We had gathered in the Gateway room the next day. All of the Keystone Bearers were on the platform and X-PO started his Rider Chance. “And today’s riders are…” the arrow stopped on Sheela. “Sheela!” announced X-PO. The next arrow stopped on Lukas. “And Lukas!”
“Theek hai!” (Alright!) cheered Sheela.
“Wunderbar!” (Wonderful!) called Lukas.
“Destination set!” reported Rusty.
“CHARGE!” I called. We pounded through the vortex. Meanwhile, the enemy was already there with the Foundation Element in hand. The leader, a man in green with question marks was playing it like a basketball, but almost dropped it. An Orc caught it.
“Thank you, friend,” said the leader.
“What’s Lord Vortech want with this stone?” asked the Orc as he handed it back to his current boss.
“No idea,” replied the man. “It’s quite the riddle!” The man chuckled softly to himself.
“It’s not fair!” whined a raspy voice. “Sméagol does the riddleses!”
We soon arrived at our destination. It was a landmark I recognized! A friendly place if the Steward would get his head out of his butt! “Minas Tirith, the White City!” called Gandalf. “We are in Middle-Earth!”
“You mean Middle-Zealand?” asked Wyldstyle.
“…No,” replied Gandalf.
“So, it’s called Minas Tirith, I see,” called a voice. A Japanese man walked towards us. His hair was messy, he wore a loose shirt, and had his hands in his pockets, incredibly rude in Japan. “Most people don’t pop out of holes in space like that. I’m guessing you guys aren’t most people. Neither am I. I see that a Showa Rider’s with you.”
“You’re the second kabutomushi (rhinoceros beetle) Rider, right?” asked Hongo. “Kamen Rider Kabuto?”
“That’s me,” confirmed the man. “And you’re Takeshi Hongo, the first Kamen Rider.”
“I’m Princess Megumi Hishikawa of the Feudal Nerd Society,” I introduced. “What’s your civilian name?” The man smirked.
“Obaachan ga itteita,” (Grandmother said this) he said. He then pointed to the sky. “Ten no michi o iki, subete o tsukasadoru otoko.” (Walking the path of heaven, the man that shall rule over everything.) He then pointed toward the sun. “Ore no na wa…Tendō…Sōji.” (My name is…Tendō…Sōji.)
“…Well, I’ve seen my fair share of arrogance, but that takes the cake,” I muttered. “Your name literally means Path of Heaven, Ruler of All.”
“Comes with the greatness of the Zecter,” replied Sōji.
“The what?” I quizzed.
“The Kabuto Zecter, my transformation device,” elaborated Sōji. He turned to Gandalf. “You’re the one most familiar with this place?”
“Of course!” answered Gandalf. “This universe is my home! I have good news; we will be welcome here!”
“I’m not so certain,” countered Batman. He pointed to the current inhabitants that bellowed at us.
“ORCS?!” yelped Gandalf. “But how?!” That’s when some of the Orcs appeared to teleport. Sōji appeared to be ticked at them.
“I can see right through them,” he hissed. “Some of those Orcs are my enemies, a race of aliens that only need to look at a victim to copy their looks and memories, the Worms. They can molt their original shells and gain super speed, faster than our eyes can go. That’s where the Zecter comes in.” A red, metal rhino beetle flew towards Sōji and he caught it.
“Battle, it is!” I remarked. We got ready.
“Rider…” began Hongo.
“Henshin!” we all announced. Sōji slid the beetle into his belt buckle with the horn facing his left.
“Henshin!” repeated the beetle. Sōji’s armor appeared in hexagons and looked bulky. It had ZECT on the left shoulder and a blue visor. He then tapped the horn forward. The armor opened a little with a hiss.
“Cast Off!” called Sōji, Kamen Rider Kabuto. He then moved the horn to his right side.
“Cast Off!” repeated the beetle.
“Hit the deck!” warned Batman. We all fell to the ground while Kabuto’s armor flew off, damaging the Orcs. The new suit had red armor and allowed a beetle horn to go up across his visor.
