When we came through, Mia Regina, we noticed our surroundings were NOT 8-bit. I looked a little further. “No health bars,” I observed, “no score counters, no profile versions of our faces, no text boxes, and we’re not even polygonal.”
“Is this the right place?” asked Gandalf.
“I’ll find out,” replied Hiroki as he called up Vorton. “X-PO, where are we? This doesn’t look like an arcade game.”
“You must be in the main dimension,” answered X-PO. “I did say that the dimension you were in was a trans-reality pocket dimension. What Chell meant when she translated it as ‘weird’ was that it means that it’s a universe WITHIN a universe. You guys were in the shared reality most arcade games share.”
“Hold on,” I quizzed, “are you telling me we were INSIDE the video games? The actual arcade machines?!”
“Exactly,” replied X-PO.
“And we’re in the ‘real world’ of this dimension?” asked Hiroki.
“If you want to put it like that, yes,” answered X-PO. “In any case, you’ve got a mission to complete.”
“Right, we’ll call back when we’re done,” finished Hiroki. He ended the call. “Well, no point sitting on our butts. Let’s find that part.” We started walking around the city for a bit, looking for Heather. As we walked, we heard noises near an arcade. A young man was walking by with a green shirt with the alien from Defender on it. He also wore a black jacket and was playing a game on his phone. He had earbuds on and was so engrossed in the game.
“No sense in not getting local knowledge,” I mused. We approached the kid and I tapped him on the shoulder. The poor boy jumped a bit and took his earbuds out as he faced us. He looked a bit confused.
“Is there some sort of fancy convention going on?” he asked. We then realized he was talking about our clothing.
“Actually, we usually dress like this,” replied Hiroki. “I’m Hiroki, this is Livia, and that’s Gandalf. Who are you?”
“I’m Jake,” introduced the kid, “former Retro Gaming Champ under the title of Gamer Kid.”
“Gamer Kid?” I chuckled. “Just that?”
“Short, simple, why not?” asked Jake.
“Fair enough,” I conceded. At that point, we heard a rumble.
“That came from the old Coin-Op arcade!” yelped Jake. That was when Emu and another man were tossed out and various characters and enemies from the old arcade games came out of the arcade. Still inside the arcade was a humanoid man with one single, yellow eye in his forehead and three tentacles for hair. His armor looked almost like a Dalek.
“My business here doesn’t concern you,” he snarled. “Normally, I would say ‘Do not interfere,’ and shout ‘Obey’ a lot, but I can see that you won’t listen to my old Dalek ways.”
“You? A Dalek?!” I yelped. The creature saw us.
“And Livia, Gandalf, and Hiroki arrive,” he sighed. “I must admit, I thought I would be wrong, but it only makes sense.”
“Just a minute,” interjected Gandalf, “how did you know we would come?”
“I’ve flown through the Time Vortex,” answered the creature. “I have the gift of prophecy. You won’t succeed in you mission.”
“We’ll see about that!” declared Hiroki as we readied our Drivers. The creature pulled out a Dalek gunstick and fired at the ground.
“You WILL wait there until the appropriate time,” he ordered. He then disappeared into the arcade.
“Okay, no WAY am I obeying,” I snarled.
“Indeed,” replied Gandalf. “If he used to be one of those unsavory Daleks, we MUST stop him.”
“And get that belt part,” continued Hiroki. “We’re pressed for time. Quick intros. Hiroki Hishikawa.”
“Livia Acqua,” I introduced.
“Gandalf the Grey,” replied Gandalf.
“Jake, Gamer Kid,” called Jake.
“Hojo Emu,” introduced Emu.
“Kiryū Sento,” finished the new man.
“Right, let’s get in there!” declared Hiroki. We came into the arcade and found the Wizard from Gauntlet. It spoke in the usual arcade beeps with a text box translating it.
“Greetings, mortals,” greeted the Wizard. “Just as was foretold to me, a Gamer of Legend has appeared upon the anarchic uprising of the arcade.” He pointed to Jake when he said that.
“…Me?!” yelped Jake.
“As you can see,” remarked the Wizard, “evil powers have possessed the heroes of these once beloved video games and the entire world needs your help in setting them free. You must find a way to banish the taint from these heroes and then defeat their games so they can return to their electronic slumber. Go now and fulfill your destiny!” He zapped Jake with a spell.
“What was that?!” called Jake as he recovered from the tingle.
