It was a new day in our new Castle Nerd Skull outside After Academy’s city limits. The Horsemen, their heralds, and our newest members had joined us as we sat down. Our new members were from the same universe the original F.N.S came from. We went from 16 to 31 almost overnight, 18 girls and 13 boys. Our new members were Lady Colleen Doyle of Waterford, Ireland, Lord Alesandro Ortiz of Fortaleza, Brazil, Sir Liam McIntyre of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, Duke Victor Young of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and Duchess Deung Moon-kyung (Asian name order, so, in the western name order it would be Moon-kyung Deung) of Jeju-si, South Korea. They were wearing a newer transformation belt, similar to a Vortex Driver, called the Chronicle Driver. Much like a Vortex Driver, it summons armor based on a character, but uses something called an Armor Bio, a small, book-shaped trinket that tells the story of the person it’s based off of. The Chronicle Driver pops a shelf out from the top with a small space for the Armor Bio to fit. The Rider then inserts the Armor Bio into the space and slides the shelf down into the Driver. It won’t summon the suit until the Rider presses a button on the Driver’s top. If it’s the Rider’s personal Armor Bio, or Armor Auto-bio, the Rider would say “Henshin!” before pressing the button. Pressing the button again would initiate the final attack. Colleen was Kamen Rider Slam, Alesandro was Kamen Rider Striker, Liam was Kamen Rider Highland, Victor Was Kamen Rider Range, and Moon-kyung was Kamen Rider Lance. Colleen adjusted her braid as Michael’s cat, Kit-10, scooted by. “Colleen?” I asked. “Your report?” She snapped out of her reverie as she shook her head.
“Sorry, My Lady,” she apologized. “The Chronicle Riders haven’t heard a peep out of them.”
“Quite frankly,” sighed Liam, “I don’t think we’re gonna find anything.”
“I know Hiro of old,” I replied, prompting the Scotsman to roll his eyes.
“Och, haur we gang!” he protested, exaggerating his usual accent.
“I beg your pardon?” I asked.
“Every time we say Hiro’s not gonna do anything,” explained Liam, “you go on about how Hiro doesn’t let things go that easily, how he will stop at nothing to have the multiverse under his rule. Well, I’ve been looking everywhere, and I have NO proof that he has something in the works!”
“Always a contentious one, aren’t you?” sighed his House Head, Pestilence.
“The Vortech Wars are over!” protested Liam. “Hiro’s learned not to mess with powers outside his understanding! We can relax! YOU, of all people, can relax!”
“Hiro is NOT one to be underestimated,” Death argued in her usual whisper. “I will not let you go through with being so lax about this.”
“Come on, you can’t be serious!” countered Liam. Moon-kyung just sighed, deciding to defuse the situation with a question unrelated to our conversation.
“Could the pizza guy be any later?” she sighed.
“They ARE taking their sweet time,” remarked Kit-10. “However, I don’t think we should be TOO harsh on them. They’re rather swamped, what with the two-year anniversary celebration of Vortech’s defeat coming up.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” I remembered.
“Well, it looks like we’re starting Bad Movie Night WITHOUT pizza,” sighed Richard. “Let’s kick things off with Michael Bay.”
“What have you got to offer?” I quizzed.
It was Revenge of the Fallen, the second Bayverse Transformers movie. “Well, that was something,” I remarked.
“Rather tame, compared to other bad movies I’ve seen,” commented Emily.
“As a feline-based robot,” observed Kit-10, “built by a Time Lord and a flying box, I can safely say that it was the most unrealistic thing I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of gracing my visual sensors with.”
“Was Devastator’s wrecking ball scrotum really necessary?” asked Victor.
“Were Skids and Mudflap necessary?” quizzed War. “I swear they existed to be nothing but black stereotypes, UNNECESSARY black stereotypes.”
“My turn!” called Colleen.
“It’s not gonna be Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is it?” asked Hiroki. “I STILL feel let down after that whole thing.”
“No, it’s actually a movie from Japan,” replied Colleen. “Shuriken Sentai Ninninger vs. ToQger The Movie: Ninjas in Wonderland.”
“WHY?!” wailed Hiroki.
