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Old September 21st, 2008, 12:24 PM   #1
Black Fang
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Hell Rider (A Kamen Rider story of revelation and redemption based on Ben-Hur)

Plot: Ben Hernandez (a pun on Ben-Hur) is a boy of 20 who has lived his life in a California city of violence and corruption. His father was a cop killed on duty during a gang shoot-out when he was young. At the age of 17 his mother, finally succumbing to a nervous breakdown after years of bottled-up grief and frustration, is sent to a sanitarium. Ben, while pitying his mother, also harbors a hidden resentment toward her for "abandoning" him. And while he wishes justice for his fellow man, he bears a hatred toward the criminals and inept leaders of his city.

One night by chance Ben happens upon the carjacking of a truck carrying museum artifacts. In the scuffle that ensues, a ring somehow rolls out of the truck and is found by Ben, and turns itself into a belt. Ben is turned into an armored warrior and fends off his assailants. Thus begins his journey of vigilantism, downfall and final redemption.

Rider Stats:

- The term "Hell Rider" does not refer to a physical origin or affiliation, but to the "hell" the hero soon finds himself and his friends in.

- The belt, when not in use, is in the shape of a golden-colored ring. An unknown symbol lies within the transparent stone embedded in the ring's center.

- The Rider comes with several forms, but in the style of Ichigo and Nigo Riders. As the user's abilities develop, his armor changes along with his increase in power. But these forms are also triggered by strong but negative feelings and passions. With each new form, the user finds himself closer to losing his humanity until he becomes the very thing he fights against.

- His bike is a light-weight model (i.e.: TryChaser 2000, Gatack Extender, etc.) dubbed Antares. The front is shaped like a stallion's head, the rear features a billowing tail, and leg-like structures like over the wheels. Usually disguised a an ordinary bike.

Other (but not all) characters:

- Kenta Nishihori, 22, the son of Japanese immigrants, a grad student at Ben's college and his one close friend. His family takes Ben into their home after his mother is sent away, and he has lived with them ever since. Kenta is a toku fan who first dubs Ben as "Kamen Rider".

- Miki Nishihori, 16, Kenta's sister. She views Ben as a second brother, and the feeling of family is reciprocated by him. Her mother has made sure not to let her become like many of the kids in the city, who have long ago toyed with indecency and lawlessness.

- Chris Savage, 40, a cop of 20 years who has long been witness to the crime epidemic of the city. But in contrast to Ben, he maintains his faith in the law and does whatever he can to bring down the lawless groups wrecking havoc.

Villains:

A secret crime syndicate known only as the Ghosts. Practitioners of an dark, cruel cult doctrine, they work behind the scenes as the puppet masters behind all the gangs and criminal groups in the city and entire southwestern US. Once the Rider starts causing trouble for them, however, they start making themselves known with severe consequences....

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Chapter 1: Ring

*Evening. On a lone street near a museum warehouse, the echoes of gunfire ricochet in the air. A boy of 20 years sprinted across the road and into the unlocked behemoth of a building, ducking behind some large crates. He held his bruised right shoulder tenderly with his left hand, while his right hand lay in a clutched position, seemingly holding something small. The boy stayed still as the sound of thudding footsteps followed him into the building. His assailants shouted out in the darkness, demanding in a Spanish-English mix of dialogue to come out and make things easier for himself. An escape needed to be found, and quickly. The footsteps came closer and closer to his hiding spot, and soon he would be found out and finished off.

Deciding if he was to die, it would be better to die standing, the boy suddenly dashed out from his refuge and toward a small door on the other side of the building. Immediately the gunfire erupted again. The boy leapt behind another large crate just as a bullet aimed for his spine missed by mere inches and slammed into said crate. His shoulder continued to smart.... but now his entire right arm was beginning to feel warm. The boy opened his clutched right hand. Inside, wrapped inside some ancient parchment, lay a dull, golden-colored ring that had now begun to glow in a pulsating rhythm, almost like a heartbeat. The glow became brighter and brighter until at last the ring flew out of the boy’s hand and swelled to the size of a belt. This now-belt fastened itself to the boy’s waist. At the center of the belt, within a black-colored stone, a strange hieroglyph glowed white. A wave of white flame washed out from this center and over the boy’s body. His pursuers stopped dumbfounded by this strange flash*


Narrator: They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I saw this for myself firsthand, during the Harrowing. That tragic event is known to most people. But what most don’t know is what happened before. I know it well, for it struck close to home, to people I consider family. This is the story of the Masked Rider.

*from behind the crate, an armored figure stepped out and stares down his opponents...*

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*Opening Theme plays*

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(several hours earlier)

*Morning. The first rays of sunlight shot through the mist of the dawn in the suburbs of the city. Ben Hernandez, a young man of 20 rode on his black-colored bike to the entrance of the cemetery on his way to his college campus. It had become a ritual for the past few years to visit this place. The first few years after the incident, he had done his best to avoid this place. Perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of some insane hope that his father would walk in through the door one evening and explain away his long absence from his wife and son. But after his mother’s nervous breakdown and subsequent placing in a psychiatric ward, Ben had had no one to turn to. No relatives lived near him or were in touch that he knew of. He was alone. In fact, he thought to himself, it seemed that he had always been alone, a solitary branch hanging off the trunk that was the rest of society.

Ben shuffled through the cemetery, the path so etched in his brain that he could have walked there blindfolded. Upon reaching his destination, he knelt down and examined the gravestone. He had read the name thousands of times before, but force of habit compelled him to read it again: Michael Hernandez. A detective in the police force, and a well-respected one at that. In years following his death, Ben would always hear people talk about his father with an air of respect and admiration, and lamented on his being taken from this world so soon, with a young child left behind.

Ben remembered the day he heard the news to the letter. From a spot on the staircase he, a boy of 10, had witnessed a youngish-looking officer with a mournful, even guilty look on his face as he told his mother her husband had been shot dead. His mother had been a cheerful woman, kind and gentle to everyone and everything. She often played with Ben when he had no one else to be with. After that day, she was never the same. She still had a kindly demeanor, but the smiles and warmth were gone. And so it remained for the next 7 years until finally the bottled-up grief and anguish broke her down. At first Ben would visit daily the ward, but soon abstained from it. While he pitied the poor woman, he couldn’t help feeling a sense of resentment toward her for “abandoning” him this way. Was he not sorrowful as well? Yet here he was, still in the world. While she had found an escape….

A small gust of wind broke Ben out of his reverie. He was running late. Quickly, he touched his father’s gravestone and walked back to his bike.*

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*University campus. Kenta Nishihori tapped his foot impatiently as he sits on the stairs to the main entrance of the school. Morning was now in full swing. Students were walking to and fro around the campus grounds and nearby streets. His first class of the day was in only a few minutes. Not much time left to wait. Finally, with five minutes left, he saw a black motorcycle drive up into a parking space. Its passenger quickly jumped off, grabbed a package behind him and yanked off his helmet before jogging up to him.

Ben threw the package straight at Kenta’s face. He barely managed to catch it before it smacked him*
Kenta: Don’t throw it, it’s fragile. And you’re late.
Ben: Traffic.
Kenta: What traffic? We barely live 5 miles away.
*the two walk quickly up the stairs and into the building, weaving between the crowd*
You’re damn lucky you came when you did. My project is useless without this…
*he checked the package to make sure his needed device was in tact, and pulled something out of the wrapping that shouldn’t be there*
…sandwich?
Ben: Your mom left it for you this morning. You’re getting forgetful in your old age.
Kenta: I forget because I’m so busy. What’re you doing with your life?
Ben: At the moment, making you miss class.

*Kenta glanced at his watch. Two minutes over. He threw a grimace at Ben and bolted to a nearby elevator. Ben just laughed and waved him off before going on his way. He had nowhere to go for a while. He and Kenta had been friends in high school before his mother’s breakdown. But afterwards, when Ben had had no where to turn, it was Kenta who had persuaded his parents to let him stay with them until he could sort things through. He had become like a brother now, and Ben was forever grateful for that family’s kindness.

Ben walked back out outside and ambled through the grounds, not in the mood to sit down anywhere and catch up on work he needed to finish. Kenta did bring up a point: what was he going to do with his life? Kenta was now pursuing a Masters in engineering. Ben was in his third year and still not sure of just what to do for a career. He had once considered becoming a cop like his father, but decided against it to avoid all the comparisons between the two. And, he had rationalized later, the police of this city essentially had to operate with their hands tied behind their backs, thanks to years of scandals and cries from trial lawyers about police brutality. It just seemed pointless to join such a handicapped organization. As Ben walked upon a small elevated area on campus, he saw a group of kids some ways away. They looked like the typical street types that populated the inner-city and suburban areas of the city. One girl in particular looked, in Ben’s eyes, especially tawdry. She gave out a loud laugh in response to something her friend had said, before eying Ben looking at her, giving him an almost flirtatious look. Ben just turned and walked away, disgusted*

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*Late afternoon. Some workmen hurriedly pack a truck full of items headed to a museum and adjacent laboratory. These items are artifacts from all over the globe, and from all ages. Among the stack of paraphernalia to be stored is a small, dented metal box. On the lid was a scribbled message: HANDLE WITH CAUTION. One of the packers picks up the box and gently shakes it*
“What do you suppose is in this?” he asks a colleague. The other man shrugs.
“Hell if I know. It doesn’t look that special. Just throw it in somewhere”
*the first man complies and simply places the box on top of a pile of other larger, heavier boxes before continuing with his job. Once the work is done, the truck goes on its way*

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*Late afternoon. Another long, dull day for Ben. He knew the importance of schooling, but the routine was quite a boring one. He was ready for a good dinner and a snug bed. He quickly called Kenta on his phone and got an unsurprising response: he would be coming home late again*
Ben: You know, you might as well just start boarding in that lab if you keep doing this.
Kenta: I probably should. It’s quieter here than at home with you and Miki running amuck
Ben: Miki could probably finish whatever the hell you’re working on in five minutes. What are you doing in there, anyway?
Kenta: Secret. Now just go and tell Mom I’ll be home late tonight
Ben: Yes, I’ll tell your dear Okaa-san that you’re working on a plan for word domination for the Japanese Empire.
*The two laughed and promptly hung up on each other. Kenta had been working on this school project since the beginning of term, and had been incredibly mute about it to everyone who asked. The world domination accusation may not be completely off, Ben snickered to himself as he got on his bike and strapped on his helmet. ‘He always had a obsessive, dictatorial streak’. As the sun started to wane he sped off campus and into the rush hour traffic of the main road. It wasn’t the way he had come from in the morning, but he felt like riding for a little bit before heading for home. If there was one thing he enjoyed in life, it was the feeling of riding a motorcycle. Complete freedom. You and you alone in control. Not like riding in a car, where you were locked in a box and had to cram in with others. No, a good bike was the ideal method of travel.

Soon, Ben found himself riding off the main roads and onto the more suburban areas. People were milling about on their porches and in their yards, and kids ran up and down the streets. But this locale was far from quiet. Some unsettling activity had been afoot over the past few weeks. Local drug dealers and their entourages had set up shop in particular points in the neighborhood, to the chagrin of the residents. Ben hoped he wouldn’t have to run into them. It would ruin an otherwise decent day.

Suddenly, a boy of about 11 leapt in front of Ben. He barely braked in time to stop from running him over.
Ben: What the - !
*He didn’t need to finish his question. Following after the boy were three particularly rough-looking Hispanic thugs. Apparently the kid had crossed them in some way. Ben watched as the three chased after their quarry, paying no heed to the boy on the bike. Ben watched them for a second. This was trouble. Quickly acting, he started up his bike again and turned left, riding in the direction the four had gone. He turned right at an intersection and rode in a circle around the adjacent block before reaching a small alleyway on the street the boy was dashing away on.

Ben parked a few feet away, jumped off, and ran to meet the boy who was coming right to him. Without saying a word, he grabbed the kid and dragged him into the alley, ducking them both behind some trash cans and boxes. The three pursuers stopped running when they discovered their target lost. By Ben and the boy’s luck, they didn’t seem to be desperate to find him. The whole thing was probably just to scare the kid. Ben listened as one of the three waved nonchalantly in the air and told the rest to forget about him and get going. Something else about a job that Ben couldn’t catch. He waited until he could hear them no more before peeking out from the alley. They were gone. Turning back, he gestured for the boy to come out.
Ben: They’re gone. You can go.
*the boy timidly came out into the street. He said nothing, but the look on his face was irrefutably one of gratitude. He dashed off for home, and Ben went back to his bike. From a distance he saw the three miscreants driving off in a convertible in the direction of the beach. For some reason Ben didn’t feel like letting the matter go. He recalled the fearful look the boy had had in response to them. It was one of three faces of many who lived in this metropolis: fear, apathy, and utter evil. Without giving it a second thought, Ben started in the direction the three had went*

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*Evening. The truck of museum artifacts rolled down a lone road toward its warehouse destination. But blocking their way is a convertible with three Hispanics standing near. The truck stopped, and before the driver could demand they get out of the way, illegal firearms are brandished in his face. The thugs demand he get out of the truck, but the driver, with years of rough experiences under his belt, was not one to be easily intimidated*
“Go to hell”
He started the truck up again and continues forward, ready to crush the roadblock in front of him if need be. The trio fired on the windshield and windows, shattering glass. The driver slumped over, having been hit in the head. His shooter, the trio leader, opened the door and dragged his victim out of the vehicle, leaving the body on the ground.

At this moment Ben rode up some feet away for the scene, behind the truck. Looking across, he saw the body of a man lying on the ground while the trio he had encountered earlier was beginning to open up the back and withhold the loot within. A robbery. With all the obstacles disposed of like yesterday’s trash. A feeling of outrage flowed through Ben as he saw what was taking place. He shot off toward the truck, and the murderers looked back to see him coming straight at them like a man intent on slamming into a brick wall. In truth, Ben had not exactly thought out how the hell he was going to respond to this crime. He just found himself trying to ram into them. Instead, the three rolled out of the way, leaving the trailer doors wide open. Ben stopped the bike just in time by doing a sharp turn, but the momentum left him hurling off the bike and landing ungracefully inside, knocking into a bunch of boxes that subsequently toppled over.

Under the clutter, Ben shifted around trying to get back on his feet. His right shoulder had been hit hard by something, and it was now stinging painfully. As he groped around, his right hand grasped a small, dented metal box that had had its cover knocked off. Inside this box was a golden-colored ring wrapped in some ancient parchment. At the center of the belt, within a black-colored stone, was a strange hieroglyph. Ben seemed to be attracted to the ring for reasons he knew not. But there was no time to ponder this. Outside, the trio had recovered from laughing at Ben’s stunt and was now demanding he come out to “discuss” this little matter. Ben swiftly came up with a plan. A crude one, but it could save him from his current plight. Clambering out from under the fallen boxes, Ben took off his helmet and threw it at one of the thugs who was peeking inside. It hit him square in the head, and in the confusion Ben leapt out of the truck.

The one who got hit cursed loudly and yelled at his partners to kill the witness. The echoes of gunfire ricochet in the air. Ben sprinted across the road and into the unlocked behemoth of a building, ducking behind some large crates. He held his bruised right shoulder tenderly with his left hand, while his right hand lay in a clutched position, holding his coveted prize. Ben stayed still as the sound of thudding footsteps followed him into the building. His assailants shouted out in the darkness, demanding in a Spanish-English mix of dialogue to come out and make things easier for himself. An escape needed to be found, and quickly. The footsteps came closer and closer to his hiding spot, and soon he would be found out and finished off.

Deciding if he was to die, it be better to die standing, Ben suddenly dashed out from his refuge and toward a small door on the other side of the building. Immediately the gunfire erupted again. Ben leapt behind another large crate just as a bullet aimed for his spine missed by mere inches and slammed into said crate. His shoulder continued to smart.... but now his entire right arm was beginning to feel warm. Ben opened his clutched right hand. Inside, the dull, golden-colored ring had now begun to glow in a pulsating rhythm, almost like a heartbeat. The glow became brighter and brighter until at last the ring flew out of Ben’s hand and swelled to the size of a belt. This now-belt fastened itself to the Ben’s waist. At the center of the belt, within a black-colored stone, the strange hieroglyph glowed white. A wave of white flame washed out from this center and over Ben’s body. His pursuers stopped dumbfounded by this strange flash. From behind the crate, an armored figure stepped out and stared down his opponents.


A curious light emanated from the white areas. The large eyes seemed to just float on the head. The whiteness sharply contrasted with these jet black eyes. The whole being had a haunting aura about him. The three thugs seemed unsure of what exactly to do now. Backing away slowly, for the being had begun moving toward them, they fired their guns again. Dozens of bullets reached their mark on the being’s body but none seemed to hurt him. Instead, the bullets were incorporated into the being’s body itself, thus making it more resilient. The guns were fired until they ran out. The being threw a punch at the first thug’s chest, making him fly off several feet and land hard on the floor. His companions half-heartedly tried to attack the being in response. The being simply grabbed the one on his left by the arm and palmed him dead-on in the face, then used the same arm to elbow the other hard in the abdomen. Still holding onto the first of the two, he now threw this one onto the third so that they fell in a heap. Before the two could get up, the being jumped on top of them and punched them both in the temple. The sound of bones cracking echoed loudly in the large building.

The leader of the three had gotten up from his hard blow and began running toward the exit in sheer terror. But he was not fast enough. In one great leap, the being caught the man by the back of his neck and bashed him into the wall. The man bounced off and landed on the ground, screaming in pain and fear. The being held him down and began beating him senseless, until his face and chest were bruised and bloodied. The man was motionless…

The being began to calm down. As he got up, the belt flew off his body and reverted back into a ring. White flame erupted over his body and burnt off the armor, revealing Ben beneath it. Ben caught the ring and held it in his hand. He stared down at it, then at the three bodies in the room, shocked at what had just transpired. Were they dead? He didn’t want to know. He just wanted to get away. Without thinking about it, he snatched up the parchment the ring had been wrapped in, crammed them in his pocket, and fled the warehouse. Finding his bike and helmet, he raced off toward home. The moon had just begun to hang itself in the sky, its light coming over the city as the sun’s very last rays touched it.

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending theme plays*

Last edited by Black Fang; November 28th, 2008 at 08:44 PM.
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Old September 21st, 2008, 01:12 PM   #2
[]V[]etal []_ion
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Pretty sweet first chapter. Your synopsis caught my attention and you haven't disappointed with this first chapter. I like the way you have typed this out, a mixture between a story and a TV episode. Keep it up, looking forward to the next one
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Old September 21st, 2008, 04:57 PM   #3
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that was a really great beginning, i can't wait to read more
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Old September 24th, 2008, 09:16 PM   #4
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Pretty damn awesome. Absolutely amazing in my book.
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Old September 24th, 2008, 09:45 PM   #5
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nice job fang. Pretty good use of an alt deno design to.
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Old September 26th, 2008, 07:45 AM   #6
Black Fang
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Thank you.

Just so everyone knows, chapters will be released on a weekly or biweekly basis, dependent on what other things may be going on in life.
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Old September 27th, 2008, 12:23 PM   #7
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Chapter 2: Kamen Rider

* The being threw a punch at the first thug’s chest, making him fly off several feet and land hard on the floor. His companions half-heartedly tried to attack the being in response. The being simply grabbed the one on his left by the arm and palmed him dead-on in the face, then used the same arm to elbow the other hard in the abdomen. Still holding onto the first of the two, he now threw this one onto the third so that they fell in a heap. Before the two could get up, the being jumped on top of them and punched them both in the temple. The sound of bones cracking echoed loudly in the large building.

The leader of the three had gotten up from his hard blow and began running toward the exit in sheer terror. But he was not fast enough. In one great leap, the being caught the man by the back of his neck and bashed him into the wall. The man bounced off and landed on the ground, screaming in pain and fear. The being held him down and began beating him senseless, until his face and chest were bruised and bloodied. The man was motionless…

The being began to calm down. As he got up, the belt flew off his body and reverted back into a ring. White flame erupted over his body and burnt off the armor, revealing Ben beneath it. Ben caught the ring and held it in his hand. He stared down at it, then at the three bodies in the room, shocked at what had just transpired. Were they dead? He didn’t want to know. He just wanted to get away. Without thinking about it, he snatched up the parchment the ring had been wrapped in, crammed them in his pocket, and fled the warehouse. Finding his bike and helmet, he raced off toward home
*

Narrartor: If you were to ask people today about the Rider, the answers would vary. Most would be he was just another killer, a bloodthirsty monster, the scourge of the city and even the country. But that wasn’t what he was meant to be. The Rider was only a man. A man who decided to take matters into his own hands and got more than what he bargained for. His only sin was going down the wrong road…

*Nighttime. Ben rode through the darkened streets until he reached home: an attached house a little ways off a major suburban road. It was essentially more a two-story apartment than a typically-structured house, the ground level existing mainly as a place to put in a closet. Still in shock over what had just occurred, he hastily parked his bike and headed inside. Oddly enough, though, his injured shoulder no longer pained him so. He gingerly examined it, and while it still stung a little, he found no bruising or marks of any kind. As if nothing had happened at all…*

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*Opening Theme plays*

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*Ben slowly walked up the stairs directly in front of the door into the living room. Miki, Kenta’s younger sister, was sitting on the floor playing Kenta’s DMC 3. In the nearby hall adjacent to the kitchen her mother Hiroko was putting food on the table. She looked up from her work to see the disheveled Ben come up the stairs*
Hiroko: Ben! You’re late. What happened?
Ben: What? …. Oh, nothing. Something came up… had to go back.
*Eiji, Kenta’s father, stepped in from the kitchen, having himself eaten sometime earlier. Kenta came behind him*
Kenta: I told him to say I’ll be late, and he walks in an hour after me? What were you doing all this time?
Eiji: Let him be. He looks like he’s had a rough day.
*to Ben*
Come, have some dinner.
*Ben shook his head*
Ben: No thanks, I’m not hungry. I’m just going to go to bed.
Miki: Oh good. That means the rest of us can actually eat something for once.
*Miyuki uttered an irritated clicking sound toward her daughter and spoke in Japanese*
Hiroko “That’s enough TV. Eat your dinner and go to bed. It’s a school night”
Miki: *in English* Coming.
*she sighed and turned off the game just as a Hell Lust leaped out of nowhere and delivered a fatal blow to Dante, and came to the table. Hiroko turned back to Ben*
Hiroko: Go on, dear. If you want to eat later you can warm this up in the microwave.
*Ben nodded his thanks and went down the adjacent hall to his and Kenta’s room. Eiji and Hiroko were decent folk, but despite them saying they didn’t mind (particularly Eiji, whom Ben felt he liked more) him calling them such, he could never address them as “Mom” and “Dad”. As much as he had settled into Kenta’s family life, he still felt separate from them in many ways, more like a guest boarding temporarily before going on his way. (If 3 years could be considered temporary.) Kenta continued to give him a puzzled look which he tried to ignore, but caught his friend steal a glance at a strange piece of parchment hanging out of his pocket…

Ben walked into the dark room and knocked something over with a misplaced hand. Fumbling for the light switch, he picked up the dropped item: a Choujinki Metalder DVD box. If Kenta had a passion for anything besides mechanics and computers, it was tokusatsu. The room was full of toku paraphernalia neatly arranged in piles on the desk or on shelves. (Ben’s possessions by comparison were relatively scant). Miki thought it silly. Ben himself had taken a gander at a few shows in his friend’s collection but had never gone full force into the genre. He would have smirked at the pun in that train of thought had this been an ordinary night. But instead he was plagued with the thoughts of what he had done.

Did he just kill three people in a lonely building, so close to the scene of a botched robbery? What was this ring he now fingered in his hand? Why had he even picked it up? What was that thing he had turned into? Ben knew nothing about any of this. Without even changing his clothes, he flopped onto his bed and fell into a much-wanted sleep*
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*3 A.M. Detective Chris Savage gulped down a home-brewed cup of coffee he had hastily made in his dash to get to the crime scene. “Why me”, he kept asking himself. “Why is it always me?” He enjoyed his job, but hated being dragged out of bed for emergency cases, especially when he had few moments alone with his wife or three children normally. It was a marvel the woman put up with the lifestyle of her policeman husband, he thought. Few would have. He was thankful he had ended up with an exception, and always promised to get some time off soon. But right now, he was being forced to drive half-sleepily in the dead of night to a museum warehouse.

When Savage finally arrived, there was already a bustle of activity. CSU had gotten there first and was busy examining the scene. A sheet was being laid over the body of what looked like a trucker, if its location next to a truck with its doors wide open was any indication. Inside the trailer was a mess of fallen boxes and other items. Some feet away people were working inside the warehouse, assessing the situation.

Savage recognized the medical examiner he worked most often with and went over to her*
ME:You look exhausted.
Savage: *grimacing* That’s what happens when you’re woken up in the middle of the night to go places. How the hell do you stand it?
ME: I don’t sleep.
*Savage shook his head and rubbed his eyes, waiting for the caffeine to fully kick in*
Savage: So what do we have here?
ME: Well, the man near the truck *points in the direction* was clearly shot in the head. But it’s the other three that’s the problem.
Savage: Other three?
*three gurneys were wheeled passed them, all with the bodies covered in the typical white sheet*
ME: We’re guessing these three are the ones behind it all, judging from the guns we found at the scene.
Savage: So what’s the problem?
ME: The guns were empty when we found them. The driver over there was only shot once. There must have been someone else here who these three were shooting at.
Savage: Perhaps there was a fourth guy and they had a falling out?
ME: I’d believe that if the truck was no longer here, or unpacked. Those things in there look quite valuable. I doubt someone would just get rid of his loose ends and then just leave this stuff here. And also... *she paused, as if what came out of her mouth next was something ominous* Two of the perps’ were killed by blows to the head, and the other beaten to death. Neither looks like it were done by an instrument. Bare fists, it seems like.
Savage: Whoever did this would have to be pretty strong or skilled to kill someone with a single punch.
*he stifled a yawn as he listened to the ME’s response*
ME: I know. That’s what bothers me…
*Savage turned back to the truck and peered at the mess within*
Savage: Are we sure nothing was taken?
ME: I wouldn’t bet on it.
*Savage jumped into the trailer and put on a latex glove. Treading through the jungle of ancient artifacts, he was about to leave convinced that nothing had been taken until he caught his eye upon the cover of a small, metal box with the words HANDLE WITH CAUTION scribbled on the cover. Kneeling on the floor and groping around, he soon found the bottom half of the box and climbed out of the trailer.
Savage: Good thing you didn’t bet. I found this lying in there.
*he showed her the empty box and cover*
ME: “Handle with caution”. What do you suppose was in here?
Savage: You’re asking me? I’ve still barely gotten up.
*he rubbed his eyes again as if to illustrate the point. Nothing was making sense here. And given the tone of the ME’s voice near the end, Savage had a feeling this wouldn’t be ending rosily.

The damn coffee still had yet to wake him…*

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*3:30 A.M. Ben jolted awake in a sweat. Breathing heavily, he took off his soaked shirt and cast it on the carpeted floor, rubbing his face with his fingers. He had obviously not slept well. His dreams were haunted by images of the ring, the pale white being, and a great silver horse galloping through a wrecked street below a blood-red sky. Strewn about the path of this stallion were the sinful, crying out for mercy. Ben could remember these scenes vividly, and it disturbed him greatly.

A bedside lamp was suddenly switched on. Ben turned to his right to see Kenta eyeing him keenly while sitting on his own bed*
Kenta: So are you going to tell me, or must I guess?
*Ben had a feeling what he was getting at. Kenta wasn’t one to be easily fooled. Nevertheless he tried feigning ignorance*
Ben: Tell you what?
Kenta: Tell me what really happened tonight.
Ben: What makes you think anything happened?
Kenta: Oh let’s see. You skip dinner despite your normally large appetite, you’re wide awake when you usually sleep like a log, and you come home with a ring you didn’t have this morning.
*he held up the gold-colored ring to Ben with the hieroglyph facing him. On the table lay the parchment. They must have fallen out of his pocket while he was asleep*
Ben: You wouldn’t believe me.
Kenta: Try me.
*Ben sighed. From the window on the far end of the room, the trees rustled violently in the wind*
Ben: I saw a kid being chased by some gang or something. I helped him out, and then followed this gang to a warehouse
Kenta: …. Why?
Ben: I don’t know, I just did. Anyway, I see them kill a truck driver, they see me, I find this ring and paper in the truck, and they chase me into the building. The ring then becomes a belt –
Kenta: Belt? *his tone changed to one of skeptical interest*
Ben: Or like a belt. I’m suddenly this….. thing. In white…. I beat up the three and then run off. That’s it.
*a silence permeated the room*
You don’t believe me.
*Kenta leaned back against the wall*
Kenta: It is hard to swallow.
Ben: What’s going to happen when they find the bodies –
Kenta: Bodies? You didn’t… kill them, did you?
Ben: *annoyed* I don’t know. *he fell back on the bed and turned away from Kenta* I don’t know anything. I just want to sleep.
*Kenta turned back to the ring and turned it over to the hieroglyph in the black stone*
Kenta: What does this picture mean?
*Ben didn’t respond, not wanting to think anymore. So Kenta instead took the parchment and looked it over beneath the lamplight. It was covered with hieroglyphs. Some matched the one on the ring, while the rest did not. Were they sentences? Random drawings? A code? Kenta still wasn’t sure about Ben’s story, but what he had brought back with him was….interesting, to say the least. Thinking on these things, Kenta turned off the lamp after realizing his own tiredness (and that he had class early again tomorrow) and closed his eyes.

Ben meanwhile returned to his dreams of the ring, the white being and the fearsome silver stallion…*

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*Morning. Ben woke up and noticed that he felt relatively fine. The events of the night seemed a distant memory. His shoulder now felt perfect. Better yet, no classes today.

Kenta had already gotten up, but had left the ring and parchment on the table. Ben paused for a moment before shoving the two inside the drawer attached below of the table. He swung open the door to see a yawning Miki ambling to the living room. Her hair was messy from a night of tossing and turning. Ben grabbed a pillow from his bed and threw it at the girl’s head. She shrieked at the impact and stumbled backwards*
Ben: Wake up!
*Miki slammed the pillow on Ben’s head and the two began playfully jostling in the hallway until Eiji came into view from the staircase*
Eiji: What are you doing?! Stop playing and get ready, you’re going to make you and your brother late.
*Kenta was dropping Miki off at school before going to campus. He was sitting on a chair near the banister looking at the front of today’s paper, his face contorted into a look of concentration. As Ben practically picked Miki up and dropped her at the table, he went over to Kenta. The cover was then shoved into his face.

The good feeling was gone in an instant. On the front page was the article: “Four Found Dead in Botched Robbery….” Ben quickly opened the paper and scanned the article. In brief, it stated at a truck driver and his apparent three attackers were all found dead near a warehouse early this morning. Nothing in the truck had been stolen, which coupled with the three dead assailants, was cause to believe some kind of foul play. No mention about a ring…*
Kenta: You did this?
Ben: You believe me now?
Kenta: Do you believe yourself now?
*Ben didn’t reply, but silently agreed with this. He didn’t want to believe it, but it was obvious this was real. His thoughts were interrupted as the family got busy with getting ready to leave for school and work. Ben was really glad he had nowhere to go today*

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*Morning. Det. Savage had raced home and had a quick breakfast after explaining to his wife what had happened. If she was upset, she didn’t show it, but instead focused on getting the kids ready for school. After saying his good-byes to the three, Savage jumped back into his car and went to the museum. After discussing the case with the Captain on the phone, he had been suggested to head there and figure out just what was going on with whatever was in that small box. The press had thankfully been dealt with so as the matter of the stolen property wasn’t mentioned in today’s news. The Captain had agreed that until they could figure out what was in there that would warrant a warning sign, it should be kept under wraps. He met the person in charge, a man by the name of Brady, and got right to the point*
Brady: Shame about Matt (the driver). He was a good fellow.
*the men stepped into his office and sat down*
But I’m glad his killers didn’t live to tell the tale.
Savage: The tale is still going on, sir. What exactly was he carrying in his truck?
Brady: We had sponsored an excavation in the eastern Mediterranean area, specifically the Levant…
*he caught Savage’s puzzled look*
Israel, Lebanon, Syria. As you can guess, we found lots of things of interest and had them sent back to us for analysis.
*he showed Savage a bunch of a list of items and pictures of said items that had been taken from the areas of excavation that had been sent to them prior to actual artifact delivery*
Savage: These things look very valuable.
Brady: Precisely why we’re surprised and grateful nothing was taken.
Savage: One thing was. The press didn’t happen to pick up on it. We found a empty box with the words HANDLE WITH CAUTION on the lid. Do you happen to know what was in there?
*he found on the list an item marked with an asterisk simply titled “Prophet’s Ring”. Brady started to looked pale*
Brady: The Ring was taken?
Savage: Ring?
*Brady conjured up a new picture, this time of a gold-colored ring placed on a white table. Within the black stone embedded in the center, a hieroglyph was written.