“That,” explained the Wizard, “was a spell that gave you a supply of special sodas that give you a certain power. The powers you have are laser vision, stealth, super strength, invulnerability, and speed. Farewell!” The Wizard disappeared.
“Well, what do you know?!” cheered Hiroki. “A new superhero’s born!”
“Why me?” moaned poor Jake.
“Why NOT you?” asked Emu.
“You guys fight this kind of thing all the time, it looks like!” argued Jake. “I’m dead weight!”
“Never heard of it,” I remarked. Jake opened his mouth to explain. “And, I don’t want to hear about it! Nobody is useless! Your gaming knowledge will help us succeed! You can become something greater!”
“Can’t I just think things over?!” asked Jake, terrified out of his mind.
“Nerds across the world, no matter their affiliation,” I argued, “have been thinking things over for far too long!”
“Tell me,” pressed Gandalf, “when did those little lights and sounds in those magic boxes become so important to you? I know of at least 16 people who are off in search of adventure! People who would love nothing better than to learn what was beyond the borders of their world! The world is not in maps, books, or plays. It’s out there.”
“I can’t just go running into a fight!” protested Jake. “I’m a gamer!”
“You’re also a 21st century nerd,” replied Hiroki. Jake snorted and leaned against the wall; arms folded. “Did you know that my great-great grandfather worked for Nintendo when it was a hanafuda card company? It’s true. He personally oversaw the quality of hanafuda cards and ensured that Nintendo was huge in the playing card industry. He left the company but was still invested in its interests. With his help, Nintendo followed the meaning behind its name, ‘Leave luck to Heaven’.”
“…Half of that sounds made up,” muttered Jake.
“Okay, truth be told,” replied Hiroki, “my great-great grandfather swept the place back in the day. He still used ‘Leave luck to Heaven’ as his motto though.”
“All stories deserve a little embellishment,” affirmed Gandalf. “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you succeed.”
“Can you promise that I WILL succeed?” asked Jake. The silence we gave was deafening to him.
“No,” I finally replied. “And, if you do, you will not be the same again.”
“I thought so,” sighed Jake. “I’m sorry, guys, I can’t help you.” He then put his hands in his pockets and started going home. “You got the wrong guy,” he called. When he rounded a corner, there was no doubt in our minds that he wasn’t helping us.
“It looks like we lost our local knowledge,” I muttered.
“Perhaps it’s just as well,” sighed Sento. “After all, what are we? Nerds, a wizard, a doctor, and a genius hero?”
“We ARE fighters,” replied Emu.
“For some of us, the fight is over,” remarked Sento. “I already beat my main bad guy.”
“That’s two endings I missed!” hissed Hiroki. “I gotta binge-watch when we get back to Vorton!”
“Pardon?” asked Sento.
“Okay, I’m gonna say something that will surprise you,” I answered. “We’re all from different universes. In our world,” I pointed to myself and Hiroki, “you, Emu, and Gandalf are fictional, seen in TV shows, movies, or read about in books.”
“I’ve called myself the Rider Encyclopedia,” continued Hiroki. “And we’re all in a different universe as well. That creature was also from another universe.”
“No way!” cheered Sento as a part of his hair stuck up when he became excited. “Multiverse theory is multiverse FACT?!”
“You know about multiverse theory?” asked Hiroki.
“I’m a genius theoretical physicist,” answered Sento. “No scientific theory escapes me.”
“A scientist?” I quizzed.
“And Kamen Rider,” answered Emu. “That’s Kamen Rider Build, the one I told you guys about when we met in those games.”
“Oh, YOU’RE his successor,” realized Hiroki. “I went on this adventure in the middle of Emu’s run. Could you show me your Rider form?”
“Sure,” replied Sento. He then took out his main belt. It was a black on with a gear on the right side of a space that had slots for two things, much like the Double Driver. On the right of the gear was a hand crank. “This is my main belt, the Build Driver,” explained Sento. “And THESE,” he took out a pair of little bottles, “are the items I use to transform, my Fullbottles.”
“Fullbottles?” chuckled Hiroki.
“Hey, look!” I called as I pointed to the red one. “That one’s got a picture of a rabbit!”
“What on Earth is the image on the blue one?” asked Gandalf.
“That’s…a tank,” I muttered.
“Wait, are those stickers on the caps?” asked Hiroki.
“These stickers,” replied Sento, “indicate a Best Match.”
