“My, Lord Sauron,” joked Lord Vortech. “You look a bit bent out of shape!”
“Not my doing,” replied Igura.
“Just what were you trying to pull here?!” snapped Hiro.
“A stupid move, if you ask me,” mused Ambassador Hell.
“No one asked you!” hissed Sauron. He limped off to reshape himself.
“Serves you right,” called Vortech.
“Excellent Nikujaga last night, Ambassador,” lauded Igura. “I had no idea you could cook.”
“I lived alone for a while,” answered Ambassador Hell. “Now, about the Riders…”
“Yes,” agreed Vortech, “it would seem the mice have escaped from my maze, and for some reason, I cannot locate them. So, Mr. Joker!” The Joker’s finger slipped on the trigger of the party gun he was pointing at Two-Face. “What do we do if we can’t find them?” continued Vortech.
“We make THEM find US?” asked the Joker.
“Precisely!” answered Vortech. “Hiro! Igura! With me! We’re going to find the next Foundation Element ourselves.”
“Try not to destroy anything in our absence,” called Hiro to their allies as he, Vortech, and Igura went to another dimension. The Joker felt a finger on his shoulder. He turned to the finger’s owner and got a slap from Two-Face, still sore about the party gun to his face. The Joker then tackled Two-Face and started brawling.
“A pity they don’t understand army discipline like we do, eh Lord Sauron?” asked Saruman to the newly made Sauron. The Dark Lord then slapped the Wizard of Many Colors upside his head.
“Don’t think I haven’t found out about your army of Uruk-Hai,” snarled Sauron.
“At least they understand teamwork, unlike your Orcs!” argued Saruman.
“Oh, feeling high and mighty, are we?!” growled Sauron.
“Mightier than you, perhaps!” snapped Saruman. “You were beaten down by children and you had the One Ring!”
“I warn you,” threatened Sauron, “I’m still the most powerful of us Maiar!”
“Considering a girl and a mortal man bested you in different ages,” argued Saruman, “that claim is under suspicion!”
“That’s it, COME HERE!” Sauron tackled Saruman and they started brawling. Lex Luthor just sighed.
While that went on, we tumbled through the gateway, landing on top of each other. We picked ourselves up and shook ourselves off. “Now THAT!” exclaimed the bus driver, “was AWESOME!” Something then sparked in his brain. “Everything is awesome!” he sang, poorly. “Everything is cool when you’re part of…”
“NO!” shouted Wyldstyle. “None of that! I hate that song!”
“Well done, Wyldstyle,” praised Gandalf. “It would have been a long way down had you not opened that rift.”
“Yeah,” agreed Batman, “I get the feeling that Keystone’s gonna come in handy.”
“Let’s find out how to use it properly then,” suggested Wyldstyle. The Keystone then floated in the air.
“This is the Locate Keystone,” explained the voice as the Keystone attached to the gateway. “Now you can help me find my car keys. I’m just kidding, maybe later.”
+GATEWAY 100% STABILIZED+ announced my belt. +ALL SYSTEMS FULLY OPERATIONAL+ A portal opened for the bus driver.
“Well, I gotta go,” he said. “The Missus hates it when I’m late. Before I go, something for your trouble.” He handed us a bag of, you guessed it, studs. He went through the portal and left us.
+TOTAL STUDS IN BAG EQUAL 125,000+ reported my belt. +CURRENT CUMULATIVE STUD TOTAL IS NOW 725,000+
“I’m surprised you haven’t spent them,” whispered a woman’s voice. We whirled around to see Death herself sipping tea with the Brigadier and Elphaba. Rusty was serving them.
“Would you like some sugar?” he asked Death.
“Two will suffice,” whispered Death. Rusty spooned out two lumps. “Thank you,” whispered Death.
“You’re welcome!” reciprocated Rusty.
“How did you get here?!” I yelped.
“I’m Death,” whispered the Grim Reaper. “I go anywhere. I presume you’ve heard of the two riders that can beat Vortech?”
“That’s right,” I confirmed.
“Well, we have our Kamen Rider Apocalypse being trained,” whispered Death. “Her name is Lacey and she came from Dimension T-H-3-5-1-M-P-5-0-N-5.” I blinked.
“The Simpsons?” I repeated.
“She’s tried to keep the damage in Springfield down to a minimum,” whispered Death. “She’s a sweet Goth girl who wants to expand her multiversal understanding. She’s doing very well in that regard at After Academy.”
“That just leaves Kamen Rider Vortex,” muttered Emmanuel.
“And I believe that Rider to be one of you,” whispered Death.
“My Lady,” I quizzed, “are you sure?”
“Very sure,” whispered Death. “You have to admit, no one else would have the Vortex Drivers if they didn’t have the courage to accept them.” I considered Death’s words. She was right, taking this mess on would scare the average person. Joshua nearly backed out but found courage when he remembered his father…dear Lord, I forgot!