“Change Beetle!” announced the beetle. An intercom then switched on.
“Welcome!” called the speaker. Batman tensed up.
“The Riddler!” he hissed.
“Please,” invited the Riddler’s voice, “come on in if you can! I hope you remembered to pack your brain, fail my riddles and you’ll feel pain!” The Orcs and disguised Worms came at us.
“You can barricade yourself in all you like, Riddler,” threatened Batman as he punched an Orc. “I’m coming for you!” Some of the Orcs went faster. Their attacks came out of nowhere!”
“Clock Up,” announced Kabuto as he slapped the side of his belt.
“Clock Up!” repeated the beetle before he disappeared.
“Can Sméagol do his riddleses now?” asked a voice over the intercom.
“Gollum?!” yelped Kämpfer, Claw, Gandalf, and I.
“Um, NO!” replied the Riddler. There were some explosions in the air after we dispatched the normal Orcs.
“Clock Over!” announced the Kabuto Zecter. Kabuto then reappeared with an Orc looking Worm that was shedding its disguise. Its real form looked like an armored humanoid with three large claws on the right arm, a hood like carapace, and the face looking like the eyes were being covered by hands. Kabuto then pressed the three buttons on top of the Zecter. “One! Two! Three!” counted the Zecter. He moved the horn back to his left before turning his back on the Worm as it charged at him.
“Rider Kick,” announced Kabuto. He moved the horn back over to the right.
“Rider Kick!” repeated the Zecter. He then did a 180º roundhouse kick, making the Worm blow up. Once the enemies were dispatched, Batman got his grapple gun ready to open an Orc Siege Tower. I got out the Batman i.d tag and swapped my usual one out.
“Batman Steel!” announced Vortoranii. My armor changed and I got my grapple gun. We opened up the siege tower and we got some parts.
“I have literally no idea what to do with this,” called Wyldstyle.
“Maybe I can get some help from another universe,” I mused. “Locate Keystone, activate! Initiate rift detection!” I found the rift near a pile of hastily made Orc barricade. “Identify source of rift!” The information beamed into my head. “…Well, I’m sure GLaDOS won’t mind. Locate help from P-0-R-T-4-L!” A giant turret in leopard print and wearing a crown came out. I heard a voice from the rift before it closed.
“Wheatley, shut up!” snapped the voice. It had a Swahili accent I was familiar with!
“Tanisha?!” I yelped. The rift closed.
“Tanisha?” repeated Batman. “What’s she doing in GLaDOS’ world?”
“Maybe some mission with Wheatley,” I muttered.
“Hopefully, this contraption will aid us,” observed Gandalf, remembering his previous encounter with turrets. The giant turret was pointed at the gate, but not firing.
“I’ll try it out,” offered Kabuto. He jumped up and found controls for the turret inside the crown. He started firing on the barricade that replaced the main gate.
“Heads up!” warned Batman.
“Look! From over the walls!” called Gandalf.
“Look out!” yelped Wyldstyle. The enemy had started using their catapults! Kabuto got clear as an Octan ship from Wyldstyle’s universe destroyed the turret.
“Well, we’ll have to find another way in,” muttered Kabuto.
“No need,” answered Wyldstyle. “I can rebuild it, better than it was before, and more awesome.”
“That’s all well and good,” argued Kämpfer, “but it’s on fire. We need to douse it. Gandalf, würdest du bitte?” (If you please?)
“Elemental Keystone, activate!” announced Gandalf. “Element of water, Kämpfer!” Kämpfer doused the flames while Wyldstyle built a bigger cannon out of the turret and the Octan ship. Kabuto took the controls again and destroyed the barricade. The enemy came out and we fought our way through. Some of the Orcs were Worms, though. In fact, many. I touched Kabuto and got his i.d tag. I swapped out the Batman one for the new one. It had multiple forms, so I chose his slimmer form.