“The best kind of pairing?” I asked.
“Exactly,” confirmed Sento. “Originally, the Build Driver was used to just detect Best Matches, but I modified it to become a transformation belt.” He then set the Build Driver to his waist. “Sā, jikken o hajimeyou ka?” (Now, shall we begin the experiment?) asked Sento as he put a Fullbottle in each hand. He then shook the bottles as they made a clicking sound. After a few seconds, he twisted the caps so the labels faced outside. He put the bottles into the Build Driver, the red Rabbit one first, nearest to the large gear, then the blue tank one, on the right side of the Rabbit. As he put them in, holograms of the symbols on the bottles appeared.
“RABBIT! TANK! BEST MATCH!” announced the Build Driver. A bit of music played before Sento turned the crank. We could hear machinery as Emu moved us back to make room for the glass tubes that were coming out of the gear. They formed the thing that would hold the plastic parts in model kits in front of and behind Sento and the contents of the bottles flowed through the tubes to form the parts of the suit. The front allowed the red bottles contents to form the left part of the head and eye, the right arm and shoulder with torso, and left leg while the contents of the blue bottle formed the right part of the head and eye, left arm and shoulder with torso, and right leg. The parts were forged at a diagonal. “ARE YOU READY?!” asked the Build Driver.
“Henshin!” called Sento. The suit parts were then slammed onto Sento and the suit filled in the gaps with black armor. Sento, as Kamen Rider Build, had an interesting motif to him. His left leg had a spring and his right foot had a tank tread. His left eye and antenna looked like a bunny’s head in profile with the ear sticking up and the right eye looked like a tank pointing its gun barrel upwards.
“HAGANE NO MOONSAULT!” (The Moonsault of Steel!) announced the Build Driver. “RABBITTANK! YAY!” Build then ran his finger along the tank eye’s gun barrel.
“Shōri no hōsoku wa…” declared Build before he made his fingers splay out, “…kimatta!” (The law of victory is set!)
“Okay, I’m impressed,” breathed Hiroki.
“I know, right?!” cheered Sento. “I’m amazing! I’m the best! I’m a genius!”
“And the ego comes out,” sighed Hiroki. He was about to say something more when an explosion came from the arcade. “Crap! Our mission!”
“We better get moving!” I declared. We drew our i.d tags out.
“Henshin!” we called. Emu then got his Gashat out and pressed the button.
“MIGHTY ACTION X!” it announced.
“Dai Henshin!” called Emu. He then put the Gashat into his Gamer Driver.
“GASHATTO!” shouted the belt. He then pulled the lever. “GACHĀN! LEVEL UP! Mighty jump! Mighty kick! Mighty! MIGHTY ACTION X!” He went straight to his level 2 form.
“Let’s go!” called Ex-Aid. We all charged in to see Caan trying to get away from a white car. It seemed to be shrouded by a black mist.
“Is that the…?” asked Sengoku.
“The G-6155 Interceptor from Spy Hunter!” I confirmed.
“I LOVE that game!” cheered Ex-Aid. The car then fired on us! “I DON’T LIKE THAT!” yelped Ex-Aid as we took cover.
“I knew it! Couldn’t resist interfering, could you?!” snarled Caan. He drew a Dalek gun on us. “Exterminate!” he shouted as he fired.
“Better stay out of range,” muttered Build as more piping came out of the gear on his belt. It formed a large drill with a single handle.
“What, in the name of sanity, is that?” asked Sengoku.
“I call it the Rotary Sword/Gun Drill Crusher!” proclaimed Build as he took the drill head off and placed the point of the drill into a slot on the handle that was a little perpendicular to the main grip. He pulled the trigger and the shots came out in a rotary blast.
“This is getting us nowhere!” snapped Sengoku as he fired.
“‘Pointless’ would have been the word I used,” muttered Caan. “Just give…ARGH!” He clutched his head in pain. “A…timeline change?!” he gasped. “How?!”
“GET OVER HERE!” shouted a voice. At that exact moment, Jake jumped into the battle zone, grabbed Caan’s tentacles, and threw him into the car, making the mist fade away!
“Keep him covered,” called a woman’s voice. “That Strength Soda he drank won’t last long. Jake? If you please? I believe 8000 points is the minimum.”