“Please, no!” I begged. Just then, there was a knock on the door. “Great, the pizza’s here!” I cheered.
“Two and a half hours!” protested Emily. “And we’re pretty far from city limits!”
“Cold pizza’s better than no pizza,” remarked Richard as he got up. Alesandro snorted.
“You only say that because you have no taste buds,” he snarked. Richard approached the door and opened it.
“Okay, my good man, what do I owe you?” he asked.
“Your ears,” remarked the voice.
“…You’re not pizza,” replied Richard.
“A PO robot’s saucier than pizza,” boasted the voice. “We need to talk.”
“Guys, X-PO’s here,” called Richard.
“Let him in!” I bid. Richard and X-PO entered the t.v. room. X-PO had various documents in his claws. “Good to see you again, X-PO!” I called.
“Nice to see you too,” returned X-PO. “I wish the circumstances were better.”
“What’s up?” asked Emily. X-PO laid out the documents.
“Let’s just say that Shocker Rift may be up to something,” he began. “Scorpainia sent out some explorers to gather data on five key universes. I’ve been monitoring for the reports but, for whatever reason, neither side has contacted each other.”
“So? It could be background interference,” I countered.
“I thought so too,” replied X-PO, “until Batman reported seeing Shocker Rift Saucers fly through one rift and out another.”
“I don’t see Shocker Rift,” guessed Tanisha, “as people who would just buzz a populated area.”
“No, they aren’t,” I agreed.
“And you’d be right,” confirmed X-PO. “I’ve managed to get ahold of why the Tarlaxians were exploring other universes. Turns out, they’re scouting for a potential Tarlax 15 in case they need to move again.” He waved a claw over the documents to indicate that what he talked about was in them.
“Should we even be looking at this?” asked Victor. “This seems like top secret stuff.”
“They’re marked with the Secret Seal,” observed Famine as she munched on a chocolate bar. “Not even we Horsemen have the clearance needed to see it. Only the reigning monarch and a few trusted Tarlaxians are allowed access.”
“I wouldn’t worry so much,” whispered Death. “It’s not like anyone’s gonna post this on social media.” Charline’s eyes went wide as she hit the back button on her tablet. “…Seriously?” asked Death.
“As I recall, you guys have the most experience in travelling the multiverse and have a new ship that can go between dimensions,” remembered X-PO.
“Yes, the Virginia can go to other universes,” I confirmed. “You were there when we remodeled it from its sphere to an actual ship.”
“When do we leave then?” asked X-PO.
“I don’t recall inviting you,” I remarked.
“Megumi, the multiverse has a vested interest in seeing that it’s protected,” argued X-PO. “As someone who wants that interest to succeed, I’m coming with you.”
“That’s nice, X-PO,” I countered, “but I’m a little worried about a portal operator abandoning his post.”
“Megumi, did you really think I wouldn’t get my replacement as I went with you?” asked X-PO. “Elphaba, Chell, Rusty, the Brigadier, they want to see Vorton again.” I opened my mouth to argue again, then sighed.
“I suppose you can do more on this adventure,” I conceded. “In fact, I think we all need our robots. Kit-10, see if you can get Lexicon, Pup-X5, and R9-D7. Veterans of the Vortech Wars, who wants another journey around…?”
“WAIT!” called Moon-kyung. “Who said anything about JUST you veterans? I wanna go!”
“Wait a minute!” I began.
“There may be people in need of help,” interjected Victor. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see them hurt.”
“Nobody does,” I agreed, “but…”
“And you’re gonna need someone who knows their way around weapons,” interrupted Liam.
“I’ve used weapons!” protested Richard.
“Besides, we want to see what the multiverse is like!” called Alesandro.
“You can see it just fine in…” argued Livia.
“And I SO want to meet Batman and the others!” cheered Colleen.
“GUYS!” I finally called. Everyone quieted down. “I appreciate that you new guys want to see the multiverse but we don’t know what’s going on in those universes. This could all be for nothing.”
“I have to side with the newbies,” interjected Emmanuel. “This may be the perfect opportunity to show the multiverse off if there’s nothing going on. The last time we went through the dimensions, it wasn’t exactly ‘happy-fun-time’. I’d like to go when we’re not being shot at.”
