up from his phone, he’d been trading texts with someone for a few minutes.
“Lemme buy you dinner, it’s the least I can do. Get a good meal in you and a good night’s sleep, we can start tomorrow off on our best foot.”
Terui stared long enough for Kiriya to start getting uncomfortable. “Hope you can afford dinner for six, then. There’s no open rooms in the city, so I was going to offer our couch, but my wife has already lent it to a friend because the power is out at her place.”
“That’s fine, I can just go back to the hospital after dinner. They got enough room for me to crash.”
“You might want to after you meet my in-laws, but they have an extra futon you’re welcome to.”
“It’s really not necessary, I can-” Kiriya started, but Terui cut him off.
“First we’re having dinner and getting some information. You might not like my consultant, though. He’s kind of annoying.” Terui’s tone hadn’t changed at all, but Kiriya knew when he was being needled.
“Alright, I deserve that.”
The detective agency turned out to be a second floor office next to a pool hall. They carried the noodle stand’s delivery box up the narrow staircase carefully. It had already been packed and waiting for them when they pulled up by the noodle cart, which was in a quiet parking lot in approximately the middle of nowhere. Terui talked to the owner like an old friend, and Kiriya kept his mouth shut.
The door opened with exaggerated care as they reached the top step and a woman gestured them inside. She stood on her toes to kiss Terui as he set the delivery box on the little dining table.
“Missed you, Chief.” Terui said as they parted. They spoke in low voices, probably not to wake the child sleeping on the couch. Her pigtails were coming loose and she was hugging a toy frog. The woman must be Terui’s wife, Akiko, making the child Haruna.
It was a weird place, an office half converted into a living space. The paint looked artfully grimy, a big old radio that looked like it probably used vacuum tubes occupied a cubby in the wall near the entrance. Up a step at the opposite end of the room was a large old wooden desk dominated by a collection of ragged detective novels and an elderly typewriter. A curtain divided another space from the main room.
Technically Kiriya didn’t need to eat. But the ramen smelled good, and he was looking forward to it. Eating was one of the habits that helped him feel normal, ever since he’d returned in this state. He slid the side off the catering box and the rich aroma of broth puffed gently out into the room with wisps of escaping steam. Carefully he started pulling bowls out of the box. Terui and Akiko were watching him with an expectant look he tried not to read too much into.
A door he’d assumed was a closet, the one covered in men’s hats hanging from hooks, slammed open suddenly. There was only a dim light inside the room, and the man in the doorway looked eerie in the faintly green glow. The whites of his wide eyes were too bright in the gloom, and then he bolted into the light with his long cardigan flapping behind him.
Kiriya found his hands seized by a young man with wild black hair wisping gently around his face and hungry, too intelligent, deep brown eyes and that seemed like they were looking through him. Right into everything he’d prefer to keep private. He froze. Every weird viral particle that made up his body was buzzing with confusion.
He knew a Bugster when he felt one’s presence, not as acutely as Parad seemed to be able to, but it was a distinct feeling. This wasn’t that. Not exactly. Similar enough to cause a reaction but too different. It made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He had no idea what this man was.
“Dr. Kujou, you’re here!” The man currently clasping both of Kiriya’s hands between his own sleeve covered ones exclaimed.
“Daddy!” A small voice cried, and Akiko hoisted the little girl smoothly into her father’s arms.
“I’ve read all of your papers! There’s so many questions I want to ask you about Bugsters as a life form.” Kiriya just stared in confusion, brain ticking over time. He’d written papers about Bugsters, a lot of them in fact, but they were all classified and not available outside the Ministry of Health.
Terui was smiling, not solely because he was holding his beloved daughter. He knew. And now he knew that he knew. His revenge for this morning was deliberately plonking Kiriya right into another mystery he hadn’t seen coming. Kiriya glared at him with narrowed eyes, thinking I’ll get you later so hard he hoped the other man could hear it.
“Philip, you can grill him later. Family time now, business time later” Terui pulled the reluctant Philip away from the shaken doctor. Akiko pushed a bowl and utensils into his hands.
“Your turn to feed Sho-chan.” She said firmly.