With it were ancient parchments with more hieroglyphs written on them*
Brady: These we found in a small cavern. They were all in poor condition, so we placed it them in that box and sent them along with the rest.
Savage: What do these symbols mean?
Brady: It doesn’t seem related to any known language. We were planning to send them all to the University for analysis, but now this has happened. Fortunately we managed to recover enough writing from other documents and some stone carvings to attempt some sort of translation. One of our people has developed a program just for that. Having the ring and its paper would have been better, but this will have to do now.
*Savage continued to stare at the picture of the ring. The hieroglyph seemed to stare right back at him. He felt uncomfortable. Brady continued*
Do you suppose whoever took this knew what it was?
*Savage had no idea. But he forced a smile*
Savage: We’ll keep you informed. Could I hold on to these? *He indicated the pictures and list. Brady nodded his approval. Savage thanked him and walked out the room. As he moved through the museum, his thoughts bounced around in his head. What was going on? …*

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*Late afternoon. Breaking news on the TV: members of the gang run by the infamous “Stonewall” were being held under siege by police in a condemned building overlooking the beach. Why he was called Stonewall was known to only a select few, none being on the right side of the law. But he was one of the most notorious drug traffickers on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and the authorities were so close, and yet so far to capturing him.

Ben, in his attempt to focus on anything other than that damned ring, had managed to finish all the schoolwork he had been procrastinating on. Now bored, he had been surfing the channels on TV before stumbling upon this story. Ben had heard about Stonewall throughout his adolescence. He knew many people in his high school who had been “persuaded” to join his little empire of crime and were now embroiled in his activities. No doubt some of his old acquaintances were now on the front lines in this siege and would eventually be arrested or killed. Hopefully the latter, thought Ben. Who feared jail anymore?

Ben suddenly felt a familiar warmth: the warmth he had felt from the ring last night in the warehouse. Almost against his will, he raced into his room and grabbed the ring from the drawer. It was now glowing in the same heartbeat fashion as before, and felt hot to the touch. The hieroglyph was shining a bright white color. Ben shook his head and threw the ring back into the drawer, but then picked it up again. He couldn’t ignore its… calling? After staring at the ring for a good minute, Ben at last grabbed it and put it on his left hand. He raced down the stairs and into the garage. Jumping on his bike, he thrust his helmet upon his head and sped off in the direction of the beach*

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*Kenta had borrowed his dad’s car for the day. Eiji, who owned his own garage business, preferred walking to work to driving. He needed the exercise, as he said himself. Kenta had had a short day, and was going to pick up Miki from her school. He came to a stop at a red light and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited. Suddenly he saw someone on a black motorcycle race through the intersection in the direction of the beach. The bike looked familiar. Ben? Where was he going in such a hurry?

The light had turned green. Kenta had a feeling he knew what this was about. He quickly turned the car to the right and began to follow his friend*

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*Ben sped down the inclined road. As he did so, he took the ring off his hand and threw it before him. It spun around before aligning itself to Ben’s waist, enlarging to belt size and attaching itself to his body. The wave of white flame washed over both Ben and his bike. Helmet, skin and clothes were seemingly burnt off to reveal the white armored being. But the bike started to change shape as well. In place of a black motorcycle was now a bright silver one. The front was shaped like the head of a stallion, its eyes balls of orange flame. On the back was a tail fin shaped like a horse’s tail. Left and right wing insignias, bright white in color, adorned the left and right sides of the bike respectively. The image of a winged horse briefly appeared surrounding the bike before disappearing.

The stallion issued a loud cry and started to go even faster, deftly weaving through traffic when need be. Ben could only hold onto the handlebars, unsure of just how to control this thing. He had never had a ride like this before. It felt almost as if he was flying down the road…

Following from behind, Kenta was witness to the whole thing. As he saw Ben disappeared down the road, he let out a loud whistle of amazement*

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*Stonewall said nothing as his subordinates went up and down between the floors of the building, occasionally firing at their police barricaders. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. Today was supposed to be the typical delivery of a large shipment of narcotics. But there was a mole in the organization. That was clear now. Once he got out of this, he would find the informant and personally deal with him. Stonewall was a large, muscular man. His strength was said to be almost supernatural. And in truth, it was close to it. His gaze skimmed past a hazy tattoo on his shoulder: a sickle with an amorphous, white face with hollow, black eyes in front. No one dared ask what it meant. And Stonewall didn’t dare tell anyone. The siege wasn’t working. He was close to escaping this hellhole. Suddenly the sound of a motorcycle crashed upon the ears of police and criminal alike. From the beach, a figure on a horse-shaped bike was speeding toward the building*

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*Ben couldn’t brake. The bike seemed resistant to any type of restraint. So he found himself careening through a window and cruising into the middle of the room, surrounded by a highly armed gang. Ben skidded to a halt at last and stared down his hosts, befuddled and not pleased with the party crasher. One of them shouted*
“Who are you!?”
*In response, Ben revved up the bike, which seemed to be more compliant now. He raised the bike and slammed the front wheel into the chest of the questioner, crushing him beneath a crate. Before the rest could react, he opened his mouth and unleashed a stream of white fire at the all. Some retreated, others got burned and writhed on the ground. Chaos ensued. Ben began riding around the room, chasing the gang members around. Some shot at him with automatics to no effect. The bullets simply incorporated themselves into Ben’s body. When Ben came close enough, he punched or ran over the thug closest to him, until all had either been knocked out or escaped outside to be greeted by a wall of armed cops.

Now only Stonewall remained. Ben charged toward him, but the giant of a man simply grabbed the head of the bike and forced it to a stop. He grabbed Ben by the neck and ripped him off his bike, dashing him into a wall. Before Ben could get up, he found himself being stomped and kicked by his opponent. Ben threw a punch at Stonewall’s kneecap, and met with a peculiar, rock-like surface instead of typical skin. The man certainly lived up to his name.

Now Ben was picked up off the ground, turned around and placed in a vice-like chokehold. Stonewall placed his hand over Ben’s masked face in a tight grasp, almost as if he wanted to rip it off him. In response, Ben opened his insect-like faceplate and bit down hard on the giant’s hand. Stonewall howled and quickly released him, but punched him hard in the face so that he went right through the wall and onto the sandy beach. Stonewall slowly climbed out himself and walked toward Ben, but was suddenly knocked away several feet as the bike, on its own, leapt up like a galloping horse and knocked him in his head and neck. Stonewall landed several feet away from Ben, his head suffering scorch marks from the tires’ impact.

Ben scrambled up and went into an offensive stance, facing Stonewall with his cold, black eyes. As if he had done this for years, he placed his hands on the two square-shaped dials on his belt and turned them sideways. Inside the center stone, the hieroglyph burst into white flame which engulfed the entire interior. His feet too went ablaze in white fire. Ben crouched, then the sprinted toward Stonewall. Using a large rock as a jump-off, he flipped in the air and delivered a flaming kick to Stonewall’s chest. The muscular man was sent flying off toward the ocean. The hieroglyph on Ben’s belt was seared onto the impact point. Stonewall crashed into the shallow waters and did not resurface.

Ben knelt down onto the sand, in awe of what he had just done. Hearing sounds behind him, he turned back to see cops swarming the building and taking care of any loose ends. Some came to see this ghostly-white being on the beach, who had apparently dealt a firm hand to the leader of one of the nation’s most vicious drug cartels. Before they could do anything, Ben got on his bike and sped off down the beach*

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*Evening. Ben and the bike had reverted to normal. He stopped at a point on the road that ran down the beach. Standing some feet away beside a car was Kenta, who had seen everything from a distance*
Kenta: That was quite a show.
*Ben turned away to look at the sunset, which silhouetted the two boys*
Ben: That man didn’t seem human.
Kenta: Few bodybuilders do.
Ben: I mean something about him seemed… abnormal. Something odd was going on.
Kenta: So what will you do now?
*Ben paused again. He looked at the ring restored on his finger, thinking upon all that had transpired in the last two days, and in his life. Just yesterday he had wondered whether he was just passing through life. Now he was holder of a power he still didn’t understand. A power that could be used against the dark side of the city. Against the people who had caused the suffering of so many. To himself*
Ben: I’m keeping this. The law isn’t enough anymore. Something else is needed now.
Kenta: And that is you?
Ben: … I guess so.
Kenta: Your new bike needs a name.
*Ben thought for a moment*
Ben: Antares. When I ride, it’s like I’m racing the wind.
*another pause*
I’ll need a name.
Kenta: How about…. Kamen Rider
Ben: Kamen Rider?
Kenta: You wear a belt and ride a bike. Why not?
Ben: All right. Say, shouldn’t you have picked up Miki by now.
*Kenta cursed beneath his breath in realization of this, and got back into the car. As he drove off, Ben smiled in his direction and began riding for home*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending theme plays*

Last edited by Black Fang; September 27th, 2008 at 04:38 PM. Reason: Changing the bike's name from Pegasus to Antares. It fits in better with the Ben-Hur "motif"
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Old October 4th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #8
Black Fang
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 9,548
Chapter 3: Vigilante

*1 A.M. The door to a bar of ill repute was flung open. Two burly men threw out a ravaged young woman onto the street. The woman was disheveled, with little in the way of clothing, and her face covered in scratches and tears. She screamed at her abusers, who only laughed and closed the door on her face. But the door was flung wide open again as the men were knocked down by something strong. A white-armored being jumped out after the two and proceeded to give them a thorough beating. Peering inside the bar, the woman could see much damage had already been done. Patrons, some no better than her abusers, were strewn on the floor, beaten senseless or cowering in hiding places. The being finally threw the two men near a dumpster in an adjacent alleyway, then turned to face the woman. The jet black eyes seemed to pierce into her mind and soul. He gave the impression of knowing just who she was and how she had come to this state. The being finally turned and began walking away. As he did, the woman continued to look at him and uttered one word:

“Rider!”
*

Narrartor: Was the Rider a hero? In the end I think he was. No doubt that what he did during the Harrowing will remain etched in our memories. But in the days we needed a hero the most, he found his redemption…

*The Rider reached his bike and mounted it just as the first rays of sun were coming over the city. Near the wheels and seat, small cameras rotated around to get a view of the surroundings. One caught a glimpse of the ravaged woman just as the Rider sped away. Soon after, the armor burned away to reveal Ben again. He adjusted the headset on his ear as Kenta spoke again:*
Kenta: Shouldn’t you have helped her?
Ben: You didn’t see me throw those two guys around like rag dolls?
Kenta: I meant get her to a hospital or something.
Ben: That would sort of involve blowing my cover, wouldn’t it?
Kenta: I suppose…
Ben: How are the cameras working?
Kenta: Better now. I had to do a lot of tweaking to get those things working right. You ride too roughly.
Ben: Blame the horse. I can barely hold on to him.
Kenta: Blaming you is more fun.
*Kenta was sitting in his room, trying to keep his voice down so as not to attract unwanted attention. His laptop was wirelessly connected to the cameras on Ben’s bike, allowing him to see what Ben saw. He opened up a music file and put his microphone to his computer. The Kamen Rider V3 theme began flowing into Ben’s ear. Ben smirked*
Ben: You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?
*Kenta shrugged*
Kenta: Nerd’s dream come true.
*Ben continued to cruise down the virtually empty road.*

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*Opening Theme plays*

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*Unknown time. Torches are set ablaze in a dark cavernous room. Several stone platforms were set around the circular room’s circumference, like a hill cut into terraces. Several figures clad in black, hooded robes that seemed to blend into the darkness itself assembled in this room. Their positions seemed to be determined by a sort of ranking system: those with white stone brooches at the back, those with red brooches in front of them, and so on from blue, green, and purple, until finally the leader at the top, donning a gold stone brooch on the chest. These stones all glowed eerily in the gloom.

Images suddenly began appearing on the walls of the room. Images of a white-armored being with a gold-colored belt. As the images swirled around, one of the robed figures points a bony finger at them and utters in a strange, unknown language:

“Prophet”

The leader turned to the one who spoke. From beneath the hood, a sliver of a ghastly, pale white face could be briefly seen. In a loud whisper, he answered in the same tongue:

“…. will fall”

From the light of the torches, the image of a sickle with an amorphous, white face with hollow, black eyes in front….*

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*Morning. The paper was flung at Det. Savage’s face as he sat at his desk in the precinct. Savage caught it and wearily looked at the front cover: a picture of the white-armored being, now being called the Masked Rider. Savage opened up the article and quickly skimmed through it. News of this…. thing no longer surprised him.

Weeks had passed since the murders of the museum truck driver and his killers, and the almost miraculous arrest of Stonewall’s gang and Stonewall’s death. Since then, the Rider had been making news almost every day. Criminals, some the police had been having no luck in capturing, were being found dead or critically injured all over the city. Victims of said criminals and other witnesses kept reporting of a white-armored being with jet black, haunting eyes riding a motorcycle shaped like a horse appearing out of nowhere and fighting the various dregs of society. The picture on the paper’s front cover today was an old one, taken by one of many photographers eager for a glimpse of the man behind the mask. The story however, was of something that had happened only last night. A woman who had been beaten and raped at a bar known for illegal activities had been saved by the Rider. Savage noted that there was nothing about the Rider trying to do anything for the woman. She said she had gone to the nearest hospital herself and soon reported the story…
Savage closed the paper and went back to his work. The young officer who had thrown it to him began to speak*
Officer: The Rider strikes again.
*Savage didn’t look up*
Savage: So I see.
*the officer went to a cooler and got himself a cup of water. Gulping it down, he continued*
Officer: These days he seems to be doing our job for us. Someone should offer him a position here.
*Now Savage did look up, and locked eyes with the young man*
Savage: Our job is to arrest perps and bring them to justice. Not running around beating and killing whoever we don’t like.
Officer: Yeah, but –
Savage: But nothing. This guy is a vigilante, nothing more. He’s soon be found out and dealt with, like everyone else who breaks the law.
Officer: Most people think otherwise.
*he leaned over onto Savage’s desk as the bustle of the precinct increased, and lowered his excited voice*
You’ve seen all the stories, haven’t you? The demonstrations outside city hall? People have had enough of us and the mayor. The crime rate has been getting worse and worse for years. Now this Rider guy shows up, and people are singing his praises. They feel safer with him on the streets. They don’t give a damn about our “justice”, where perps are back on the streets after serving barely half their sentences. This guy’s justice is good enough for them. It’s what we’re afraid to do.
*Savage glared at the officer*
Savage: And you agree with them?
Officer: Well… sort of.
Savage: Then why did you become a cop?
*the officer pointed to the picture of the Rider*
Officer: The same reason he became that.
*Savage didn’t respond. This kid was not speaking like an officer of the law, but more like someone wanting a way to shoot his gun off while hiding behind “the law”. Though he supposed he couldn’t really blame him. He had been young once.

Seeing that the conversation was finished, the officer left to perform his duties. Savage took the paper again and stared at the hieroglyph on the Rider’s belt. The same as was on the ring that had disappeared from the museum truck. Was there a connection? Savage was sure there had to be. But what was it? Savage’s investigation of that incident had been going nowhere. But the Rider could have the answers behind the ring and the strange language on the parchments found with it. The problem of course was finding him.

Savage turned around in his chair and eyed a picture of his old partner. Savage looked into the man’s eyes as if he was actually in the room with him. Michael Hernandez. What would he have thought of all this… *

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*Noon. Ben had finished classes a while ago and now waited at a table inside a small café near campus. Kenta was being slow to arrive. No doubt working on that damn classified, top-secret project of his. That guy needs to get out more, Ben thought to himself. Speaking of which, though, Ben had been getting a lot of time outside ever since be had become the Rider. Whenver he felt the ring’s warm touch, he knew trouble was brewing. Whether day or night, he would race to the scene as fast as Antares could carry him. (And Antares was pretty fast, as Ben had discovered. He loved the feeling of riding this strange, equine bike but still found it to be quite stubborn at times). The strange thing about it though, was that no matter how much he exerted himself, or how many times he would get injured in battle, he never felt weariness or pain. Nothing could hurt him in the long term, as if something was watching over him. Ben still didn’t fully understand his newfound power. He and Kenta had had no luck in deciphering any of the hieroglyphs on his ring or the parchments that came with it. The more they reached dead ends, though, the more intrigued the two became.

Ben sipped a glass of water as he looked out the window at people going to and fro. Where the hell was Kenta? He got his answer abruptly when a newspaper landed on his head. Shaking it off, he saw Kenta grinning broadly at him and pointing to the cover. A picture of the Rider, a common sight these days*
Kenta: The talk of the town once again.
*Ben skimmed through the newsprint*
Ben: You gave them the Masked Rider name, didn’t you?
*Kenta laughed and winked. He took out a sandwich and began gulping it down*
Kenta: An anonymous caller to the papers gave them the idea. No one knows what ‘Kamen’ is, so it had to be changed a bit.
Ben: They’re talking about that woman I saved this morning.
Kenta: News travels fast.
*Ben put the paper down*
Ben: This whole thing still feels odd.
*he took off his ring and twirled it around for him and Kenta to see*
No matter how much I fight, I never tire of it. I’ve been beaten, shot, stabbed, yet nothing happens to me. I always come out better than when I went in.
*Kenta shrugged*
Kenta: You probably have some type of shielding or something.
*Ben shook his head*
Ben No, it’s something else. It’s as if… I’m being watched over by something.
*When Ben’s father had been alive, he and his parents would attend services often. But after Michael’s death, he and his mother gradually stopped going. The words of religion no longer seemed to mean anything. Ben now recalled a line from a church song he had often heard in those years:

“You need not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. Though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come”

How like Ben’s life those two sentences seemed now. But he didn’t mention this to Kenta. Ben himself tried to shrug this feeling off. Just a coincidence, he told himself. But still he remained unsure… Kenta interrupted his thoughts*
Kenta: Those symbols don’t seem close to any language. I can’t figure them out.
Ben: Maybe it’s alien.
*Kenta snorted in amusement*
Kenta: I wouldn’t be surprised.
*he eyed a group of girls who had just walked in as Ben finished his water and spoke again*
Ben: Thanks.
Kenta: For what?
Ben: For putting up with me this whole time. Most would have called it quits after a while. And you have all your other stuff….
*he chuckled*
But I guess you like living out your superhero fantasies. You’re privileged among the fanboys.
*Instead of laughing along, Kenta turned serious*
Kenta: It’s more than that.
*he jerked his head toward the window*
You think I don’t see what you see? This city has been a war zone for years. Like you said, the cops and the rest of them aren’t doing a damn thing. People hate it here. Hell, the moment I get out of school I’m thinking of moving somewhere. But now you’re here. People say aren’t scared to go out on the street at night anymore. The law isn’t justice anymore. You are.
*Ben was silent. It was true; he had taken up this new life as a reaction to the ineptness he saw in the law and the hatred he had for the dark side of the city. He enjoyed being able to do what no one else could or would do, to actually serve evil with justice. Still, there had been times he had wondered whether it was worth taking such a burden upon himself. He was bound to make a large amount of enemies, on both sides of the law. Life wouldn’t be easy. But to hear that there were those out there who believed in the Rider, especially his one good friend was a comfort to him. It encouraged him to go on.

Suddenly a red-haired boy of his age walked by the table, about to leave the café. As he went he continually flipped a coin in his hand. Ben widened his eyes in surprise and leapt up from his seat. He called back to the boy*
Ben: Jack?
*the boy turned around at the sound, and saw Ben. An expression of equal surprise and joy was plastered on his face as he came up to Ben*
Jack: Ben? *he looked closer to make sure* Ben!
*the two grasped each other by the forearm and embraced quickly*
Jack: God, it’s been a long time. What the hell have you been doing?
Ben: What am I doing? What are you doing here? You said you were leaving this hellhole years ago!
Jack: I did! But I said I’d come back, didn’t I?
*Ben beamed and motioned to Kenta to join them*
Ben: Kenta, Jack Thorpe. Jack, Kenta. We went to the same grammar school.
*Kenta and Jack shook hands briefly as Ben thought back to 7 years ago. At the time he had been 13, and having a hard time at school. Three years had passed since his father was murdered, yet he still was having trouble getting over his trauma. Ben often got into fights with other kids and was known amongst the faculty to be a handful.

It was during one of these fights one day that Jack Thorpe, the son of a well-known, rich trial lawyer, had suddenly jumped into the fray and fended off some kids who had been harassing Ben. When the teachers caught them in the act, Jack took the blame for Ben for stirring up trouble and was subsequently punished. When Ben asked him later why he did that, Jack had just smiled and said with a carefree attitude: “It looked fun” he replied and flipped a coin in his hands. From then on, Jack had been Ben’s one steady friend until he suddenly moved away. Ben had been left to meander through his high school years in relative solitude until he met Kenta. But seeing Jack again greatly pleased Ben*
Kenta: Well I’m running late. Gotta get back to the lab. The computers are misbehaving again.
*Ben nodded. He had nowhere else to go today. As Kenta said his goodbyes and left, Ben and Jack went out the café as well and started to converse as if only seven days and not seven years had separated them*

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*Afternoon. Kenta grumbled to himself as he fiddled with the monitor of a computer in one of the many labs in the building. He worked part-time at the software maintenance center of the University, which handled such things as faulty electronic equipment. Apparently this school specialized in it. He couldn’t count the number of times people had had to step into classes to fix the laptop-overhead projector connections for the professors.

Finally, he had gotten the thing to work properly. As Kenta got ready to leave, he spotted something familiar: the hieroglyphs on the parchments dancing on the screen of a laptop. Surprised, he raced over to the monitor and took a closer look. No doubt about it, these were the same symbols. Looking on the desk, he found a file with the name of some group funded by the city’s museum. Kenta had heard that some stuff found overseas was going to be studied at the university. Could it be…

Kenta checked that no one was looking around before quickly flipping through the file. Sure enough, this was related to the ring and parchments Ben had found. No doubt the things documented here were the same that were in the truck that fateful night. On one page was mentioned briefly a program someone had developed to help translate the strange language found on the artifacts. Kenta looked back on the screen. The person working here was obviously not terribly concerned about security. This was the kind of thing he and Ben had been waiting for. Finally, a way to start making sense of those symbols.

Kenta again made sure no one was paying attention to him. He took out a flash drive that he always had on hand and stuck it into the laptop. Working quickly, he downloaded the entire program onto the small device, which luckily had enough space to hold such a large file. Once that was done, he shoved the drive into his pocket and quickly left the room, his heart racing furiously*

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*Afternoon. School was letting out for the elementary schools. At one school in particular, kids were sprinting toward a bus, eager to escape the confines of the classroom. Few seemed to notice that the usual bus driver wasn’t at the wheel today, but instead a tight-lipped man donning dark shades. The man remained silent as the kids shrieked and shoved their way into the bus. Once they were all inside, he closed the door immediately and quickly drove away from the school grounds. But instead of going down the usual route to each child’s home, the man instead turned onto the main road and began driving toward the highway. Resting near his right foot was a small canister. He dubiously kicked it so that it began rolling down the aisle of the bus. A clear gas emitted from the canister and wafted into the nostrils of the unnoticing children. Soon the noisy bus was a silent one. The man looked into one of the rearview mirrors placed above him to see a mass of unconscious children drooped over their seats. The lips finally contorted from a tight frown to a sliver of a smile*

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*Afternoon. Kenta waited impatiently for Miki to come out of school. Little “Imoto-chan”, a name he delighted in calling her to her chagrin, was not known for punctuality. So Kenta was forced to sit in the car watching a bunch of adolescents whirl around him. As he did he would occasionally pat his leg to make sure the flash drive with the stolen translator program was still there. Not that it could get lost now, but he was stil a tad jittery from the whole experience.

Kenta didn’t see much point in his chauffeuring job, since they didn’t leave that far away from the school. But his parents, Hiroko in particular, insisted that Miki not come home by herself. Their mother wasn’t very comfortable with a girl her age traveling around by herself. And if Kenta was completely honest, he saw her point. This school did in truth have a reputation for danger. He recalled an incident five years prior, in his senior year, where there had almost been a shoot-out between members of rival gangs. The participants were only 15-16. Even now there were stories floating around of drug-dealing occurring not even a block away from the grounds. Fights in general were not uncommon either. All in all, not exactly a pristine environment to get an education. But it was the best his and most families could offer. ‘Thank you, school board’ Kenta thought grimly.

Finally he saw Miki strolling to the car, but he didn’t unlock the doors. When Miki discovered this, she began banging the window in an irritated fashion. Turning the radio down, Kenta rolled down the window on her side*
Kenta: What’s the password?
Miki: Come on, just open the door.
Kenta: No one enters without the password.
Miki: You mean inflating your already oversized ego.
*Kenta just turned back toward the windshield and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. Miki muttered something under her breath before answering with the desired phrase:
Miki: “Oji-sama”
* “Prince”. The title he wanted to hear*
Kenta: That I am.
*he finally unlocked the doors, and Miki threw herself inside. He began driving away from the school. Turning around, he saw his sister look out the window with an irritated look on her face*
Problem at school?
Miki: No
Kenta: You failed a math test again, didn’t you?
*Miki sighed and glanced inside her bag at a wrinkled paper decorated with red marks*
Oraji won’t be pleased.
Miki: I don’t need a tutor. And I didn’t fail. Just… not as good as it could have been.
Kenta: Still, he said if you can’t pick your grades up you’ll need to get one.
*he smirked uncontrollably as he continued*
You wouldn’t want to shame the family, would you?
*Miki ignored the taunting*
Miki: Why don’t you teach me? Apparently you’re the genius around here.
Kenta: I’m too busy to waste time on you.
Miki: Then why pick me up every day?
Kenta: Because Okaa-san forced me to. She doesn’t want anything happening to her little doll.
*Miki scoffed*
Miki: Nothing is going to happen to me.
*Kenta said nothing to this. His eyes fell upon a group of Oriental kids going down the sidewalk. The girls in said group were dressed in a way that he knew Hiroko probably wouldn’t approve of. His mother often commented on the crass behavior of youth in this country, particularly those of Asian, and even more particularly, Orient descent. Throughout his adolescence and college years he would hear Hiroko rant about the indecency of the girls in particular. “No class at all”, she always said in both languages. “They’re no good for you”, she would advise him. Kenta found her speeches tiring at first, but as he grew older he had come to see things from her point of view.

Unsurprisingly, the relationship between Hiroko and Miki would often get tense over these issues. Despite Miki’s resoluteness, Hiroko was sure something could happen to her. Kenta could recall one night a few years ago when he could overhear mother and daughter. Something about the way Miki was dressing. Kenta remembered Hiroko slapping Miki and saying something along the lines of not having a daughter of hers dressing like a whore. From his room, Kenta could recall hearing his sister crying hoarsely in her room until Hiroko came in some time later. Sneaking a glance, he saw his sister leaning into their mother, her face wet with tears, and Hiroko softly comforting her.

Kenta looked back on his sister. Despite his teasing, he knew she was better than most kids her age. And nothing would change that. He would make sure of it*
Kenta: No. Nothing will.
*Miki looked at her brother. For a while both were quiet. Suddenly on the radio, breaking news streamed through. A bus of school children had been hijacked and was now heading out onto the highway….

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*Afternoon. From the edge of a basketball court in the park, Jack shot the ball into the hoop. Ben retrieved the ball and went to where Jack was standing. Concentrating for a few seconds he shot the ball right into the hoop as well. The two old friends laughed at the success*
Jack: Still got it, after all these years.
*Ben shrugged*
Ben: I had you for a teacher.
Jack: Your reflexes have improved. You’re not as klutzy as you were.
Ben: Well, I’ve grown.
Jack: Perhaps…
*the tone in his voice indicated a sense of suspicion, which made Ben feel uncomfortable. As the two boys began walking back to Jack’s car, Ben decided to change the subject*
So, what exactly have you been up to lately?
Jack: Big things, Ben.
*he put his ball into the trunk*
That’s why I came back. I’m interning at an organization. There is something going on here that’s going to mean big things for us.
Ben: What do you mean?
Jack: Even I don’t know yet. But it’s going to happen soon.
*he took out his coin and began flipping it in his hand*
Ben: You still do that?
Jack: Of course. If I keep catching it, it’s a sign things will go well.
*he flipped the coin again, but Ben caught it before it could land back in Jack’s hand. Jack stared at Ben, and then laughed. Ben joined in and slapped him on the back as the two waked to the driver’s side. Suddenly he felt his ring turn warm and pulsate. Ben stopped moving*
Jack: What?
*Ben hid his hand*
Ben: Nothing.
*Jack suddenly got a call on his phone. Ben covered his left hand with his right as Jack listened to his call. His jovial expression was unchanged as he hung up*
Jack: I have to go.
Ben: So soon?
Jack: Yeah. Work at this hour, can you believe it? It was good to see you again, Ben.
Ben: Indeed.
*Jack patted been on the shoulder before getting into his car and driving off. Once he was out of sight, Ben quickly took off his ring and threw it upward. It expanded and turned into his belt*
“Henshin”
*It felt weird to say it, but Kenta thought it sounded cool. Figures.

Once he was fully transformed, Ben put his fingers to his lips and gave a loud whistle. At once, Antares rolled up to him and seemed to give his master an acknowledging burst of air from his nostrils. Ben jumped on and began heading toward the highway*

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*Afternoon. Savage sped down the highway. The hijacked school bus was racing down the road, being pursued by him and a squadron of marked police cars. Damn him, Savage said to himself as he thought about the driver of the bus. What the hell was he doing stealing a bus with innocent children inside? He would have relished the chance to give the guy personally a piece of his mind. But he thought back to the conversation he had with that young officer, and refrained from indulging in his fantasies.

Suddenly he heard the roar of a motorcycle engine. A horse-shaped bike leapt over the police cars and landed in front of Savage’s. Savage watched as it began moving alongside the bus. The Rider had arrived…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending theme plays*
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Old October 4th, 2008, 03:56 PM   #9
rangerfan99
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really good job Black Fang
It's a great story so far, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
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Old October 6th, 2008, 11:51 PM   #10
[]V[]etal []_ion
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Pretty cool story so far mate.
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Old October 11th, 2008, 02:32 PM   #11
Black Fang
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Chapter 4: Ghosts

* Savage sped down the highway. The hijacked school bus was racing down the road, being pursued by him and a squadron of marked police cars. Damn him, Savage said to himself as he thought about the driver of the bus. What the hell was he doing stealing a bus with innocent children inside? He would have relished the chance to give the guy personally a piece of his mind. But he thought back to the conversation he had with that young officer, and refrained from indulging in his fantasies.

Suddenly he heard the roar of a motorcycle engine. A horse-shaped bike leapt over the police cars and landed in front of Savage’s. Savage watched as it began moving alongside the bus. The Rider had arrived.
*

Narrartor: People change. You may meet a man after years apart and find him not the boy you knew as a child. Or you may one day realize your closest friend has become a complete stranger without you even realizing it. The Harrowing didn’t truly start on this anniversary day that I pen this chapter, but long before, with a friend’s betrayal.

*Ben began riding further away from the trailing police cars as he began moving along the driver’s side of the hijacked bus. By glimpsing inside, he could see the subdued children passed out in their seats or leaning on windows. They seemed alright for the time being. But whether that was truly the case, he couldn’t know unless the bus was stopped.

The hijacker had other ideas. From a rearview mirror, he could see the Rider coming up to him. A pang of both excitement and fear swept over him. He knew his power, yet was still eager for a chance to… throw him off balance, so to speak. Pulling with his foot from under the steering wheel, he exposed a box of grenades. The hijacker swiftly picked one up, yanked off the clip, and threw it at the ground just as Ben was coming over.

It all happened too fast for Ben to respond. Luckily, Antares was one step ahead of him. The bike quickly swerved over to the left just as the grenade went off in a large plume of orange flame, nearly throwing Ben clear off…
*

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*Opening Theme plays*

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*Savage’s heart pounded in his throat as he saw the grenade explode. He hadn’t been expecting this. Why was this guy this much armed? What the hell did he want with schoolchildren. Without breaking pace, he and the rest of the cavalry continued following after the bus, all the while continuing to keep an eye on the Rider.

Ben managed to get regain control of his steed as he brought Antares back alongside the bus*
Ben: Steady, boy...
*He couldn’t risk any mishaps here. Ben reached the driver and looked up with his jet back eyes at the man. He sensed a hint of fear beneath the shades. But also amusement. Sheer amusement at making such a feared figure as himself flinch. Ben wouldn’t let that happen again. The man tossed another grenade at him. This time Ben revved up Antares and shot forward before the explosive could have any effect on him. But one of the pursuing cars rolled over it just as it went off.

The car swerved onto the side of the road in flame. Savage turned back to see what happened. The damage wasn’t as severe as that from a bomb attached to a car’s underside, but it was still significant. Some other cars broke off the chase to assist the driver within the burning car. Savage and the rest continued the chase.

Ben slowed down and allowed the bus to catch up and pass him. Now he was on the right side. Ben steered in closer in an attempt to grab onto the bus and somehow find a way in. But the man suddenly opened the passenger-side doors and flung two more grenades onto the road. Antares leapt over one like a horse leaps over a fence, right through the fire of the explosion. As they landed, Ben looked back to see the fire of the other grenade burning harmlessly on the side of the road. The few civilian cars that were on the road had by now either stopped on the sides or escaped via exits along the highway. But those that were still rolling along were in danger of this madman and his collection of firearms*

Ben: Time to end this…
*Antares seemed to grunt in agreement. Ben sped forward to catch up with the bus. Now the man went all out and threw the entire box of remaining grenades on the road like marbles on a hardwood floor. Antares, with notable grace, jumped and sharp-turned his way through the field of grenades, the fire of each explosion bouncing off his and Ben’s sides. Ben meanwhile spit a ball of white fire into his mouth and threw it behind him. The wave of white flame safely deactivated the rest of the grenades before they could harm any other vehicles, most of them being the police cars following some distance away. With that obstacle out of the way, Ben could now keep his entire focus on stopping the captured bus.