“My Lady,” I began.
“Just call me Death,” whispered Death. “I consider you to be friends.”
“Well, Death,” I continued, “it’s about the hostages in Vortech’s domain.”
“Your loved ones?” whispered Death.
“Yes, the Mouth of Sauron said that they suffered before they died,” I explained.
“That is a lie, and I can prove it!” whispered Death harshly. She handed me a book. “This is the Book of Fate, my cousin,” whispered Death. “I have it on loan from him. Inside it details the futures of everyone in the multiverse. Open it and speak the name of the person you want to know about.” I was hesitant but opened it.
“Haruna Hishikawa,” I requested. It started forming an image. It was from the view of another person. This person was shouting in Japanese at Vortexons and giving one of them bruises. The hand the person had was one I recognized. Mom was alive and giving her captors grief! I sighed in relief and showed it to Hiroki. He laughed.
“Mom said she would give jailers grief!” he cheered.
“The same is true for the other hostages,” whispered Death. “They are ALL alive and well and causing stress for the enemy. Hence, their sloppiness.”
“You have no idea what weight has been lifted from our shoulders!” exclaimed Xiomara.
“Now, the reason for my visit,” whispered Death. “It’s about the nightmare you’ve all been having. Something is infecting your brains and is making you rather sloppy with lack of decent sleep.”
“And you’re here to cure it?” I asked.
“No, sadly, I cannot,” whispered Death. “Not without the identity of the creature. All I did last night was banish it temporarily. The way to achieve a cure is for everyone to sleep close together.”
“Then we’re gonna sleep in here,” I affirmed, gesturing to the Gateway room at large. “This nightmare has been driving me berserk and I want it gone!”
“I would recommend getting a good dinner and a comfortable set of night clothes,” whispered Death. “The wardrobe is over near your room, Your Highness.” After dinner, Death led us to the wardrobe near my room. It was like the TARDIS in that it was bigger on the inside! It seemed to be an entire city devoted to clothes! Various outdoor stalls on many levels and paths going above and below us were displaying proudly on streets named Petticoat Lane, T-Shirt Avenue, Jean Street, and other various street names like that. “The nightclothes should be on Sleepwear Avenue, level 4 below you,” whispered Death. “When you’re finished, just say that you want the path for the exit and the floor will show you the way. I must set up our bed. See you later.” She left the room and shut the door.
“…I guess we just grab our pj’s,” I muttered. We went down a couple of levels via an elevator and got our nightwear. I asked for the path back up and it flashed green. We followed it and made our way to the gateway room. It had a large bed to fit us all with a black and white color scheme, black being dominant.
“Is everyone ready?” asked Death.
“We are,” I confirmed.
“Then let’s get some sleep,” whispered Death. We all tucked in for the night and drifted off.
The dream was still the same one. “This is rather unpleasant looking,” whispered Death.
“Why me though?” I asked. “Why do they attack me?” My answer wasn’t gonna come as the bodies came up.
“Failure!” accused Batman’s body.
“You let us down!” hissed Hongo’s body.
“I’m very disappointed, Ms. Hishikawa,” snarled a broken Brigadier.
“Extermination is too good for you!” droned a broken Rusty.
“I wasted a second chance at life for YOU?!” shrieked Elphaba. “I can’t believe Death wanted to give me a chance!” Death raised an eyebrow.
“I didn’t tell her anything about her resurrection,” she whispered.
“Unimportant!” declared Richard’s body. “What IS important is that Megumi joins me as a restless beast, as she should have been!”
“Beast?” I asked “As I should have been? ‘Me’?” The clues then fell into place. I grinned. “All right, let’s do it,” I declared. “Convert me.” Richard’s body raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you hear me? Convert me! I order you, convert me!” Richard stared, then all my friends shrugged. Richard’s body grabbed my shoulder. I then grabbed the arm. “Now,” I snarled as I decayed, “remove yourself from my friends, Hiro, or perish!” The eyes of my friends goggled. “That’s right,” I hissed, “I know who you are! You’ve been trying to make me doubt the strength of my friends. You’ve tried to undo the repairs to my psyche that my mother, Haruna, made after she adopted me! Now, get out of our minds!” My friends’ bodies stared, then, with a united voice, they started cackling. They spoke in Hiro’s voice.
“You have no power here, failure!” he declared in all my friend’s mouths. “I will not rest until I correct a mistake I made! You cannot beat me! I bested Death over there and I’ll beat her and you!” Then, as I decayed completely, Richard’s body shook. “What the?” yelped Hiro’s voice. Soon, all of my friends started shaking. A black ooze started coming out. Soon, Richard’s arm grabbed the ooze and started pulling it! He was reasserting control, finally!