Philip was a little pouty about being put off, but took the food up to the desk and pulled the chair over. When he pulled the curtain aside another man with bandaged ribs and dark, curly hair was lying in a bed behind it. It was just a little alcove curtained off almost like a capsule hotel. The way they spoke to each other once Philip woke the sleeping man carried a familiar tenderness.
The Terui family and Kiriya tucked into their food. What had to be the largest spiral fish cake Kiriya had ever seen covered the bowl, but the broth was rich and the noodles still tender despite waiting a while. It was good and he took a cue from Terui by breaking up the fish cake into the broth.
“Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier, I’m Akiko. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Kujou Kiriya, likewise. It seems my reputation precedes me.”
“Oh, I’ve heard quite a bit today.” She said with a glance at Ryu. Then she turned to the little girl, who was picking her favorite bits out of the soup with her fingers. “Haruna, why don’t you introduce yourself to Dr. Kujou?” She prompted. The little girl stood up in her chair but her mother grabbed her hands and wiped them with a napkin before she could reach across the table dripping with broth.
“My name is Terui Haruna and I’m six years old.” She said, leaning across the table to offer her small hand to Kiriya. “I can write my name in six languages, Uncle Philip taught me.” She added, with a great deal of pride.
Kiriya shook her hand and smiled back at her. “Kujou Kiriya. That’s very impressive, I can only write mine in two.” She sat back down and, at her father’s prompting, began narrating her day in the way small children do. Excessive detail at some times, hand-wavingly vague at others, going back and forth between earlier and later. Mostly, it seemed like Mommy and Uncle Philip had been keeping Uncle Shotaro from getting out of bed. Kiriya got the impression the “uncles” lived here, together.
When Haruna’s chaotic recollections petered out Kiriya broke the silence. “So it’s the Narumi Detective Agency?” He asked Akiko. She smiled.
“I use my maiden name professionally.” Akiko said. She struck Kiriya as a bold, no bullshit type of woman, and he’d liked her immediately. “I inherited the building and the agency from my father, Narumi Sokichi. Inherited them too, actually.” She gestured at the other end of the room where Philip was still feeding Shotaro.
“HEY!” Shotaro yelled, and his voice was heavy with sleep and pain in a way that was familiar to Kiriya. Philip kept him from getting up.
“Hidari Shotaro, if you get out of that bed I’ll give you something to complain about.” Akiko yelled back. Haruna covered her mouth with both hands and giggled, Ryu was smiling. The reason Terui had referred to Shotaro and Philip as his “in-laws” was becoming clear, the way Akiko and Shotaro bickered had a strong siblings vibe.
When dinner was finished Akiko declared it was past time for Haruna to be in bed. Haruna had to kiss both of her uncles good night and begged for Daddy to tuck her in and read her a story, which he agreed to. The little girl solemnly shook Kiriya’s hand again and wished him a good night, which he found oddly charming. Kids could be so delightfully strange sometimes.
When they were gone, Terui promising to return shortly, Philip seated himself at the table and opened his lukewarm meal. He picked the ingredients out and sorted them on the table before eating them in some esoteric order. Kiriya had been internally simmering with curiosity all this time and finally let it out.
“So. You’re not a Bugster.” He said flatly. “What the absolute fuck are you?” Philip just smiled and clipped a neat triangular piece out of his fishcake with his chopsticks. Shotaro was chuckling as though in on the joke. Presumably he was, being “family” and all.
“I’m a data entity. The principle is the same, as far as I can tell, but the implementation is different.” Philip said, waving his chopsticks as though to illustrate what he was saying. “I felt something strange when Ex-Aid helped us defeat that Bugster when Shotaro got the game illness, but I didn’t realize what it meant. I found your papers when I started looking for research on them later and realized there was a connection.”
“And that’s how you got into the Ministry’s network to read my papers.” Kiriya prompted.
Philip shook his head. “No, I haven’t had any luck trying the Bugster abilities I’ve read about.”
“He broke a laptop trying to jump into it!” Shotaro crowed from his sick bed, Philip ignored him.
“I read them in the Library. I didn’t realize they were classified until I emailed you looking for more.” Philip said matter-of-factly
“Then ‘FuutoGreenWind’ was you.”
“Mmhmm, I was pretty startled you were so hostile. Did the IME work ok?”