The chase had taken everyone to a bridge overlooking a large, violent river. Ben rode up to the side of the bus until he was close enough to touch it. Letting go of the handlebars, he grabbed the square-shaped dials on his belt and turned them sideways. Inside the center stone, the hieroglyph burst into white flame which engulfed the entire interior. Ben’s forearms ignited in white flame. Ben drew his left arm close to his chest, and then slammed it into the side of the bus. A large dent appeared on the site of impact, with the belt’s hieroglyph in dead center. The force of the impact was great enough to send the bus off course. Losing control, the hijacker was forced to watch the bus crash into the side railing of the bridge. Ben continued going forward until he reached the end of the bridge, where he quickly did an about turn and stopped. Savage and the remainder of the pursuing cops stopped as well at the beginning of the bridge.

Ben revved up Antares again in preparation for a final charge. Leaning forward, he shot forward like a bullet toward the bus. Savage watched as the Rider jerked his bike upward so that it leapt off the ground toward the bus’s windshield. What the hell was he doing?? Savage scrambled out of his car and stepped cautiously onto the bridge.

Antares seemed to glow as Ben landed hard onto the windshield. The windshield shattered into innumerable pieces and flooded the inside of the bus. The man inside ducked behind the dashboard to shield his eyes from the bombardment. The children continued to lie in their torpor, oblivious to all around them. Ben glared at the cowering man inside the vehicle. He wondered just what he was going to do to him when suddenly the bus was enveloped in an unworldly black aura. The bus suddenly began moving on its own at a great speed. A wave of energy knocked into Ben and sent him clear off the bridge into the treacherous river below. Antares was thrown off as well and clattered onto the road. The black aura around the bus now shrouded it completely and sent a discharge of energy at Savage and the other cops. Savage ducked behind his car as an explosion of black smoke-like energy flew up from the foot of the bridge. Once it dispersed, the bus was out of sight. He and the others saw Antares suddenly get back on his wheels and roll away before they could react. Savage let out a loud sigh and banged his hand against the trunk of his car. They had lost their quarry*

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*Evening. Eiji was sitting on the couch watching the newscast on TV, while Miki sat at the table trying to listen in while doing homework. This afternoon, not one, but four busloads of schoolchildren had been hijacked from various schools around the city. While the police were in a frenzy to find out where the kidnappers had taken the children, the mayor and police commissioner were holding a press conference discussing the status of the situation.

The mayor of the city and his administration were greatly reviled throughout the majority of the citizenry, Eiji included. The commissioner was a woman of small stature. An incident where her hat fell off over her head in a most undignified manner made her an object of mockery by many a radio talk show host and columnist. The mayor had been once called by a particularly satirical editorialist “Emperor Nero” for “fiddling while the city burned”. With the crime epidemic as bad as it was, people were desperate for leadership, and they were not getting from this administration. The mayor’s favorite topics these days seemed to be making his town on of several “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens in the state (when they were in fact one of the causes for the increase in crime), increasing government spending, and all sorts of other endeavors that were ultimately bankrupting the city and the taxpayer. Approval ratings were at an all-time low. The city was a powder keg ready to ignite at any second. The appearance of the Masked Rider had in fact, in the view of many, made the situation more volatile.

But for the moment, the focus was on the abducted children. The mayor was delivering the usual lines of “doing the best we can” that is usually given at such events. Hiroko came into the room with two cups of tea. One she left on the table for Kenta, to whom she called to, and the other to her husband. She sat down in an adjacent chair from the TV and watched with Eiji in silence. Kenta finally came out of his room to take his drink*
Eiji: *Japanese* “How could these people just walk in and take school buses without anyone noticing?”
*Kenta stood on the stairs leading down to the front door as he drank his tea. He answered his father in the same tongue*
Kenta: “They said they found the bodies of the real drivers”
*Hiroko shook her head slightly but didn’t say anything*
Miki: *English* Where is Ben?
Eiji: He’s been coming home late a lot these days.
Hiroko: *Japanese* “Must be school. Things get hectic this time of year, don’t they?”
*She addressed the question to Kenta, who nodded absent-mindedly. He was focused on the conference. Once he and Miki had arrived home, he had been monitoring his laptop for Ben’s activities. The recorded footage from the bike’s cameras showed Ben in a high-speed chase with one of the buses along with a squadron of police cars, but then ended abruptly. The last image was that of a burst of dark energy and Antares topping off the hood of the bus. Ben was nowhere to be found. Kenta had tried to call him with no success. He didn’t want to think of the possibilities. So instead he focused on the TV and the talking heads driveling on about nothing…*

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*Evening. Ben woke up unarmored on the bank of the river and winced at the pain all over is body. He had no idea where he was. The bridge where he had taken his little dive into the rapids was nowhere in sight. He could be miles away from home for all he knew. Ben swallowed his pain as he staggered to his feet, and then realized his missed the ring. He dropped back down on the ground and frantically began sweeping through the undergrowth until he felt his hand touch a circular piece of metal. Ben breathed a sigh of relief and he picked up the dirt-covered ring, wiped it clean, and placed it back on his hand. He looked skyward and saw the sun setting over the treetops. Kenta and his folks would no doubt start to worry if he didn’t come home soon. Which brought up the question of where the hell his bike was. Ben cursed to himself. Going on foot would be hopeless. He didn’t even know where he was. Ben sat down on the ground and leaned over on a nearby tree, trying to think about what to do next.

Suddenly he heard a rustling sound coming through the nearby forest. Jumping back on his feet he poised himself for whatever was coming out to greet him, until he saw what his visitor was. Antares slowly rolled up to him and gave his master a reassuring vocal utterance. Ben came up to the bike*
Ben: Oh, it’s you. Come to take me home?
*Antares seemed to nod his head*
Ben: Good. I could use a nice bed right now.
*Still wincing, he climbed up onto his steed. Suddenly he remembered the reason he was out here in the first place. The children needed to be saved, and here he was heading for the comforts of home. On the other hand, he reasoned with himself, he wasn’t in much of a condition to search for anything. He hadn’t a clue where the stolen bus had gone, and the chances of finding it tonight were slim to none. The wisest choice would be to recuperate and leisurely think of a course of action. So Ben, with a nagging feeling of reluctance, patted Antares’s head and encouraged him to start for home. The bike moved forward on its own and slowly made its way through the foliage until they reached a small road. From there they could find the highway and head for home. Ben started up Antares and began riding down the road, meanwhile adjusting his headset phone to call Kenta…*

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*Evening. The stolen school bus slowly weaved its way through a lone forest pathway until it reached to entrance to a cave network. The hijacker looked outside, feeling a chill coming into the vehicle thanks to the lack of a windshield. A group of four robed figures with hoods over their heads were waiting for him outside the entrance. Next to them, dozens of children who had been kidnapped from other schools walked single file through the entryway, apparently in a trance. The man slowly opened the doors of the bus. As if on cue, the dozing children snap to attention. With glazed over looks on their eyes, they too began walking single file over the shattered glass, out the bus and into the cave. The man hesitantly followed them. Through his shades, he eyed the robed figures suspiciously. From beneath their hoods the figures looked back at him, as if piercing through the tinted lenses of the man’s sunglasses and staring right into him. One of the figures beckoned the man to come forth with the extension of a hand. Nervously, the man did as he was told, coming up to the figure. He kept his hands clenched, as if he was getting ready to throw a punch at the robed figure’s head. He spoke:

“I did what you asked”

The figure who called the man forth reached up and placed the hand over his throat. From beneath the hood could be seen a pair of red lips. The female voice flowed from the mouth*

“Then receive your reward”

The reward was obviously not what the man had expected. The woman twisted her clenched hand in a quick motion. A small cracking sound was heard, and the man dropped to the ground. The lips arranged themselves into a small smile, and the woman retired into the cave. Two of the other robed figures picked up the body and carried it some ways away until they reached a small pit. Inside were the bodies of the other buses’ hijackers. The newest member was placed inside, and left behind as the two figures followed the woman inside. The last figure, with a red stone brooch, looked behind to see the sun disappearing from sight. A hand came forth from the robe and flipped a coin in the air. It landed back in his hand, and he smiled before retreating inside. Tomorrow night began the ceremony.*

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*Nighttime. Antares reverted back to a normal bike as Ben finally arrived home. It was late, but still early enough that people were awake and active. Exhausted, he climbed up the stairs to the living room and flopped onto the couch. No sooner had he done this that he felt himself being poked. He opened a weary eye to see Miki jabbing her finger into his head*
Miki: Where have you been?
*Ben reluctantly sat up on the couch*
Ben: Shouldn’t you be in bed?
Miki: Too early.
*Her pajamas seemed to betray otherwise. Hiroko and Eiji were quite particular when it came to bedtimes during school nights. Not so much anymore with Kenta since he was an adult, but certainly with Miki*
You didn’t answer my question.
Ben: None of your business.
Miki: Why not?
Ben: You’re too young.
Miki: Am not!
*She poked him again, prompting Ben to whack her with one of the couch’s throw pillows. Miki squealed which made him chuckle. He was glad to have something to take his mind off his current situation. Miki was good at doing that, it seemed. Ben felt himself relaxing a little. Kenta then stepped into view with his laptop in his hands, and faced Ben*
Kenta: You’re here finally.
*he turned to his sister*
Go to bed. Ben and I need to talk.
Miki: Why can’t I hear?
Kenta: Because I said so. Now move.
*Miki tried to protest again, but Kenta cut her off and spoke something in Japanese, clearly irritated. Miki grumbled something to herself and stalked off to her room, allowing Kenta to sit on the couch beside Ben*
You look better than you sounded on the phone
Ben: Still feel like hell
*he leaned his head in his hands as Kenta opened up his monitor*
Kenta: I guess for now we leave this to the cops.
Ben: For all the good that will do.
Kenta: You can’t do anything for now. So we might as well use them to find out what we need to know. Keep your eyes peeled on the news.
*Ben said nothing, but instead looked at Kenta’s screen*
Ben: So do you have something to tell me or am I supposed to watch another exciting episode of Flashman with you?
Kenta: Is that sarcasm I hear?
*Ben rolled his eyes toward the wall*
Ben: Maybe…
Kenta: No movies tonight. This is what I want to show you.
*He opened up the translator program he had downloaded onto his flash drive. Earlier he had installed it into his computer and began figuring out how it worked. The results had been interesting, to say the least*
I got my hands on this today. We can finally start cracking this code.
*Ben leaned closer to the screen*
Ben: Where the hell did you find this?
*Kenta fidgeted slightly*
Kenta: Let’s just say I borrowed it from a kindly benefactor.
Ben: You stole this, didn’t you?
*he shook his head in mock disappointment*
Shame on you, Kenta.
Kenta: You’re one to talk.
*he pointed to the ring sitting on Ben’s finger, which promptly shut him up*
Anyway, I’ve started running through the symbols they have and what we have. This is what came up so far.
*a series of hieroglyphs scrolled down the screen. One of them was the same that was written on Ben’s ring. A list of closest possible translations, in several languages, appeared on the right of the screen. Once English phrases came up, Kenta clicked on them, and they zoomed up close. Not surprisingly, the translation wasn’t very clear. But it was intriguing none the less:

“The Prophet shall condemn His enemies. Hell be brought upon them… Hell they be sent…”

A photograph of a stone carving appeared on the screen as well. It showed a man pointing a finger at some unseen thing. On the finger was the familiar ring with the hieroglyph etched in the stone. The half-triangle portion of the symbol was facing whatever the man was pointing to, like an arrow pointed in its direction. Kenta took the finger bearing Ben’s ring and spoke again*
I think that symbol means “Hell
Ben: Hell
*he looked at the translation again*
“The Prophet shall condemn his enemies” Who is the Prophet?
Kenta: Maybe this guy wearing the ring.
*he pointed to the carving*
Which would mean….
*Ben saw what was coming*
Ben: I’m no prophet.
Kenta:Hell be brought upon them” Sounds sort of like what you have been doing.
Ben: Do you even know if this is accurate? You said yourself this language is like none other.
Kenta: But whoever designed this program knows a hell of a lot more than we do. And for now this is all we can go on. Let’s see what else this will come up with.
Ben: How long will that take?
Kenta: No idea. I still haven’t fully figured this thing out yet.
*Ben yawned and got up from the couch*
Ben: Well, keep me informed. I’m going to bed, and so should you.
*Kenta nodded and waved him off. Ben ambled to their room, changed his clothes and slipped into bed. But as tired as he was, he found sleep elusive. His mind kept flipping between the symbols, their meaning, and the children who still needed rescuing. He had to find them. No one had any idea what would befall them if they weren’t found. Ben closed his eyes, yet still could see clearly what was before him*

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*Nighttime. Savage woke up with a jolt, but didn’t get up from bed. For a second he wondered what he was doing at home sleeping when he remembered the captain had ordered him to go home and get some rest. Savage was known for being a little too dedicated to his job. The last thing this bus-hijacking case needed was a stressed-out detective not thinking straight. So here he was, lying beside his wife, and finding himself incapable of falling asleep again. Savage looked at his wife’s hair and gently fingered it. She looked peaceful. An island of tranquility next to the crashing waves of chaos that was her husband. Savage turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Instead of counting sheep, he began to count children…

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*Two days later. The search for the children had turned up nothing. The victims’ families were at their wits’ end. The media had jumped on the case and thrown out all commentaries about the ineffectiveness of the police department, the state of the schools, and a slew of issues tangential to the actual situation. Of course the Rider was brought up dozens of times. What happened to him since his disappearance on the bridge? Where did he go? Would he be the savior of the city once again? This particularly rubbed Savage the wrong way. “Are people really that willing to place faith in some faceless bike-rider who acts like he owns the town”, he wondered to himself as he stepped into the precinct. As usual it was bustling with activity, but today seemed peculiar. Savage walked up to the captain, who was conversing with three other detectives. He saw Savage come in*
Captain: Good, you’re here.
*He waved Savage to come closer as he spoke*
Savage: What happened?
Captain: Some drifter stumbled in here last night and started yelling something about ghosts and children. We figured he was drunk and placed him in the cell until morning, but he kept raving. He said he knew where they were.
Savage: The kids?
*one of the other detectives answered*
Det: He says they’re in some caves in the forest outside town.
Savage: And you believe him?
Captain: He also showed us this.
*He placed a picture on the desk for Savage to see. The image of a sickle with an amorphous, white face with hollow, black eyes in front looked back at him. A chill ran down the detective’s spine. Another detective spoke*
Det: This image has been found all around the southwestern US over the past few years. Each time related somehow to strange incidents. All we know is that it’s connected to some group called the Ghosts.
Savage: Ghosts?
*he paused*
You think this is related to the kids?
Captain: We’ll figure that out in due time. Right now we’re sending a team in to find them. I want all four of you to accompany.
*The group nodded their consent and left the room. Soon a cavalcade of marked police vehicles were headed toward the forest*

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*Ben sat in a desk in the back of the room, waiting for class to begin. Over the past two days he had wondered about the ring. Ben had assumed it had some sort of “knowledge” of whenever trouble was afoot, but since the highway chase it had done nothing. Why wasn’t it reacting? Ben had an easier time figuring out this calc class than anything regarding this Rider business, and math wasn’t exactly his forte.

A hand grabbed his shoulder. Ben jerked his head to the side to see Jack grinning at him*
Ben: Hey! What are you doing here??
Jack: Enjoying calculus.
*he pulled up a seat next to Ben*
Ben: Is that even possible?
*Jack shrugged*
Jack: ‘Suppose not. Actually, I’m here to see you.
Ben: How did you get in the building? You have no ID.
Jack: Never mind that. I’m here to recruit you.
Ben: Recruit me?
Jack: Yep. The people at work are interested in you.
Ben: How do they know me?
Jack: They know everything.
Ben: Really…
Jack: I’ll take you to them once you’re done here.
*Ben seemed unsure. This was too sudden*
Come on, it’ll be fun. The two of us, side-by-side.
Ben: Like old times?
Jack: Exactly!
*He patted Ben on the shoulder and left the room. An hour later, he found himself sitting in Ben’s car driving toward a large office building. The two boys strode through the corridors until they reached a door at the end of a narrow hall. Jack unlocked the door and opened it, allowing Ben to go in first. The room behind it was the size of a closet*
Ben: What’s this?
*Jack only nudged him inside and closed the door behind them. The room turned out to be a small elevator, and it plunged down into the depths of the building. There was no light. Been could see nothing as they descended further and further down until finally coming to a stop. The door opened to reveal a stone passageway. Jack walked ahead of Ben as he led his friend through the torch-lit tunnel for what seemed like miles. Upon passing through a large room, Ben did a double-take. Hanging upside-down above his head where twelve children, all apparently lifeless. They were arranged in a circle, and their throats were slit. The blood that had flowed from their laceration was being collected in bowls placed beneath each child’s head. Ben gaped at this sight, and Jack soon took notice*
Jack: Something wrong?
*Ben looked at his friend*
Something wrong? What the hell is this?!
*He pointed at the children. Jack still seemed to not register any surprise. A line of robed figures began filing into the room*
Jack: That is our sacrifice.
Ben: Sacrifice?
*a revelation suddenly dawned on him*
These are those kidnapped children.
Jack: Well done. Ever day for twelve days we sacrifice twelve children, until the blood of 144 has been gathered. The blood is then used to initiate those worthy of us. You have been selected s a candidate.
*Words failed Ben. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Jack, his old friend, was somehow mixed up in this kidnapping plot, and even worse, some kind of cult group? It didn’t seem possible*
Ben: You’re behind all this? You’re killing these kids? Why??
Jack: Please, Ben. ‘Kill’ is such a coarse word. The blood of the innocent is pure. By using it we ourselves become pure.
*he indicated his red stone brooch*
By their sacrifice I am free.
*Ben’s ring finally began to turn warm. He brought his hand close to him. This peaked everyone’s interest*
Join us, Ben.
Ben: …. And if I refuse?
Jack: I’m afraid we must insist…
*The other figures began coming toward Ben and tried to grab him, who quickly yanked off the ring and threw it over them. The ring bounced off the wall with an echoing clang. Ben ducked through the figures’ legs and flipped around to face them. The belt snapped onto his waist.

“Henshin”

*White fire crashed over Ben as he changed form. The figures threw off their robes to reveal amorphous shapes with pale white, shapeless faces. No eyes could be seen on them, only empty black sockets. Black shadows danced around their bodies like flames. Ben jumped toward them and punched one in the head. His hand went right through it. The being then grabbed Ben and threw him to his compatriots, who began streaking back and forth, slashing at his body as they went. Ben tried to hit them as they came past, but they were too swift for him. Ben fell to the ground on his back. The beings made a wall around the Rider and made a move to grab him with their claw-like hands…

Until a column of flame spewed out from Ben’s mouth that drove his opponents back. They shrieked eerily as their bodies started to burn with white flames. Ben next spit out a wall of fire at the ropes holding the dead children to the ceiling. One by one, they dropped down and were caught by Ben, who placed them gently on the floor. Then he turned to face Jack, who had his familiar smile on his face*
Jack: Good job. The organization would definitely be interested in you.
*Ben leapt forward and pinned Jack to the floor. With his jet black eyes, he stared down at the face of his friend. What had happened to him for him to do this? Ben raised a fist in the air*
You wouldn’t kill me, would you Ben? Not after all we’ve been through? I helped you before, and I’m doing so again.
Ben: Cutting children’s throats is helping me??
*Jack made a clicking sound with his tongue*
Jack: If you would calm yourself down, it will all be explained to you.
Ben: You have nothing to say to me.
*he brought his first down, but Jack caught it before it could reach his face. He threw Ben off him and got up onto his face*
Jack: This isn’t over, Ben. I’ll be seeing you again soon.
*With that, he jetted out of the room. Ben, not willing to let him escape, dashed off after him through the network of tunnels*

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*Savage carefully trekked through the network of caves, gun in hand. The police team had only a few moments ago reached an entrance to the caverns and came across a large, makeshift prison cell full of shivering and crying children. They were slowly being escorted out into the open to be looked after. Savage meanwhile was exploring the tunnels to see of there was anyone else in there. Turning a corner into a particularly large tunnel, he suddenly came across a familiar shape: the Masked Rider. His white body glowed dimly in the dark. This was the first time Savage had seen him in person. It was true what they said: he did appear like a phantom.

The Rider looked back at Savage, just as surprised as he was. Savage pointed his gun at the Rider’s chest. It was time for some answers…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending theme plays*
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Old October 19th, 2008, 07:11 AM   #12
Black Fang
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Chapter 5: Devolution

*Savage carefully trekked through the network of caves, gun in hand. The police team had only a few moments ago reached an entrance to the caverns and came across a large, makeshift prison cell full of shivering and crying children. They were slowly being escorted out into the open to be looked after. Savage meanwhile was exploring the tunnels to see of there was anyone else in there. Turning a corner into a particularly large tunnel, he suddenly came across a familiar shape: the Masked Rider. His white body glowed dimly in the dark. This was the first time Savage had seen him in person. It was true what they said: he did appear like a phantom.

The Rider looked back at Savage, just as surprised as he was. Savage pointed his gun at the Rider’s chest. It was time for some answers…
*

Narrartor: “You are free to come and go as you please. Yet you are still a prisoner because you place no faith in anything but your sword”
The Rider fought for freedom against evil. Yet he himself was a prisoner, for he had lost faith in everything but his power…

*Ben said nothing as the saw the cop point his gun at him. Did he really think that would do anything? He should know he was practically immune to firearms. But as Ben looked closer at the face of the man, he thought it looked familiar…*
Savage: Where do you think you’re going?
*Ben didn’t have time for this. He had to find Jack. Without answering the cop, he began moving forward again until he felt a bullet go into his chest. He looked at Savage again. This guy apparently meant business. But this was none of his business*
Ben: Where I go isn’t your concern.
Savage: When you have a trail of blood and a theft to your name, it’s my concern.
*he gestured to Ben’s belt*
You witnessed the murder of a truck driver a few weeks’ back, didn’t you? There was a ring taken from the scene.
*So he has figured some things out, thought Ben. But now wasn’t the time for an interrogation on past incidents*
Ben: And if I was?
Savage: Then we have a lot of things to discuss.
Ben: I would think you would be trying to catch the freaks that run this place.
*he put his fingers to his mouth and gave a loud whistle*
But I suppose I have to do your work for you, again.
Savage: You think you’re the law?
*another detective suddenly appeared on scene and called Savage’s name. The dead children had been found. She stopped talking upon seeing the Rider*
Ben: I’m not the law.
*he turned away from Savage and began heading down the tunnel toward the surface, where Antares was waiting*
I am justice.

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*Opening Theme plays*

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*Savage couldn’t look anymore. He turned away as the last of the corpses was covered with a white sheet. Next to them lay the twelve bowls filled with their blood. He dreaded what would be coming for the families of these victims, these little children who had done nothing. He had had to inform relations of the death of a loved one numerous times in his career, and it never got any easier. He remembered clearly the first time he had to make the call. That one had hit closest to home for the victim was a fellow cop, his partner, Det. Michael Hernandez. At the time Savage was the youngest detective on the force. Michael had been a mentor figure to him. He could maintain his composure no matter how egregious the case was. Savage had never seemed to learn that ability himself. Right now he was screaming inside. God knew what he would have done to the people responsible for this if they were here right now. But no. That would make him no better than the Rider, Savage thought as he exited the cave. He took in a breath of fresh air, something not to be found in the stifling tunnels. The Rider said he was justice? He will learn a thing or two about justice…*

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*Ben’s search for Jack had produced nothing. Now he cruised down the road without paying much heed to where he was going. All he could think about was Jack, his old friend. What had changed him so? This definitely was not the carefree boy he had known as a youth. Jack had been his companion when no one else would be. He had seemed to empathize with Ben. How could their paths now have strayed so oppositely from each other: Ben the scourge of the city’s evil, and Jack, a man with the blood of innocents on his hands.

Maybe this was the true Jack. Ben found this a hard conclusion to come to, but he had to weigh all the possibilities. Maybe this was the true face behind the smiling mask. Could Ben have been fooled this whole time? Ben thought back to a conversation he had had with Eiji three years ago, some time after he had first moved in with them. He was telling a story about when he first came to America from Japan. He had left behind Hiroko and a very young Kenta back in the motherland in order to establish himself before sending for them. Eiji’s words flowed into Ben’s head: “When I first came to this city, I saw everyone was all smiles and acted overly nice. Then eventually I saw their true colors. It was all a charade. Never trust a man overly willing to please, for he always has some plan to screw you over”

Perhaps Ben was living through those words right now. Perhaps he had always lived through them. His life was full of shattered images of things he had believed in: an invincible father, a dependable mother, the law, and now Jack Thorpe…
Ben suddenly noticed that a signboard hung over his path. He had reached the city limits without realizing it. He then felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Stopping at the side of the road, Ben took off his helmet and fumbled for the phone. Kenta’s voice flowed out as soon as he put it to his ear*
Kenta: I figured you were out on the job.
*Ben didn’t respond, so Kenta continued*
What happened?
Ben: I found the kids. They’re with the cops.
Kenta: That’s good.
Ben: Twelve are dead. Slit throats.
*there was a pause for a moment*
Kenta: Come home, Ben… we’ll –
Ben: Right.
*he hung up and began riding toward home*

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*Evening. Ben was quite all during dinner, which he ate little of. Kenta was anxious to find out more about what had happened, but knew better than to press the subject. Instead he focused on the TV news, which was having a heyday with the story about the rescued children, the tragic fate of the lost twelve, and of course touching upon the Rider’s involvement in all of it. Even Miki didn’t try to inject her usual brevity into the atmosphere and for once was quiet. Hiroko though seemed undaunted by Ben’s uncharacteristic mood and attempted an inquiry when he came into the kitchen to clean his plate*
Hiroko: Are you feeling all right, Ben?
Ben: What? Oh, I’m fine.
*he noted her skepticism*
Really.
*Hiroko raised her had to touch Ben’s forehead*
Hiroko: You’ve seemed a little off color recently. Are you sure –
*Ben forced a chuckle*
Ben: Yes, ma’am.
*He couldn’t really blame her for being inquisitive, he supposed. She was after all the head nurse at a major hospital. Ben quickly retired himself to his and Kenta’s room and lay on his bed. He stared up at the ceiling, trying to clear his mind and think about nothing at all. That would be a nice change after all these weeks: to not think at all, if only for a while.…*

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*Evening. Savage was ready to go home with a lighter heart than what he had had the last few nights. The surviving children were physically unhurt. There was no doubt though that many of them would suffer some sort of distress from such a harrowing experience. But at least they were out of harm’s way. All that remained now was finding the people behind this and bringing them in. If only it was that simple. These Ghosts, if they really were the perpetrators, were clever enough to not leave anything incriminating in their little hideout. Savage wasn’t sure what to make of this group. On the face they seemed like a demented cult, but nothing beyond that. But what his colleague had said about their symbol being found all over the Southwest in relation to dozens of criminal investigations disturbed Savage. The detective looked at the clock on the wall. He yearned to get home to a good dinner and a bottle of liquor afterward, but the questioning cop in him got the better of him. He decided to pay a visit to the drifter who had tipped them off about the caves.

The drifter was a man of a middle-aged, grizzled appearance. Savage found him quietly sitting in his cell. Now that he was actually seeing him, he didn’t seem like the type of man who would burst in from nowhere and start ranting. Savage stood in front of the door to the cell. The man looked up at the detective and expressed the slightest of smiles*
Drifter: So am I to receive my ‘thank you’ at long last?
Savage: For what?
Drifter: Well isn’t it obvious? Were it not for me you would never have found those children. I think I should be owed some debt of gratitude.
Savage: Maybe you should. But first we would like to know just what you know.
*he leaned into the bars of the cell*
How did you know?
Drifter: I have my sources.
Savage: Not good enough. What are the Ghosts? I want names.
Drifter There are no names.
Savage: What do you mean?
Drifter: I mean just that. The Ghosts are nameless. Faceless. No identities. No records. But they are everywhere.
Savage: Well how do we find them?
*the drifter shook his head*
Drifter: You can’t find them. But they always find you.
Savage: Is that supposed to intimidate me?
Drifter: Depends on how brave a man you are, Detective.
*Savage looked at the drifter. He wanted some straight answers, but kept getting more questions*
Savage: I hope you don’t expect us to stop looking for these… Ghosts simply because of some riddles.
Drifter: By all means, Detective, continue searching. But you may not like what you find. You are in for a very bloody affair.
*Now Savage felt more uncomfortable. This conversation wasn’t going the way he wanted. He might as well end it here and be on his way home. But one more question nagged at him. Savage started to walk away from the cell, but turned back around*
Savage: One more thing. Why are you here?
Drifter: You mean why have I come to this city?
Savage: That’s right.
Drifter: I have come to find the Prophet.
*Prophet? Savage suddenly remembered the Prophet’s Ring that had been taken from the truck. The ring that now apparently was in the Rider’s possession*
Savage: The Rider.
Drifter: Precisely.
Savage: Do you know who he is?
Drifter: When I find him…I shall know him.
*the two were quiet for a moment. The drifter then continued, stretching as he did so as if ready for sleep*
Drifter: Now I suggest you head home, Detective. Your children don’t see you often enough. I would hate to keep you from them any longer than necessary.
*How did he know about his children? Savage suddenly had more questions, but for once restrained himself. This drifter was a strange man, he thought. The detective finally got his things together and left the precinct, leaving the drifter alone to fall asleep in peace*

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*Nighttime. Ben had finally drifted off to a difficult sleep, yet Kenta was wide awake in his own bed. He looked over at his unconscious friend. There were times when he felt some pity for Ben. True, he had decided to become the Rider of his own free will. And it was also true that Kenta had encouraged and actively aided him in his superhero double life, even stealing for the cause. This had all been strictly voluntary. Yet even so, to see Ben disturbed like this made Kenta want to do something more to help him. But what? What could he do besides work out this tricky translator program? Be someone for Ben to lean on? That was something Ben had lacked for a good portion of his life. Yes, that was the extent of what he could do, Kenta thought.

He turned his head to face his desk. His still-operating laptop was placed amidst a pile of paraphernalia. He had left the translator program on overnight in hope of coming up with some results. Progress was going far slower than either he or Ben would have liked. Kenta felt as if he knew what DNA sequencers must have gone through in the early days of genetic biotechnology, sorting through thousands of letters and coming up with mere handfuls of constructed sentences.

A blinking from the screen suddenly caught his attention. Finally, something was happening. Kenta sat up in bed and watched as the list of translations began appearing on the screen. A sentence of hieroglyphs was on the left. The most numerous of them zoomed up close.


It looked to Kenta like a ‘T’. He watched as a translated sentence painstakingly began forming:

“West… scorpion… cut….”

Nothing else appeared. In an impatient fit, Kenta threw himself onto his bed again. “West… scorpion… cut”. What the hell did that mean? He wished he knew how to make this stupid thing go faster…*

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*Unknown time. The robed figure with the golden stone brooch seemed to glare down from beneath his hood at the figure standing below him. It wasn’t hard to figure out what was grinding his gears. The ritual sacrifice had been interrupted, thus breaking the sacred 12-day progression of the ceremony. This mess had to be rectified at once. The figure on top pointed a finger to the figure below and uttered something in a cold whisper. The figure below bowed down and departed, taking with him two partners. In his hand, a coin was grasped tightly beneath the clenched fist*

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*Morning. Kenta had offered to drive Ben himself to campus, which Ben had agreed to. After they had dropped Miki off at her school, the two began heading down the road. Kenta decided to finally break Ben’s apparent code of silence*
Kenta: You couldn’t have done anything. You have to move on.
*Ben continued to look out the window, but did respond*
Ben: I know.
Kenta: You do… Then what’s bothering you?
*Ben hesitated before answering*
Ben: Jack is one of them.
Kenta: What?
*he turned away from the road to look at Ben*
Ben: He’s part of some… cult. They’re the ones who took the kids.
Kenta: The news mentioned finding some bowls of blood…
Ben: He said they were sacrifices. They think children’s blood will make them purer, or some crazy thing like that.
*Kenta didn’t say anything. Ben had said this Jack Thorpe person was an old friend of his. Small wonder finding out about this would have this affect on him. Another disappointment in his friend’s life.

They reached a traffic light, and Kenta promptly stopped the car. He and Ben watched as a bunch of kids were filing into a schoolyard. They seemed like typical kids, running around and shouting as kids do. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Until two kids dropped to the ground, apparently hit by something. Other kids and adults began looking to see what had happened, and were shocked to suddenly see the two be levitated up into the trees and disappear. Panic ensued. More children suddenly began falling down unconscious and disappearing into the air. Before Kenta could say anything, he saw Ben leap out of the car and run toward the yard.