“GET OUT OF OUR HEADS!” he roared in his normal voice. All of those Hiro infected were doing the same. Soon, they all pulled the black stuff out of their bodies and threw it to the ground. It started moving towards them in patches. Even still decayed, we managed to escape the stuff, with Death’s help, of course. Finally, the ooze patches came together and formed a humanoid shape. Then, like Venom’s symbiote, it peeled away from Hiro’s body and then formed the Rogue Driver, complete with guns.
“That’s it, taking the direct route!” he declared as he loaded his i.d tag into his guns. “Henshin!” He formed the suit and became… “Kamen Rider Rogue! Stand and deliver!” he said.
“I won’t be beaten by you again!” whispered Death. She pulled out her own belt and put it on.
“You’re a Kamen Rider?” asked Hongo.
“Became one a few years ago,” whispered Death. She then grabbed the skull on the front. “Henshin!” She rotated the skull right-side up and snapped the jaw shut.
“Death!” it announced. Her own suit formed.
“Kamen Rider Death!” she announced. “You cannot delay your appointment with me!” She drew her scythe and swung it at Rogue, who whirled away. He then pulled the handles on the guns down to make them straight. He then combined them to extend half of a blade from the barrels and uniting them to make a short sword. Both blades clashed and their owners struggled to get their respective weapons to hurt the other.
“We need to do something!” I hissed.
“Like what?!” asked Batman.
“I don’t know, but Death needs help!” I observed.
“You see the kind of power Hiro’s packing?!” argued Richard.
“I don’t care if he’s a god!” I countered. “I will bring him down no matter what!” Just then, a golden light flew towards me. It stopped and hovered for a second. I was compelled to touch it and let my hand go towards it. The instant I made contact, the light became a new device. It was cream colored with gold trim in a fire shape and a blue circle in the middle like my Vortex Driver. I examined the device and saw a slot on the top. It spat out an i.d tag, my own, in fact! “A new Driver?” I asked. “Only one thing to do!” I put it on my waist as it formed a golden belt strap.
“It has the old Imperial Dalek colors!” observed Rusty. Then, all at once, the decay we all suffered seemed to vanish! Flesh flowed back onto our bones! Metal came back together and polished itself on Rusty and the Brigadier!
“Henshin!” I announced. I inserted the i.d tag and ran through the circle. I appeared in my suit and drew my blade, the metal of it flashing as I swung at Rogue He managed to duck and give a sucker punch.
+NEW FUNCTION+ “available” said my belt. I didn’t register that it changed tones. An H.U.D flashed up in my helmet, detailing poses and what I need to say to activate and an image of the final result. I then pressed my hands as if in prayer, then crossed them so my hands touched my shoulders, then held my hands up and formed an energy ball.
“SUPER CHARGE!” I shouted. A bolt of yellow lightning struck me but didn’t hurt me. All of a sudden, a surge of power ran through me. I felt my suit change somehow, but I couldn’t place what changed. Everyone gawked.
“Her colors match the new belt!” yelled Rusty.
“Her suit’s as bulky as mine!” called Hongo. My sword materialized. It had gotten longer and wider and gained a hand guard. The guard seemed to have a rail that the main golden blade would travel on to fold onto the outside of my arm. It had a split to account for left handers. A hole was at the front of the guard, just under the rail’s split, leading me to believe that the rail was part of a firearm mode for my blade. I charged at Rogue and managed to knock him down with my blade. He picked himself up, trying to comprehend what was going on.
“Mid-season upgrade!” observed Hiroki.
“It’s the end for you,” I declared to Rogue. “From what the H.U.D in my helmet’s telling me, you now face Kamen Rider Proto-Vortex!” It was then that I realized how stupid the name was but didn’t say anything. I moved the blade down the right-side branch of the rail and folded it back against my arm. I then took out my i.d tag and put it into a slot on the hand guard’s rear.
“Final Attack!” announced my weapon. I then pointed my weapon at Rogue, Death got out of the way. The whole weapon glowed gold and made a yellow energy ball.
“Rider Proto Blast!” I called. I pressed a button concealed in the handle and unleashed the energy ball. It grew as it travelled towards Rogue. It knocked him down. When he picked himself up, he started going into spasms and sparked everywhere. A classic trope for most Japanese villains and monsters. When defeated, they spark and spasm for a while and say something before exploding. I turned around to face my audience. Death looked at me oddly.
“Er, why…?” she asked.
“Heroes don’t look at explosions,” I explained. Death looked back and forth between me and Rogue, then turned around fully and made an awkward attempt to strike a dynamic pose.
“SO BE IT!” declared Rogue. “YOU’VE WON THE BATTLE, BUT NOT THE WAR! I WILL BE VICTORIOUS!”