“Yeah. Works fine, we were able to document where the normal code hooks into the mystery code. There’s better code analysts than me poring over that, still. You wrote that?”
“Not exactly. I found the code in the Library and learned how to update it to run on current systems. The Museum was destroyed in 2010 including the computers they had interfacing with the Library, which I’m pretty sure is where your “core virus” emerged from in 2000.”
“That’s…” Kiriya couldn’t think of what he wanted to say, this was too much.
“Right, I should start at the beginning.” Philip said, cutting Kiriya off before he could form a coherent statement. “The earth is like a computer in some ways, it knows everything that’s known on this planet, and we call that the Gaia Library. My parents discovered it here in Fuuto and worked on trying to access it. I gained full access when I was five and fell down a deep well into the actual structure, it reconstructed me out of data and spit me back out. That was in 1998.” Philip said. And Kiriya was trying to pay attention because here was a man who claimed to know where the virus that would become the Bugster Virus had come from before Dan Kuroto had gotten his hands on it, but Philip just kept going.
He followed tangents that eventually looped back around, was apparently telling his entire life story which involved being mind wiped and used to make those Gaia Memory things as… drugs? Weapons? Maybe both. Kiriya just tried to remember the parts that actually seemed relevant, but it was difficult in the face of such a massive and chaotic flood of information. By the time Terui walked in the door Kiriya felt like he’d been listening for several hours and his eyes were glazing over.
Kiriya, who was balanced on the back legs of his chair, locked eyes with Terui and mouthed ‘help me’ at him. Terui smiled a triumphant smirk as he approached the table.
“Philip, you have that information I asked for?” Terui said smoothly. Philip looked up at him while stuffing a load of cold noodles into his mouth. He rummaged in the pockets of his baggy cardigan with his clean hand, the other one having been fishing around in his soup bowl as he rattled on, and came up with a crumpled piece of paper.
Smoothed out the paper contained an address, six names with check marks next to them, a date, and a hand drawn map of a location. Kiriya recognized the names of the game illness patients, including Yuri, but not the place.
“Peace Diner?” Terui asked.
“I looked up the activities of all the people you asked for, they all interacted with the jukebox here on this date. That was the only thing all six of them had in common in the past week.” Philip said. The date he indicated was the day preceding the Dopant riot.
“You’re the Bugster expert, that sound like a plausible vector?” Terui asked Kiriya.
“No reason it couldn’t be. Motorz said the computer was slow and you don’t need high specs to run a music system, especially if it’s old. And the infection levels could easily get that high in under a day due to the stress of rampaging monsters.” Kiriya scratched his nose, thinking. “I kinda get the gist of the whole Library thing, can you possibly find out if anyone else touched that jukebox that day, and maybe the day before? There might be more people who are infected but aren’t showing symptoms, yet.”
“I can try, although I can’t guarantee results for such an oblique query.” Philip looked towards Terui again. “Leaving now?”
“Evidence isn’t getting any fresher.”
“Be careful, the pieces we collected yesterday are definitely Foundation X manufacture.”
“Of course it's them, again.” Terui sighed. “Well, I have Dr. Kujou for back-up. Two Kamen Riders should be enough.”
Terui Ryu rode a cherry red Ducati 999, an expensive high-powered road bike that Kiriya was privately impressed with. Kiriya declined the offered helmet and pulled his Bakusou Bike gashat out of his pocket.
Bike Gamer Level 2 manifested in much the same way the Bugsters had, crackling shapes of colored light suddenly becoming a real object. Kiriya’s own helmet was sitting neatly on the seat where he’d left it.
“That’s convenient.” Terui observed.
“Sometimes I ride him, sometimes I am him.” Kiriya said and patted the bike’s fuel tank affectionately. “I have a regular bike, too. But when you need to travel it’s hard to beat the convenience of being able to put the whole thing in your pocket.”
“So that’s what you look like as a bike?”
“Yep. If I was in there it’d have blue eyes, right here.” Kiriya indicated the blank face on the front wheel fairing. “And my driver would be strapped across here.” He indicated the gas tank in front of the seat. He pointed at the black and green bike parked under the awning. “Your pals always leave Double’s bike parked out front for everyone to see?”