Not again, thought Ben. These freaks seemed hell bent on proceeding with their perverse ritual. But now they were working without discretion. Was Jack here? He couldn’t know. He couldn’t even see where the projectiles were coming from. They seemed to be firing from all sides. Ben watched as a mother screamed, seeing her daughter become the latest child to disappear. He kept his eyes fixed above him, looking for something flying down to the ground. He soon caught a set of small, black needles flying down to two kids running around frantically, trying to find a place to hide. They wouldn’t find one in time. Ben hurriedly dashed toward them and dove in front of the needles. They pierced into his back and were absorbed into his skin. Ben cried out at the intense pain. The needles were burning him. But he sensed nothing serious would happen: whatever was protecting him all this time would work its magic again. He fell on his back and looked at the petrified chidren he had just saved*
Ben: Run!
*The children were slow to respond, but finally scrambled into the building at the bidding of a teacher. Ben struggled to his feet and looked around for more flying needles. Instead he heard a shrill laugh echo all around, as if mocking him. More screams were heard from inside the building. Walls and roof were apparently no defense. Ben heard the cries of parents and onlookers as hey flooded into the yard or looked on from the sidewalk. Kenta too found a place on the street, having parked the car in haste elsewhere. He saw Ben kick a rock in frustration and curse aloud, and found himself clenching a fist in anger. He then saw Ben force his way through the crowd and walk past him*
Kenta: Where are you going?
Ben: Where do you think?
*he checked to see that no one was looking his way and gave a loud whistle. Kenta paused and looked at Ben with a look of determination that reflected that of his friend’s*
Kenta: Go.

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*The entire day was a whirlwind of terror. Everywhere, children were being shot with strange black darts and “teleported” out of sight. The cops had got their teeth on the case quick enough for even Ben to be impressed. Soon the city was swarming with police trying to chase down and catch a shooter they couldn’t see. And Ben was not far behind. But even one armed with a magic ring and a trusty sidekick could only do so much. More often than not they would be too late to do anything. Kenta had gone head to campus and was monitoring the scene from the cameras on Ben’s bike and online news feeds. Due to the intense activity of the cops, Ben hadn’t found a decent time or place to transform, a situation that he found quite disadvantageous. All the frustration from the past few days was festering within Ben. He could literally feel himself burning within. His ring too he had noticed was reacting differently than usual. What could this mean? Too many questions, Ben thought. Not enough answers.

Finally Ben came to a stop at the top of a small hill overseeing the city and adjacent ocean. Nothing had occurred for the past few hours, which was both a relief and a source of more tension. Ben was no closer to finding the people behind these kidnappings than he was this morning. He took off his helmet and wiped the perspiration from his face. Kenta then called*
Kenta: Nothing is happening
Ben: So I see.
*he looked out over the city again*
Tell your folks I’ll be coming late again.
Kenta: Ben –
Ben: I’ll be fine.
*Kenta paused before answering*
Kenta: Alright, I’ll –
*Just then a strange wind swept over Ben, the sound of its passing reaching Kenta’s ear. A note fluttered down on Ben’s head. Ben whipped his head around to find its source, but saw nothing. He then opened the note and read the brief statement on it. When he was finished, the note suddenly self-combusted and turned into a pile of ash on the ground. Kenta’s voice flowed from the phone again*
What happened?
Ben: Jack wants a little talk with me down by the docks.
Kenta: … I’m going.
Ben: What?
Kenta: You heard me. Something tells me you’re going to need a wall to lean on.
*Ben didn’t know what to say to that, so he instead conceded*
Ben: Fine. But make yourself scarce. I don’t think Jack and Company wants any uninvited guests dropping in.
*He strapped on his helmet and sped down the hill in the direction of the sea*

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*Evening. Kenta arrived at the docks and, following Ben’s advice, made himself as inconspicuous as possible. He watched from a secure place as Ben rode up to a small lot next to a storage building. Immediately, three figures covered in dark cloaks appeared in front of him. From his position, Ben could see the children inside the building, heaped into a large cage-like enclosure. Ben turned from this sight to face Jack, who had thrown off his hood to reveal his face. His typical carefree smile looked back at Ben*
Jack: Ben! Glad you could join us.
Ben: What do you want?
Jack: The same thing you want. To resolve our differences and go back to being good, jolly friends.
*Ben snorted*
Ben: After what I’ve seen you do I doubt that’s possible. Like I told you, you have nothing to say to me.
Jack: You still don’t get it.
*he began walking toward Ben, who got off his bike and stood by it*
Ben: Enlighten me then. Why exactly are you running around playing dress-up with a bunch of nutjobs? What happened to that carefree kid I knew?
Jack: You hurt me Ben. I would think you of all people would understand why I’m a part of this.
*he noted Ben’s incredulous look, and continued*
It started when I moved from here. My parents traveled a lot. I saw a great many things. And do you know the one thing I learned, Ben? It’s all fake! Everything you see is a lie. People will invent grandiose things to make themselves feel better, but it truth they have only hidden themselves from reality. Their tired concept of morality and justice is useless. I finally discovered that it’s a vain attempt to make sense of the world. But it will never be ordered because they are hypocrites. They will always invent loopholes to justify themselves whenever they err. That’s why it is all a lie.

And that’s when I found the Ghosts. Or should I say the Ghosts found me. Through them I found clarity. You see, Ben, the world is chaos, made worse by the unenlightened masses. We bring order to that chaos. You won’t see us, but we’re there. Always arranging things into their proper place
Ben: And that includes murdering children?
*Jack let out a sigh of exasperation*
Jack: Come now, Ben. I explained that to you already. Children are innocent, the only ones in this world that are. Through their life we absolve ourselves of our impurity and strive to make the world pure.
*He now came close to Ben*
You should understand this all, Ben. Your life is full of empty promises. Certainly you can see things clearly. That’s why you became the Rider, is it not? You know how fake the system is. You have declared yourself the true justice. So have we! And yet here we are, standing on opposing sides when we should be allies.
*Jack stepped away from Ben and walked backwards toward his two partners*
Join us, Ben.
*Ben stood in silence. Part of him couldn’t help but see the sense in at least part of what Jack said. Was not his life Jack’s vindication? Ben tried to suppress these thoughts. Jack was wrong. He wanted to tear apart his former friend and his cohorts for spouting off such a twisted mantra to justify their crimes. Ben could feel himself beginning to burn. Small white flames danced across his body as his ring began to glow and become hot. Kenta suddenly appeared in the open and interrupted the silence, speaking to Jack*
Kenta: There’s one difference.
*Jack turned in surprise to look at Kenta*
The Rider keeps his faith in humanity, and people believe in him. You lost your faith a long time ago. They’ll never believe in you.
*Ben turned to Kenta. The smile on Jack’s face was gone, now replaced with a look of contempt. His two partners swiftly moved toward the intruder, but were just as quickly knocked back by Ben, whose body now burned with white flame*
Jack: You’re making a mistake, Ben.
Ben: You made the mistake, Jack.
*He looked at Jack with intense fury*
What you say is true. But I fight to show the truth, not to create a new lie.
*The hooded assailants now lashed out at Ben, and he charged forward to meet them. He managed to grab their cloaks and rip them off their bodies, exposing black shapes decorated with fiery black wisps of vapor and white, amorphous faces. One of them shot a sharp object from his hand right into Ben’s shoulder. The force of the impact sent Ben flying through a window of the adjacent building, over the kids’ cage, and into a wall. The object turned out to be a log pole-lie spike, and it now impaled itself and Ben to the wall. Ben yelled out. He felt blood slowly drip down his chest. His weight being suspended in such a manner only made the pain worse. His body now erupted in white flames as his passion intensified. But the color of the fire began to turn a bright silver color. The fire encapsulated him; the body of the Rider began to take shape. But that too began to change. Portions of the white arms and legs became burnt into a black color. The horn on his head elongated and straightened into a vertical position, then split into three prongs. The black eyes became gray. Serrated barbs appeared on his shoulders. A phantom-like face appeared on his chest. Finally the fire extinguished itself to show clearly this new body.


Ben dropped to the floor, the spike still lodged in his body. As if with prior knowledge of his new abilities, he turned the right-hand dial on his belt. The stone in the center ignited in silver fire, and the hieroglyph disappeared to be replaced by a new one.


Ben then gripped the spike with his right hand and slowly ripped it out of him. The spike began changing shape until it turned into a sword with a scorpion-shaped hilt and long, thin blade. The two Ghosts eyed Ben with interest, yet maintained enough resolution to continue their battle. Ben ducked beneath the swinging hook arm of one Ghost and slashed across his side with his new blade. Silver fire danced in its wake. The Ghost shrieked and retreated backwards from Ben, allowing the other to charge toward him. This one leapt over Ben, avoiding his slash, and kicked him in the back. Ben fell to the floor and rolled back to his feet, now standing near the children’s cage.

The two Ghosts came together and fired a stream of explosive black smog at Ben. Sparks flew off Ben’s body as the smog touched his body. To keep the kids safe, he raised the sword above his head and cut right through the cloud, which dissipated in a brief explosion. Ben then charged toward his opponents. Raising the sword, he threw it like a javelin at one of them. As it stabbed itself into its target, Ben turned the dials on his belt. Jumping up in the air, he gave the second Ghost a flying flaming kick in the chest, sending him flying through a wall and out onto the lot, where he exploded in a cloud of black smoke and dust. Using the second Ghost as a kickoff point, Ben flew back to the first Ghost and yanked the blade out of his body, bringing out a small burst of blood. Moving behind him, Ben then delivered the final blow, slashing across the Ghost’s back. The Ghost screamed and exploded like his partner.

Ben retrieved his sword and stepped out of the building through the new opening made by his Kick. Jack was standing with his back to the setting sun to greet him, with Kenta warily hanging by on the side. Jack whistled at Ben’s new form. Kenta noted the new hieroglyph on the belt and the sword in Ben’s hand, recalling what the translator program had said*
Jack: You’re getting stronger, Rider. But will you be able to handle it?
*Ben’s blade began to burn in silver fire as he continued to walks toward Jack*
How long will you cling onto this illusion? How long will you fight your pointless war?
*Ben raised his sword*
How long will you rebuke me?!
*In a quick motion, Ben impaled Jack with the sword. Jack made no resistance as the burning blade scorched his innards. He seemed ambivalent toward his imminent demise. Looking at Ben, he gave him his signature carefree smile*
Remember when you were alone and friendless, Ben? I saved you from that. I tried to save you again, and you now reject me.
*Ben raised his arm, which burst in flame as well*
Kill me if you want, Ben, but it won’t do you any good. Ghosts are everywhere. And anybody…
*He said this last bit with relish. Ben answered with a flaming punch to Jack’s head. It exploded in the manner of the other two Ghosts. The rest of the body broke down into a pile of dust and smoke, which seeped out of the now bodiless cloak. The sword disappeared.

Kenta looked on as Ben relaxed his stance and stared out into the evening horizon. He slowly came up to his friend and looked out alongside him. Ben felt Kenta’s presence and was thankful for it. He turned to face him. Kenta Nishihori. The one man in the world he could surely count on, the man who had helped remember who he was just now. He had no doubt of that. A sudden sharp pain in his shoulder interrupted his thoughts. Keeping himself from making a sound, he gently touched the injury. For some reason the pain hadn’t eased as quickly as usual…

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*In his cell the drifter opened his eyes wide, as if beholding a great site. He sensed that something had happened this evening, and it was troubling. He had to find the Prophet…*


TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending theme plays*

END PART I
*Entr’acte plays*

(Expect Part II in about 2 weeks time. I have been a little busy these past few days.)

Last edited by Black Fang; October 19th, 2008 at 07:23 AM.
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 09:07 PM   #13
Black Fang
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New OP and ED themes!

PART II
*Overture plays*

Chapter 6: Justice

*Ben’s blade began to burn in silver fire as he continued to walks toward Jack*
How long will you cling onto this illusion? How long will you fight your pointless war?
*Ben raised his sword*
How long will you rebuke me?!
*In a quick motion, Ben impaled Jack with the sword. Jack made no resistance as the burning blade scorched his innards. He seemed ambivalent toward his imminent demise. Looking at Ben, he gave him his signature carefree smile*
Remember when you were alone and friendless, Ben? I saved you from that. I tried to save you again, and you now reject me.
*Ben raised his arm, which burst in flame as well*
Kill me if you want, Ben, but it won’t do you any good. Ghosts are everywhere. And anybody…
*He said this last bit with relish. Ben answered with a flaming punch to Jack’s head. It exploded in the manner of the other two Ghosts. The rest of the body broke down into a pile of dust and smoke, which seeped out of the now bodiless cloak. The sword disappeared*

Narrartor: The law and justice. What should be synonymous in fact become two different things. And when that happens another stone is laid on the road to hell…

*Nighttime. Ben tossed and turned in his bed, as if plagued by some demon determined to keep him from a peaceful sleep. Images of a silhouetted Rider and stallion, surrounded by walls of fire and mournful screams, kept flashing in his mind. Ben finally sat up in bed, sweat dripping down his brow. A tingling pain in his bruised shoulder reminded him of what had happened only a few hours ago. He didn’t understand it. He had never hurt for this long. Why was he healing so slowly, if at all? And what other secrets about his ring did he have yet to unlock? Ben fell back onto his bed and closed his eyes, searching for at least some moments of undisturbed sleep*

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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Morning. The drifter’s cell was suddenly unlocked and opened by an officer. He silently got up from his bench and nodded his head in thanks before heading toward the exit with his escort. On the way he passed the desk of Det. Savage, who had just gotten in. The drifter stopped here*
Drifter: ‘Morning, Detective
Savage: I see you’ve been released.
Drifter: Indeed I have. And not a moment too soon, for I must be on my way.
*Figuring what he was implying, Savage got up from his chair and looked the drifter in the face. He didn’t know just what this man planned to do once he found the Rider, nor did he feel he would find an answer from him. But he didn’t suspect any foul play*
Savage: Be careful.
Drifter: I think it’s you who should be careful more than I. We are in for some troubling times…
*With that he left Savage. Upon stepping out of the building, the drifter took out a pair of shades and placed them over his face. Time to find the Rider…*

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*Unknown time. Surrounded by the darkness of room lit only by a single dangling bulb, a man slowly sharpened his knife. He had a difficult time keeping his hands steady as he did his work, and continually shifted his sweaty grip on the handle. He didn’t want to be here. But what choice did he have? His life or the girl’s?

Once he was done, the man stepped out of the dark room and through an even darker corridor. This would all be over soon….*

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*Morning, a few days later. Miki opened her locker and rummaged through its contents for a book she needed. Unlike her brother, tidiness didn’t come to her naturally. Her locker, like her room, was cluttered and disorganized. Hiroko took great displeasure at this particular trait of her daughter’s and constantly reminded Miki of it. A girl should know how to keep things neat, she always said. Miki was glad her mother had never set eyes on her jungle of a locker. Casually turning her face toward the hallway and the plethora of kids coming and going, Miki caught her eye on a brown-haired girl her age coming her way. Kelly Zervos. She was surprised to see her in school this day of all days, considering this was the 10-year anniversary of her family’s death.

Before they suddenly vanished, the Reapers were one of the most infamous gangs in the Southwest. For 6 months the city was in a state of terror as people were found dead in their houses, with no discernable pattern or motive to be found. The killings always happened at night. Whole families were sometimes found butchered in their beds. Kelly’s was one of them. How she had managed to survive remained a mystery. Rumors had passed that said that the Reapers were hitmen for some underworld organization that the victims had had dealing with, and were sent to kill those who didn’t pay their dues. Indeed Kelly’s father, a well-known figure in the city’s political circles, was once investigated on charges of corruption. None of this ever confirmed, but the rumors persisted. Kelly remained the talk of the town for years after the gang disappeared without a trace. Privacy and reputation were tarnished. Even after the sensation of the story died down, the girl always seemed like a lone island amidst a turbulent sea. Whatever friends she had were few and far between. She didn’t talk much, and never about her private life when she did. Miki had had her in various classes. They weren’t exactly friends, but their relationship was cordial enough. Miki wondered why Kelly would be willing to come to school on this anniversary day, when media and schoolmates alike were bound to say something insensitive.

Miki closed her locker door just as Kelly came past her. She gave a little smile and waved to her in an effort to be friendly. Kelly returned the greeting warmly*
Kelly: Hello
*Not knowing how to proceed from here, Miki cautiously proceeded*
Miki: … Going to class?
Kelly: Yep
*the bell rang*
Well, see ya…
*Miki smiled politely at Kelly as she left, a little startled at how casual she had acted. As if today was nothing special. She’s handling it well, Miki thought. Better than I would have. With only a few seconds left, she quickly headed to her own class*

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*Afternoon. Ben, Kenta and Miki perused the aisles of a supermarket on their way home from school. Hiroko had asked them that morning to pick up some things for dinner tonight. Kenta was making a habit of picking up salmon cans and placing them on Miki’s head before tossing it over to Ben, much to her annoyance. After the third time, she whacked him on his chest*
Miki: Stop it!
*Ben grinned*
Ben: Careful. I hear she bites.
*As if to prove the point, Miki mockingly bared her teeth at Ben, who only laughed more and tried to place his free hand on her head. She ducked and moved away from the two boys and toward a fruit rack*
Why do we need all this fish?
Kenta: Because we have a bottomless pit and the little imp to feed. You two eat so much, it’s a wonder you remain so thin.
Miki: I don’t like fish. Let’s get some chicken.
Kenta: Are you still bitter about that? It was 6 years ago.
*Ben suspected something amusing was coming up*
Ben: What was?
Kenta: The last time we went to Japan, our uncle brought us fishing. One fish he caught bit her on the finger. Since then she doesn’t touch ’em.
*Ben chuckled*
Ben: The wittle girl is afraid of the wittle fishie??
*Miki threw an apple at Ben and Kenta. Kenta ducked and Ben watched as it knocked into the head of 10-year old girl. Hearing her cry out, a man who was apparently her father turned around to see what had happened, and eyed the thrown apple on the floor. He then looked at the three kids behind it.

Ben was frozen in place. He knew the face looking at him: the detective who had shot him in the caves not that long ago. Suddenly feeling a little paranoid, Ben slowly put his hands behind his back, took his ring off his finger and placed it in his pocket.

Miki winced and gave a nervous smile*
Miki: Sorry…
*Savage looked at his daughter, who was still rubbing her head. Slowly he picked up the apple and put in back in the rack*
Savage: This isn’t a playground. You should be more careful.
*Ben and Kenta mumbled apologies as well. As he turned back to his business, Savage looked at Ben again. Ben looked back into the man’s eyes, trying to look as casual as possible but feeling tense inside. Again he felt that he had seen this man before. Savage seemed to feel the same way looking into Ben’s eyes*
Savage: You…. Are you Ben Hernandez?
*Ben’s suspicions were confirmed. This was the cop who came to his house all those years ago to inform his mom of his father’s death. The face was older now, but the eyes were unmistakable. He nodded in response to the question*
I’m Chris Savage. I know... knew your father.
*Savage extended his hand to shake, and Ben slowly received it*
Ben: You were his partner.
Savage: You –
Ben: I saw you… that day…
*Savage remembered the young boy had been on the stairs trying to listen in on the conversation he had had with Michael’s wife. He also recalled the great amount of pictures Michael would show him of his son. The boy had grown into a considerable figure of a man. He shared Michael’s eyes, that much was certain. Savage reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out a card*
Savage: Listen… I’d like to talk with you sometime. Here is my card.
Ben: Oh…. Ok.
*What the hell would we have to talk about, Ben wondered. We hardly know each other, and I’m not a charity case*
Savage: I hope your mother is well.
*Another pang of annoyance crept into Ben’s mind. He hadn’t thought about his mother for the longest time. He didn’t like being reminded of her*
Ben: She’s fine.
Savage: Good to hear.
*his daughter began tugging on his blazer, ready to get away from this gloomy conversation*
Well, it’s good to see you. Take care.
*Ben frowned at Savage as the man turned and walked away. He looked back at the card he had given him. I hope he isn’t holding his breath, Ben thought. Kenta interrupted his thoughts*
Kenta: Let’s go.
*Ben hesitated for a second to look back at Savage one last time before following the two siblings*
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*Late afternoon. Only now was Kelly on her way home. She wasn’t fond of taking schoolwork home with her, so she always managed to finish it in school. By this time very few students and faculty were in the building. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she went down the hallway toward the exit and out into the open. As she made her way onto the sidewalk, she spotted a black van with a tinted windshield on the road moving slowly towards her. At first she tried to ignore it and continued at her current pace. But the van continued following her, like a predator stalking a hapless victim. Kelly began walking faster, then finally broke into a sprint as the van lurched to a position alongside her. Fortunately for Kelly, she happened to be a good sprinter. In a matter of seconds she had dashed down the road and made a sharp turn into another. The van continued its chase, its driver unperturbed by the feistiness of his quarry…*

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*Evening. Ben was watching the TV news, which was unsurprisingly harping on the anniversary of the Reapers’ murder spree. Miki was laying down on the couch reading a book for school when Kenta came in carrying a large box. He nudged her head with his knee*
Kenta: Do some work
Miki: I am
Kenta: You’ve already read that book.
Miki: I’m reading it again.
*she watched as her brother put the box on the floor*
Why don’t you do some work instead of playing with your toys?
Kenta: This is my project.
*Miki rolled onto her side*
Miki: Ooooh, the secret one. Let me see.
Kenta: Then it wouldn’t be much of a secret, would it?
Miki: But we’re family.
Ben: Until DNA proves otherwise.
Miki: Yeah, Ni-san was probably adopted. He’s too ugly to be part of this family.
*Kenta went over to Miki and grabbed her ankles, trying to pull over off the couch. Miki squealed and batted him away. Eiji suddenly came in and scolded Kenta in Japanese for his horsing around. Miki looked at Kenta and stuck her tongue out at him.

The phone rang. Miki, being closest, went to answer it*
Hello?
*Kelly’s voice came through the receiver*
Kelly: Miki?
Miki: Kelly?
*she noted that her voice sounded strange*
Are you ok? You sound out of breath
Kelly: … Someone is chasing me..
Miki: Chasing you?
*Upon hearing that phrase, Ben and Kenta exchanged glances. Ben slowly got up from his chair and stepped toward the stairs*
Where are you??
Kelly: I don’t know... I didn’t look where I was running, I don’t know where I am… You’re the only one whose number I had…
Miki: What about the police?
*a loud clattering noise was heard through the receiver. Kelly let out a scream before her voice was cut off*
Kelly?!
*Miki turned to the two boys but only saw Kenta. She then heard the thudding sound of Ben’s footsteps as he leapt down the stairs and out the door to the garage. Before Kenta could stop her, Miki followed Ben out the door in time to see him get on his bike and slam on his helmet*
Miki: Where are you going?
Ben: Out.
Miki: All of a sudden?
Ben: Yes.
Miki: You’ve been going out “all of a sudden” for a while now. What’s going on?
*Ben didn’t respond*
You’re going to look for her, aren’t you?
Ben: Go back inside, I’ll be back soon.
*Kenta too came outside. But Miki, instead of obeying Ben’s command, got on Ben’s bike and put on a spare helmet. Ben looked back at the girl with indignation*
Ben: What are you doing??
Kenta: Miki, get back here.
Miki: I’m going too.
*Ben cursed under his breath and looked to Kenta. It was obvious they weren’t going to change Miki’s mind. And more time arguing with her was less time to find Kelly. But if Ben was honest with himself, he wasn’t surprised. Miki was a smart girl. She was bound to figure out the truth behind Ben’s little adventures sooner or later. But he still wished it was much later*
Ben: You can be really stubborn, you know that?
Kenta: Maybe you’re the adopted one. You’re nothing like Okaa-san.
*Miki responded with a silly little grin. Shaking his head, Ben started up the bike and sped off down the road. Kenta meanwhile ran back up the stairs and began surveillance from his laptop*

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*Evening. The moon was just beginning to show its face. Ben and Miki found themselves on a crowded main road surrounded by neon-lighted buildings. They were flying blind and they knew it. Ben stopped the bike in an empty space next to the sidewalk*
Miki: Now what?
*Ben sighed*
Ben: No clue.
*Suddenly screams were heard in the street. A distraught girl was scrambling down the street. Following her was a black van going down the road at a dangerous speed. The girl came up from behind Ben and Miki and ran past them*
Miki: Kelly!
*Ben started up the bike as the van went past them. The commotion on the street intensified as the passers by wondered what was going on*
Ben: Get off.
Miki: What?
Ben: Just get off!
*he shoved Miki off the bike*
You’re in for a show.
*He sped off and turned into a side road as Kelly and the van went down the next block. Kelly, exhausted by this pursuit, stumbled and fell onto the sidewalk. The van came to a stop as well in the middle of the road. But before the driver could get out of the van, the loud braying of what sounded like a horse came from the road. The Rider appeared in front of the van. He hit his left arm with his right fist. A glob of his body splashed off from the impact and molded itself into the scorpion-shaped sword, which he caught in his hand. Horns blared and people screamed at the sudden appearance of this phantom of the city in such a crowded place. Miki, who had ran after Ben, stopped in her tracks and gazed in amazement with the rest.

The panicked driver put his foot to the pedal and reversed the van, slamming into several cars behind him as he did so. Ben rode quickly toward the van and impaled his blade into the hood and into the engine. At once it sparked and exploded in silver flame. Soon the entire van was consumed in it. Ben jumped off Antares and yanked the door of the van open. He grabbed the driver and flung him over to the sidewalk. The onlookers ducked out of the way as the man crashed into the wall of a building a few feet away from where Kelly fell. Miki ran up to Kelly and knelt down beside her. The two girls looked in shocked silence as the Rider leapt his way to the man and slammed his foot into him as he lifted himself back to his feet. Ben looked at his opponent: he was panicked and began babbling incoherently. Ben grinded his foot harder into the man’s chest and raised his sword as if to strike him. The crowd screamed. Kelly and Miki turned away.

Suddenly three police cars swarmed onto the scene. Five officers scrambled out of the cars and began running over, barking orders to get away and raising their guns. Ben saw the approaching cops, then looked back at the man. He kicked the man back into the wall and used the momentum to fly back onto Antares, who in turn leapt over the barricade made by the police cars and disappeared. The cops made their way to the babbling man and placed him under arrest. As they were doing so, a chain fell out of the man’s pocket. One of the cops picked it up*
Well, what do we have here?
*He recognized the insignia attached to the chain*
The Reapers are back in town…
*Kelly looked on in shocked silence until one of the officers instructed both girls to come with them. Ben, back to normal, reappeared in time to see Miki and Kelly disappear into one of the cars. Great, he thought. Miki was no more involved than he had anticipated. I should have thrown her off the bike back home, he thought miserably*

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*Eiji and Hiroko were furious. They were certainly grateful that their daughter was safe, but were greatly annoyed at how she suddenly dashed out of the house without telling anyone where she was going. Of course Ben and Kenta had had a hand to play in the affair themselves, but explaining it would open up another can of worms. So it was Miki who would be taking a hit for the team tonight. At the precinct, Ben, Kenta and his parents waited for Miki and Kelly to be finished answering the police’s inquiries. Kelly’s guardians had yet to show up. Once the two girls finally were released, Eiji and Hiroko were taken aside by one of the officers for a quick rundown of what had happened, leaving the kids alone. Kelly, feeling tired, sat down on a bench near the wall. Miki and Ben sat next to her. Again he felt the sharp pain left over from his arm, but he ignored it as best he could*
Ben: What a night.
Kelly: At least nothing happened.
Miki: People will be talking about this tomorrow. Maybe you should take the day off…
Ben: If that guy is a Reaper then this was no doubt an attempt to finish what they started…
Kelly: Let them. I’m not going to hide.
*Ben and Miki looked at her in silence, so she continued*
When my parents and brother got killed they tried to hide me, keep me from going out. Everyone was nice to me. Too nice…
*she sniffled*
I hated it. I hated being in a virtual prison.
*she looked at Miki*
I still have a life, and I want to live it. I’m not wallowing in my own self-pity.
*Ben thought of himself 10 years ago, when his own father had been killed. He could empathize with Kelly’s ordeal. But something in her voice seemed peculiar to him. She didn’t sound angry. Instead she spoke almost with a sense of detachment. Ben couldn’t understand it*
Ben: You must really hate the Reapers, don’t you?
*Kelly paused for a while before she shook her head*
I used to. But hating them didn’t do me any good. It wouldn’t bring my family back.
*She looked at the floor*
If you keep clinging to the past you can’t go forward. You have to move on.
*The girl sounded older than her years to Ben. But he still could not grasp her words. How could one stop hating those who did you such wrong, for no apparent reason? How could this girl just….“stop” feeling? Ben thought back to his father again. He still hated the one who had killed him, wherever he was. He for sure couldn’t just turn this rage off. How did she do it?

Kenta and his parents, accompanied by the Captain, came into view again. A pair of doors suddenly opened and from behind them the man came out, escorted by two officers. The man continued to have a panicked expression on his face, and was rambling on and on about “them” coming to kill him. He then saw Kelly and completely broke down. Breaking away from the cops, he tried reach the girl but was quickly restrained again. The man finally began yelling intelligibly*
THEY FORCED ME!! .... I DIDN’T WANT TO …. I DIDN’T WANT TO KILL THEM… THEY FORCED ME..

*Kelly looked at the man. Somehow she immediately figured out what he was referring to*
Kelly: You killed my family….
*Without thinking, Ben grabbed his ring. He would have transformed right there, but Kenta swiftly grabbed his arm to restrain him. The man continued his confession*
I was a kid… they said it would be my… initiation. I didn’t want to do it. But they forced me…. I left them afterward but they found me… they always find you… they said I had to finish the job or they would kill me…. I didn’t want to do this… I’M SORRY!
*So this was the piece of garbage that had taken Kelly’s family, thought Ben. He watched the girl to she what she would do. He personally would have liked to punch this guy in the face and beat him afterward. But what would Kelly do?

Kelly slowly walked toward the man. Miki reached out in an attempt to hold her back but was unsuccessful. Kelly looked into the man’s face. To his surprise, the girl gave him a sad smile. He was genuinely feeling remorse for his sins. And Kelly understood it*
Kelly: I understand…
*The man seemed to calm down after hearing those two words. As the two cops lead him away, the Captain came up to Kelly*
Captain: He’s on his way to a holding facility. The law will take care of him now.
Kelly: Will he be executed?
Captain: It’s a possibility.
*Kelly paused*
Kelly: I hope not. He’s suffered enough…
*Miki looked at Kelly with awe. Ben however continued to look at the man as he was taken away. She forgave him, just like that. Impossible. And the thought of allowing him to live? What a joke that was. He would never be executed. The system was too inept and corrupt to allow that to pass. And this thing didn’t deserve to draw another breath. Ben looked at the man and could think only of his father and the man who had killed him. The law may deal with him now, but justice sure wasn't.
Eiji: Ben? We’re leaving.
*Ben turned and saw Kenta’s family heading out. Miki was in front, eager to be as distant as possible to her still upset parents*
Ben: You go ahead…. I have to use the bathroom…
*He waited until the family had disappeared before going the way the man had been lead down. He tossed his ring up in front of him and walked right into the belt that formed…*

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*The man sat in the confines of his cell in the facility. He was still scared that the Reapers would find and eliminate him, but his heart felt lighter after hearing what that girl had said. She had forgiven him, something few people far older than her would have done. He could feel at least some peace.

Suddenly the light from the hallway his cell overlooked went out. The man became nervous as he slowly got up from his bench and inched toward the bars of his cell door. He looked out and saw nothing but darkness…. until a ghostly face came into view. The face was on the chest of a phantom-like figure. The Masked Rider. The man jumped back and fell to the floor, trying to get away from this menace. But the Rider simply cut through the bars with his fiery blade and stepped into the cell with him. The man cried out, but could issue a whimper as he felt the blade stab deep into his torso. The Rider looked at the man with his large gray eyes*

She may forgive you… but I don’t.

*Ben then thrust his foot into the man’s chest. He at once disintegrated into a pile of hot ash. Ben set his gaze upon the pile, and then made his way out of the cell and out of the building…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*
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Old November 16th, 2008, 07:47 AM   #14
Black Fang
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Chapter 7: Saving Grace

* The light from the hallway his cell overlooked went out. The man became nervous as he slowly got up from his bench and inched toward the bars of his cell door. He looked out and saw nothing but darkness…. until a ghostly face came into view. The face was on the chest of a phantom-like figure. The Masked Rider. The man jumped back and fell to the floor, trying to get away from this menace. But the Rider simply cut through the bars with his fiery blade and stepped into the cell with him. The man cried out, but could issue a whimper as he felt the blade stab deep into his torso. The Rider looked at the man with his large gray eyes *

She may forgive you… but I don’t.