“Got it, Shade!” replied Jake. We all turned to see a new Kamen Rider! It was a woman in obsidian armor with gold trim. Her eyes were red and her helmet was in the shape of a witch’s hat. She wore a black cape and had large gauntlets. Her belt was silvery with a silver jewel in the center. Her undersuit was silver as well.
“Who are you?!” asked Gandalf.
“Don’t be rude!” chided Sengoku. “Introduce yourself before you ask!”
“It’s all right,” assured the woman. “I was raised with an American father. Besides, I’m from the future. I already know you guys.”
“The future?!” asked Sengoku.
“No way!!” cheered Build.
“Don’t bother asking me questions about the future,” directed the woman. “I swore an oath not to reveal things until the proper time. Temporal Prime Directive and all that.”
“…Of course,” remarked Sengoku.
“Now then,” declared the woman, “I’ll just introduce myself. I am Kamen Rider Shade, a magic based Rider, like Wizard.” She then drew her wand and a jewel sphere, a ruby, to be precise. She leveled her wand at the sphere. “One move against Jake,” she warned Caan, “and I cast a spell that will allocate the explosive power of my Ruby Under-sphere to the external lattice-work. BOOM! Instant bomb that will kill us all! So, back away from the Gamer Kid!” Caan snarled as he lowered his gun. “That’s better,” remarked Shade. “All right, you guys may ask questions.”
“Allocate the…?” muttered Gandalf.
“Quiet, Gandalf,” hissed Sengoku. “She’s doing a Thing!”
“You come here,” I said to Caan, “to get something for Vortech, but the search is interrupted by someone. A backwoods ghost?”
“And who are you to ask that?” asked Caan.
“The one who’s gonna stop you,” I resolved.
“Magic?” asked Build.
“Could we have a bit of hush, please?” requested Shade.
“Magic exists in a few worlds,” replied Gandalf. “One of you Kamen Riders is a wizard.”
“I said hush,” insisted Shade.
“Grazie,” (Thank you) I replied. “As for you, Caan, you came here for a reason. What is it, being the Daleks’ herald for their invasion?”
“Why would we invade this backwater universe?” asked Caan.
“So, what brings a member of the Caan breed of Daleks here?” asked Ex-Aid.
“Caan breed?!” snapped Caan, offended. “There is only ONE breed of Dalek! We will not accept any mutations! Caan is my name! Caan of the Cult of Skaro, at your service!”
“So, you’re part of a cabal?” I asked.
“Last member of a cabal,” clarified Caan.
“Then you’re here to resurrect it!” I guessed. “How can you do that with people from a backwater universe?” Caan didn’t answer my question.
“You there, Shade, was it?” he asked. “You have a spell that will do what? Allocate the explosive power of your Ruby Under-sphere to the external lattice-work, making it a bomb that will explode in an instant?”
“That’s what I said,” replied Shade. “One that would kill us all!”
“You made that up, didn’t you?” muttered Caan.
“WHOOO!” cheered Jake. “HIGH SCORE! Now, see this! THIS is a real video game!”
“It served its distraction well,” mused Shade. At that point, the Wizard appeared again, causing the car to vanish!
“Spy Hunter was first released in arcades in 1983,” translated his text box. “It is said that Spy Hunter was originally made to be based on a popular spy movie franchise, but the license could not be acquired.” He then vanished and a gate opened to reveal another section of the arcade.
“Now, with no further distractions…” declared Caan as he raised his gun.
“No, you don’t!” replied Shade as she swapped her belt’s jewel for the ruby in her hand.
“UNDER-CHANGE!” announced her belt. “RUBY PATRIOT!” Her undersuit changed to a ruby color!
“Inspired by the hot-headedness of my American father!” called Shade. She then decked Caan, causing an explosion to occur on impact!
“Fireworks?!” yelped Sengoku.
“Well, some cultures view rubies as the July birthstone for patriots,” I recalled. “And she said she has an American dad, and they usually launch fireworks around July, so why not?”
“Fair point,” replied Sengoku. Caan was picking himself up as we moved to the area on the left.
“You know, fun fact about this place,” chuckled Jake. “In the 70’s, this was made into a flower shop by someone who was a paranoid kook. He made an area called a War Room. In the event of a robbery, the War Room will become the four safest walls in the building. End of lesson!” He shut the door as we entered the room and pressed a button that activated steel doors. “There,” declared Jake. “Now, Caan the alien can’t get in!”
“So, how do WE get OUT?!” I asked.
“……Ah,” remarked Jake.