“Pretty much.” Terui started his bike. “We can talk later, if you want. I want to secure that jukebox.” They pulled into the road and headed for downtown Fuuto.
They had to park at the end of the block the diner was on, one of the buildings on the opposite side had fallen and almost entirely blocked the road. Terui had a bag of tools and a flashlight and led the way, carefully skirting around debris and the shattered remains of a utility pole. The power was supposed to be shut off to this area, but they took extra care around the downed wires anyway.
The silence in an evacuated area in a power outage was eerie. Kiriya had gotten used to being aware of the electrical energy flowing around him, an unexpected aspect of living as a Bugster. But here there was nothing, their bikes behind them and some of the items they were carrying and that’s it. There was power a few minutes away, and he wasn’t lacking in reserve power, but it made him nervous anyhow. He was reflecting on how irrational that was and completely missed whatever Terui said.
“I said this is it.”
It was full dark now, but Terui’s flashlight illuminated the faded sign. A piece of debris they’d climbed around had been thrown partially through the door and crushed the checkout desk, but the large front window was easy to climb through since the glass had already been shattered. The inside was a mess but the dining area was relatively intact, and they found the jukebox mounted on the far wall after throwing a bunch of fallen ceiling tiles out of the way.
It wasn’t obviously damaged. They put on gloves to avoid disturbing finger prints, for whatever that was worth, and checked it over. There was a USB port accessible from the underside that could easily have been used to infect it. It was easy enough to lift off it’s mounting, just two screws driven into a stud in the wall, and the power cord was plugged into a nearby outlet underneath one of the booth seats.
“Can you tell if this infected?” Terui asked. Kiriya carefully ran his gloved fingers across it, but there was nothing he could pick up.
“Nope. Power’s been out too long, I can’t feel anything.” Kiriya said with a hint of regret. The virus could hold a charge for a little while, but if this was infected it had run out hours ago. “Have to analyze the hard drive to find out anything useful, sorry.”
“Alright. Is there any risk of it being infectious without power?” Terui asked.
“From my experiments, no. Now that the power has run out it’ll be totally inert until it’s actually plugged into a power source again.”
“Good. I don’t have to worry about having it logged as evidence and transported, then.”
“Nope, should be just fine as long as nobody plugs this in.” Kiriya held up the plug end of the power cord.
Terui rummaged in his bag by the light of the flashlight, pulling out some tools and plastic bags. The jukebox wasn’t all that big, similar in length and width to a medium-sized laptop but as thick as two modern ones. It fit in his largest evidence bag with room to spare. He cut the cord in two with some snips almost as an afterthought and sealed the cut off piece in with the system.
Kiriya nodded. “Smart, gotta work to plug it in.”
“Never take chances when it comes to people not doing stupid things.” Terui filled out some information on the label and checked his phone again. “Someone should be along to pick this up soon.” He sat down at the table they’d cleaned off to wait. The flashlight laying on the surface pointing towards the ruined window.
“Philip is something else.”
“You’re telling me. If he asks you turn into a bike? Check him for tools first. He’s tried to take me apart more than once.”
“He’s like a gremlin with a screwdriver when he wants to see how something works. He’s not allowed in my kitchen unsupervised after he took my new espresso machine to bits in about five minutes.” Terui rubbed his chin. “What I want to know is how do you fit into the bike? It just looks like a normal bike, mostly. Except the face.”
“My dude, I have NO fucking clue. You should see the transformation, my whole torso spins around. It’s insane.” Kiriya started paging through his phone’s camera. “Is there room for like, an actual body in yours? That’s wild.”
“Sort of. It doesn’t look that weird until my legs fold out of the way to attach to Double’s plane or the little tank guy I have. I don’t know how that works and I try not to think about it too hard, honestly.” Terui pulled out a comically chunky flip phone and searched for something on it. They traded phones.
Kiriya smiled at the picture of Akiko steadying a younger Haruna, sitting on Accel’s seat. It was still identifiable as the red Rider he’d seen on the news, but kinda folded up weird and with wheels stuck on him. It was definitely bike-like, although maybe not really intended for someone else to ride on.
Meanwhile, Terui was gaping at the transformation video. “Where do your limbs go? They just LEFT!”