*Ben then thrust his foot into the man’s chest. He at once disintegrated into a pile of hot ash. Ben set his gaze upon the pile, and then made his way out of the cell and out of the building…*

Narrartor: Abraham said unto the Lord, “If there are only 50…45…40…30…20…10 good people in Sodom and Gomorrah, will you spare them?” And the Lord replied, “For their sake, I shall not destroy them”

*Nighttime. At the museum, the man named Brady sat impatiently at his desk. The building had been closed to the public for the night a long time ago, but he was still cooped up inside, admittedly by his own volition. Ever since he had found out about the missing Prophet’s Ring from that detective (… Savage, wasn’t it?), he had firmly requested that the examinations of the artifacts found be done at top speed, particularly the hieroglyphs associated with the Ring. Now three months or so had gone by, the Rider was still highly active in his one-man war against the criminal sect, and the progress of the translation was slower than Brady would have liked. The secrets of the Ring had to be unlocked soon. He shuddered to think what his superiors would do if he came to them with empty hands one too many times. He may be of significant rank in the organization, but no one below the Great Leader was immune to brutal retribution…

Brady took the paper from his desk and opened up to a page featuring the Rider. The man stared at the Rider’s belt, of course none other than the Prophet’s Ring. Who was this person so able to wield its power? And how long would it be before he succumbed to it? Judging from the new appearance of his suit, the process had already begun…
*

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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Midnight. Another case of Savage’s personal life being interrupted by his job. Instead of being at home in bed, he was on the grounds of the city’s holding facility for criminals awaiting trial. The entire building was in lockdown. Savage had been in here many times, and he had never gotten used to it. He in fact despised the wretched building and the most wicked human offal it incarcerated. Riker’s in New York City was one of the few places comparable to this hellhole. As Savage stepped inside and stifled a yawn, he wished more than ever he was in his bed.

The precinct captain and a guard were already there when Savage arrived at the cell. There was nothing in there but a bench and a pile of ash shaped like a human lying down. Savage felt he knew what this was about before anyone said it*
Savage: Let me guess. A late-night visit from our friendly neighborhood Rider?
Guard: We still don’t know how he could have gotten in and out without anyone spotting him.
Captain: He is clearly a resourceful man. If he is a man at all…
*Savage tired to read what the Captain was thinking. Ever since the Rider first appeared, he had never truly given an opinion on the nature of the masked vigilante despite the buzzing of his subordinates. But now with a situation like this, where the victim was one who had already been apprehended by the police and awaiting trial, things were different. What would he say?

The Captain turned his wizened eyes to Savage and saw his stare*
Well Chris, what do you think?
Savage: We should have gone after him the moment he showed up in this city.
Captain: To be frank I was willing to let this guy slide. But now this… I’m not so sure anymore.
Savage: Just give the word and I’ll hunt him down.
Captain: It’s not up to me. But you can be sure we’re not going to turn a blind eye anymore. Whoever this guy is, he is obviously working on his own one-man legal system. We can’t have that.
*He saw Savage rub his tired eyes*
But first I think you need some time off.
Savage: What’re you talking about?
*the Captain smiled*
Captain: You overwork yourself. It’s the one flaw of yours. You have some built up vacation time. Use it. Spend some time with your kids.
*Savage looked at the Captain, then at the ash pile as the captain began conversing with the guard again. He truthfully did desire some well-deserved time off from his job, but now didn’t seem like the appropriate time. Despite this though, he nodded his agreement to the Captain. But in the back of his mind remained the Rider. The time had come to bring an end to his career…*

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* Late afternoon, some days later. Kenta, donning a dress shirt and pants, rummaged through the closet of his and Ben’s room looking for ties. A family friend had invited his family and others in the Japanese community to a wedding reception for his son and new daughter-in-law. They were soon going to leave, and Kenta still wasn’t ready. Ben, lying on his bed reading a book, looked over to him as he began tossing clothes out of the drawers. A random shirt fell on Ben’s head*
Ben: Do you mind?
*Kenta whirled around to witness the mess he had made and a roommate with a shirt over his face*
Kenta: Sorry
*Ben took the shirt off his head and tossed it onto Kenta’s bed. Reaching under his own bed, he brought out a navy blue tie and threw it to Kenta*
Ben: There, you can borrow mine.
*Kenta hastily put it on*
Kenta: I don’t know why you can’t just come with us. You’re practically family by now.
Ben: I don’t like fancy events.
Kenta: And I do?
Ben: No one’s stopping you from not going.
Kenta: Other than how it’ll look to everyone else. Unlike you, I have to keep up appearances.
*He put on his blazer as Ben got up to join him. As he stepped toward him, he noticed the parchments with the hieroglyphs strewed carelessly near his bed. Picking them up, he perused the symbols as he had done hundreds of times now. One sentence that matched one translated by the program had been circled by Kenta. The translation was scribbled below.

“From the West comes the scorpion, the sting of poison swift…”

Kenta looked on with Ben*
Kenta: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s referring to your new sword.
Ben: Great. Can you find something saying why I keep hurting every time I use it?
Kenta: Can’t help you there.
*Ben continued looking at the hieroglyphs. His mind drifted toward the dream he had had that day he found the ring. Ever since the night he had killed that former Reaper who had tried to kill Kelly Zervos, though, the dream had become recurring. Perhaps it was some sort of message*
Ben: I keep having the same dream...
*Kenta looked directly at Ben with a new interest*
… A rider on a horse galloping through a destroyed town, with people screaming toward him…
Kenta: Perhaps you’re seeing yourself.
*Ben, disturbed by such a suggestion, shook his head*
Ben: Couldn’t be. It looked too… monstrous.
*He hadn’t told Kenta about the former Reaper’s fate, partly due to an inner feeling that it should be kept under wraps. But what indeed was this dream? A vision of the future as per Kenta’s theory? And that brought up yet another question, though far from new: Who created this Ring, and for what purpose?

Ben’s thoughts were interrupted when Eiji, already smartly dressed, called for Kenta to come out to the living room. Hiroko was sporting a flowing kimono and was helping Miki adjust her own. Upon seeing her son, she gave an approving smile and began smoothing over his clothes as well*
Hiroko: *Japanese* Such a handsome young man …
*An uncomfortable Kenta looked down on the floor and scratched his head. He could hear Miki giggling at the entire exchange. Ben wasn’t doing much to hide his own amusement either. Hiroko then turned to Ben*
Now we’ll be back in a few hours, Ben. Don’t wait up for us.
*As if I haven’t been here for 3 years, thought Ben. He knew the drill by now. Nevertheless, he smiled in response*
Ben: I’ll probably go out for a while myself anyway.
*Kenta rolled his eyes to the side in response to that. Miki eyed Ben with curiosity. The subject of Ben’s random outings hadn’t been brought up again after the incident with Kelly. If Miki was still harboring suspicions, she wasn’t saying it.

Eiji and Hiroko started heading for the car. Miki couldn’t resist reaching toward Kenta’s face and giving a little squeeze in a mock reenactment of an old lady admiring a young person*
Miki: Boku-chan is so cute…
*Kenta shoved his sister’s head away and followed her down the stairs. Looking back, he caught Ben’s attention and winked*
Kenta: Try not to get in too much trouble.
Ben: Try not to get too drunk.
*Kenta gave Ben an incredulous look, to which he responded with a grin*
I still remember your first time with the bottle….
*Kenta shook his head in mock indignation and closed the door after him*

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*Evening. Savage, upon taking the Captain’s advice, had taken his family to a skating rink in the park. As his three kids got lost within the mass of skaters, he sat down on a nearby bench with his wife, looking above at the massive buildings surrounding this forested area. Alison Savage sipped a cup of coffee as a slight chill wind came through*
Alison: I keep telling you, Chris. You work yourself too hard.
Savage: Is that the phrase of the day now?
Alison: You really should try to get more time off.
*Savage sighed and watched the water vapor from his breath drift away. After a moment’s pause Alison continued*
Have you thought about it?
Savage: About moving?
*He made a little scoffing sound*
You already know my stance.
Alison: It’s getting far too dangerous here, never mind the cost of living. You should know that more than anyone.
Savage: Anywhere you go is dangerous.
Alison: Not as bad as here. This whole city is in chaos. And now there is this Rider going around like a one-man army.
*she turned around to fully face her husband*
Can you really guarantee the kids’ safety here?
*Savage looked back at his children. Their joyous expressions betrayed their obliviousness to the gloomy conversation their parents were engaging in*
Savage: You know I couldn’t guarantee anything even in the best of circumstances. But we’re not going to just give up and run away.
Alison: We are not an army. Your sloganeering doesn’t work.
*Savage continued to look toward the rink. He didn’t want to argue with her, but if he was honest with himself he had himself grappled with the idea of calling it quits and moving on. And yet the notion of it to him had the bitter taste of surrender. ‘Surrender’ was not a word in Savage’s vocabulary. Never had been, and it wasn’t going to start now. But still, on the other hand his family had to be taken into consideration.
Savage: Things are going to get better. One way or another.
Alison: You said no guarantees.
Savage: I’m not. But it’s what I believe.
*Husband and wife said no more, and instead watched their children play in silence amidst the bustle of the park*

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*Ben parked his bike at a virtually empty convenience store parking lot. Being bored with the indoors, he had some time earlier went out for a nighttime ride through the city. It had been a while since he had just ridden around aimlessly with no distinct destination. The last time he could remember was, almost ironically, the day he had become the Rider. Right now though, the superhero business was far from Ben’s mind. All he wanted was some fresh air.

Ben exited the store with a soda can in hand and suddenly noticed his bike was missing. In a state of panic, he began looking around wildly for it. Just my luck, he thought. He had intended to run in and out of the store in a few seconds and hadn’t bothered to take the keys with him. Now he was cursing himself for such a rash decision. That bike was his most prized possession, never mind that it could turn into a super-powered horse with wheels.

*Suddenly he saw it. And clambering onto it was a girl wearing a stuffed bag over her back. Ben shouted out to her. The girl jumped in surprise and turned to see the owner of the bike she had just purloined running toward her. Quickly, she turned the key and sped off. Ben, undaunted, sprinted after her and pointed his ring toward the bike. A small, narrow stream of silver flame shot forth from the black stone, turning into a giant wall of fire upon landing in front of the girl’s path. She made an abrupt stop upon seeing this unexpected site, allowing Ben to catch up and throw her off his bike. The girl rolled over onto her back and glared up at Ben, who finally got a good look at her. She was a Hispanic adolescent, with mascara and blue lipstick covering her face. Large hoop earrings adorned her ears. Certainly not the apex of attractiveness in Ben’s book*
Ben: Sorry ma’am, but you’re too young for this ride.

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*Kenta was bored. And hungry. The reception had been going on for hours now and still no dinner had been served. There was never anything to do at these events. Kenta had long ago resigned himself to just stand out of the way of the action whenever he found himself in places like this. Leaning back against one of the giant doors leading to a larger balcony, Kenta set his gaze upon the females in attendance. Many were in kimonos, but a good number were adorned in more Western-style dresses and gowns. Kenta knew most of them either by sight or through interaction in school and other get-togethers, and had even fancied some of them in his younger days. His mother however had no liking for these girls and their parents, as she so often would say whenever the family returned from parties. ‘Too westernized and spoiled’, she said. His father never said anything, but Kenta suspected that he shared the same view.

Kenta saw Miki conversing about nothing with a bunch of girls at a nearby table. Completely bored out of his mind, he was about to go over to them and harass his sister for some amusement when Hiroko suddenly began calling him over. She was standing with ‘Ossan’ Tachibana, a man of no relation to the family but whom Kenta and Miki called ‘uncle’ anyway. He was a close friend of his parents who had helped his father out when he had first immigrated to the US*
Hiroko: Kenta, this is Tachibana-ossan’s niece, Saya. She just came over from Japan a few months ago.
*A girl dressed in a kimono of light pink or white stepped in front of Kenta and gave him a greeting. A comb adorned with a white flower was placed on her head, and small round earrings that looked to Kenta like miniature replicas of the moon decorated her ears. Overall he found her a very lovely sight. He heard Tachibana speaking and forced himself to recover his wits*
Tachibana: … she’s attending your school.
Kenta: Oh, really?
*Saya gave a shy smile. Kenta caught a strange twinkle in Hiroko’s eye that lasted for only second. Ever since he had started grad school his mother had often mentioned about him getting married. ‘It’s already started’, he thought to himself. What is on the outside an inconsequential meeting is really the beginning of his mother’s search for potential wives for her son. Before Kenta knew it he would suddenly be swamped with a whole horde of girls introduced to him by relatives and friends. The center of attention. A place Kenta was far from comfortable with.

Finally the catering began coming out with dinner. As luck would have it, Kenta’s and Tachibana’s families had been assigned the same table. Kenta suddenly had the paranoid theory that this too had been arranged by his oh-so-devious mother*

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*Ben watched as the girl he had just caught get up and try to run off. Quickly he placed a foot in her path and made her trip. Once he grabbed the back of her jacket, the girl turned vicious*
“Get off me!!”
Ben: I don’t like people who try to take my bike.
*The girl broke away from Ben and glared at him*
“Then let me go and you won’t have to look at me”
Ben: How about we compromise and I take you for a ride to the precinct?
*The girl snorted and began moving away again. Ben noted the bag she had slung across her back*
Trying to take a road trip?
“None of your business”
Ben: It became my business when you took my bike.
*The girl sighed in annoyance and turned back to face Ben*
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?”
Ben: Maybe I can give you a ride to where you’re going.
“Are you kidding?”
*Ben shrugged*
Ben: Either that or you can go try to steal some other ride, and I doubt anyone else will be this forgiving.
*The girl said nothing, seemingly weighing her options. The more Ben looked at her, the less he liked her. He had a particular distaste for uncouth girls. But something told him that this girl was in a hurry to go somewhere. And being the good citizen that he was, he may as well give her a hand. The girl finally conceded*
“Fine”
*She came over to Ben, who gave her his spare helmet. As they jumped on the bike, Ben turned to face her again*
Ben: So, what’s your name?
“Why do you care? Just drive me to where I wanna go”
Ben: And where is that?
“Anywhere but here”
*Ben caught a glance at her necklace, which had her name inscribed on it*
Ben: Very well… Marisol.
*Marisol grumbed under her breath as Ben started up the bike and began going down the streetlamp-lit road*

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*Savage’s kids slept in the back of the SUV as he drove them back home. Alison was quiet as she looked out the window on the passenger side. So Savage himself was left to drive in silence, except for the voice of a talk radio host coming out from the radio. The conversation in the park continued playing in his head. Was it really worth it, he wondered. In his years on the force he had witnessed firsthand the corruption that strangled his city. The police walked on the edge of a knife. One wrong move and the lawyers and activists would crawl out of the woodwork to raise hell. The out-of-touch politicians of course kowtowed to these lilliputians, which of course lead to more hand- tying of the cops. Savage recalled an incident a few months ago where an officer tasered a participant in a street demonstration that had degenerated into a riot, who was violently resisting arrest. Since then that officer had been suspended with pay, and fallen under the jackboot of police brutality investigations. Savage was acquainted with that man. The fact that such a ridiculous demonization on this man and the police department as a whole was being allowed to continue made his blood boil. Was their any saving grace for this place?

Despite his religious upbringing, it had been years since he had really sat down to read scripture. Yet right now he could vividly remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah:

“Abraham said unto the Lord, ‘If there are only 50…45…40…30…20…10 good people in Sodom and Gomorrah, will you spare them?’ And the Lord replied, ‘For their sake, I shall not destroy them’ ”

Abraham sought the saving grace. And now Savage found that he was the same. What was the saving grace of this city? Did it even have one? And if it didn’t, would it suffer the same fate? Of course, if he ever shared these musings with his peers he would become a laughingstock. Then again, Abraham too was mocked.

Savage stopped at a traffic light and watched as the pedestrians crossed the street. One of them was an elderly woman burdened with some kind of heavy load. A passerby caught sight of the woman and gave her his assistance. Savage smiled as he watched the two go by. He suddenly felt a sense of reassurance. Things didn’t seem so gloomy all of a sudden*

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*Kenta stepped away from the bar with a glass of scotch in hand. Dinner was long over, and the party was slowly beginning to wind down. As he stepped out onto the giant balcony for some air, he caught the girl Saya looking out onto the vast city below. Kenta came to the railing and stood alongside her, nodding his head in greeting as she turned to see him. She gave him a smile and turned back to face the city. She then spoke with a slight accent*
Saya: It’s beautiful.
*Kenta snorted and leaned back against the railing*
Kenta: Only from a distance.
*he took a sip from his glass. Saya turned to him again*
Saya: What do you mean?
Kenta: It only looks good from here. Go down into the street and you’ll see the ugliness.
*He waved his hand toward the city*
You’re looking at decadence and corruption.
*Saya gave Kenta a surprised look and answered with the smallest hint of defiance*
Saya: I like it here.
Kenta: What’s there to like?
Saya: The people are really nice.
*She brushed a stray strand of silky hair from her face. She continued her defense in Japanese*
“I remember getting lost in the airport when I first came here, and this man in shades came over and helped me out. He was really kind…”
*She turned away fully from the cityscape and looked up at Kenta’s face*
“Is there anything here you find good?”
*Kenta took another sip of scotch and responded in the mother tongue as well*
Kenta: “Kamen Rider”
*Saya seemed to turn pale upon hearing these words*
Saya: “He’s horrible”
Kenta: *English* What? Look at all the people he’s saved…
Saya: *English* Look at all the people he’s killed. I saw his picture.
*she shivered slightly despite the warm weather*
He’s scary…
Kenta: He’s doing what no one else will. He’s a hero.
Saya: A symbol of death. He’s just another killer.
*She turned her face away*
I hate him…
*Kenta glowered at the girl. He couldn’t believe he was hearing such slander about Ben. But no, it wasn’t Ben technically, he corrected himself. He had taken for granted the fact that he knew the identity of the city’s now famous vigilante, and had seen Saya’s remarks as a personal insult to his friend. But even so, the Rider wasn’t like the people he fought. He sought justice, real justice. And people believed in him. Saya suddenly giggled*
You’re just like my brothers…
Kenta: Oh?
Saya: They love Kamen Rider. If they were here they’d be saying the same thing.
*Kenta forced a mirthless chuckle*
Kenta: *Japanese* “You’re the oldest?”
*Saya nodded*
Saya: *Japanese* “Of three. The older is still an undergrad and the younger in high school. I’m more like their mother than sister”
*She gave her shy smile again. Kenta’s bitter feelings suddenly melted away. He couldn’t stay mad at her. Besides, he thought to himself, she’ll see the truth eventually. He gulped down the last of his scotch as the stars began shining brightly in the heavens*

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*Ben and Marisol finally stopped outside a bus depot, as she had earlier requested. As she went inside to buy her ticket, Ben sat down on a bench outside and watched the stars up above. This part of the city was some distance away from the lights of the inner area. The celestial bodies were much clearer out here. While Ben watched as a small meteor streaked through the sky, Marisol returned and sat down next to him. Rummaging through her bag, she yanked out a carton of cigarettes and offered Ben one*
Ben: You know those aren’t good for you.
*Marisol shrugged and lighted one*
Marisol: I don’t need a lecture.
Ben: No, of course not. You’re an independent young lady out to find her way in the world, and you sure as hell don’t need anyone giving you advice.
*He watched as smoke emitted from her mouth*
You still haven’t told me where you’re going.
Marisol: Does it matter?
Ben: Maybe not. But you seem a little young to be going places on your own.
Marisol: I’m 17.
Ben: Case in point. Won’t your parents worry when their little angel is missing in the morning?
*Marisol, annoyed with Ben’s constant sarcasm, gave him a dirty look*
Marisol I have no parents.
Ben: Oh, a test tube baby? That explains a lot. Those things never work out that great…
Marisol My dad’s been gone since I was 6, and my mom only has eyes for her gangster boyfriend and his drugs. There, satisfied?
*Ben stared ahead of him. Lost parents. Something we have in common, he thought grimly. A strange twist of fate that their paths would have diverged so greatly*
Ben: Your dad’s dead?
*The girl blew out smoke again*
Marisol: Could be for all I know…
*Ben liked the name Marisol. He once had imagined when he was younger being married to a girl with that name for reasons he knew not. He hated that such a lovely name be wasted on this sorry case. Still, he couldn’t really blame her predicament all on her. She didn’t ask for this*
Ben: So why are you leaving?
*Marisol looked at Ben as if he was crazy*
Marisol Are you kidding? Because this place is awful.
Ben: Really…
Marisol: There’s nothing here. Everyone is out to screw you over. The gangs rule the streets.
Ben: But they don’t rule the people.
Marisol You think you’re some hero or something?
Ben: Maybe I’ve just seen too much Tyler Perry.
*Marisol gave him another weird look, obviously not getting Ben’s joke*
So when you get to wherever you’re going, what will you do?
Marisol: I dunno. Just wing it and see what happens.
Ben: Sounds risky.
Marisol: It’s how I’ve always done it.
*a stray newspaper picture blew in the wind and landed near the pair’s feet. Marisol picked it up. On the page was a picture of the Masked Rider. She looked at him briefly before crumpling the paper with one hand*
I don’t know why this guy even bothers. What’s the point?
*Ben showed no sign of it, but a pang of annoyance crept into him*
Ben: To give hope to the people?
Marisol: And what good will that do? Nothing’s going to change. This guy can fight as long as he wants. He’ll never win. We’re all losers here.
Ben: That’s a pretty morbid view of things.
Marisol: My life hasn’t been particularly rosy, so no big surprise. Not that you would know…
*Another pang of annoyance. Sure, Ben didn’t know. A dead father and an insane mother to his name, and she’s telling him he doesn’t know? The nerve…*
Ben: Perhaps he may lose. But there will always be someone to take up his mantle and continue what he started.
*He turned to face Marisol*
Life sucks for everyone at some time. The point is to keep fighting. To find something better. Not to run away and hide from your problems.
*Marisol got his little jab at her, but for once didn’t respond with her usual sneers. A Greyhound bus finally came into view and opened its doors to allow the passengers in. Marisol got up and threw away her burnt up cigarette in an ashtray and started heading over to join the rest of the people. Upon going halfway she stopped to face Ben again, who had also gotten up*
Marisol: Well, see ya…
*As she turned away again, Ben called for her to stop. She turned around again, and Ben threw to her the soda can he had bought from the store before this wild adventure began. He spoke his last words to her in Spanish*
Ben: “Good luck”
*Marisol paused for a few seconds before responding*
Marisol: Gracias.
*She turned back and headed into the bus. Ben watched her go in before turning away himself to head for his bike. As he started it up, he looked one last time at the bus. From a window-side seat, Marisol watched as Ben rode away from the depot and into the night. The girl brought the soda can to her face and smiled to herself as she began to drink*

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*Almost midnight. Miki yawned as she got into the car, clearly ready for sleep. Kenta remained quiet as he followed his parents to the car, loosening his tie as he did so. But as Eiji got into the driver’s seat, he looked at his mother*
Kenta: *Japanese* “What do you think?”
Hiroko: “She looks ok…”
*She said no more as she got inside. Kenta followed her and closed the door behind him, looking out the window at the night sky. Miki’s slumbering head fell on his arm as they turned a corner. Kenta gave a small grin and slowly patted her head*

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*Past midnight. Kenta went over to his bed, finally able to get out of this restricting suit. As he changed he saw two tired eyes looking at him through the dim room from the adjacent bed*
Ben: How was the ball?
Kenta: Fine. You missed nothing.
*He go it into his night clothes*
And how was your quiet evening alone?
Ben: Not so quiet. And not so alone…
Kenta: Oh?
*He would have continued but something suddenly appeared on his laptop screen. The translator program was at work again. Two new hieroglyphs zoomed into range as the program began working on them.




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*Unknown location. Brady got an incoming message from his PDA. Opening it, two new hieroglyphs appeared on screen.



Finally, those incompetents at that school make some progress, he thought. He sent back a message telling the sender to keep him informed before putting the device away. If they knew what was good for them, they would double their efforts…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*
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Old November 29th, 2008, 07:08 PM   #15
Black Fang
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Chapter 8: Declaration

*Past midnight. A SWAT team barged into a run-down apartment complex. Earlier that day an anonymous person had tipped the police off to this place where supposedly the resurrected Reapers were making their HQ. It wasn’t much to go on, but with the sudden death of the one former Reaper they had had in custody, the options were few. So in the team went. The few people who were in the hallways quickly ducked out of the way as they rolled past. Several choice doors were broken open and searched, but nothing of significance was found until a section of the team reached the building’s basement.

The head of this team splashed the spotlight of his rifle into the pitch-dark room as he lead his group down the rickety steps. Nothing strange could be seen… until the light illuminated an object on a lone table covered with a black sheet. Cautiously, the leader stepped toward the object and, with a quick draw of the hand, unfurled it from the sheet. A severed head stared with its lifeless eyes back at him. The man made a cry of disgusted surprise, and jumped backward toward his teammates. At the base of the neck was a chain with the Reaper’s insignia hanging off. Before anyone could say a word, the eyeballs suddenly began to glow a bright red color and burst into flame. The image of a sickle with an amorphous, white face with hollow, black eyes in front appeared on the ceiling, which then reassembled itself into the following phrase:

“War is upon your doorstep”

This too disappeared in a blinding flash. A small shockwave erupted from the flash and spread outside the building in a 360 degree radius.
*

Narrartor: It was a state of war. The mounted knight against the ghostly horde, with everyone else caught in the middle…

*


The beginning of a sentence materialized on screen as the program began deciphering the two hieroglyphs. Ben and Kenta watched with intense anticipation when suddenly the Power Gauge Manager on Kenta’s laptop suddenly began blinking on and off, indicating a critically low battery life. Before the boys could respond, the entire machine shut down completely. Kenta swore under his breath.
*
Ben: What happened?
Kenta: Power went out. I must have forgotten to plug it in when I turned it on.
*He closed the monitor and caught Ben’s critical stare*
Well I was in a hurry to get somewhere, unlike your joyriding self.
Ben: I’m going to venture a guess that our progress wasn’t saved.
*Kenta sighed and shook his head in response*
Back to square 1.
*The two said nothing else as the darkness continued to shroud the room*

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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Morning. Kenta was on his way to fix another piece of faulty electronic equipment in a classroom. He entered his destination and ignored the din of conversating students as he attempted to get the room’s projector working. Finally after a few minutes, the machine was working properly. As Kenta turned to leave, he spotted someone familiar sitting in the front row of the room, looking downward at her book*
Kenta: Saya?
*Saya looked up and slightly jumped*
Saya: Oh… hello
*Her hair was tied into a loose ponytail, a stunning contrast to the hairstyle she had sported at the reception. Even with her casual dress of sweater, pants and velvet boots, she was to Kenta an elegant sight*
Kenta: You have class here?
*Saya nodded and gave a polite smile. Kenta wasn’t sure how to progress the conversation, but was saved the trouble as the professor called for the class’s attention. Kenta began to leave, but blurted out a question to Saya*
Kenta: You want to meet some time?
*Saya seemed caught off guard by the question, but quickly recovered and gave a positive response. Kenta smirked again and left the room. Once outside, he grimaced. ‘What the hell did you do that for’, he thought to himself. ‘You barely know her’. He retreated down the hall and back to the Tech Help office, remembering that soon he had a class of his own*

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*Noon. Some time earlier a band of robbers had broken into a local bank and taken the people inside hostage. Now a police barricade was surrounding the entrance to the building. Attempts to negotiate were falling apart. The robbers had declared that one captive would die every half hour the barricade was in place. Shots had already been heard from inside. And still the cops on the scene were hesitant to respond. Suddenly the loud cry of a horse was heard from the street. Before they could stop him, The Rider flew over the gathered police and went straight through one of the building’s windows…

Within the bank, the hostages cowered against the nearest walls and desks as their masked captives piled in a bloody heap the bodies of the three people who had fallen to their guns. At that moment the commotion outside drew the attention of one of the robbers. Wanting a closer look, he slowly stole a glance from one of the bank’s windows, and came face to face with a wave of shattered glass and the front tire of a motorcycle to the head. Ben knocked the man down and out cold as he landed inside the building. The captives broke out into a chorus of cries and shouts. Two of the remaining robbers raised their guns and began opening fire on Ben. Quickly, Ben turned the right dial of his belt as the bullets went their way through his body and out from the other side. The hieroglyph for the sword appeared on the buckle, and the exiting bullets came together to form the sword. The sword impaled itself into a wall, the impact so hard that a mounted plaque fell off and landed heavily on the man huddled beneath it.

Ben leapt off Antares, grabbed one of the masked men by the throat and slammed his head into one of the teller’s booth. He tore the rifle from the man’s hands and threw him to the ground. He was about to break the rifle into pieces when he heard more screams a few feet away. The fourth robber had grabbed a pregnant woman from the floor and shoved his gun into her belly, yelling for the Rider to back down. The woman whimpered in the tight grasp of her captor and clutched her stomach, her eyes white with terror. Ben slowly began raising his newly acquired rifle. Kenta’s voice came into his ear*
Kenta: What are you doing??
Ben: *with a tinge of anger in his voice* What does it look like?
Kenta: She’s too close..
Ben: I just need one clean shot…
Kenta: Don’t…
*the man yelled at Ben again and pressed his gun deeper into the woman’s belly. She screamed in fright. Ben could wait no longer*
Ben: Overruled.
*With one quick motion he fired the rifle at the man’s head. The woman cried out again as droplets of blood from her dead captor splashed onto her body. Ben dashed to the other side of the room and retrieved his sword from the wall. The hostages, seeing the tide being turned in their favor, began making a hasty escape out the door and shattered window as Ben as the two remaining, conscious robbers tried to get away from him. Outside, the police quickly corralled the escaped civilians and began getting them out of the way. Before they could begin storming the building, however, one of the last two robbers flew out the door and landed in a heap in front of them. Ben at last came out, raising the other robber by the throat in one hand and bringing his sword to his chest. By now a sizeable crowd of passersby and news media had clustered around the vicinity, and now all had their eyes trained on the bank entrance. The cops who had maintained their composure drew their weapons and aimed not at the captured man, but the Rider.

Ben looked at the weapons drawn on him and heard someone on a bullhorn to drop the man and his sword. He would have to fight his way through the wall of police if he wanted to get out. Projectiles normally couldn’t hurt him, but they had numbers on their side. They weren’t his enemy. He couldn’t hurt them. So Ben in compliance dropped the man to the ground. His sword disintegrated into thin air.

But as the cops nearest to them started to take both the man and Ben into custody, the sky suddenly began to turn dark. A hooded figure on a Harley motorcycle rode up to the bank. The two robbers seemed to recognize the figure and began to shrink back in sheer terror, the cops restraining them the only prevention from them making a mad dash away from the scene. The figure raised his head, revealing a pale white mouth beneath the hood, and brought his hand up in a horizontal position. The two men felt a burning sensation on their hands. Removing their gloves, they saw the tattooed insignia of the Ghosts glow an intense white. The figure spoke*

“First strike”

*A sickening popping sound was heard from the two men’s chests. They immediately dropped to the ground, blood pooling out of a large gash cut right above their exploded hearts. Widespread panic ensued. The stunned cops made a move to apprehend the hooded man, but the man simply started up his bike and rode right through the barricade, running over anyone who didn’t get away fast enough. The sky had returned to its normal coloration.