“Kabuto Rider Steel!” called Vortoranii.
“Cast Off: Change Beetle!” announced the Zecter’s voice. My new armor was similar to Kabuto, complete with horn. Kabuto looked at me, confused, I’ll wager.
“Clock Up!” I yelled.
“Clock Up!” repeated the Zecter’s voice. Kabuto did the same action as we dispatched the Worms. Man, super speed is awesome, but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, slows down. “Clock Over!” said the Zecter as we both slowed down. We all made our way in.
“Where would the fun be in just letting you up here?” asked the Riddler. “I thought I might toy with you a little first!” There was a green energy field around a door leading up into the main courtyard.
“This magic barrier is being channeled,” mused Gandalf. “We should follow it and turn it off.”
“I’d argue the magic bit, but you’re right,” replied Batman. Ichigō then leapt into the air.
“RIDER PUNCH!” he shouted as he punched a door which had cables for the energy field sticking out.
“Was that necessary?” I asked.
“I haven’t practiced that technique!” protested Ichigō. We went through the door.
“So, I guess my welcome party wasn’t to your liking?” quizzed the Riddler. “Oh well. So, heroes, riddle me this: This is cast, but not a stone. It flees from light. The dark, its home.”
“Oh, a riddle?” asked Gandalf. “Bilbo would have been useful here, most definitely.”
“Bow before your Golden master!” roared a voice. A black and gold four-legged spider mech came with its pilot in the same colored armor. I didn’t know which dimension he came from, nor do I care. All I knew was that he made a web from golden strands and had turned part of a building gold so he could levitate it and block our path. Batman and Kabuto took care of that. Kabuto had grabbed a rope and lashed it to the rubble. Batman and Kabuto pulled it down, but the man had levitated statues to block our way to the web.
“Allow me,” called Gandalf. He levitated the statues out of the way and saw something inside the web. There was a cable running from the web to the door. “That box seems to be the source,” observed Gandalf.
“And the legs of the mech seem to be the source of the web,” guessed Batman. “Shift Keystone, activate! Cyan, near the right leg of the mech! Yellow, near the left leg of the mech! Magenta, near the bottom of the web! Shift! Royal! Cyan! Shift! Batman! Yellow!” Batman and I warped to our respective locations. I changed into Batman Steel and we fired our grapple guns at the mech’s legs.
“What are you doing?!” roared the pilot. The legs were loosened, so Batman and I threw a batarang at the joints, making the mech fall off the web. The pilot escaped before the mech exploded, leaving fire behind.
“Let me try the Elemental Keystone,” called Kabuto. “It seems interesting.”
“Elemental Keystone, activate!” announced Gandalf. “Element of water, Kabuto!”
“Just put your hand towards the fire,” I instructed. Kabuto did so and a stream of water came out, dousing the flames. We then opened the box to reveal an on/off switch. I set it to off and power stopped going to the energy field.
“Off we go!” called Claw. We left that courtyard and headed to the main one. Another door was available to us, so we went through there, via Kabuto’s Rider Kick. When we entered that courtyard, the Riddler came through.
“Time for the second part of my riddle!” he challenged. “What breathes, dances, and bakes, yet has no lungs, legs, or cakes?” We went through with no interruption, for a while, until I heard an unearthly humming.
“Anyone else hear that?” I asked. A saucer then buzzed us. It had some sort of face on the front and a four-barreled cannon. The pilot was green skinned and bald.
“Brainiac?!” yelped Batman.
“You know him?” I asked.
“He’s one of Superman’s enemies,” explained Batman. “Has a habit of shrinking cities to bottle sized ones.”
“Just that?” I muttered.
“Do not be so quick to underestimate me, fleshy!” warned Brainiac.
“Did I neglect to mention he’s a robot?” quipped Batman.
“A robot with the knowledge and strength of ten thousand worlds!” boasted Brainiac. He then used some sort of ray to make a box grow and block our path.
“This is worse than I could have possibly imagined,” muttered Gandalf.