“Like I said, no idea. The guy who designed all this shit is a Grade A, completely out of his mind lunatic. I’m just glad they always come back.”
“This is unreal.”
“You don’t want to know how long it took to figure out how to throw that stupid lever with no arms.” Kiriya laughed at himself. It was nice. They’d gotten off to a rocky start but who knows, maybe they could start that ‘I turn into a bike’ club after all. “Actually, there’s something I’ve been wondering.”
“You work pretty hard at keeping Accel a secret from your bosses at the police department, isn’t that difficult?”
“I suppose it is, sometimes. But there are powers that police shouldn’t have.” Terui mused.
Kiriya smiled. “You know what? You’re all right.” They talked for a while, voices low in the silence of the blackout, waiting for the officers who would officially take custody of the jukebox.
Terui had handed it off, signing a form by flashlight. The uniformed cops left with the evidence bag. Chain of custody satisfied, they considered their next move. But without any other strong leads getting some much needed (by Terui at least) sleep was looking like the winner. As he moved towards the window to step out, Kiriya grabbed Terui’s arm. He was staring intensely at the back wall of the dining room.
“There’s someone here,” He said softly. Terui flicked the flashlight off and listened. It was too faint to be sure, but he might have heard someone moving very quietly. The door to the kitchen was open just a crack, barely visible in the dim starlight that came in through the broken window.
“I’m sure.” Kiriya said firmly. Terui gestured, barely visible in the gloom, and they moved into positions that wouldn’t be immediately visible from the doorway. They waited. Kiriya watching a couple of small power sources move. Not sensitive enough to detect the electrical field of a human body, but charged batteries were distinct little bright points he could follow in the absence of other power sources. Like fireflies, invisible in a lighted room but eye-catching in the deep dark.
After several long minutes there was a faint flicker of light beyond the doorway that was quickly extinguished. Cautious movements as someone navigated the mess that undoubtedly consumed the kitchen. A metallic sound, then nothing for a long stretch as the sneaking person must have frozen, waiting for a reaction. The two of them waited, as silent as possible.
Finally, finally, the kitchen door groaned and scraped open a few inches, then a few more. The door frame was warped and the leading edge dragged against the floor. A man dressed all in white squeezed through the opening, blinking in the comparatively brighter light of the wrecked dining room. Terui stayed still and hidden with a great effort, taking in the stiff white jacket with the gaudy silver trim and the mandarin collar. Foundation X, without a doubt.
The Foundation X operative located the spot where the jukebox should have been, the wall had been painted around it at least once, at the same time as the two Riders moved. Kiriya stood between him and the way he’d come in. Terui grabbed his arm.
“You’re un--” Terui didn’t get the chance to finish the phrase, narrowly dodging a fast blow from his suspect. The man held his own for a few blows, then bolted out the window. The street outside was relatively clear almost to the far end of the block but Kiriya teleported directly into his path, cheshire grin glinting in the wan light.
He reversed direction, just barely managing to dodge past Terui and escape by running several steps straight up a wall and flipping onto the concrete rubble blocking the way north. Lights immediately lit him up from the opposite side, the patrol cars hadn’t left yet and the uniformed officers were shouting. The man in white pulled something from his coat and brandished it, looking down at the two Riders in the gloom.
Then he stabbed it into his arm.
A deep cry of BIKE rang out into the night air. This one was bigger than Yuri had been as the Bike Dopant. Bigger than a car. Its engine roared and it flew down the rubble and through the panicked cops, huge tires squealing on the disturbed pavement.
“He’s infected!” Kiriya shouted to Terui as they scrambled to their bikes to pursue. They definitely couldn’t let this guy get away.
The huge Dopant had a lead but Terui knew the city like the back of his hand and quickly lead them onto its tail again. It ramped over an obstruction and Kiriya followed with reckless abandon, gunning Bike Gamer’s engine up and over and landing with a spine rattling impact. Terui had dodged down an alley and came out almost ahead of the Dopant, his superior knowledge of the terrain letting him stay on it in a much less hazardous way.
Getting in front of it was no good, it was easily big and heavy enough to mow them both down. Muscling it out from the side was also out for the same reason. If it was infected, then a Memory Break alone was useless. The plan that had worked in the warehouse was obviously out, that was only possible because Yuri had been restrained and cooperative. That only left the simultaneous finishers plan. They had to get it as far outside the city as possible, in case it was as explosive as they suspected it might be.