In all the confusion, Ben had managed to get away unnoticed. His mind was in a frenzy as he rode away from the bank. The last time he had faced the Ghosts was the day he had slew his former friend Jack Thorpe. For them to be come out in the open so brazenly was strange indeed. They had caused a great deal of chaos when only acting in the shadows. Ben shuddered to think what they could do in plain sight…*

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*Evening. At home, Ben and Kenta whispered to each other as they sat at the table and watched the news. Not surprisingly, the hostage situation at the bank was the top story. In the kitchen, Miki was attempting to make dinner with some help from her mother*
Kenta: Next time try not to cut it so close.
Ben: We’ve been doing this for months, and now you doubt me?
Kenta: We never had a situation like that. One inch off and you would have hit that woman.
Ben: But I didn’t.
Kenta: All I’m saying is it wouldn’t hurt for you to be a little more cautious. The cops aren’t exactly your biggest fans as it is.
Ben: They’re the reason we’re doing this in the first place.
*He noticed Kenta doubtful look and playfully nudged him*
Will you relax? Nothing happened. Get ready for this dinner your dear sister made for you.
Kenta: No thanks. I choose life
*Miki’s voice came out over the sound of the running sink*
Miki: I can hear you..
*Hiroko walked by on her way from the kitchen*
Hiroko: What’re you two whispering for?
*The boys flashed a quick grin and shook their heads*
Ben: It’s nothing...
*He saw Miki giving him a suspicious look as she came from the kitchen. The prepared food was sitting on the counter, and the boys got up to serve themselves*
And what are you looking at?
Miki: Nothing. Just two boys trying and failing to hide a big secret…
*She cast another look at the two, seemingly indicating cognizance of their conversation’s subject matter. Ben had wondered aloud whether they should just spill everything to her, but Kenta was adamantly against it. She was lucky not to have gotten hurt the last time she had tried to tail him and Ben during their superhero adventures. They weren’t going to risk it a second time. Ben whispered again to Kenta as they got plates*
Ben: She’s practically figured us out anyway…
Kenta: Forget it.
*He said this in a tone of finality, so Ben shut his mouth and remained quiet for the rest of dinner. But as he ate, he began to think about the Ghosts and what they were planning next, and the lines of the parchments that still required translation*

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*Evening. Savage, tormented with a splitting headache, walked in the door and sat down in a chair without even bothering to take off his blazer. His kids, who were watching TV, didn’t acknowledge his entry*
Savage: Do you not say hello to your father anymore?
*The kids jumped slightly and quickly said their greetings. Allison came in from the kitchen and told them to go upstairs and get ready for bed. The oldest made a move to protest, but he caught his mother’s stern look and quickly retreated. Allison glanced over at her exhausted husband as she sat down on the adjacent couch and lowered the TV volume*
Allison: You look tired.
Savage: The understatement of the year.
*he began taking off his blazer*
I’ve only been back three days, and I feel I need another vacation.
Allison: You could have taken off a little longer.
Savage: Maybe…
*News footage of the bank heist played on the TV*
Allison: I take it this is the cause of your troubles.
*Savage grimaced and stretched in his chair*
Savage: The three dead ones are being autopsied, and the one who survived is in the hospital now. He’s our only link to just what these Ghosts are.
*He rubbed his face with his hand*
We’ve been getting hell all afternoon. People are demanding our heads for following procedure, and praising that damn Rider for barging in and putting everyone at risk. Everything is upside-down around here.
Allison: People have been getting frustrated with the government for years. And you are an arm of the government.
*She paused before saying the next thing*
It’s like I’ve been saying, Chris. People are sick and tired of this crime wave. It’s no surprise they will lash out at people like you for not doing anything –
Savage: I am doing something. You know how committed I am to this job.
Allison: I know. But not everyone is like you.
*Savage rested his head against the back of the chair*
Savage: Politics keeps tying our hands. Whenever one of us does something controversial the bureaucrats put on more restraints. And with more restraints the less capable we become. It’s a vicious cycle we have begotten. And now the mayor has started up his amnesty garbage again. This when so many of the crimes are being done by illegals…
*Allison looked toward the TV*
Allison: If this continues the only future we have is a dark one.
*Savage stared at his wife*
Savage: What do you mean?
Allison: Well, isn’t it obvious? We have the people turning not toward the law, but this bike-riding vigilante to save them. This is going to just open the door for more people like him until the entire city consumes itself.
*Savage thought back to his earlier musings about biblical lore*
Savage: You really think it would come to that?
Allison: I hope not…
*Savage looked at the TV as well*
Savage: The Rider must be eliminated before that can happen.
*Allison whipped her head back to her husband*
Allison: Oh, really? Have you thought about what that would do? After all your talk about the contempt for you, will you be the spark to this powder keg?
*She leaned in closer*
This is a dangerous situation, Chris. Think very carefully about what you will do.
*She got up and patted Savage’s shoulder before going upstairs to check on their children. Savage remained in his chair and stared at the TV screen until his eyes glazed over*

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*Midnight. In a cavern dimly lit with an eerier green light, several unconscious bodies lay atop stone tables. Above these bodies hung tangles of tubes, wires and strange devices. These were implanted into the bodies. Fluids and electrical currents flowed through the tubes and wires. Occasionally a body would twitch. From the gloom stepped out a cloaked figure with a blue-colored brooch. He watched the bodies as they lay on the tables. Some of them were here of their own volition, their desire for power that strong. Others had been forcibly attained, to put it one way. The reconstructive operations were going well, he thought to himself.

Another figure with a green-colored brooch stepped out from somewhere and approached the first one. This one raised its head, revealing the salmon-colored lips of a female. She didn’t speak, but the male figure understood her intention. Bowing slightly to his superior, he departed the room. The female figure watched him as he departed. She licked her lips with a forked tongue…*

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*Past midnight. Ben sensed the familiar warmth of the ring and woke up with a jolt. Trouble was afoot. Kenta was still fast asleep. Ben didn’t have the heart to wake him, so he quickly and quietly grabbed the ring and his phone from the bedside table and made his way out the room. But as he went down the hallway toward the stairs, he felt eyes watching him. Turning around, he saw Miki peeking out from her room*
Miki: You might want to change if you’re going out.
*Ben was indeed still wearing night clothes. He looked down at his attire and then back at Miki*
Ben: What makes you think I’m going anywhere?
Miki: Come on, you know I know what you’ve been doing.
*She started walking toward him. Ben backed away and stepped into the living room*
Ben: You’re not coming with me this time, if that’s what you’re thinking.
Miki: You could have just told me from the beginning.
Ben: I could have. But your brother and I like hogging the fun.
Miki: That’s not funny.
*This wasn’t the attitude she had shown this evening, Ben noted. She seemed genuinely worried. Ben grinned in an attempt to lighten her mood*
Ben: It’s not like you to worry.
Miki: Except when it’s about family.
Ben: But I’m not your fam –
*He stopped himself when Miki looked up at him. Now he saw her face in full. She looked hurt by what he was about to say. And when Ben thought about it, he could see why. Had not he been living with them for the past three years? Incorporated himself into their lives? Shared their trials and tribulations? Ever since his mother’s commitment to the asylum, Ben had considered himself a man without family. A lone wolf. Only now, while looking at this girl did he realize that he was considered quite differently by the ones who had taken him in. These people had been so good to him. How foolish for him to forget that*
Ben: I’m sorry.
Miki: Why?
Ben: Why what?
Miki: Why do all this.. when you might not come back…
*Ben turned his face halfway*
Ben: Because no one else will.
*Miki still looked hurt. Ben smiled again and brushed away some hair from her face*
Relax. I’ll be fine.
*Miki gave him a small smile in return He started down the stairs and turned back to say one last thing*
Don’t tell your brother about this.
*Miki’s cheeky smile returned*
Miki: About what?
*Ben smiled again and headed for his bike. Miki watched from the overhead window as he rode down the street and into the darkness*

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*Ben stopped a few feet away from the hospital and looked upon it in shock. The upper floors were consumed by a raging fire. Shattered glass littered the entranceway and parking lot, which was being occupied not only by dozens of evacuated personnel and the sick, but with bodies covered with sheets. Fire trucks continuously shot copious amounts of water on the flames to little avail. Ben got off his bike and went to a witness on the street*
Ben: What happened?
Witness: Haven’t a damn clue. All I’ve heard is some patient broke out of his room and started a fire with his hands.
Ben: … His hands?
Witness: I know, it’s crazy. He then somehow blasts through a wall and jumps on a motorcycle with some freak.
*he then noticed Ben’s attire*
Nice pajamas.
*Ben scratched his head nervously and mumbled something in response. As he got back on his bike, he felt himself clenching his fist. So many people dead in one day. And for what? What were the Ghosts planning? Ben could do nothing here, yet it felt wrong just going back home. He started up his bike and rode off. Time for some overnight sleuthing*

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Kenta: *to Ben* Why didn’t you wake me?
*He had just been pulling up into the campus parking lot when Ben called him from somewhere in the city. Ben had been missed that morning. Kenta, once he turned the news on figured out immediately what had happened and covered for his friend, saying he had left early for some errands. He had noted Miki’s concerned demeanor as he dropped her off at school, but said nothing of it to her or Ben*
Ben: You were sleeping so much like a baby I didn’t have the heart to wake you.
Kenta: Very funny. You could’ve at least changed your wardrobe first.
Ben: I forgot.
Kenta: Yeah, you’re good at that. That’s why you have me.
*He walked into the building*
Did you at least find out anything?
Ben: Not really. But the day is still young.
Kenta: Be careful.
*Ben smirked*
Ben: Aren’t I always?
*Kenta sighed and hung up the phone*

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*Afternoon. Atop a skyscraper, the cloaked Ghost with the blue brooch stood and looked down upon the insects bustling to and fro. It was time for more chaos. The man raised his right hand and released a spark of energy into the sky. The spark exploded and formed into the Ghosts’ insignia. The image descended down to street level, the black eyes of the pale white face glared down on the street. People began to scream as they realized what was happening. Once the image descended a certain distance, the mouth opened up and spit out bolts of energy at whoever was in the vicinity.
Ben rode up into the street just as the image faded away. Amidst the din of the panicked people, he saw a figure riding away on a Harley. He recognized him right away as the one who had killed the two robbers at the bank yesterday, and possibly involved in the hospital fire. Ben began following the figure, taking off his ring and throwing it forward. The ring formed into the belt and strapped itself onto Ben’s waist*
“Henshin”
*Silver flame washed over him and the bike, turning them into the Rider and Antares respectively. Antares increased his speed and quickly caught up with the Harley. The Ghost riding atop turned to face his adversary. From beneath his hood flashed a pale-colored grin. As the two sped off the busy city road and down less crowded paths, more cloaked figures seemed to materialize out of nowhere. These levitated toward Ben and began to attack. Ben swerved away from the Harley in his attempt to escape these new foes. Antares himself raised his head and fired several silver-colored streams of fire at the flying Ghosts. Those who were hit ignited in flame and were left behind. But the streams that missed their targets hit objects and architecture on the roadside, setting them ablaze.

Ben and the Harley-riding Ghost finally reached a large open space near the park. The Ghost suddenly braked his bike so that he fell behind Ben, and then proceeded to ram into him. Antares cried out and swerved toward a large sloping rock. He rode straight up and careened off. While in midair, Ben turned both dial of his belt, leapt off his steed and flew down to the Ghost, delivering a flying, fiery Rider Kick. The impact made the Ghost fly off the Harley, which crashed into a tree and burst into flames. Antares landed safely on his wheels and skidded safely to a stop.

Ben landed on the ground. The Ghost’s cloak had fallen off from his landing, revealing his vapory black body. This Ghost seemed much taller than the previous ones Ben had fought. He almost resembled a robeless Hell Vanguard from those Devil May Cry games Kenta and Miki obsess over, Ben thought. The Ghost shrieked at his foe. The other Ghosts remaining from the chase arrived on scene and formed a circle around Ben. All were shorter than the blue-brooched one. Ben looked around him, deciding who to attack first*

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*At the mechanics lab, Kenta hunched over his laptop. On an adjacent table sat his secret project. But at the moment, Kenta couldn’t focus on school work. Instead he was paying mind to the translator program, trying to pick up where he and Ben had left off before the loss of battery power. This wasn’t a safe place to do this work. If someone connected to the archaeological study found out that someone had stolen their translator program and data, there would definitely be hell to pay. At the moment, the program was working on one of the two lost symbols.


A sentence suddenly began to form. Finally, thought Kenta excitedly. He grabbed his phone and dialed Ben*
Kenta: Ben! I… what’s going on?
*Ben ducked and rolled under a swing from one of the Ghosts*
Ben: I’m a little occupied right now…
*Kenta quickly opened his camera program and turned on the cameras on Antares. After some directional focusing, he caught Ben facing several Ghosts at once*
Kenta: So I see.
*Ben jumped up and kicked two Ghosts in the chest. But as he landed, one caught him by the back of the neck and threw him to one of the large hill-like rocks sitting in the park. Recovering, Ben began nimbly jumping from outcrop to outcrop along the rock as three Ghosts levitated to its peak. Kenta continued*
I think I have something on the translator.
*Ben leapt toward one of the Ghosts, but was shoved back into a small pillar-like rock sitting atop the peak. The other two opened their mouths to gargantuan proportions and fired waves of intense sound energy at Ben. He rolled away, and the pillar rock was shattered into pieces*
Ben: Well don’t keep it to yourself.
*He grabbed the closest of the three by the arms and bit down on the shoulder, causing him to cry out. The giant Ghost leapt up to the top of the rock. Molding his forearm into a sharpened blade, he went forward and stabbed Ben in the side from behind. Ben cried out and let go of his victim, falling backwards toward the rock’s ledge. As the sentence continued building, Kenta read it off to Ben*
Kenta: “Toward the east…. serpent lies… woe be to those who feel his bite.
*The giant Ghost slashed across Ben’s chest with his bladed arm, making sparks and steam fly. Ben lost his balance and tumbled off the ledge*
Ben!
*Ben gathered his wits about him. ‘From the east’ he thought. Quickly, he turned the left-handed dial of his belt. The stone on the buckle ignited in sliver flame and the usual hieroglyph was replaced with a new one.


Ben grabbed a branch of a nearby tree to keep himself from falling further. The four Ghosts looked down from the ledge at his hanging body and prepared a new attack. Anticipating the pain that was to come later, he broke off one of the horns of his masked head, another growing back in its place. Next he threw it like a knife at the Ghosts. It lodged into the chest of the giant, making him jump back from the ledge. Ben jumped from the tree back onto the rock wall, agily making his way back up to the top. Dodging the blows of the other three, he grabbed the piece of horn sticking out from the giant Ghost's chest. Immediately it elongated, burst its way through the Ghost’s back, and slackened into a long, thin whip. At the end protruding from the back was the head of a snake.

Ben yanked the whip out of the giant’s body, causing him more pain. The other three yelled out and rushed toward Ben, only to be stung by the lashings of the whip as it was swung to and fro. One Ghost tried to levitate. Ben swung the whip at its legs, which gripped them and yanked the Ghost back to the ground to be met with a flaming Rider Punch. This Ghost disintegrated immediately. The other two tried to fly off to Ben’s side. As they passed the tree, Ben flung his whip toward on of the branches. Once secured, he swung down from the rock ledge and up into the air on the other side, meeting one Ghost head-on. To this one he gave another flaming Kick, destroying it as well. As he began swinging down, he grabbed the third Ghost and dragged it with him. Once he passed the tree, he impaled the Ghost into one of the sharper branches. This Ghost shrieked and slumped over.

Ben landed back on the rock, retracting his whip as he did so. He noticed the giant Ghost, his wounds apparently preventing him from flying, trying to escape as well. Ben began swinging the whip around lasso-style and threw it at this last foe. The free-flying whip wrapped itself around the giant’s torso, and the snake head suddenly came to life and bit down hard on the shoulder. The giant froze, paralyzed by the poison. Ben leapt up again, and delivered a two-legged Kick in the giant’s back, blowing him up into a cloud of dust. The dust flew toward Antares’ mounted cameras, obstructing their view and canceling Kenta’s visual feed. Kenta’s voice came in as Ben landed and detransformed*
Kenta: Nice job.
Ben: All in a day’s work.
Kenta: Literally. But it seems you’ve damaged my cameras once again.
*Ben shrugged*
Ben: A small price to pay.
Kenta: Small? Do you know how much these things cost?
Ben: No and I don’t feel like learning. Now I’m going to head home and change out of these pajamas.
Kenta: A little backwards on your To-Do List, but a good idea nonetheless.
Ben: I’ll see you later.
*He turned off the headset and started to head back to his bike, when he suddenly felt an immense pain in his head. Ben clutched his head with his hand and knelt down on one knee, trying to keep himself from crying out loud. The pain steadily increased until Ben finally fell onto his back and blacked out completely*

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*The drifter ambled over to the unconscious body of a 20-year old boy lying next to a motorcycle. His shades hid the emotion betrayed by his eyes. He had found the Prophet*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*
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Old December 18th, 2008, 08:44 AM   #16
Black Fang
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Join Date: May 2005
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Chapter 9: Allies

*Ben turned off the headset and started to head back to his bike, when he suddenly felt an immense pain in his head. Ben clutched his head with his hand and knelt down on one knee, trying to keep himself from crying out loud. The pain steadily increased until Ben finally fell onto his back and blacked out completely…*

*The drifter ambled over to the unconscious body of a 20-year old boy lying next to a motorcycle. His shades hid the emotion betrayed by his eyes. He had found the Prophet*

Narrator: The prophet cried out in the wilderness, seeking those who would heed his word. And such people did come to him and prostrated themselves to his service…

*Kenta, still grumbling about the loss of yet more bike-mounted cameras, turned his attention back to the translator program when suddenly a knocking sound came from the doorway. Saya slowly poked her head inside and looked right at Kenta and his computer*
Saya: …Hello
*Kenta gave a cry of surprise and quickly shoved the screen away from Saya’s view. Saya, herself startled by Kenta’s reaction, jumped back a little and continued*
Sorry…
Kenta: Nevermind… it’s nothing.
*He paused for a moment before hastily continuing*
Come in.
*Saya stepped into the lab. She caught her eye on Kenta’s project and shuffled toward it*
Saya: What’s that?
*Kenta grabbed a nearby sheet and in a swift motion covered it up*
Kenta: Secret.
Saya: Why?
Kenta: Just is.
Saya: Not even a peek?
*Kenta shook his head. An awkward silence filled the room. Kenta turned off the translator program and turned back to Saya. He remembered his sudden request to meet earlier. Now that she was here, he was at a sudden loss for words. He looked at Saya, trying to come up with something to say. Thankfully for him Saya finally broke the ice*
So… what do you want to do?
*Kenta rummaged through his mind for an answer*
Kenta: Um… How about lunch?
Saya: This late?
Kenta: Sure, why not?
*He shoved his laptop into his bag and grabbed the keys for the lab from the table*
Let’s go. I know a place.
*Saya looked at Kenta for a few seconds before finally nodding in agreement. Kenta locked the door behind him as the two began to walk down the hallway*

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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Afternoon. Kenta had taken Saya to a small shop near campus. Two bowls of soba were now placed on the counter where they sat. Kenta took a pair of chopsticks and motioned toward Saya’s bowl*
Kenta: Dig in.
*Saya slowly gathered her food with her own chopsticks and ate one bite. A smile crept upon her face and she began to eat more fervently*
Saya: *Japanese* Delicious.
Kenta: *Japanese* You doubted me?
*Saya, fearing impoliteness, shook her head quickly and continued to shovel her noodles into her mouth. The conversation continued in their mother tongue*
Saya: Do you come here often?
Kenta: On occasion.
Saya: I didn’t think restaurant food could be as good as back home.
*Kenta smiled and nodded as he ate*
Have you ever gone back?
Kenta: A few times.
*He suddenly stopped eating*
I may go back for good once I finish school.
*Saya turned to face him and spoke in a gentle tone*
Saya: Because you hate it here?
*She didn’t say it accusingly. Kenta twirled his chopsticks in his bowl. He didn’t think she would bring up that subject again after their heated conversation at the reception. Though Saya continued to gobble down her meal, his appetite was suddenly gone. He had lived in this city ever since he first immigrated almost 20 years ago. It was truthfully a beautiful place, as Saya had told him that night. But if his high school years had taught him anything, it was that the beauty was only skin deep. Many kids whom Kenta knew at that time had wound up on the wrong side of the tracks, some even becoming the city’s most well known public enemies. And he, like so many others, knew just how powerless those who were supposed to protect the people had become. Teachers, police, clergy, politicians. All of them seemed caught in the immense web of apathy and political correctness. So what would otherwise be a breathtaking metropolis was instead a cesspool of corruption and ambivalence.

Of course, it wasn’t as if the rest of the world was paradise. Kenta knew better than to fool himself into believing that. But even so, he wondered whether part of his disdain for his home stemmed from a more personal feeling of nostalgia for the mother country. Perhaps a sense of homesickness was clouding his judgment; maybe he was making this place out to be worse than it was in the grand scheme of things in an effort to build his motherland as the world ideal. Maybe that was the difference between him and Saya*
Kenta: I don’t really hate it here.
*He sighed*
I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just romanticized home a little too much.
*He turned around. Saya looked back at him, her mouth stuffed with noodles. A few strands were stuck dangling out of her mouth. The site made Kenta chuckle. Saya, realizing what was so funny, covered her mouth with her fingers and blushed as she quickly swallowed her immense mouthful*
Kenta: *Japanese* I’m eating with a pig.
*Saya slapped him on the arm in response but was chuckling herself. The two returned their focus to their meal when one of the people working behind the counter turned on an overhead TV. A newscast was featuring the strange anomaly that had occurred in the middle of the city, as well as the discovery made mere minutes ago of a body impaled in a tree branch. Kenta looked up at the screen and for a moment felt a small amount of satisfaction that there was at least one person in this city with the power to do something. A handful of the shop’s clientele was in fact murmuring their praises of the town’s masked guardian. But Saya’s expression had become dourer as the reporter droned on about the exclusive story. Kenta, not wanting to ruin the good mood the two had just established between each other, decided not to say anything about the matter. The two continued their meal in silence*

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*Ben was standing in a grassy field below a bright sun. In the distance he could see a shining city surrounded by large gates. As he stood in place soaking up the warm rays of light, a silver stallion ambled up and gently nudged his head with his nose. Ben turned his face toward the beast and smiled upon recognizing the face*
Ben: Antares…
*He patted the horse’s head and looked back toward the city, but it was no longer there. In its place was a pillar of wind rising up from the ground and flying toward the now blood red sky. The grassy field was now the burning remains of a ruined city. Ben was now riding atop Antares and going down a street. Strewn about his path were the sinful, crying out for mercy. Now Ben realized his recurring dream had shown its face once again. He looked downward and gazed upon a hideous body stained with the blood of many victims: his own.

And then he awoke. The intense pain he had felt earlier had dulled to a mild ache. Ben raised his head from the couch he was lying on and darted his eyes around to get a feel of his surroundings. He was apparently inside a small cabin within the confides of the park, if the outside scenery was any indication. To his right a man was standing with his back to him. In the man’s hands was something familiar. Ben quickly retracted his hand toward his face and, as he suspected, found his ring missing.

The drifter turned around to face the boy he had just recovered*
Drifter: You’re awake.
Ben: Who are you?
Drifter: A friend.
*He stole a glance at the window. He was still wearing his pair of shades, but Ben managed to catch a glimpse of the corner of the man’s eye. At the other end of the couch was a pile of clothing, apparently placed there for his use. The drifter continued*
I thought you were in need of some more appropriate clothing. Be quick. I can only borrow this cabin for a few minutes more.
*Ben slowly took the pile and found a place out of the drifter’s sight to change*
Ben: Did you break in here?
*The drifter ignored the inquiry*
Drifter: I’m afraid we have more pressing matters than that to discuss, Ben Hernandez.
*Ben, fully dressed, came back into plain view*
Ben: How do you know my name?
*The Drifter held up the ring in response*
Drifter: This ring has more about it than you guess. It tells much, as long as you ask the right questions.
*He placed the ring on a desk and sat down on an adjacent chair. He stared directly at Ben from behind his shades*
I have been searching for you for some time.
Ben: Why?
Drifter: It is my calling.
*Ben sat up fully*
Ben: From who?
Drifter: From the one who forged your ring.
*Ben’s mind flashed back to the pictures he and Kenta had perused. He particularly recalled the image of the man wearing the ring and pointing an incriminating finger at an unknown person*
Ben: Who is that?
*The drifter simply pointed upward. Ben thought he knew what he meant and gave him a skeptical look*
Drifter: You doubt me.
Ben: Of course I doubt you. I don’t even know you.
*He rose from the couch and picked up the ring from the table, placing it back on his finger. He looked down at the hieroglyph within the center stone for a moment, and then back at the drifter*
What do you want?
Drifter: To set you on the path.
Ben: What path?
Drifter: The path you must walk.
Ben: Which is?
Drifter: The path He desires you to walk.
*Ben grimaced*
Do you expect me to believe all this?
Drifter: You have considered the possibility yourself.
*He was right of course, thought Ben. But how could he have known? He brought the ring up directly into the drifter’s line of view*
Ben: Did this ring tell you that too?
*The drifter smirked and got up from his chair*
Drifter: I admire your knack for skepticism. But so not lock yourself away within its walls les it be your undoing.
*Ben thought this man was getting stranger by the minute. Now would be a good time to leave*
Ben: Well… thanks for your help, but I think I’ll be going now.
Drifter: So soon?
Ben: Is there anything else you want to say?
Drifter: There is much to say. But it falls on deaf ears.
*Ben gave a tight smile and exited the cabin. His bike was waiting for him outside, and on it he jumped. The drifter slowly followed the boy out and addressed him from behind*
We will be seeing each other again.
Ben: Oh?
Drifter: The Prophet’s road is a difficult one. Easy to stray from. Thus I am here to be your guide.
*A still doubtful Ben put on his helmet. The hieroglyphs mentioned something about a Prophet. How did this man know so much?*
Ben: In that case, what should I call you?
*The drifter paused*
Drifter: Call me… “41”.
*Ben turned around to face the man, but he had suddenly vanished. He whipped his head around in all directions in search of him, but saw nothing. Perplexed, Ben slightly shook his head and started up his bike. After such a weird day, he was ready for a quiet evening at home*

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*Evening. Miki stared at the TV screen as she and Kenta sat at the table, searching for some modicum of new information from the nightly news. She had been distracted all throughout school that day, something that hadn’t gone unnoticed by her friends. All she could think about was Ben. Miki had suspected him of being the Rider ever since that night they had gone in search of Kelly Zervos. Now that she knew for certain, she felt a sense of unease. Ben had become like a second brother to her in the past three years. She didn’t like being stuck on the sidelines while and her real brother played superhero in their wild crusade.

Hiroko interrupted her thoughts by turning off the TV*
Hiroko: The news is too depressing these days…
*She came back toward Miki. Her dinner had been barely touched*
You’ve hardly eaten.
Miki: I’m not hungry.
*Kenta looked over at his sister as he ate. Hiroko placed her hand on Miki’s brow*
Hiroko: Do you feel alright?
*Miki pushed her mother’s hand away*
Miki: *Japanese* I’m fine.
*She shoveled a few more bites of food down her throat and left to clean her plate. Eiji, on his way out of the kitchen, saw the morose look on his daughter’s face as she went past. He looked at his wife for an explanation, but she only shook her head. Kenta continued to eat. He knew Miki was worrying about Ben. It was the reason he didn’t want her any more involved with his friend’s double life than she was. As he gulped down a glass of water he decided that he would have a talk with her later when suddenly the door swung open. Ben walked in and slowly came up the stairs to the living room*
Eiji: Looks like someone has been busy all day.
*He patted Ben’s shoulder and went on to other business. Ben gave the man a polite smile in response. Yes, he had been busy. Trying to understand the strange sequence of events that had transpired today would probably tax anyone’s strength. Miki, upon hearing Ben’s arrival, bolted out of the kitchen and gave him a hug. Ben winced and backed away. His chest and head were still aching. Miki quickly withdrew from Ben*
Miki: Sorry!
*Ben gingerly rubbed his chest and went toward the still seated Kenta and sat down himself to eat*
Ben: What was that for?
Miki:… Just happy to see you?
*Ben snorted. Kenta looked at his sister and Ben. He noticed his friend’s change of wardrobe*
Kenta: Found time to shop around as well?
Ben: A kind benefactor gave them to me as a gift.
Miki: Who?
Kenta: Don’t you have homework?
Miki: You two seem to have time for everything.
*She sat down at the opposite side of the table*
Kenta: Fine, I’ll be blunt. Leave.
Miki: Look, I already know. So I might as well hear what’s going on.
Kenta: You’re not getting involved in this.
Miki: You are.
Kenta: That’s different.
Miki: Why?
*Kenta’s irritation was beginning to rise*
Kenta: Imoto…
Miki: *Japanese* I’m not leaving.
*Kenta rose from his chair and spoke loudly*
Kenta: *Japanese* You’ll defy me?
Ben: Calm down, Kenta.
*He tugged at Kenta’s arm to make him sit back down, but was brushed away. Eiji’s voice came from another room*
Eiji: What’s going on there?
*The kids became silent. Kenta and Miki glared at each other, but Kenta did sit down again. He called back to his father*
Kenta: *Japanese* Nothing.
*He turned back to Ben and Miki. Ben looked at his friend*
Ben: Give it up. It’s a lost cause.
*Miki gave her brother a triumphant smirk. Kenta sighed and waved his hand*
Kenta: Fine.
*He gave Miki a stern look*
But not a word of this to anyone…
*Miki rolled her eyes*
Miki: Yes, I know the routine. I’ve seen enough movies.
Kenta: Perhaps. But you do a certain habit of… gossip.
*Miki was about to make a retort, but Ben held a hand out for her to stop*
Ben: Enough. What were we even talking about?
*Miki leaned over the table excitedly*
Miki: Some guy gave you clothes.
*Kenta seemed perturbed by his sister’s eagerness, but said nothing*
Ben: Ah, right. Apparently I blacked out after the fight –
Kenta: What? Why?
Ben: The pains are getting worse. This time I lost consciousness.
Kenta: I really ought to get better cameras for that bike.
Ben: Anyway, when I wake up this guy is there giving me this most fashionable ensemble and saying he was sent by the maker of this ring to be my guide or something.
Kenta: Maker of the ring? Who?
*Ben pointed upward. Kenta and Miki looked in that direction, at each other, and then at Ben. Their perplexed expressions came as no surprise as Ben*
Ben: My reaction precisely.
Kenta: It’s not implausible. The ring was found in the Levant after all. The hotbed for religious phenomena.
Miki: Levant?
Kenta: That’s why you should go do your schoolwork, so you will know what these things are.
*Miki sneered at Kenta in reply*
Ben: Or the Bible…
*Miki whipped her head back to Ben*
Ohhh… you’re some kind of prophet or something?
*Ben and Kenta looked at Miki in surprise. Miki gave a sly grin*
Kenta: What was his name?
Ben: 41
Kenta: Come again?
Ben: That’s what he said to call him.
Miki: Odd.
Kenta: You would know…
*Miki picked up a crumpled napkin and threw it at Kenta. Hiroko walked in just as it collided with her son’s head, and proceeded to scold her daughter*
Hiroko: *Japanese* What are you doing, acting like a child? Stop bothering these two and go clean up the kitchen, and then do your homework.
*Miki complied and left the table*
Ben: Thank you. I was trying to eat my dinner in peace.
*Miki gave the boys a sideways glare as she past. Ben and Kenta responded with teasing smirks. Hiroko turned to Ben*
Hiroko: You do look tired, dear. Eat as much as you want and then help Kenta clean up.
Ben: Yes ma’am
*As she disappeared into her bedroom, Kenta spoke in a whisper to Ben*
Kenta: The stuff that happened today and yesterday. It looks like –
Ben: The Ghosts? It seems so.
Kenta: Obviously not your run-of-the-mill miscreants.
*Ben gave a small grin*
Ben: More like something out of your tokus…
*Kenta paused at the thought of that*
Kenta: Cool.
*Ben looked at his friend and shook his head in mock shame*
Ben: Trust a geek to say that.
Kenta: I’m not the one wearing the suit.
*Ben gave a sarcastic laugh and resumed eating*

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*Evening. Savage opened the door to the autopsy room to find the medical examiner hunched over a body. He recognized it to belong to one of the four robbers of the previous day’s bank heist. The ME turned her head upon hearing Savage’s approaching footsteps*
ME: I might as well start living here with all the bodies you people throw my way.
Savage: Thank our friendly neighborhood Rider for this batch.
ME: Well his days are probably numbered.
Savage: I take it you heard about the mayor’s press conference tomorrow?
*The ME nodded*
ME: That will be sure to raise hell in the town. It’s amazing how much one man can divide an entire city.
Savage: My wife had the same grim analysis.
ME: How is she and the kids?
*Savage smiled*
Savage: They’re well…
*He pointed at the bodies and turned his smile into a frown*
Savage: So what have you figured out?
*The ME sighed heavily and took off her bloody gloves. She went over to a table to fish for a new pair*
ME: That’s the thing. I can’t figure it out at all. Besides the fact that they’re Ghosts.
Savage: Ghosts?
*After that shocking case with the kidnapped children, he had hoped not to have to deal with Ghosts again. But of course he knew that was a naïve wish. An organization as vast as the Ghosts supposedly were wouldn’t just disappear forever. The ME raised the hand of one of the bodies. Etched upon it was the symbol of the Ghosts. The image, crystal clear just before the man had died, was beginning to fade away. Savage gazed down at the hand*
Strange...
ME: That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at this.
*She unfurled the sheet covering the body, revealing the gash across the chest the giant Ghost had made, and pointed inside. The innards of the dead man were a ghastly black color. But that wasn’t the strangest thing. Savage swept his eyes across the entire body, focusing on the incisions made by the ME. The man had far more neurons and nerve bundles than a normal person. His muscles were of a very solid build, typical of bodybuilders and steroid users; yet they somehow lacked the required mass. Savage donned a pair of gloves himself and examined the man’s fingers. Miniscule barbs dotted each fingertip. The ME looked over Savage’s shoulder*
ME: Those I presume are for wall-crawling Spiderman style.
Savage: What the hell happened to this guy?
ME: One of the best reconstructive operations I’ve ever seen. Either I’ve really lost track medicine’s progress, or whoever these people are have better surgeons than any hospital. The other bodies are the same as this.
*Savage crossed the room to see the body of another robber. The ME had cut open the skull to reveal his brain. This too was more developed than that of a normal person’s. Small metal devices were embedded into the frontal lobe. What their purpose could be Savage couldn’t ascertain. He turned back to the ME*
Savage: What could make these guys want to become such freaks?
ME: You’re asking me? I’m still finding stuff in these people.
*She paused*
Isn’t Area 51 only one state away?
*Savage flashed a tight-lipped smile*
Savage: Funny.
*He snapped off his gloves and bid good-bye to the ME. As he left, he felt the warmth of the hallway wash over him, a stark contrast to the chilled atmosphere of the autopsy room. Walking to his car, he attempted to process all that he had seen. What were these Ghosts? How did they operate? What did they want? Too many questions, and barely any answers. Before Savage got in, he glanced up at the full moon. Unless he had gone completely out of his mind, he could see the image of the Ghosts’ insignia right on the surface of the celestial body. The cop rubbed his eyes and looked up at the moon again. Now he saw nothing. Savage shuddered. He felt as if an evil omen had just crossed his path…*

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*Unknown time. Within the caverns, the circular meeting room was alit with blazing torches. Dozens of Ghosts appeared from the shadows and assembled into their positions on the platforms determined by rank. At the highest platform sat the Great Leader upon a large throne, his gold-colored brooch shining like a miniature sun. On the second highest platform, a Ghost with a purple brooch waved his hand. Images of hieroglyphs sprung up on the walls and ceiling: the same hieroglyphs as were associated with the ring and parchments found in the Levant. From the menagerie of sentences that appeared, four with the following hieroglyphs came into view. With them came their English translations:

“The Prophet shall condemn His enemies. Hell be brought upon them… Hell they be sent…”

“From the West comes the scorpion, the sting of poison swift…”


“Toward the east of the gates, the serpent lies. The reward of the rebel. Woe be to those who feel his bite…”


“North winds bring the locust cloud, to bring famine to the glutton and drought to the hedon…”

Next came images of the Rider from his many battles. Hisses came from the attendees upon seeing the masked vigilante in action. The Great Leader opened his pale mouth and rasped*
Great Leader: For centuries we have operated in the darkness while the world bathed in the light. But now we shall come out into the light…and the world plunged into the darkness.