“Besides,” remarked Death, “if it IS nothing, then we just fix the trouble and help the explorers reestablish communications with Tarlax 14. And, on another note, we’ve been getting a…feeling.” That caught my attention.
“Feeling?” I asked.
“Yeah,” confirmed Lacey. “The five of us have had a feeling that the aspects we represent, war, plague, chaos, starvation, and death, are going out of whack. Sometimes it’s because of some interdimensional power, other times, it’s just someone not in their universe. We’d like to check if it’s the latter as we hope.”
“…All right,” I decided, “we’ll split up into teams according to our houses. X-PO, you’re with my house. Kit-10, once Gandalf joins us, you’re going with War and her students. I want R9-D7 to go with House Pestilence when Hongo arrives. Pup-X5 and Wyldstyle will go with Famine’s house. Lacey, do you mind taking Batman and Lexicon?”
“Don’t mind at all,” replied Lacey.
“Then let’s get Batman, Hongo, Wyldstyle and Gandalf,” I declared. “I have a feeling we’ll need them.”
I was hosting a party at Wayne Manor, my birthday party, to be exact. 35 years, and still a member of Gotham’s high society. A woman with a distinctive feline feel to her dress approached me. It was Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman. “Hey, lover,” she purred. “Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks,” I replied. I noticed the necklace she was wearing, a ruby inside a distinct cat’s eye design. “Which museum did you ‘borrow’ that from?”
“Har har,” hissed Selina. “Babs gave it to me. Check with her if you don’t believe me.”
“I may do that…later,” I remarked. “Where’s Harley? I thought she was coming with you.”
“She was,” answered Selina, “but something came up. Some sort of emergency with Pamela. She called in the entire Suicide Squad. From what I heard; it was something to do with Little Shop of Horrors.”
“She’s probably mad the plant didn’t win,” I guessed. We then danced for a while, then the party started winding down. Alfred was bidding the guests goodbye, thanking them for coming. Selina stole a kiss before leaving.
“She’d make a fine Mrs. Batman,” sighed Alfred.
“Maybe,” I dismissed. I headed up to my study to see a rift open. “Okay, what now?!” I protested. Just then, Tonje stepped through.
“God kveld,” (Good evening) she greeted.
“At least you aren’t a saucer,” I remarked. “What’s going on?”
“There’s some multiversal trouble going on concerning Tarlaxian explorers,” explained Tonje. “The Horsemen are thinking that it’s putting their respective aspects out of whack. Want to come?”
“Sure, crime’s been at an all-time low since the Joker stayed with Hiro,” I answered. “Let me just get changed.” I stepped into a wardrobe and let machines change me into my costume. Once I had my cowl adjusted, I stepped out as the Dark Knight. “Let’s get going,” I rasped.
“May I persuade you to take a sandwich, Master Bruce?” asked Alfred.
“I’ll get something on the way,” I replied. My father-figure sighed.
“Then, good luck,” he bid.
Sitting on the outskirts of Bricksburg isn’t my idea of fun. When all the realms in my universe finally came together, I thought it would mean something more, but there were those that don’t want to build something new, sound a little too similar to Lord Business. I idly looked around to see numbers around objects and just made a small motorcycle that didn’t even make noise. I sighed. Somehow, it was more fun during the Vortech Wars. “Maybe I SHOULD be a DJ,” I mused to myself.
“I’m sure you’d be good at it,” called a voice. I whirled around, constructing a giant staff with a boxing glove on both ends, and leveled my new weapon at the person behind me. “…Bonjour,” gulped the guy.
“Emmanuel?!” I yelped. “What are you doing here?!” I lowered the staff, letting Emmanuel relax.
“Trouble in the multiverse,” he replied. “Want to come?”
“Let me just let my friends know where I’m going,” I answered. I quickly found a paper and pencil and scrawled a note, then built a machine that carried the note to my friends. “Let’s get going! I was getting bored!” I urged Emmanuel.
“We French call it Ennui,” chuckled Emmanuel as he led me to the rift he used.