They followed it out the western edge of the city, heading for the freeway. It kept a little attention on them as they stuck to it, and Terui darted ahead when it started to turn for an exit, startling it just enough to miss the one it had been aiming for. It revved higher and pulled ahead, the whine of bike engines ringing loud at this hour. The road was mercifully empty, but wouldn’t stay that way forever.
Kiriya transformed into Lazer Turbo, but shots from the Gashacon Sparrow didn’t phase the beast at all. He might as well have been tossing pebbles at it for all the effect it had.
The massive Bike Dopant kicked up debris from the shoulder as it peeled around the curve ahead of them. Lazer Turbo managed to avoid it on the Bike Gamer, but Terui had been tighter on the monster’s tail and the red Ducati lost traction as it bounced over a chunk of wood. Kiriya barely had time to think as the red bike skidded and went down ahead of him, he grabbed a Gashat.
Terui was already up and running when Lazer pulled up next to him in Bike Gamer form. He swung into the seat without a second look, grabbing the handle of his Engine Blade from the stricken Ducati lying forlorn on its side. It skipped and dragged on the pavement, leaving a trail of sparks behind them.
“Don’t drag that thing, you’re throwing us all off!” Lazer shouted at his passenger.
“Hen, what? WHAT?”
Kamen Rider Accel lifted the Engine Blade onto his shoulder, not dragging 150 kilograms of steel on the ground did a lot for Lazer’s stability. Together they hit maximum acceleration and the Bike Dopant came back into view. It heard them and accelerated as well, staying ahead easily. The bastard bike’s top speed was higher. It had been toying with the Ducati 999 earlier and Lazer was a dual-sport with an engine one fourth the size of the red sport bike.
“Shit. I don’t think we’re gonna catch it.” Lazer shouted over the wind.
“Just keep it steady and be ready to do your finisher.” Accel replied, hands off the handlebars again. The belt voice suddenly echoed into the night once again.
Before the light even faded they were accelerating faster, Lazer pushed beyond his top speed by his passenger’s roaring jet engines. The passing scenery was an incomprehensible blur. There was nothing but the road under his tires, and they were rapidly gaining on the Bike Dopant again. It accelerated again, but this time found its top speed.
Engines screaming, all pushed beyond what they were intended for, the two Kamen Riders closed in on the infected Dopant. Accel let Lazer handle the steering as he slotted the Engine Memory into the blade and clicked it shut.
BAKUSOU CRITICAL STRIKE
The attacks hit simultaneously. The Dopant rolled and went down in a massive fireball. There was no time to communicate as they blew through the flames, Accel helped him keep it together and turn into an Akira horizontal slide. Two long streaks of black rubber marked the pavement where they’d passed. They both breathed for a long moment.
Terui dropped his transformation first and took off his motorcycle helmet, now sporting nasty road rash along one side. He let it fall to the ground and flipped the pink lever on the Gamer Driver for Kiriya. He grabbed the doctor by the arm before he hit the ground. Supporting each other, they walked towards the fallen Memory user. Terui picked up some shattered bits of a Bike Memory as they approached.
The man wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, in Kiriya’s professional opinion. He was unconscious, to start. Kiriya carefully checked life signs without moving his head or neck. Visible contusions, non-life threatening lacerations, that leg is probably broken, possible head and/or neck injury. But he was breathing and his pulse was steady, if a bit fast.
Terui was already calling for an ambulance. The GameScope had been left behind, but Kiriya didn’t need it to tell he was badly infected. Little patches of viral particles manifested on the back of his neck and then receded. The stress of being chased accelerating the infection, no doubt.
“Hey Detective, have someone go to the hospital and get the bag I left with Dr. Nawata.” Kiriya called back, exhaustion ringing in his voice. “This guy needs immediate treatment, or he might not live to be questioned.” Terui gave the order without argument.
“Shouldn’t he be cured, after your finisher?”
“Oh man, no way. We didn’t even separate the Bugster.” Kiriya said, as though this was self-evident. “I think my finisher just shook shit up enough for yours to break the thingy. This guy’s pretty messed up, good thing we didn’t do this to Yuri.”