The Prophet… will fall…
*The Ghosts gave a huzzah in unison and began chanting the Leader’s praise. But among the crowd the female Ghost with the green brooch, the one who had sent the giant Ghost on his mission the prior night, stayed silent. She looked down at the floor as her peers filled the room with their voices. Something else was on her mind besides this declaration of war on the Masked Rider. Something more personal…

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*Noon, the next day. Earlier that morning the governor himself had joined the mayor in the scheduled press conference at city hall. The Rider was now officially declared an enemy of the state. The public was encouraged to surrender any information they might have about the masked vigilante to the authorities. The reaction had been as the ME had predicted: a vicious firestorm of media and public opinion. Just minutes after the conference had ended, a crowd of demonstrators had materialized from nowhere outside the building. Some, who saw the Rider as just another thug with no regard for the law, supported the mayor’s decision. But many others were livid. The shock of the sudden appearance of a giant floating face in the middle of the city just the previous day was still present. However, instead of trying to find who or what was behind it, the authorities were going to hunt down the one man who was actually protecting the city. They declared the conference as yet another example of just how out-of-touch their government was.

Unsurprisingly, hostilities between the two sides had risen to a crescendo. At the hospital, Hiroko glanced at a TV screen switched onto a cable news channel. Some pundits were making their commentaries as scenes of the clashing demonstrators aired in the background. The world is getting madder and madder, she thought to herself. Seeing some of her younger nurses crowding around the TV and gossiping amongst themselves, she sternly admonished them to get back to work and started heading down to her office. Upon reaching it she saw a college-aged girl waiting for her. Hiroko recognized the face. This girl had come to see her some time ago about a particular medical ailment. Hiroko’s heart sank*
“You said you had some news?”
Hiroko: Yes… Come in.
*She opened the door and followed the girl inside. Hiroko looked at the girl’s face as she sat down behind her desk. She wasn’t much older than her daughter, yet she was faced with only a few months to live at most. But she couldn’t be completely sympathetic. It was clear the lifestyle she had been leading up to this point had brought about this condition. ‘Where are her parents’, Hiroko wondered. She had done her best to raise her children, especially Miki, as if she were back in Japan; to make sure they didn’t forget their own culture. The girl seated in front of her was the manifestation of what she strove to protect her own daughter against.

Hiroko took a slow breath as she prepared to break the news to her patient*
Hiroko: I couldn’t get hold of any more medication. I’m very sorry… there is nothing more I can do.
*For the past few months Hiroko had been discreetly giving her patient access to certain treatments otherwise impossible for her to obtain. But recently considerable financial problems had forced the hospital to cut its budget. Unfortunately for the girl that included the loss of her medicine. But if the girl was feeling downtrodden, she didn’t show it*
“How much longer do I have?”
Hiroko: A few months at the most.
*It pained the woman to have to relay this news to someone so young. The girl slowly nodded and got up from her chair. Hiroko followed suit*
Hiroko: If there is anything more you want, please let me know
*The girl smiled sadly*
“No thank you. I’ll manage somehow…”
*Hiroko patted the girl’s shoulder as she left the office. Outside in the hallway, the girl leaned against a wall and closed her eyes. She hated this situation she was in, hated everyone and everything that had ruined her. And most of all hated herself for being fool enough to live the way she did. Though ironically, it was this hate that kept her going. With this last venue for survival gone, there was nowhere else for her to turn. No chance of escape.


A tingling feeling in the back of her hand made the girl look down. The Ghosts’ insignia slowly began to appear on her skin. She understood what this meant. The girl quickly flew down the hallway and disappeared around the corner, licking her lips with a forked tongue as she went*

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*Afternoon. A dozing Kenta was undisturbed as Miki clambered into the car. Once she waved her friends away though, he was roughly shaken awake by his passenger*
Miki: No dozing on the job.
Kenta: Job? I don’t get paid to haul you around, Hime-chan.
Miki: Hime-sama
*Kenta snorted and started the car. As Miki undid her ponytail, he spotted his sister sporting a pair of earrings resembling a short chain of tiny beads*
Kenta: Does Okaa-san know you’re wearing those?
Miki: She likes them.
*She flung some strands of her backward and playfully showed off her decorated ears*
So… is there any crime that needs fighting today?
*Kenta faced his sister*
Kenta: I let you listen in on us. That isn’t a license to tag along every time Ben goes to fight.
Miki: Don’t you?
*Kenta turned back to the road*
Kenta: Once or twice. Usually I stay behind the screen.
Miki: The Otacon to his Snake?
Kenta: Something like that.
Miki: Well that’s not leaving me much to do.
Kenta: There is nothing for you to do.
*Miki suddenly whipped around in her seat to face her brother directly, grinning excitedly from a new idea*
Miki: I could be the informant.
Kenta: Excuse me?
Miki: I hear things at school. I can relay them over to you guys.
*Kenta didn’t like what he was hearing. He turned his head toward Miki*
Kenta: What’s going on in school?
Miki: First tell me if I’m in or not.
*Kenta suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road. He turned around fully to look at his sister. He asked his question more sternly*
Kenta: Is there something happening in school?
Miki: I’ve been hearing things…
Kenta: Such as?
*Miki paused before answering*
Miki: There was a fight the other day. One of the kids had a knife and… cut up the other kid pretty bad…*
Kenta: And you didn’t tell us this? Hell, why didn’t the school mention anything?!
Miki: This stuff is the norm. They probably figure ‘Why bother?’.
*Kenta sighed and rested his head against his seat. Things at that high school seemed to have gotten worse since he had been there. Hearing this made him more worried about his sister’s welfare than he usually was*
Kenta: Well you only have one more year to go. You’ll be out of there soon.
Miki: And in the meantime I have Ben around to watch my back.
*Kenta cocked an eyebrow*
Kenta: What about me?
Miki: No one relies on the sidekick.
Kenta: Oh, thanks..
*Miki stuck her tongue out at Kenta, who responded with a playful bopping of her head. Suddenly thunder and lighting flooded the sky, which had suddenly turned dark. In the distance, the Ghosts’ insignia appeared in the air, the pale face glaring down at the people below. Kenta quickly whipped out his phone and dialed a number. Ben’s voice came out from the receiver*
Ben: What’s up?
Kenta: Trouble.
*He hung up and looked at Miki’s eager expression on her face. He gave a dramatic sigh*
Kenta: I suppose one ride-along wouldn’t hurt.
Miki: Yay…
*Kenta started up the car again and diverted onto another road toward a bridge. He secretly wondered whether he would beat Ben to the scene*

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*Ben had sped off toward a public garage building in a matter of minutes. On the ledge of the second highest level stood a robed Ghost chanting an eerie prayer. Ben appeared on the other side of the level and stopped. The Ghost turned around to face the Rider. On the chest was a green brooch*
“The white knight cometh on his horse once again”
*Ben responded by revving up his bike. He glared at his enemy with cold eyes*
“Your eyes are filled with hate, Rider. That is good. Hate keeps one alive. It gives one strength”
*Ben took the ring off his finger and tossed it into the air. The belt formed and slammed onto his waist. The Ghost raised her hands and incanted another verse of her prayer. Waves of energy swept through the floor of the garage. The cars that were there exploded into flames. The spotlights on the ceiling shattered, raining down trickles of sparks. Ben raced toward the Ghost, silver fire consuming his body to reveal the Rider and Antares. The Ghost’s energy waves bounced off the bike, causing small explosions to go off around its path. The Ghost levitated out of the way right as Ben came to her. He came to a sudden stop just before he rode straight over the balcony. The Ghost landed on a car not consumed in flames and raised her hand. The ceiling above Ben collapsed and fell toward him. Ben leapt off Antares and rolled out of the way before he could be hurt by the falling pieces. Turning the left-hand dial of the belt, the corresponding hieroglyph appeared on the buckle.


*The phantom-like face on Ben’s chest opened its mouth and spat out what looked like a tube-like tongue. Ben yanked it out of his body, revealing it to be his snake-shaped whip. He snapped it to and fro at the Ghost, who deftly dodged his blows and flew over the burning cars. Ben jumped up to meet his foe, but the Ghost grabbed him by the throat with a clawed, reptilian-like hand. Still levitating, she shaped the palm of her other hand so that the claws faced outward and stabbed deeply below Ben’s ribs. Ben cried out. As he began to weaken, he turned the right-hand dial of his belt. The symbol on the buckle changed.


The Ghost’s hand was suddenly snapped off her body. Ben fell to the floor in a heap, while the Ghost landed on her feet, shrieking in the surprise and pain. Her severed hand, still lodged in Ben’s body changed shape into the scorpion-shaped sword. The Ghost opened her mouth and shot out a long, forked tongue at Ben, who simply sliced it off with a swing of his sword. Moving quickly, he grabbed the Ghost by her own throat, flipped his sword around so that the handle (sporting a poison barb at the end) faced her, and jabbed in into her body. The Ghost’s hood fell off to reveal a scaled reptilian face. It was now contorted into an expression of pain.

Ben turned around and flung the Ghost several feet away to the floor. Sensing defeat, the Ghost turned and tried to flee. But the poison had already deteriorated her muscles, and her movement was thus labored. The flames illuminated the Rider’s body as he slowly stepped toward his target to deliver his finisher. Twirling around his whip circularly in front of him, he created a tunnel that swallowed up the Ghost. Ben then leapt into the tunnel, its suction power shooting him through. When he came close, he delivered a flaming side Kick to the Ghosts’ back, sending her flying straight over the balcony of the floor toward the ground far below. Ben landed as the tunnel disappeared. The fires continued to burn…*

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*The Ghost, lying defeated on the ground, turned back into a more human shape. The girl who had went to see Nurse Hiroko Nishihori raised her face from the ground and looked at a bed of large marigolds some feet in front of her. She smiled in spite of her intense pain; those happened to be her favorite flowers. The girl slowly turned around so that she lay on her back. The Ghosts had promised her a cure for her disease. A cure through an enhanced body. Through strength. Through undying loyalty. And for a brief while it had worked. But regret soon consumed her. She hated her choice to join this evil cult to find an easy way out. But it was too late to change anything now. She had feared death. But now that it was so near, she somehow felt no more fear. As she closed her eyes for the last time, she thought of herself with her family, frolicking in fields of marigolds…*

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*Evening. Hiroko was about ready to head for home, when she suddenly noticed a stock form lying on a desk. Glancing upon it in a casual way, something she saw made her head skip a beat. There was a store of the medication that poor girl needed after all. Hiroko smiled tiredly. Some stories truly could end on a happy note…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*

And a bonus theme:
*Kenta and Saya*

Last edited by Black Fang; January 20th, 2009 at 01:34 PM.
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Old December 18th, 2008, 12:43 PM   #17
Black Fang
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Music

The Youtube links in the previous chapters are dead, so I'll reupload them here.

Overture
Entr'acte
Opening Theme 1
Ending Theme 1
Opening Theme 2
Ending Theme 2
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 07:36 PM   #18
Black Fang
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Chapter 10: Dark Side

* Ben turned around and flung the Ghost several feet away to the floor. Sensing defeat, the Ghost turned and tried to flee. But the poison had already deteriorated her muscles, and her movement was thus labored. The flames illuminated the Rider’s body as he slowly stepped toward his target to deliver his finisher. Twirling around his whip circularly in front of him, he created a tunnel that swallowed up the Ghost. Ben then leapt into the tunnel, its suction power shooting him through. When he came close, he delivered a flaming side Kick to the Ghosts’ back, sending her flying straight over the balcony of the floor toward the ground far below. Ben landed as the tunnel disappeared. The fires continued to burn…*

Narrator: Within the most saintly lies a dark side. Quietly it slumbers, until a great trial rouses it from sleep….

*Ben breathed heavily. Already his torso was on fire from the effort to create his weapons. Hoping he wouldn’t black out this time, he stumbled over to Antares and placed his hand on the stallion-bike’s brow. The beast responded with a slight jerk of the head, beckoning his master to jump on. Ben could see the bike shaking before him*
Ben: What’s the matter with you?
*Antares rolled to the very edge of the balcony. In the distance the flashing lights of police vehicles could be seen approaching the building*
I see…
*Ben climbed onto Antares. The bike rolled backwards on its own and revved itself up, as if preparing for a big jump*
Oh come on… do we have to?
*Antares nodded his head. Ben groaned. He was in no mood to do any fancy stunts in this condition*
Well don’t blame me if I throw up on you…
*Antares turned his head and curled his upper lip, flashing what looked to Ben like a broad grin. (Or as broad a grin as a horse could give). The bike peeled down toward the balcony, broke through the wall and sailed clear over the treetops. By the time the police arrived on scene the Rider was long gone*
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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Ben leaned over on the handlebars as Antares came to an abrupt stop some miles away from the building. The pain was becoming unbearable, and being in motion just made it worse. Ben finally fell off the bike and lay on his back on the road. His armor slowly began burning off to reveal a fatigued body drenched in sweat. Antares leaned his head as far as he could and gently nudged Ben with his nose.

A car began to approach at a fast speed. Ben tried to roll out of the way but found his body too stiff to move any decent distance. Antares quickly hopped in between Ben and the car, which skidded to a stop. Ben raised his head to get a better look at the car. He recognized it immediately. Kenta and Miki jumped out of the car and ran over to their friend. Miki knelt down beside Ben*
Miki: Are you alright?!
*Ben, in an effort to retain some modicum of dignity, tried to raise his body a little more. He flashed a grin at the girl*
Ben: What makes you think I’m not?
Kenta: You just decided to take a nap in the road…
*He pulled Ben to a sitting position. Ben clutched his still-aching chest.
By the time we got to the scene you were long gone. Lucky we ran into you.
*Ben cocked an eyebrow*
… You know what I mean.
*Ben could feel his heart pounding, as if someone had shot adrenaline right through. Antares made a low whinnying sound and slightly bobbed his head, making Miki jump back and squeak in surprise*
Ben: Don’t worry. He’s harmless.
*Miki looked unsure. Antares rolled up to her and licked her face with a hot, luminescent tongue. The girl recoiled*
Miki: Yuck…
*Kenta gave a chuckle. Ben slowly got up and leaned against the car*
Kenta: You’d better come with us.
Ben: Good idea. This thing hasn’t given a very smooth ride.
*He gave Antares a sour look and got into the passenger side*
Miki: Yeah, take my seat why don’t you?
Ben: Hero’s privilege.
*Miki sneered and turned back to the bike*
Miki: What about that?
*Antares turned around and began going down the road on its own toward home*
Kenta: I think he can take care of himself.
*He got into the car after Miki and drove after the rider-less bike. Ben leaned his head against the headrest and tried not to think about the pain*

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*Evening. Savage rubbed his face with his hands as he sat behind his desk. For once he had decided to bring work home with him; work that was now compounded with the incident that afternoon. Once again these Ghosts, whoever they were, had thrown the city into a panic only to be foiled by the Masked Rider, leaving behind the mess they made in the process. But this time the fallen Ghost had been a young girl, only a few years older than his oldest child. From child sacrifices to child initiates, Savage thought. He didn’t know which disturbed him more. The attack today had fully motivated him to begin a fresh investigation on the Ghosts: what they were, how they operated, and how they could be eliminated. The voices of his children arguing came from the living room. Savage wasn’t worried: he knew his wife would soon quiet them down with her iron-fisted rule. He felt uncomfortable allowing work to once again cloister him from his private life, but he realized how important what he was doing would be for his city, and possibly the country.

So Savage hunkered down behind his desk and began perusing the stack of files he had garnered from the archives. Most simply documented cases from the past few years involving strange occurrences, though not unfamiliar by now: beheaded bodies with their heads later found in shrine-like structures, victims of spontaneous combustion, horrific images suddenly appearing in the sky over certain areas. But what was more disturbing was the amount of more typical crimes that ended up being connected to this cult. The detective looked over reports of suspects in certain crimes (dead and alive) found to have superhuman powers, all of them sporting the usual emblem of a pale face over a sickle somewhere on their body. All of them admitted their membership, but leaked nothing further about the nefarious group. Most who ended up being incarcerated would later escape through seemingly impossible means, killing dozens of inmates and guards in the process. Everything read to Savage like the usual UFO/alien stories that floated around the Internet. But these were definitely no hoaxes. Everything was real right down to the last gory detail. Savage shuddered slightly as he put down a file. ‘Relax, buddy’ he told himself. ‘Don’t lose your nerve…’

Having gone through all the files, Savage proceeded to browse online for any reports or rumors of anything that could be related to the Ghosts. All he found was something about a “ghost virus” that had been sent to certain people by an unknown person. Just another Internet prank, Savage thought dejectedly. But this lack of results did arouse his suspicion: did people simply did not take the admittedly comic book-idea of a dark cult secretly controlling a significant criminal empire…. or someone was covering things up.

After a few minutes of blind browsing, Savage stifled a yawn and decided to call it a night. But as he was about to turn off his computer, an e-mail alert caught his eye. Savage paused. Was this just a coincidence? Slowly, Savage moved his mouse to the icon and clicked on it. His screen suddenly faded to black. Before Savage could react a blood-curling scream resonated from his computer, nearly scaring him right out of his chair. The Ghosts’ emblem appeared on screen, the pale white face contrasting sharply the jet-black background. The mouth of the face was agape, tricking drops of blood while issuing its terrifying scream. The files on the desk then burst into a strange white flame and disintegrated into ash. Savage stared back at the eyeless face, petrified. The image finally disappeared, and the computer shut down on its own. Savage slowly got up from his chair, trying hard to calm himself down. He suddenly saw his youngest daughter cowering in the doorway grasping her teddy bear. ‘She must have heard’, thought Savage. He quickly came over to the small girl gave her a hug as she collapsed into his body. The detective gently shushed her as she cried. He could only thank God she had only heard the scream and not seen the ghastly face…*

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*Evening. Kenta set down three cups of tea on the coffee table and seated himself between Ben and Miki. Hieroglyphs cluttered his laptop screen as the translator program worked furiously. Looseleaf filled with scribbled hieroglyphs and their translations was scattered across the table surface. Ben, still suffering from a dull headache, reached for his tea and slowly sipped it. Miki leaned back against the couch and sighed*
Miki: Nothing.
*she turned to her brother*
How did you get this anyway?
*Kenta shifted his gaze away from his sister. Miki cocked an eyebrow and opened her mouth to say something, but Ben cut her off*
Ben: Nevermind that. There has to be something here explaining my…condition.
*Kenta shook his head*
Kenta: There’s a lot of stuff here. We’re not going to get anywhere at this rate.
*Miki started on her own tea*
Miki: Couldn’t we just type what we want in English and then let it find an equivalent in these symbols?
Kenta: This isn’t Babelfish. All this thing can do is decipher the hieroglyphs given.
Ben:: Perhaps if typed what we want in this language and let the thing search for something similar….
Miki: Like a search engine?
*Ben nodded*
Kenta: Good idea, if we actually knew this language. All we have is a few symbols and fragments of sentences…
*He finished off his cup and set it down on the table. A thought suddenly came into his head*
Maybe we should look back at the stuff we translated before.
*Miki grabbed the sheets of paper and waved them before Kenta’s face*
Miki: Hello? That’s what we’ve been doing.
*Kenta, irritated, made a clicking sound with his tongue. He gestured toward Ben*
Kenta: I meant the symbols that appear on your belt.
*Ben furrowed his brow in concentration*
Ben:I’d have thought those were obvious.
Kenta: Perhaps we overlooked something. Maybe a cryptic meaning…
*Ben thought about this. Could they have misunderstood what these strange glyphs were saying? Were they doing something wrong? Ben held his aching head and leaned it upon his arm.

Miki suddenly gave a big yawn. Kenta glanced at a nearby clock*
Kenta: Bedtime.
Miki: Too early…
Kenta: Tomorrow’s a school night.
*He nudged her shoulder*
Shoo.
Miki: You’re staying up.
Kenta: Not for long. Now go to bed.
*Miki pouted, mimicking a small girl*
Miki: I don’t wanna…
*Kenta took hold of Miki’s arm and stood up, yanking hard. Miki fell off the couch onto the floor*
Ow!
*Kenta grinned*
Kenta: Now can you walk or must I carry you?
*Miki scowled as she picked herself up. Coming up to Kenta, she stomped on his foot and shuffled off to her room. Kenta let out a small cry of pain but decided to let his sister escape for now. Turning to Ben, he saw his friend beginning to doze off on the couch. Quietly, Kenta turned off his laptop and took it with him to his room, leaving Ben to sleep in peace*

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*The next day. Saya sat upon a bench in a small park by campus munching on a rice cake. Her classes were over the day, and she had decided to have a quick bite before heading for work. A hand suddenly tapped her head. Saya whipped around to see Kenta standing from behind the bench, giving a small wave. By now the two had gotten to know each other fairly well*
Saya: *Japanese* Hello.
Kenta: *Japanese* Done for the day?
*Saya nodded as she chewed*
Saya: I’m going to work now.
Kenta: At your aunt’s shop?
*Saya nodded again. Her aunt Junko co-owned and ran a flower shop not to far from Kenta’s house. He had worked there part-time himself in his high school days. His parents had felt it doubly served as a way to learn some responsibility and keep him out of trouble under Junko-obasan’s wing. Saya got up and slung her bag over her shoulder*
Saya: *English* … Are you going anywhere?
*Kenta got up and shook his head*
Kenta *Japanese* I’ll go with you.
*Saya quickly turned her head away for some reason. Kenta thought he saw a tinge of red appear on her cheek. The shop was a considerable distance away, but neither of them seemed to notice as they weaved through the busy streets to their destination. Kenta attempted to carry on the conversation*
Kenta: So… how’s school treating you?
Saya: It’s good. Lots of work.
Kenta: Quite the busy bee…
*Saya smirked*
Saya: *Japanese* It’s worse back home. Here I don’t need to watch my brothers cause mayhem.
Kenta: *Japanese* Sounds like they’re a handful.
Saya: Oh no. Just…
*Unsure of whether she would offend her company, she hesitated and offered a small embarrassed giggle.*
When you're the only girl in the house it can be bothersome.
Kenta: Sisters aren't much better.
*Saya looked at Kenta*
Saya: *English* Miki-chan is sweet.
*Kenta snorted*
Kenta: *English* You don't live with her.
*They had reached the shop. Racks of flowers decorated the outside entrance. Standing on the curb nearby was a group of suspicious-looking men. As Saya passed one of them seemed to make a kissing sound while the others snickered. Kenta frowned at the group and moved to block Saya from their view*
Kenta: You know them?
*Saya shook her head*
Saya: They’ve been hanging around here recently.
*Her voice betrayed nervousness. She looked thankful to be getting inside.

Within the building stood more displays. Bushes of small flowers and pots housing large beauties. From the ceiling hung long vinous specimens which looked to Kenta like green webs. Saya’s aunt Junko stepped out from a back room*
Junko: Kenta-chan! How are you?
*Kenta smiled and exchanged his pleasantries. Junko suddenly spotted the group of men from the window and grimaced*
Junko: Not them again. I’ll be right back, dear.
*She stepped out. As Saya untied her hair and put on an apron, Kenta glanced around the shop until something on the shelf behind the counter caught his eye.


Kenta went behind the register and grabbed the small Ultraman doll. On the tag he eyed the name “Saya Takuto” scribbled on in Japanese characters. Saya came up to him*
Kenta: An Ultraman fan, are we?
Saya: I got it when I was little.
Kenta: Aren’t you a little old to display stuffed toys?
*Saya put on an innocent face*
Saya: It’s cute.
*She took the doll and placed it back on the shelf. Kenta looked indignant*
Kenta: Ultramen aren’t cute!
Saya: This one is.
Kenta: Take a gander at Nexus then.
Saya: Already did. I have the DVDs.
*Kenta raised his eyebrows*
Kenta: Interested in selling?
*Saya smiled and moved toward some potted plants as Junko re-entered the shop, having made the men disperse*
Saya: Well, I have to get started.
Kenta: *Japanese, to Junko* You’ve gotten more inventory.
Junko: *Japanese* Oh no. Most of these are Saya-chan’s. She has such a talent for gardening.
*Saya nodded shyly. The shop door opened suddenly and in popped Ben. His bike stood parked just outside*
Ben: I thought I saw you with a nice catch.
*Kenta rolled his eyes and pointed to Saya*
Kenta: Ben, this is Saya. Saya, Ben.
*The two shook hands. Saya’s pleasant demeanor seemed to change for a second upon seeing Ben. For a moment her eye was hooked on his ring. She felt as if a shadow had been cast upon her. Kenta continued without noticing*
Well, we’d better be going.
Junko:Tell your mother I say hello.
Kenta: Will do.
Saya: Bye.
*He turned to leave, but suddenly stopped. He remembered that the Blue Angels were holding a performance in a few days. He turned to Saya*
Kenta: *Japanese* Have any plans in the next few days?
Saya: *Japanese* No, why?
Kenta: The Blue Angels are having an event. Interested in going?
*Saya seemed taken aback. She glanced at her aunt, who seemed to have a strange twinkle in her eye*
Junko That’s a good idea.
*to Saya*
You shouldn’t stay cooped up indoors all the time. I haven’t gone out in a while. Why don’t we all go?
Kenta: Sounds good.
*He looked at Saya, who suddenly turned her eyes down toward some plants. He gave a small wave and stepped out. Ben chuckled as he followed*
Ben: Very smooth.
Kenta: What’re you talking about?
Ben: You know, I could give you some pointers in this field…
Kenta: It’s not a date…
Ben: Maybe you two could sneak away when no one’s looking and…
*Kenta whacked him in the shoulder*
Kenta: Shut up and give me a ride.
*Ben continued chuckling as he tossed Kenta the spare helmet. From the corner of his eye he spotted the group of men loitering a block or two away from the shop, continuing to look in its direction. As he got on the bike, Kenta saw what he was looking at and scowled toward the group*
Ben: Trouble?
Kenta: Hope not…
*Ben started the bike and together they sped off*

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*Evening. En route from the bathroom, Ben overheard Eiji and Hiroko speaking a mix of English and Japanese in hushed voices in the kitchen. Trying not to be seen, he got closer to get a better listen. Upon doing so he spotted on the dining table a pile of bills and some facts & figures from Eiji’s garage business. Ben heard his name thrown in. Immediately he felt he knew what they were talking about. Quietly he found his way back to bed and stared into the pitch blackness…*

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*Noon, some days later. Kenta stood by the front door waiting for the rest of the family to get down. The Blue Angels’ show would begin in a few hours. Ben gallivanted down to meet him*
Kenta: Where’s everyone else?
Ben: Why so anxious?
Kenta: The place will be crowded before long.
Ben: Relax. She’s not going to run out on you.
*Kenta narrowed his eyes*
Kenta: Oh give it a rest…
*Ben grinned*
Ben: Hey, I think I’ll go on ahead. Tell your folks I’ll meet them there.
Kenta: Why the rush?
*Ben shrugged*
Ben: Well you’re so jumpy I figure I’ll just make sure to reserve a spot for you and your friend.
Kenta: … I oughta slug ya…
*Ben chuckled and walked out to the garage. Kenta watched him ride off, and turned back to the stairs. His parents came down the stairs*
Kenta: *Japanese* Where’s Imoto?
Eiji: *Japanese* In the bathroom.
Hiroko: What always keeps her so long?
Kenta: Putting on her makeup probably.
*Hiroko frowned at the thought. Miki finally came out and thundered down the stairs, tying her hair as she did so*
Kenta: Hime-sama is finally all dressed.
Miki: *English* And the peasant goes out in his rags…
Hiroko: Oh hush. Don’t talk nonsense. Get in the car, we’re meeting Tachibana-ojisan tachi now.
*She ruffled her son’s hair*
Hiroko: *Japanese* You look fine, dear.
* Miki snuck a teasing grin past her mother at Kenta as she disappeared into the car Kenta hung his head in embarrassment*

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*The route Ben was taking to the park passed by the flower shop. Stopping at a traffic light, he caught his gaze on the group of men that had been loitering outside the shop two days prior. He remembered Kenta’s reaction to them. Something suspicious was afoot.

The light turned green, but Ben continued to stare. One of the men saw that they had a one-man audience*
“Hey look, it’s that kid again”
*Ben took off his helmet and got off the bike*
Ben: You seem really interested in these flowers.
“Yeah…. ‘specially that big curvy one inside. Why don’t you let us in and see ‘er?
*The others snickered. Ben recalled Kenta’s reaction to them. He himself was getting suspicious*
Ben: Store’s closed.
*Other man spoke*
“Then you can ask her boyfriend to lend her out for a few minutes”
*More snickering. Now Ben knew for sure these folks were up to no good. He unconsciously flexed his hand in and out of a fist*
Ben: There’s nothing to see here, so why don’t you move along?
“Not ‘till I see my little Jap rose”
Ben: A Rosa rugosa, eh…
*He looked around the outside racks until he found a pink Japanese rose. He picked up the large pot*
Why, it seems we have one right here. Here, it’s on the house.
*He dug his hand into the soil and flung it at the leader’s face. The man cried out in surprise and furiously wiped his eyes and face of the dirt. The other men jumped at Ben. Ben threw the pot at one man and ducked under the incoming fist of another. To this one he gave a punch in the head. The leader, fully recovered, grabbed Ben from the front and delivered a right hook to his mouth, making him stumble to the ground. Two more of the men joined Ben on the ground and began trying to hold him down, but Ben wrestled them off and kicked one of them in the chest. The brawl continued on until the wail of a police siren came from down the street….*

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*Det. Savage had flown planes during his brief tenure in the Navy. Thus he was looking forward to the Blue Angels’ show: a chance both to reminisce and to get his mind off the plagues of the city, especially the Ghosts. His laptop was still offline from the virus, but that didn’t concern him as much as his youngest daughter. It had been a few days since the incident and she was still feeling distraught. So this trip wasn’t just a way for Savage to unwind but a way to cheer up the poor girl.

Thus sat Savage in the car with his wife and two younger children (the oldest had decided to spend some time elsewhere with friends) The drive had been going without incident until they stopped at a red light. On the block just after the light, Savage could see a brawl taking place by a flower shop. He turned to Allison, who turned to the kids. They were looking out in another direction, oblivious to what was going on just one block down. Allison slowly nodded to her husband, giving him a grim look. Savage reluctantly placed the detachable lights and siren onto the roof of the car and turned them on as the light turned green. The kids jumped up at once. They had never seen their father in action.

Savage went down the block and stopped the car midway. Jumping out of the car, he flashed his badge and gun toward the people brawling*
“Police!”
*What he saw took him by surprise: a group of battered, bloody men on one side and a beaten kid on the other. But what surprised him more was the face of the kid: Ben Hernandez.

The men saw the cop and wasted no time hanging around until he reached them. Glowering at Ben, they picked themselves up and ran off. Ben himself wiped away some blood tricking from his mouth as Savage came over and picked him up*
Savage: You all right?
Ben: Yeah, fine. Nothing serious.
*He wiped the dirt off himself and rotated his sore shoulder*
Savage: Well what the hell happened?
Ben: They wanted to see a flower, and I said the store is closed…
*Savage looked confused, but shook the feeling off*
Savage: You sure you’re all right?
Ben: I’m fine. Now unless you’re going to arrest me, I should be going. Actually, you should go arrest the merry band that just ran off
*He picked up the Japanese rose, its pot now shattered*
Aw, they forgot their rose…
*Ben turned to go but Savage held him back. He looked the boy’s side and saw a patch of red. Ben quickly examined his side to see a gaping wound. Apparently one of the men had snuck a stab in*
Savage: That looks bad. I should take you to the emergency room…
Ben: It’s not that bad.
*Savage mirthlessly chuckled*
Savage: You obviously never took endocrinology. Now come on…
*Savage saw Allison looking out the window of the car and went over to her. After a few seconds of hushed speaking, she got into the driver’s seat and drove off to the event with the kids. Savage went back to Ben, took out a thick handkerchief and told the boy to hold it tightly over the wound*
Ben: Please, no ambulances. I have my dignity…
*Savage smiled*
Savage: Just like your old man…

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*Evening. Kenta had been surprised at just how big of a turnout it had been. Amongst the people there was a sense of good spirits and pride; pride in the Blue Angels, which translated into a pride in the military and a pride in the country. For a few hours the proverbial weeds in the wheat were unseen and forgotten: there was only beauty in the metropolis. Even Kenta could see his home as Saya did in these few hours.

