Disclaimer: This is a work of fan appreciation. The concepts and general story outline are variously the property of Toei, Inshinomori Productions, TV Asahi, Bandai, and Saban Entertainment, and we do not wish to infringe upon their trademarks, copyrights, or toy sales.
Additionally, this document is in the process of being mildly rewritten. Some aspects may not reflect the final version of this story and may be changed in a later version. I ask for your patience as I work to improve this story.
"Alright, Steve, this is it. This is the tipping point."
Flashlights played over the stone walls, shining on the jagged runes of an ancient language, dead and unmourned. The tunnel stretched on into endless blackness, voices bouncing off the walls, turning speech into an unintelligible morass of noise.
"Tonight could make our careers. After this, we can name our own path, baby, we can coast on wings of gold."
Footsteps carry on the stone, dust motes dance in the sparse light. A bend in the tunnel leads to a new path, leading down into the earth. The noise gets louder, the walls practically rumbling with sound, and the air is thick with anticipation. A light is visible at the end of the path, coming ever closer.
"But this all depends on you, Steve. This is your moment, your time to shine. You're the star, these other losers are nothing without you. Your words will bring this place to life, my friend!"
The tunnel slopes down, the light growing brighter, banishing the darkness from the cave. The sounds become clearer, the voices joined by the clanking of metal tools on cold stone. The runes on the wall seem to stretch towards this chamber, their lines stretching along the wall like grasping claws.
"Are you ready for this?"
"I'm ready, man."
The tunnel opened up into an eight-sided chamber, the ancient stone walls hewn out with exacting precision and covered in jagged, angular pictograms of animals and rough, twisted, human forms. Electric lights hung from the arched ceiling, extension cords dangling down to portable generators, the lighting so bright as to bleach all the color out of the stone. At the far end of the room was a massive sarcophagus, and archaeologists and diggers were clustering around it like the worshippers of some long-forgotten god.
"You say it, but you don't feel it! I want you breathing it, feeling it, tasting it, I want it to subsume your very being. Now tell me again, are you READY for this?"
"I am so freaking ready, Hector!"
The tomb was carved from a single block of gray stone, set on an inclined podium that raised it above a man's head, giving it total dominance of the room. It was smooth, but angular, narrow at the bottom but widening out to a massive headspiece, and every square inch was covered in the same unintelligible runes that spread throughout the cave. At the far end, just at the tomb's head, was a simple carving, perhaps something to identify the man buried here. Two eyes, wide and heavy-browed, set in a determined glare, a long, thin nose, and a mouth that bore pointed fangs. It could have been the face of an insect. It could have been human.
"Then get out there and shine, Steve!"
"Yeah, let's do this!"
Steve Tooms ran in front of the camera. He was a young man, still in college, as evidenced by his Evergreen State University t-shirt. He had blue eyes, an easy smile, and dirty blonde hair that kept falling down into his eyes. His skin was slick with sweat and he was full of nervous energy, his eyes darting back and forth from the activity around him to the camera held by his friend, Hector Mendez.
"This is Steve Tooms, friendly neighborhood intern here, and this is day 16 of the Shikla excavation," he said, gesturing to the activity all around him, the diggers crawling over the sarcophagus, sketching the runes and attaching ropes to the lid. "With me, as always, is my faithful cameraman, Hector Mendez. Say hi to the folks at home, Hector!"
The camera turned around, suddenly staring Hector right in his dark brown eyes.
"Hey, this is your show, man," hector said. "Wouldn't want to hog your attention."
Hector paused for just long enough to let the image sink in, then grinned a brilliant wide grin right down the barrel of the camera and flashed a thumbs up.
"Alright man, give the ladies time to compose themselves!" said Steve, grabbing the camera and turning it back onto himself. "Now, this is a very big day for us. We discovered two dozen sarcophagi all throughout the structure, but the big prize is in this central chamber. Get a shot of that, Hector."
Steve stepped aside, letting Hector zoom in on the great sarcophagus, panning over the runes and the symbol at the head, the hands tracing almost reverently over the runes.
"Naturally, we focused all our efforts on that. Earlier today, the diggers finally managed to dissolve the seal, and we're just now getting ready to raise the lid." Steve came back into frame and pointed out the four workers tying the harness around the stone. "This is a pretty big deal, they've got all the shift leaders working on it. If you haven't been paying attention to the other videos, the guy with the tattoos is the first shift leader, Joey… Sapporo?"
"Soeprapto, dude," said Hector.
"Right, what he said," said Steve.
"It's Indonesian, dude," said Hector. "Two weeks you've been working here and you don't know anyone's name."
"I'm bad with names!" said Steve. "…actually, maybe you should do the introductions."
"Clearly we chose the wrong host," said Hector, panning from the tattooed man to the red-haired woman working beside him. "That there is Kirsten Jones, second shift leader. Madly in love with me, of course, but she denies it loudly to anyone who asks."
"Dude, our professor is going to see this," said Steve.
"Little commentary never hurt anyone," said Hector, panning to a 6'6" African-American man, bald and bulging with muscle. "That's Dwayne Lark, third shift leader. Absolute teddy bear, but I once saw him break one of the mess tables in half trying to swat a fly."
"That's on tape three," said Steve. "We should do a blooper reel."
"Finally," said Hector, panning over to a dark-haired man in a rolled-up turtleneck. He sighed. "…we have Frank Nelson."
"And the less said about Dr. Beall's favorite brown-noser the better," said Steve. "In fact, let's see if we can't edit him out entirely in post."
"Dr. Beall himself should be over here…" Hector panned around widely, finally stopping at a thin, distinguished man, with a thin grey beard and grey hair swept back from his temples. He was standing at a bank of electronic equipment where a younger, Asian woman in a black shirt was adjusting a pair of monitors. "There he is. Dr. Albert Beall, the head archaeologist on this dig."