Terui looked at the unconscious man with disdain. “That’s what you get for wrecking my Diablossa.”
“RIP, that was a really nice bike.” Kiriya took a deep breath of the night air, heavy with burning tar and other pleasant smells. “So what’s our story once your backup shows up?”
“I dumped my bike chasing it, Kamen Rider Accel caught up with the perp while you were helping me. We found him like this once we caught up.” Terui said. Kiriya nodded in silent agreement, then used the Bakusou Bike Gashat to manifest Bike Gamer again before the other cops showed up. He was almost surprised that the tires looked pristine and not flat-spotted from the slide.
A bike cop arrived within ten minutes with the requested bag. Kiriya could hear ambulances wailing in the distance when he slotted the vaccine Gashat into the Bug Visor. He crossed his fingers the patient didn’t go into deeper shock and hit the button. Brilliant particles fountained out of the BugVisor and fell all over the patient, sinking into his skin. He dropped the BugVisor and knelt again to monitor the patient’s pulse.
When the ambulances arrived Kiriya left with the ex-Dopant in one while Terui was evaluated and taken away in the other. Although he was up and moving, his leathers were shredded from hitting the pavement, and he undoubtedly needed to be evaluated for a head injury. Bike Gamer and the carcass of Diablossa got a ride on a trailer back to the station.
Terui Ryu’s hospital room could have been quieter, especially with the ache in his head and shoulder, but the hospital drugs were good, and he was dozing on and off. Akiko had arrived not all that long after he had and immediately started fussing over him, which privately he thought was very nice. Married life was good. Haruna had been dropped off with her Uncles, who doted on her nearly as much as her father did.
With the Foundation X operative in custody, most of his worries of the last few days were over. His family was safe, if a bit banged up in Shotaro’s case. No more Memories on the street, at least for now. Hopefully ever, if the investigation panned out. Maybe they’d even be able to pin down some of the elusive Foundation X this time. That left the virus.
Kiriya strolled in as though the thought of the Bugster Virus had summoned him. The most suspicious part of Ryu’s mind thought it just might have. Something about the doctor just tweaked his suspicion so hard, despite all they’d been through so far.
“How’s my perp?” Terui asked, the hospital bed whined as it adjusted to a more upright position.
“Out of surgery, had a linear skull fracture and a small brain bleed. The neuro here seems confident he’ll be fine because it was caught quickly, so they’re just waiting for him to wake up.” Kiriya replied, his eyes taking in the array of goodies Akiko had brought for Ryu. She’d been trying to get him to eat some pudding when he came in. Kiriya’s face plainly said ‘Are you going to eat that?’ Terui slid the open pudding cup toward Kiriya with his left hand, trying not to move his sprained right shoulder.
“You should know by tomorrow what kind of shape he’ll be in for questioning.” Kiriya stirred the caramel at the bottom up through the pudding and shoved a big scoop in his mouth. Akiko gave him a dirty look. She looked like she’d like to scold him for bringing her husband back in such rough condition.
“And the source of the virus?” Terui prodded. Kiriya pulled a plastic specimen bag out of his shirt pocket with his free hand. Inside was a plain-looking USB flash drive, the kind you could buy anywhere these days. “That’s it?”
“About 90% sure. I can tell it’s infected but we won’t know much more until the forensics come back from the specialty lab set up at GenmCorp.” He gestured with a spoonful of pudding. “Maybe, if we’re lucky, we find where this came from and shut it down.”
“We can only hope.” Terui agreed. Kiriya had helped himself to the detective’s chart and was flipping through it idly, although he glanced up occasionally at Akiko aggressively tidying up around him. He deftly put the chart in her hand as she reached for his nearly empty pudding cup.
“He should be fine, just make sure he rests and gets enough to eat.” Kiriya winked at her. “He’ll be fit to ride again in no time at all.” He disappeared in a crackle of light, with his pudding cup, just as Akiko’s slipper wiffed through the empty space he’d just occupied.
“I hope Philip can’t learn to do that.” Akiko spoke after a long silence.
“Don’t say that, you’ll jinx us.” The thought of a Philip who could appear anywhere, any time, at a whim, was too frightening to consider deeply.