I was enjoying the clean air of the Shire. After Sauron and Saruman stayed on with Shocker Rift, Mordor was left empty. Gondor easily claimed it and made it into something better. Frodo enjoys his life as a former Ring-bearer, although the wound he received from Weathertop still smarted. There was peace in Middle-Earth, a peace long enjoyed by all races. The Elves no longer saw a reason to move to the Undying Lands. I was enjoying a pipe of Longbottom Leaf, a favorite of Merry. I then heard footsteps coming towards me, the footsteps of someone of the race of Men. Hobbit footsteps are highly distinctive. I turned around to see an old friend from the Vortech Wars approach me. “Good Morning, Young Hiroki,” I called. Hiroki arched an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Do you wish me a good morning; or mean that it’s a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“…I can see why Bilbo paused after I said that 60 years ago,” I muttered. “In any case, his answer’s the same as mine, all of them at once. And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors.”
“I would join you in just contemplating the scenery,” replied Hiroki, reminding me that he doesn’t smoke, “but I’m afraid I have pressing business that requires your help. We think we’ve found Shocker Rift.” At that point, I became alarmed. Not wanting to show it on my face, I emptied my pipe and accepted Hiroki’s help in standing back up.
“I presume your sister sent you,” I guessed.
“Exactly,” confirmed Hiroki.
I was still getting used to that new…“Rider Check-in” that Sento had made. It’s a social media platform for Kamen Riders. I could never seem to get it to sync with my phone. As I was fiddling, I heard the familiar “YEE!” of a Shocker Combatman. I then heard a crowd screaming in terror and saw the crowd running from an old Shocker Monster I once fought, Shiomaneking, a fiddler-crab based cyborg with a massive claw for a left hand. “Why do YOU always come back?!” I snapped when I saw him.
“Shocker obviously sees a use for me, Takeshi Hongo!” laughed Shiomaneking. He commanded various Combatmen to attack. I knocked a few aside, then put my left fist to my hip as I thrust my right arm to the other side. I slowly rotated the arm to the right.
“Rider…” I began. I then closed my right hand and placed it at my hip while thrusting my left arm to the right. The shield around my belt opened as the fan started turning. “HENSHIN!” I called. I jumped and the suit formed, changing me into Kamen Rider Ichigō, the first Kamen Rider! I knocked more Combatmen aside and went straight for Shiomaneking. He fired his flammable foam, almost setting me on fire, but I rolled out of the way. Shiomaneking raised his claw, ready to strike.
“HENSHIN!” announced a voice. We looked up to see Touché tackle him. She then got him into a headlock. “Konnichiwa!” (Hello!) she called.
“Konnichiwa, Touché-san,” I returned. “Social call?”
“I wish!” replied Touché. “What animal is this guy based off of?”
“The fiddler-crab,” I answered.
“Mmm, crab!” she sighed. “Really good with butter. Now, I’ve only heard of people keeping fiddler-crabs as pets, so I guess this mook won’t be good.”
“YOU’RE INSANE, GAIJIN!” (foreigner) shouted Shiomaneking as he broke the hold and flung Touché aside. Touché had her foil out in ranged mode and fired, keeping Shiomaneking from regaining balance.
“My turn!” I called as I leapt into the air. I then stuck my foot out. “RIDER KICK!” I shouted as my foot connected with Shiomaneking. He started sparking as I landed behind him.
“Shocker Gundan BANZAI!” (Long live the Shocker army!) he proclaimed before exploding.
“Wow, he was THAT dedicated to the cause,” muttered Touché.
“And this isn’t the first time I’ve beaten him,” I remarked as we cancelled our transformations. Emily’s dress expanded as her armor disappeared and she adjusted her hairpiece. “Last time I fought him was with Takeru. Even then, he fought him with a Super Sentai team, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, (Animal Squadron Beast King Ranger) I believe they were called.”
“Much as I’d like to hear about past Kamen Rider battles,” interjected Emily, “I’m afraid we don’t have the time. Like I said, this isn’t a social call. Shocker Rift is making a move. Want to fight them like old times?”
“Delighted,” I replied.
“Then, let’s go!” cheered Emily as she led me to the rift.
“Report,” I ordered from the saucer.
“Sources located,” reported Dalek Drone 2248292.
“Projections indicate,” supplied Metalran, “that key forces will reveal where the sources are.”
“And the journey through Hell?” I asked.