The show was long over. Ben’s absence had been noticed by everyone, but it was assumed he had just been in another location at the event. Kenta had met up with some friends from campus and gone out with them for dinner while his family went with Tachibana-ojisan and Junko-obasan elsewhere. With them had come Saya, on the encouragement of her aunt and uncle. “Go out and enjoy the outside”, was in essence what Tachibana had told her. Having just finished their meal, the group of kids was now mingling with the crowd at the boardwalk. Saya found Kenta leaning over a railing and staring up at the darkening sky. The girl came up and gave him a gentle nudge on the arm*
Saya: Why so alone?
*Kenta shrugged*
Kenta: Just wanted some space.
*Saya leaned over the railing beside Kenta*
Kenta: Glad you came?
*Saya nodded*
Saya: Those jets are very pretty…
*Kenta turned to the girl*
Kenta: Pretty?
Saya: Well aren’t they?
Kenta: Sure, they look nice. But… pretty?
*Saya cringed slightly*
Saya: Bad word?
Kenta: Well maybe if you change it from ‘jets’ to that woman announcer…
*He grinned cheekily. Saya rolled her eyes to the side and turned back toward the sky and ocean below, brushing some strands of hair from her face. Kenta continued*
I wonder where Ben went.
Saya: You two seem close.
Kenta: We are.
*Saya shrugged and seemed to shift around uncomfortably*
What’s wrong?
Saya: Something is strange about him.
Kenta: Well I suspect his stomach is a vortex to another universe…
*Saya didn’t smile, indicating Kenta’s failure in brevity. He cleared his throat and took on a more serious tone*
Kenta: He’s a good friend.
*Japanese* He’s more like an Ototo than anything…
*Saya rested her head on the railing*
Saya: Oh?
Kenta: We met in high school…
*As he relayed his story, his mind went back to autumn, six years ago. A 16-year old Kenta meandered out to the crowded grounds just as school was ending. While many of his friends and upper classmates took pleasure in ragging the incoming freshman, he never had an appetite for it. Today he had planned on heading straight home when he heard a wild commotion nearby. Looking closer, he saw a 14-year old Hispanic boy glowering down at a senior almost twice his strength. The latter was cradling a bloody nose. No sooner had Kenta registered what had happened did a group of teachers’ aides grab both boys and the senior’s friends, and ordered everyone clear out. Kenta retreated with the rest of the kids. Fights were commonplace in school. That senior was lucky to have just gotten a bloody nose. He soon forgot the matter.

The next day the head of the tutoring program had called Kenta in: he had a new student. And who would it be but that freshman with the knock-out punch. Kenta remembered his great annoyance: the last thing he needed was to teach another disinterested jerk who was only there because he was ordered to go. Kenta had sat down next to the boy and read his name from the cover of one of his books*
Kenta: Ben Hernandez…
*Ben only looked back at his new tutor with the typical disinterested look*
I have only one condition: keep your hands away from my nose.
*Ben was silent for a moment. Then the two boys began chuckling loudly together. Thus was the beginning of a close friendship lasting even after Kenta had gone to college.…

And now Kenta found himself back in the present. The sun had gone down completely, replaced with a bright moon and dim stars. A slight chill descended over the boardwalk. Saya shivered slightly and adjusted her skirt*
Kenta: It’s getting dark
Saya: And cold…
*One of Kenta’s friends appeared suddenly and told him they were leaving. Kenta replied his concurrence and stepped away from the railing. Saya suddenly pointed*
Saya: *Japanese* Look!
*A meteor streaked toward the sky*
Kenta: *Japanese* Make a wish.
Saya: *English* I did.
Kenta: And what was it?
*Saya’s face flushed. She just smiled mischievously and walked away*
Well?
*She shook her head and continued walking. Kenta smiled to himself and joined her. Together they walked as the lights of the city began dotting the landscape one by one. Boy and girl looked out at the tall buildings with a sudden sense of awe*
Saya: *Japanese* Beautiful.
*For once Kenta fully agreed. They reached his car. As Kenta opened the door he turned to face his friend*
Want a ride home?
*Saya hesitated and then shook her head*
Saya: No thanks. I live nearby.
*It was true enough, but Kenta knew the real reason. It wasn’t seen as very proper for a girl to accept rides from men who weren’t family. Still, he wondered whether such a delicate thing would be all right at this time of night*
Kenta: You sure?
*Saya nodded and gave a reassuring smile. Kenta saw the lights from the cities reflected in her gentle eyes. He remembered how the girl had looked the first time they had met. All she needed was a flower in her hair, thought Kenta*
Kenta: Well, good night then.
Saya: Good night.
*Kenta watched the girl walk away under the streetlights for a good few minutes before finally getting in the car. But instead of starting it, he just sat back in his chair and let the window down. He suddenly felt tired. As his eyelids got heavy, the image of Saya persisted in his mind. The road before him was suddenly not that of a California city, but of the Japanese countryside…*

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*Saya quickened her pace as the night sky became darker still. All of a sudden a wall of bodies materialized in her way as she rounded a corner. The girl’s heart sped up as she recognized the men. No one else was in sight. Saya continued her trek, trying her best to ignore the men as they started coming toward her*
“So there you are. We were starting to get worried…”
*Saya ignored them and looked down at the ground as she went. The men moved to block her path*
“It’s not safe out here. Why don’t we give ya a ride home?”
*Saya shivered. Nervously she answered, wondering she could make a dash for it*
Saya: No… no thank you.
“You don’t look fine…”
“Sure she does. Quite fine…”
*More laughter. Saya tried to run but was caught by one of the men*
“Oh, she’s a quick one…
Saya: Please… let me go…
*The leader came forward*
“Sure we’ll let you go. Just do us a little favor…”
*He began stroking Saya’s cheek. Saya flinched and quickly broke the grip of the other man’s hand on her arm. Again she tried to run, but the leader caught her by the stomach and brought her close to him*
“…And keep us company for a while…”
*Saya screamed. She slammed her foot down on her captor’s shoe and broke free again, but was caught from behind and slammed into the door of the men’s van. Saya held her bleeding head and crumpled to the ground, tears flowing out her eyes. The men picked her up and threw her in the van. Saya screamed again and got a kick in the stomach as a reward, shutting her up completely. The men clambered into the van and rode off into the darkness*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*

Last edited by Black Fang; February 10th, 2012 at 09:27 AM.
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Old January 5th, 2009, 08:48 AM   #19
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Edit

Last edited by Black Fang; January 7th, 2009 at 09:19 AM.
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Old January 18th, 2009, 06:46 AM   #20
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Chapter 11: Monster

*Saya quickened her pace as the night sky became darker still. All of a sudden a wall of bodies materialized in her way as she rounded a corner. The girl’s heart sped up as she recognized the men. No one else was in sight. Saya continued her trek, trying her best to ignore the men as they started coming toward her*
“So there you are. We were starting to get worried…”
*Saya ignored them and looked down at the ground as she went. The men moved to block her path*
“It’s not safe out here. Why don’t we give ya a ride home?”
*Saya shivered. Nervously she answered, wondering she could make a dash for it*
Saya: No… no thank you.
“You don’t look fine…”
“Sure she does. Quite fine…”
*More laughter. Saya tried to run but was caught by one of the men*
“Oh, she’s a quick one…
Saya: Please… let me go…
*The leader came forward*
“Sure we’ll let you go. Just do us a little favor…”
*He began stroking Saya’s cheek. Saya flinched and quickly broke the grip of the other man’s hand on her arm. Again she tried to run, but the leader caught her by the stomach and brought her close to him*
“…And keep us company for a while…”
*Saya screamed. She slammed her foot down on her captor’s shoe and broke free again, but was caught from behind and slammed into the door of the men’s van. Saya held her bleeding head and crumpled to the ground, tears flowing out her eyes. The men picked her up and threw her in the van. Saya screamed again and got a kick in the stomach as a reward, shutting her up completely. The men clambered into the van and rode off into the darkness, leaving behind the girl’s fallen cell phone on the ground*

Narrator: Awaken the sleeping beast within you at your own peril. You never know just what destruction you will bring down.

*Kenta woke up with a jolt. He glanced at his watch and swore to himself. He should have been home hours ago. His parents would be missing him by now. Still groggy, he picked up his phone and dialed home. His father answered in an irritated tone*
Kenta: Oraji?
Eiji: *Japanese* You’re late.
Kenta: *Japanese* I fell asleep…
*He heard his father make some noise of irritation through the phone*
Eiji: Well get back here right now. By the way, do you know where Saya-chan went?
Kenta: *English* Saya? She said she was going home.
Eiji: *Japanese* Junko-obasan called and said she hasn’t returned. And she’s not answering her phone.
*Now Kenta was fully awake. He straightened up in his seat and said a quick good-bye to his father before hanging up. Had something happened to Saya? Kenta made a move to dial a number but then remembered he didn’t have the girl’s number.

It was now almost pitch dark save for the streetlights. Kenta gripped the steering wheel and peeled out onto the road in the direction Saya had gone. He knew the way to Uncle Tachibana and Aunt Junko’s apartment. He could only assume Saya had gone down the path he was on now. He stopped only upon seeing something a scant group of people on the sidewalk of a side road. A single police car was on scene, its driver conversing with one of the people. Something must have happened here, Kenta reasoned. His eyes then caught a small item lying on the road that not even the cop had seemed to notice. His suspicions aroused, he got out of the car and picked it up. Saya’s phone. Kenta looked back at the people gathered on the street and the single cop, trying to piece everything together. Was Saya attacked? Kidnapped? For a moment Kenta considered going up to the cop to report the finding of the phone. No, he thought. There was someone far more reliable to call upon. Kenta dived back into the car and turned back to the road he came from before he attracted too much attention, and dialed Ben’s number…
*

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*Opening Theme 2 plays*

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*Ben had insisted upon taking his bike to the hospital. Now he fingered the thick bandage on his side as he slowly got off the examination table. Despite the nurse’s insistence to rest, he was in no mood to spend a night in a hospital over a single stab wound. Det. Savage came into view as Ben shuffled out of the room*
Savage: I still say you should take it easy.
*Ben shook his head*
Ben: I wouldn’t want to take up space. This is nothing.
Savage: You lost a good amount of blood…
*Ben simply waved the man off, but did admit to himself that the detective had a point. Finding some chairs, he placed himself in one and watched as Savage followed suit. The cop took two bottles of water out from somewhere and handed one over to Ben*
Drink up. You need your fluids.
Ben: Maybe you should’ve been a doctor.
*Savage snorted*
Savage: Blood I can stomach. Nagging lawyers is something else…
*Ben smiled grimly in reply and began tipping the bottle to his mouth. As he drank his eyes came upon a small flyer stuck onto a bulletin board. A picture of the Masked Rider decorated the center of the flyer with a request for information of his whereabouts. Ben stared at the picture with a frown. Savage followed Ben’s gaze and found the flyer as well*
It’s only a matter of time.
Ben: ‘Till what?
Savage: ‘Till we bring that freak in.
*Ben shifted his furrowed gaze to the detective and was about to whip out a sharp retort, but decided against it and instead smirked*
Ben: That’ll be the day.
Savage: Thanks for the vote of confidence.
*Ben took another swig from his bottle*
Ben: Shouldn’t you people be going after real bad guys instead of these goose chases?
*Savage turned to directly face Ben*
Savage: We go after people who break the law.
Ben: You’re after someone who is doing your job better than you.
Savage: We don’t kill and ask questions later.
Ben: Right. You have an ingenious legal system that no one fears and everyone exploits.
*He leaned back in his chair*
Have you gotten any useful tips since you started this hunt? No. Why? Because people don’t care how the Rider does his job, as long as someone is protecting them. If anything you’ve made yourselves look worse to people.
*Savage took a moment to take in what Ben had said. It wasn’t the first time he had heard that argument. But it was one that concerned him every time he heard it.
Savage: An eye for an eye, huh?
*Ben didn’t respond, but instead continued to look at the flyer*
And how long will it go on? How long can the Rider take the law upon himself and fight his one-man war before the entire city is covered in blood? This place is a powder keg ready to go off. The Rider is only the fuse.
*Ben turned his eyes to Savage*
Ben: So it’s really order you want to protect.
Savage: That is our job.
Ben: And you haven’t done it, which is why there is no order.
*Savage sighed*
Savage: It’s a lot more complicated than you’re making it.
Ben: You made it complicated. You made the city into what it is now. But what have you done about it? Placate to the dregs. Attack the few people who actually do their job. And now start a witch hunt against the real hero instead of following his example.
*Savage somehow felt that Ben had his father on his mind when he spoke his condemnation. He detected a tinge of bitterness from the boy’s voice. Bitterness toward the system… and maybe even bitterness toward Savage himself. The detective flashbacked to the day his friend Michael Hernandez had been killed. He vividly recalled the innocent eyes of that ten year-old spying from the stairs. Those eyes were less innocent now. The gentle boy had become a cynical man. Savage looked at Ben, at a loss of words. An uneasy silence separated the two for a few moments until Ben’s phone went off. It was Kenta. Glad for a diversion from the conversation, Ben quickly answered*
Ben: Hey, sorry I wasn’t there. I got a little sidetracked…
Kenta: Never mind that. Saya’s missing.
Ben: What?
*Kenta quickly explained the situation. At the same time, Savage’s own phone suddenly rang. A girl had been abducted off a street an hour or so ago*
Savage and Ben: On my way.
*The two looked at each other as they hung up, surprised at their simultaneous answer. If there was any suspicions aroused in Savage, he didn’t show it*
Ben: Well… I’d better get going. Thanks for the help.
*Savage smiled*
Savage: Don’t mention it. Just try to take it easy for a few days.
*Ben hastily returned the smile and together they departed the building. Finding his bike, he jumped on and waited until the detective was out of sight. He didn’t need any more of that man’s prattle. Once he was sure Savage was gone, Ben rode toward the location Kenta had described*

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Late night. Miki had finally gone to bed thanks to Eiji and Hiroko’s stern insistence. But Kenta remained awake with his parents, waiting for any news to come through. The police had already been alerted to Saya’s disappearance, but Kenta was waiting on Ben’s report. He quietly reclined on the couch while his parents went about their usual affairs, masking their thoughts as if nothing was wrong. A sound from downstairs jolted Kenta to a sitting position. Ben walked into the house and came up the stairs*
Hiroko: It’s late, Ben.
Ben: Sorry. Lost track of time…
*He came over to Kenta and shook his head as discreetly as possible. Kenta looked down at the floor and said nothing. He tried not to think the worst. Eiji finally rose from his chair on his way to the bedroom*
Eiji: Go to bed, you two. If something happens, it happens. No use losing sleep over it.
*They knew he was right. So off the two went to their room. On the way Kenta noticed the bulge on Ben’s side and his unusual walk. When Ben began changing his clothes his inquisitiveness was fully justified*
Kenta: Something you want to tell me?
Ben: Come again?
Kenta: You’re wearing a bandage.
Ben: How observant of you.
*Ben gently lowered himself into his bed. Kenta leaned against the window*
Kenta: Well? What happened?
Ben: I ran into your friends from the other day.
*It took a moment for Kenta to realize whom Ben meant*
Kenta: Looks like you touched a nerve.
Ben: Seems to be a habit of mine.
Kenta: One I thought you left behind with your juvenile delinquent days.
*Ben snorted tiredly at the jibe and lay flat on the bed. He turned his head to face his friend*
Ben: Relax. She probably just got caught up with something and got late.
Kenta: Perhaps…
*He finally surrendered himself to his bed and lay down. Gazing upon the bandage on Ben’s side, he was about to force himself into sleep when something suddenly clicked in his brain. He sat up again*
Where did you see those guys?
Ben: Near that flower shop. Why?
*Kenta’s heart beat faster*
Kenta: They took her.
Ben: Who?
*Kenta clicked his tongue in irritation*
Kenta: Those men!
*He turned around to look at Ben*
Saya said they’ve been hanging around there for a while. You got in a fight with them, which means you probably figured out what they were up to.
Ben: That doesn’t prove anything.
Kenta: It has to be them.
Ben: Well even if they are, we don’t know where they are. We can’t do anything yet.
*Kenta sighed and lay back down*
Kenta: This from the guy who went out in the middle of the night in his pajamas because his ring told him so.
Ben: That guy didn’t get stabbed a few hours earlier.
Kenta: You’ve been through worse.
*Ben mumbled something under his breath and said no more. How ironic, Kenta thought, that he was now the restless one while Ben could sleep peacefully, calm and collected. He closed his eyes and tried to catch some needed sleep.

His subconscious eventually drifted to a grassy field below a bright sun. A white rabbit crawled up to where he was standing. So as not to startle it, Kenta kneeled down as slowly as he could and reached out a hand. The rabbit timidly rubbed its head on his hand and inched closer to him. Kenta smiled to himself as he gently petted the delicate creature.

Suddenly the sun disappeared behind a dark cloud. A shadow crept upon Kenta’s face. His gentle touch became a firm vice. The rabbit squirmed out of Kenta’s hand and ran off. When it looked back one last time, Kenta noticed that its head was covered in a red substance. He looked down at his hand to find it soaked in blood. Streaks of fire danced across the blackened sky…

…And then he jolted awake. Unsure of whether he was still dreaming, he brought his hand to his face. It was wet only with his perspiration. Kenta sat up in his bed and looked out at the full moon, wondering what this dream could possibly mean…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Sometime past midnight, near the industrial district. The abandoned building was commonly used as a drug den and burlesque house combo by those involved in the business. Saya felt herself shoved to the floor of a darkened, untidy room of the building. Still dizzy from the earlier blow to the head, she leaned against a grimy sofa and looked up terrified at her captor. A draft passed through the room, making the girl shiver more than she was already.

The man before he kneeled down and held the crown of Saya’s head.
“Now get comfy….”
*Saya yanked her head away and twisted her body so as not to face this monster. The man grabbed her by the hair and pulled her back, making her squeak in pain*
“We’re going to have lots of fun together…”
*He brought his face close to the girl’s as he said this*
“….Never did an Oriental before...”
*Saya squeezed her eyes shut and shuddered as this man ran a lustful hand down her body. Disturbing sounds came from the other rooms of the house. She wished it was all a perverse dream. When the man began moving his groping fingers beneath her garments, she began resisting violently, crying out to anyone who would listen. The man shoved her to the floor and grinded a foot into her body.

Two of the man’s partners appeared in the doorway along with a third man of intimidating stature. Tattoos dotted his right arm, one of which was a ghostly white face in front of a sickle. This man looked down at the sobbing girl on the floor before him*
“Found another whore to play with, eh?”
*Saya’s captor smirked and leaned down to stroke Saya’s hair. Finding her hair clip, he swiftly removed it, letting the girl’s hair fall freely*
“Not yet”, he replied. “But she will be a nice one once I learn her a little…”
“Let me borrow her when you’re done…”
*The tattooed man departed with his company. Saya felt colder than ever. The man dragged her to a sitting position and placed a hand on her face, wiping the tears away. Saya squirmed and twisted her head away. The man yanked her back and slapped her face. She fell back to the dirty floor*
“If you want to survive, you’ll learn how to behave”
*He got up and left, leaving Saya to cry to herself alone in the dark. The girl huddled at the foot of the couch and brought her knees to her head. It was going to be a long night…*

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Morning, two days later. There was still no word of Saya’s whereabouts. The police had assured her aunt and uncle that they were doing all they could, but Kenta didn’t trust a word of it. If anyone was going to find her, it was him and Ben.

Since Ben had classes earlier than Kenta that day, he was already on campus. So Kenta was left to drive alone after dropping Miki off at her school. On the way he drove past the flower shop. Not surprisingly Saya’s Aunt Junko wasn’t there, but her business partner, a Hispanic woman named Rita if Kenta remembered correctly, was outside with a bundle of paraphernalia to be brought inside. Upon turning around she saw Kenta coming to a stop and waved him over*
“Kenta!”
*Kenta got out of the car and approached the woman. From the concerned look on her face, he assumed she had found out what had happened*
Rita: Any news?
*Kenta shook his head. Rita sighed and clutched her chest, her finger touching a cross attached to a necklace*
Poor thing. I told her aunt to stay home today if something happened, she is a nervous wreck…
*Kenta wondered for a moment if they had even told her parents yet. He took note of the load of items Rita was handling*
Kenta: Need any help?
Rita: Oh, I wouldn’t want to make you late…
*Kenta waved her off*
Kenta: I can spare a few minutes.
*As he was bringing the stuff inside, he heard the phone ring*
Rita: Now who could that be?
*Kenta placed the phone on speaker*
Kenta: Hello?
“Your suspicions are correct”
*Kenta froze*
What are you talking about?
“A gentle hand must save your friend”
*Kenta gripped the counter’s edge even tighter. He didn’t recognize the voice, so it couldn’t be one of the men. Who was this man and how did he know about Saya?*
Where is she?!
*The sounds of construction and heavy machinery suddenly filled Kenta’s ear. It didn’t take him long to figure out where those men had brought his friend. He felt like dashing the phone against the wall*
Who are you?
“A friend”
*The voice cut off. Kenta roughly turned off the speaker and gazed down at the counter. “A gentle hand must save your friend” What the hell did that mean? Rita noted the look of concentration on his face*
Rita: Who was that?
Kenta: He said he knew where Saya was…
Rita: Well where is she?!
Kenta: Near the warehouses.
*He quickly ran to the car and jumped in. Rita followed*
Rita: Hold on there! Don’t go dashing off by yourself. We have to tell the police.
*Kenta bit down on his lip and tried to hide his impatience. Reluctantly he conceded her point*
Now you go to class. I’ll handle this.
*Kenta nodded, but he had no plan to let her handle it. He couldn’t just sit still. He waited until Rita hurried back inside before driving away. Kenta continued on his way to campus, all the while formulating a plan in his mind...*

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*The drifter named ‘41’ hung up his phone. “A gentle hand must save your friend”. That was the meaning of the dream the young man named Kenta saw. He would have to heed it before this was all over. ‘41’ looked up at the sun through his shades. Something terrible was on its way, and even he had his doubts if it could be stopped*

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*Noon, university campus. Ben and Kenta huddled in a corner of one of the main building’s lounges to stay out of range from wandering ears*
Ben: You got a call from some guy?
Kenta: He knows were Saya is…
Ben: Really…
Kenta: And something about a gentle hand saving your friend.
Ben: What does that mean?
*Kenta snorted*
Kenta: You’re asking me?
*Ben thought for a moment*
Ben: I bet it’s that ‘41’ guy.
Kenta: How would he know about all this? How would he know what I dreamt about??
Ben: Dream?
*Kenta relayed the dream he had. Ben gave an odd look*
That sounds familiar actually…
Kenta: Well we can mull about it later. Right now we have to find Saya.
*His phone suddenly rang. Kenta flipped it open to answer and allowed Ben to listen in*
Miki: Ni-san?
*Kenta tried to hide his surprise*
Kenta: Miki?? What are you calling me for at this hour?
Miki: I have something that might interest you two.
*Ben and Kenta looked at each other*
Kenta: How are you calling me from school?
Miki: Do you want to hear me out or not? I don’t have much time to chat.
*She was calling from the computer lab. After checking to see that the teacher wasn’t looking, she huddled behind her monitor again and whispered to her brother*
Miki: I found an article about kidnappings of women over the past few months. It’s rumored some slave-trafficking group is behind them.
Kenta:…. You overheard us the other night.
*Miki grinned*
Miki: Good ears.
*Ben brought Kenta’s phone to his ear*
Ben: Slaves for what?
Miki: Don’t know. I’d assume prostitution is on the list though.
*Kenta scowled for a brief moment before regaining his composure*
Kenta: Thanks. Now get off the phone and back to work.
*Miki pouted*
Miki: But it’s boring…
Kenta: Cry me a river.
*He hung up and shoved the phone into his pocket, then turned to Ben*
We go tonight.
Ben: We?
Kenta: I’m coming with you.
Ben: I could be fighting a whole gang here. I can’t be guarding you at the same time.
Kenta: Let me worry about myself. You keep them busy while I get Saya and whoever else could be there.
Ben: I’ll be fine alone. You don’t have to do this.
Kenta: I want to.
*The determined look in Kenta’s eyes finally convinced Ben*
Ben: Alright. Just try not get yourself beat up too much.
Kenta: You’d be surprised what I can do…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*The precinct that afternoon was swarming with more activity than usual. A flurry of strange incidents had suddenly been brought to the police’s attention. Det. Savage was secretly thankful that he was involved in something more clear-cut. The previous morning he had been briefed on the disappearance of a young Japanese girl the night before. Today a woman who worked with the girl’s aunt came in to report that someone had called her shop telling her where the girl was now. That location just happened to be a headquarters of a human-trafficking group that was under police investigation for some time now. And now a strike team was being assembled to take the group down for good. Savage was to be a part of this team. The detective looked over his protective armoring one last time. In and out. A simple enough mission. Unless of course the Rider poked his head in again. If he did, Savage would be ready for him…*

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Evening. Eiji hadn’t returned yet from work and Hiroko was running a late shift. Ben entered the garage and climbed onto his bike. Kenta arrived as he was putting on his helmet. Ben noticed a sheath carrying a knife attached onto his belt*
Ben: Expecting a fight?
Kenta: Just a little something from my martial arts days.
*Ben exhaled loudly and looked at Kenta*
Ben: Are you sure you want to come along for this? What am I going to tell your folks if you get hurt?
*Kenta gave a coy smile*
Kenta: You underestimate me.
Ben: I’m serious.
Kenta: She’s my friend.
Ben: Didn’t know you were that close.
*His little jibe went ignored. Ben sighed. He wasn’t going to get him to change his mind*
Ben: But I suppose that’s reason enough. Worked for Miki.
Miki: What about Miki?
*Miki had appeared in the garage*
Planning on leaving without me?
Kenta: As a matter of fact, yes. You’re staying here.
Miki: Why?
Kenta: Because someone has to be here when Oraji or Okaa-san gets home. And monitor the cameras on this bike.
Miki: That’s your job.
Kenta: And tonight it’s yours. Now go back inside.
*Miki then saw the sheathed knife on her brother’s belt*
Miki: What –
*She stopped her question when she saw Kenta’s stern look*
Kenta: *Japanese* Go inside.
*Miki resisted the urge to protest further. She cast a worried look on her face as she looked at Kenta and Ben before turning back to the house. Ben looked at the girl and then at his friend. He opened his mouth to say something but Kenta cut him off*
Drive.
*Ben sighed and started down the road to the industrial district. In the background, the setting sun illuminated them as they went *

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Saya cried out as one of the men beat her again. Two days of torment. Would it ever end? She crumpled onto the floor again before a group of other captive girls, none of which made a move to help her. The man knelt down and dragged Saya upward by her hair*
“You’re just making it harder on yourself*
*He threw her back to the floor. Saya hid her back-eyed, tear-soaked face from everyone and lay there in disgrace. A trickle of blood dripped from her nose*
“The more you resist, the more it will hurt. Your clients won’t appreciate any stubbornness”
*He suddenly changed to a softer tone and began stroking the girl’s back. Saya shuddered*
Though of course… thorns do make the rose more tantalizing…
*He bent down to kiss Saya’s neck when the tattooed man suddenly appeared*
“Still giving you trouble?”
“She’s a stubborn one, alright”
“Didn’t you try the tazer?”
“Nah, too early for that yet…”
*The tattooed man came in closer so that only Saya could overhear*
“The organization needs some more… recruits. If you have any more troublemakers, I’ll take them off your hands”
*The man noticed the Ghost member had his eye on Saya*
“Not this. I have other plans for her”
*The Ghost shrugged*
“Suit yourself”
*The first man waved to some of his associates to take away some of the more troublesome girls. Saya looked in horror as one of them, not much older than 15, was dragged out with them. The rest of the girls were sent away, leaving her and the man alone. She looked up at her captor*
Saya: She’s just a child…
“They make the best soldiers”
Please let me go…
“And have you babbling to the world about us? We’re a very exclusive club”
I won’t tell anyone.
“Hmm… well I suppose I could make an exception if you… did a little something for me…”
*He reached a hand toward Saya’s chest. Saya shoved it away and crawled away from the sadist before her. The man grabbed her ankle and dragged her back to him. Saya cried out and fought frantically against him until she broke free. Getting up from the floor, she dashed down the winding corridors of the building, her pursuer coming right behind her. Saya eventually found herself in a large garage filled with a bunch of other members of the ring. Saya tried to run toward the exit but was soon caught by a net of groping arms. In desperation the girl tried to fight them off to little avail. Her pitiful cries echoed out to deaf ears…

… Until someone on a motorcycle crashed through the unlocked doors of one of the exits and skidded to a halt. A helmeted Ben Hernandez dismounted his bike and glared in disgust at the pure evil surrounding this innocent girl. The hieroglyph on his belt glowed brightly in the dimly lit, cavernous room*
“Who are you?!”
*Ben stepped toward the men, his body igniting in silver flame. He grabbed the closest thug and threw him away toward the wall. Some of the rest who weren’t daunted by the man of fire before them brought out their firearms and began firing. The intense flames melted the bullets before they ever reached Ben’s body. One of Ben’s arms transformed into its armored state, and he used it to punch another man in the chest. Another he kicked in the hips with a transformed leg, making a cracking sound. The other limbs and torso contorted into their armored state as Ben beat down more gangbangers. One more daring man, the same man in fact who had stabbed Ben two days prior, threw a large knife at Ben’s chest. The blade impacted, but Ben simply ripped it out of him and thrust it deep into the body of his attacker. The man looked through the helmet into Ben’s eyes, shocked that the kid he had fought two days ago was the avenger of the city. Ben’s transformation into the Rider was complete as soon as this man fell dead.

Saya looked on, utterly petrified at the carnage. The Rider turned his gaze to her and offered his hand, but she only retreated further away. She didn’t know who scared her more, these sadists or the masked monster before her. The Rider was quickly brought back to the fight as the remainder of the men pounced on him. One in particular tried to hijack Ben’s bike in an attempt to escape, but never got the chance. For before he could even turn the key, the bike transformed into Antares. The steed leaned onto his front wheel and bucked, tossing the man clear off his seat the way a normal horse would. Antares neighed and spit a ball of silver fire at him as he scrambled to his feet, incinerating him instantly.

While the brawl continued, she tried to make her escape, only to be met with another surprise. A crèche of captive girls piled out from another hallway and were fleeing to the outside. Following behind was Kenta, a knife gripped tightly in his hand. The two of them did a double-take upon seeing each other*
Kenta: Saya!
*He noted his friend’s battered body*
**Japanese** Are you alright?
Saya: *Japanese* What are you doing here?!
*A man crashed into the wall behind Saya, making her shriek in surprise. Only a few men were left standing from Ben’s melee. Kenta grabbed Saya closer to him*
Kenta: Never mind that, just get outside.
*Two more men suddenly grabbed Kenta and smacked him across the room into a table. Saya looked on as her friend engaged in a vicious fight of his own and screamed*
Saya: *Japanese* Stop it!
*Kenta didn’t stop until finally he managed to subdue his attackers. He breathed heavily as he got up and stumbled back to Saya, taking her out of the building. He didn’t notice one of the men had risen and was sneaking up to attack the girl from behind. Ben caught the man just before he could strike*
Ben: KENTA!
*Kenta turned around and swung his knife in front of him. The man looked down at the knife shoved deep into his lower torso. Ben, Saya and Kenta himself looked down as well, in utter shock at what he had just done. The man slumped onto the floor. Kenta extracted the knife from the body and looked upon his blood-stained hand. Then, fearing what he would see, he turned to Saya. The girl looked from the body to Kenta, the man who had just saved her. Her face was pale white. She silently shook her head, in denial of what she had just witnessed her friend commit. Her eyes flooded with fresh tears. Kenta tried to say something, but the words choked in his throat. But Saya didn’t need to hear anything. She collapsed into Kenta’s shoulder and sobbed uncontrollably. Kenta dropped his bloodstained knife to the floor.

A call from Miki brought Ben back to reality.
Miki: Helloooo out there.
*By sheer luck Antares’ cameras had been focused on Ben’s fight. They had missed a death by her brother’s hand. Ben was grateful for Kenta’s sake*
Ben: What?
Miki: In case you didn’t notice, one of your friends is getting away.
*She was watching from the cameras the tattooed Ghost trying to flee the scene. From the distance the sirens of police cars filled the air. Ben quickly mounted Antares and cast one more look at Kenta and Saya. He didn’t want to leave them, but what could he do? Reluctantly, he peeled out of the garage and into the dark. No one was going to escape punishment for such evil*

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*Ben stopped in the middle of a dirt road. Antares’ fiery eyes lit up the path before him, but caught no sign of his target. A voice suddenly called out to him*
“Rider”
* ‘41’ stood before him some feet away. He looked at the Rider from behind his shades
‘41’: You are on a dangerous road, Rider.
*Ben gripped the handlebars impatiently. Now was not the time for cryptic prattle*
Ben: Who are you?
’41’: I told you. I am a friend. And I say to you as a friend to end this while you still can.
*Ben stared down the drifter. ‘41’ locked his eyes with Ben’s and stared back unblinkingly at the masked warrior…*

TO BE CONTINUED
*Ending Theme 2 plays*
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