"And that's Dr. Keiko Odagiri," said Steve. "She handles all the actual science stuff that isn't anything to do with our majors."
"Oh, you remember her name," said Hector.
"Shush, you," said Steve. "Let's see if we can get an interview. Dr. Beall! Dr. O!"
Steve shouted and waved at the two doctors. They looked up, briefly, said nothing, and then went back to what they were doing.
"…and they have no time for the interns," said Steve. "…anyone else we can talk to?"
"I'm over here," somebody said. Hector and Steve whirled around to the other side of the cave, where an older, Native American man was leaning against the wall, his hands in his pockets. "Not much for me to do at this stage, but no reason for me to leave."
"Dr. Peters, perfect!" said Steve, rushing over to the man. "Everyone, this is Dr. Vincent Peters, he's the expert on local history and culture. Doc, what are we looking at here?"
Dr. Peters placed a hand on his temple, squinted, and stared off into the middle distance for a while. Steve glanced at Hector, and the camera appeared to shrug.
"In my opinion… I don't have the slightest idea," said Dr. Peters. "The architecture is completely unlike anything associated with any nation that ever lived on this land. The runes on the walls are unlike anything I've ever encountered, and at the time this tomb would have been carved the people of this area would have had no system of writing. The carvings include depictions of animals such as rhinoceroses and giant squid that nobody who lived on this continent had ever seen. If it were not for the age of the cave, I would call it the most poorly-researched hoax to ever waste my valuable time, but it is right here before our very eyes."
"…okay, this is getting kind of freaky," said Hector.
"Yeah…" said Steve. "Is there anything you know for sure?"
"This dig was named Shikla," said Dr. Peters. "Some peoples of this land tell stories of the Shikla or similar figures as a kind of… transformative hero. The stories say he brought shape to this world, created the natural order that all things must follow. He molded the very land like clay, taught the trees to reach up to the sun and down for the water beneath the earth, and he gave all the animals their proper shapes. Some of the artifacts found that led us to this site contained carvings of animals taking on human forms, and so it was believed that this has something to do with the Shikla."
"So… this is…" Steve could hardly get the words out, wiping the sweat from his brow. "You're saying that this is the resting place of… of God?"
"Hardly anything like that," Dr. Peters laughed. "The stories are told from generation to generation, as much a history as they are a religion. Much is kept, but some is lost. It's likely that the historical Shikla was some great warrior or chieftain whose myth grew greater than the reality, much as it did for Gilgamesh or King Arthur."
"Everyone, be ready!" said Dr. Beall, his voice bringing a halt to activity. "We're going to attempt to raise the lid. This will be essential personnel only. Whatever is in there has been undisturbed for seven thousand years, we can't risk contamination."
"Well, that's us out," said Hector. "Come on, let's watch from the hall."
"Killing the lights!" said Dr. Odagiri, plunging the room into darkness, with only the glow of the monitors and a few dull, red, darkroom lights to see by.
"…or not," said Hector, filing out of the room with Steve and Dr. Peters. "…does this thing have night vision?"
"Let's do it like this," said Steve. "The red light is really cool."
"It's a great shot," said Dr. Peters. "Zoom in. I want to see this up close."
Soeprapto, Jones, Lark and Nelson took their ropes and pulled, and the lid of the sarcophagus rose, opening like the mouth of some giant, predatory bird. Hector zoomed in as close as he could get, as the blood-red lights illuminated the still, desiccated corpse hiding inside its prison of stone, unseen for countless ages. His camera captured a figure in black armor, inlaid with lines of gold, a belt with a round, black stone at the clasp, a stone the size of a human heart, and a helmet with two round, insectile eyes and a horned, golden crest. Dr. Beall sounded the all-clear, and the crew poured in to peer and gape at what they had discovered.
Hector, Steve and Dr. Peters were right in the front row of onlookers.
"So… anything in the stories about this?" said Steve.
"Absolutely nothing," said Dr. Peters. "But I have seen this face, carved amongst the runes. If I have read them properly, this is the body of an ancient hero. A mystic who communed with the spirits of animals. A faceless armored warrior astride some powerful, unknown beast, fighting for humanity against darkness and chaos."
"A masked rider," said Steve.
Author's note: It's always somewhat disappointed me that Kamen Rider never got a proper translation to the west like Super Sentai did, whether that's because it received a hacktacular chainsaw edit like Saban's Masked Rider or because an excellent translation was unfairly maligned by its network, like Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight. What I'm trying to do is make my own version, show what could have happened if it had been given a fair shake.
So, in 2000, the Kamen Rider series was revived as Kamen Rider: Kuuga, airing alongside Timeranger. Saban acquired the series and aired it in 2001, the same year as Power Rangers Time Force. Unlike Power Rangers, this show was reformatted as an hour-long primetime series, designed to attract an older, more Joss Whedon-y demographic. I'm not going to do *exactly* that, I'm not going to write out every individual episode, that would take something like a thousand pages and 90% of that would be filler, but I am going to try to get the plot in, as well as as many of the monsters of the week as I can. Since the show actually exists but could be hard to get a hold of, I'm going to be illustrating the events with gifs and images of the heroes and villains as they become important.
I intend to keep this rolling as long as I can, I've got plans for the next series in this verse, and sketched out some ideas for every Rider show up to the present.
(Because it'll be important later: In this universe, Saban did not sell Power Rangers to Disney. There was also no "special edition" of the original MMPR, nor was there a hiatus between RPM and Samurai, nor were Samurai and Megaforce spread out over two years, nor were any seasons skipped over. Wild Force to RPM were broadly the same, just done more competently. You can fill in your own definition of that.)