“YEE!” (The girl has been located!) reported a Combatman.
“Excellent,” I praised. Igura then entered the bridge.
“The device is prepared,” she reported.
“More good news,” I replied.
“Battle computer estimates an 87.4% chance,” called Dalek Drone 2248292, “that the Vortex Riders will intervene.”
“If I know Megumi,” I countered, “we can, at least, up that to 97.3%. However, I give you my word, there’s a 0% chance of victory for her!” I activated the comms to the transporter. “Sauron, proceed to conquer 5-P-L-4-T-0-0-N! Dalek Drone 8872345, move off to D-1-5-N-3-Y! Joker, proceed to T-3-4-M-F-0-R-T-R-3-5-5-2! Cybermen, you’re cleared for 5-4-1-L-0-R-M-0-0-N! Once Hell’s been cleared, she will…”
“Danger!” warned Dalek Drone 2248292. “Danger! Target is stronger than believed!”
“YEE! YEE!” (ALERT! HEATHER IS SLAUGHTERING HER WAY OUT OF HELL!) reported the Combatman.
“More than that, she’s flown by our fleet!” called Igura. “She’s caused an energy shockwave! This fleet is now in danger!”
“Spatio-temporal feedback building!” warned Dalek Drone 2248292. “Two of our ships have been destroyed! Three more losing hull integrity!”
“Advise our base that Heather has gone rogue!” I ordered.
“YEE!” (At once!) called the Combatman.
“Deploy an escape rift!” I ordered Dalek Drone 2248292. “Activate full shielding and advise the remainder of the fleet to do the same!”
“I obey!” obliged Dalek Drone 2248292.
“Order all forces to hold off on conquest until we’re at a safer location!” I directed Igura.
“Yes, Great Leader,” she replied as she relayed the instructions.
“Escape rift passes through shockwave,” reported Dalek 2248292. “Stability not guaranteed!”
“Three more ships gone!” reported Igura. “five more failing in hull integrity!”
“Advise the remaining ship to follow us,” I ordered. Dalek Drone 2248292 transmitted the instructions to the remaining ship.
“YEE!” (Escape rift collapsing behind us!) called the Combatman.
“Increase speed!” I ordered. A transmission from the last ship came through.
“Trapped in rift!” called the Dalek on the other end. “Alert! ALERT! GYAAAGH!” The ship was destroyed as we escaped to our base.
“Report!” I barked.
“Hull integrity at 75%,” called Dalek Drone 2248292. “We are the only survivor of Heather’s journey past us.”
“What kind of rage is she packing?!” yelped Igura.
“YEE! YEE!” (Her trajectory has been calculated. She’s making a beeline to 5-U-P-3-R-M-4-R-1-0.) reported the Combatman.
“Even though she’s going to the universe we want her to be in, she’s most likely too focused on Emily,” I muttered. “Inform the invasion forces that we proceed as normal.”
“I obey!” obliged Dalek Drone 2248292. It transmitted the necessary instructions to our invasion forces. If Heather manages to bungle this, no biggie. We’ll still have that universe’s source in our grasp. More stable than a Foundation Element.
“Your Majesty?” asked Turretorg as he entered my office. I turned to him.
“Is there any word?” I quizzed.
“No, Ma’am,” replied Turretorg. I groaned in desperation.
“We were supposed to hear back from them over two hours ago,” I muttered. “Are we receiving ANYTHING?”
“We got OUR communications systems up,” reported Turretorg. “We just received a signal from each ship. They’re delayed, of course, but we’re gotten readings from the ships and their crews.”
“And my call to After Academy?” I inquired.
“X-PO already made them AND the Vortex Riders aware of the situation,” explained Turretorg. “During the little security blackout an hour ago, he snuck in and stole the documents relating to this problem.”
“I’d turn him into scrap for that,” I snarled, “but we don’t have the time. What about my proposal to Sludgiona to make more Keystones?”
“For now, it’s at your discretion, if you want them made,” replied Turretorg.
“Contact some observatories,” I ordered. “Give them the coordinates. See if we can’t get a better picture of what’s going on out there. If we haven’t heard back in a couple hours…I want production on the new Keystones to begin.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” confirmed Turretorg. He hurried off to obey.