“Don’t hold your breath,” I quipped. Then, BOOM! The backwash of heat came over me. As it did, the dream faded and we woke up. It wasn’t in a cold sweat this time. A brief intake of air and we rubbed our eyes, getting out of bed. Death stretched.
“That was exciting!” she whispered.
“So, no more of Hiro attacking us in our dreams?” I asked.
“No more of Hiro attacking you in your dreams,” confirmed Death. “And gaining the Proto Supreme Vortex Driver to boot, I’m amazed!”
“Too bad it’s a dream,” I sighed. “That kind of power was awesome!”
“A dream?” asked Death. “Check your Driver again.” I blinked.
“But it was just a…” I began. I had grabbed my Driver at that time and felt something different. I looked to see that I held the same belt as in my dream. “What the?”
“The Proto Supreme Vortex Driver,” whispered Death, “is a test to see if the user is truly the one to be Kamen Rider Vortex. For now, you are Kamen Rider Proto-Vortex.”
“Can I still call myself Kamen Rider Royal?” I asked.
“Username accepted,” answered my belt in a woman’s voice.
“What the?” I yelped again.
“Your belt’s A.I,” whispered Death, confused, “has changed as well.”
“It’s been some time, old friend,” sighed my belt.
“If you’re someone I took in,” whispered Death, “you’re going to have to be more specific.”
“Well,” mused my belt, “we did take in tea for a while.”
“Doesn’t exactly narrow things down,” whispered Death.
“We founded a school together with War, Pestilence, and Famine,” continued my belt.
“Now THAT narrows it down to three,” whispered Death.
“The school would train those that have potential to become Apocalypse,” finished my belt. Death’s eyes went wide.
“Queen Vortoranii?!” she yelped. “Good lord, what happened?! You disappeared from my realm a while ago!”
“I had pressing business, such as watching Vortech,” explained Vortoranii.
“Now I get it!” I declared. “You buried your soul deep into the Vortex Driver’s code so it could pick its host carefully!”
“Exactly!” confirmed Vortoranii. “And the prototype Driver, the Rogue Driver of Vortech’s design, chose its host before I found one for me. When it started moving, I followed it and copied my soul into sixteen equal clones, each holding a fragment of the map to find the Kamen Riders, Apocalypse and Vortex.”
“And so, you built drivers to counter Hiro’s!” guessed Emmanuel.
“Right again!” confirmed Vortoranii.
“Oh, I can’t wait to use this in real life!” I giggled. “My…Precious!”
“Hey, Gollum,” quipped Richard, “if you could put it down, we still have questions to ask Her Majesty, like why Vortech’s gathering Foundation Elements and enslaved the Tarlaxians.”
“He’s WHAT?!” yelped Vortoranii. “Oh, sweet Lord, NO! Why would he do that?!”
“Well?” I asked. “Can you offer any explanation?”
“Sadly, no,” sighed Vortoranii. “The only one who could offer an explanation would be my spy, X-PO, but I have no idea where he followed Vortech.”
“We better find X-PO soon,” whispered Death as she made the bed disappear. “Vortech found Foundation Prime and has a few Foundation Elements in his possession.”
“Where are YOU going?” I asked Death as she made a portal.
“To the previous dimension you were in,” she whispered in reply. “Quite a few people died there and I need to get a few of them to rest easy.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, remembering the Orc prison in front of Barad-dûr. Death had a job to do.
“See you later,” whispered Death. “Hopefully, I won’t have to do my job with you any time soon.” She departed. I then noticed I was still tired.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Midnight,” reported Vortoranii.
“We better head to our rooms and go to sleep,” I mused.
“Your Highness,” asked Emily, “do you mind if Richard and I have a sleepover with you?”
“Sure,” I agreed. We headed to our rooms, with Richard and Emily following me, and climbed into bed. Our sleep was a lot more restful.
Death arrived in the DC comics world. She swung her scythe at a woman’s body. “May I give you a hand?” she whispered.
“Sure, thanks,” replied the woman in a Cockney accent. “Here, your hands’re freezing, miss!”
“Sorry,” whispered Death.
“Grief, how am I gonna explain this whole thing to my boss?” asked the woman. “I missed me flight, and he’s going to be footing the bill. That’s the last thing he does for me before giving me the sack!”
“Ah,” whispered Death, “well, there, I have good news for you, Ms. Katrina Tyler. Er, then again, I have some bad news as well.” She gestured to Katrina’s body. Her soul looked at it and made the connection.
“So, you’re…” she gulped.
“Yes,” whispered Death.
“So, do I have to…go through a door…or some such thing?” asked Katrina.
“Through a door?” asked Death.
“It’s just that,” explained Katrina, “back home, the priest said that we always approach Death’s door, and then you decide where we go, and…”
“The decision of Heaven or Hell is out of my hands,” explained Death. “As for a door, I expect it depends in the direction you’re walking in.” She led Katrina off and faded with her.