“Surrender now!” demanded Brainiac as he shrunk one of the city’s buildings. “You are only delaying the inevitable!” He then tossed the tiny building at us. Gandalf pushed it back into Brainiac, making his saucer spark. “NO!” wailed Brainiac. “You dare attack Brainiac! My intelligence is brighter than anything you can dredge up!”
“Grandmother said this,” called Kabuto. “It doesn’t matter how bright a candle thinks it is, it will never outshine the sun.” Wyldstyle then built a ladder to get us over the barrier. More Orcs greeted us, some going faster. Claw, Kämpfer, and I changed i.d tags to the Kabuto one and selected his Rider Form.
“Kabuto Rider Steel!” announced our belts.
“Cast Off: Change Beetle!” called the Zecter’s voice.
“Shall we?” I asked Kabuto. He nodded and then slapped the side of his belt.
“Clock Up,” we announced.
“Clock Up!” repeated the Zecter’s voice. We sped up and attacked, breaking through the forces and destroying Worms and Orcs alike. Eventually, “Clock Over!” was the announcement of the Zecter.
“You still persist?” taunted Brainiac. “I think you are confusing bravery with outright foolishness!” He shrunk some large statues. “It is useless to resist Brainiac!” Brainiac threw one at us, but Claw had changed armor again.
“Wizard Flame Dragon Steel!” called her belt.
“Flame! Dragon!” announced the WizarDriver’s voice. “Bou. Bou! Bou, bou, BOU!” (Burn) Claw’s armor had a red trench coat and a pair of horns on the helmet. She then mimed flipping levers on a WizarDriver and brought out a ring. “Lupachi magic! Touch to go! Levitate, please!” She managed to push the statue towards Brainiac. Once it crashed into his ship. Brainiac ranted.
“How is this possible?!” he wailed. He tried to regain his dignity. “Such pitiful creatures! You are not worthy of facing Brainiac!” He did the same tactic again and got the same result. “What is this foolishness?!” he snapped. “It is useless to resist Brainiac!” Didn’t he say that already? Anyway, he threw a statue a third time.
“Insane,” I mused.
“Ja, that is a classic case of insanity,” agreed Kämpfer. “He’s going to fail and he doesn’t even realize it.”
“I am Brainiac!” shouted Brainiac. “I am not programmed to fail!” He tossed the statue. Claw yawned as she pushed the statue away one more time, destroying the ship. “This was unforeseen,” he mumbled.
“He’s down!” called Wyldstyle. “That was one big, ugly, green alien.”
“No, again, robot,” argued Batman as we got to the box Brainiac was guarding. We opened it and shut down the generator. We made our way to the main courtyard and approached one more door. We tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Found the problem,” reported Claw. “There’s a piece of wood across the top.”
“I’ll just break it down,” offered Ichigō.
“How, exactly, do you intend to do that?” I asked. He then moved back. “Wait, let me guess.” He ran forward. “Don’t tell me!” I said. He leapt into the air. “You’re going to use a…”
“RIDER CHOP!” called Ichigō. He chopped the wood in half, opening the way to another courtyard. A bunch of stuff from GLaDOS’ universe, like platforms, and switches, and neurotoxin generators! A portal opened, letting GLaDOS poke her head out.
“Surprised to see me?” she asked.
“What are you doing here?!” I snapped.
“After you left,” explained GLaDOS, “I decided that if you are going to run from my tests, then I’m just going to have to bring my tests to you. Enjoy.” She left as the portal closed.
“You’re doing very well!” praised the Riddler. “Time for part 3 of our Riddle Special. Deep below, veiled from sight, it dwells where Dwarves find their delight!”
“We better get on those switches,” I suggested. I jumped toward a switch on a platform while Batman grabbed a switch near the door. They triggered a platform to drop some vent sections.
“My turn,” called Ichigō. “Scale Keystone activate! Enlarge scale of Gandalf!” Gandalf brought the vent sections over to a vent that needed them. “Lessen scale of Gandalf!” Gandalf shrunk down and climbed the vent. When he came to a statue, he tried to push it over. “Enlarge scale of Gandalf,” directed Ichigō. Gandalf grew again and pushed a statue onto a neurotoxin generator. It was destroyed and revealed part of a box. Gandalf hopped down, making us shake, and headed to the other vent. “Lessen scale of Gandalf,” said Ichigō. Gandalf shrunk again and climbed the vent. When he appeared near the statue, “Enlarge scale of Gandalf!” he grew again. He pushed that statue and destroyed the last neurotoxin generator. “Normalize scale of Gandalf!” announced Ichigō. Gandalf went back to his normal size but looked queasy.
“I don’t think shrinking and growing the same person is good for their stomach,” he groaned. Batman took care of shutting down the energy shield generator. Once we got that done, we headed to the large courtyard. The energy shield was down. “The way forward has now opened,” observed Gandalf. “Who knows what lies beyond?” Claw automatically canceled her transformation and returned to being Sheela as she fell to the floor, panting.
“We’re not going anywhere until we’ve had a breather!” panted Sheela.
“Go ahead and relax,” called the Riddler. “I’ll wait.”
“Your mistake, Nigma,” hissed Batman.
“Nigma?” I asked.
“Edward Nigma,” answered Batman. I saw the pun in his name. “He’s obsessed with riddles and mind games. He was so intelligent that he figured out my alter-ego.”
“He knows you?” I quizzed.
“I pointed out that if he told the world,” continued Batman, “he would solve the riddle and there would be no point.
“How insane is he?” I asked.
“He’s one of Arkham’s inmates,” elaborated Batman.
“Arkham?” asked Gandalf.
“The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane,” explained Batman. “A psychiatric hospital for people who commit crimes because they’re not right in the head.”
“A place to put the crazies until they’re ready to be normal citizens again,” I simplified for Gandalf.
“I see,” said Gandalf, nodding in understanding.
“So, how often have people escaped from Arkham?” I asked Batman.
“Security’s so bad,” he replied, “I’m surprised the staff don’t remind the inmates to use the sign in sheet when they return.”
“Are they functioning on ancient security methods?” I queried.
“No,” answered Batman, “they use the most advanced security measures that they can, given their…limited resources.”
“Not everyone has your tech,” I reminded him.
“…I know,” conceded Batman.
“What about you, Sōji-san?” I asked. “You seem Hell-bent on destroying the Worms.”
“It was the Worms that killed my parents,” explained Sōji. Batman seemed to understand him to a degree.
“I’m not sure I can fully support the death of an entire race because a group from said race killed your parents,” he mused.
“Wasn’t it a mugger that killed yours?” I asked. Batman flinched but stayed on his course.
“That mugger had appropriate justice dealt to him,” answered Batman. “I saw to it myself. He’s in prison for life.”
“And you’re content with that?” observed Sōji. “Don’t you fight other criminals?”
“I fight so no one has to go through what I did,” replied Batman.
“As do I,” answered Sōji.
“I suppose if things went differently,” mused Batman, “I could have been exactly like you.”
“Moving on,” I interjected. “Batman, is there a reason the Riddler wants to place riddles around here?”
“The answers to the riddles usually result in the answer to his master plan,” explained Batman.
“A riddle within a riddle,” I guessed.
“Exactly,” confirmed Batman.
“I best use that power against him,” chuckled Lukas.
“You can solve it?” I asked.
“I’m an engineer,” boasted Lukas. “No riddle can be locked forever, aside from paradoxes.”
“Everyone all rested up?” I asked. They nodded. “Let’s go!” I declared. My mind also poured over the riddles as well as Lukas’
This is cast, but not a stone. It flees from light. The dark, its home.
What breathes, dances, and bakes, yet has no lungs, legs, or cakes?
Deep below, veiled from sight, it dwells where Dwarves find their delight!
What are the answers and how do they connect?!