Kamen Rider Tackle
This takes place right after the climax of Stronger.
Note: I do generally think that you should translate a couple things that I leave untranslated here, but that's because this isn't an official subtitle track or anything, just a fanfic, so it's more based on what looks coolest to write. "Denpa-Nage" is just less of a mouthful than "Electro-Wave Toss/Throw".
With these words, the Great Leader, the unspeakably-powerful being that had plagued the Earth with one army of evil after another, gave new life to his defeated Black Satan and Delza Army minions, forming a final barricade between himself and the seven Kamen Riders that stood united against him.
But the effects of the Resurrection were felt further afield than the Riders realised; in the ruins of a destroyed Delza outpost, three figures materialised, gasping as their lives were restored (not for the first time, for one of them).
Two of them stood, giving each other wary glances.
"Here we are again," Mr. Titan muttered, adjusting his suit and glaring at his companion with all the many eyes that decorated his monstrous head.
"Our leader must have a very strange plan indeed," General Shadow mused, straightening his cape and making sure his sword was securely in place, "if he considered reviving you as important as me."
"What was that, Shadow?" Titan snarled, stepping uncomfortably close and balling his fists.
"Try me anytime," Shadow drawled, turning away and examining the third revived figure. "Though an even stranger choice…you remember her, don't you?"
Titan nodded, his anger simmering down as curiosity took hold. "Misaki Yuriko…that damned woman. But she seems to have been only half-revived."
"Her body, I recall, suffered terrible damage during her last battle. Perhaps that's the reason," Shadow theorised.
Titan snorted. "Need I remind you that we exploded?"
"For the Great Leader, a trivial matter of reassembling scattered particles," Shadow explained. "In her case…even before the fatal self-damage her final attack caused her, every cell in her body was undergoing rapid corruption—she was poisoned by one of my Delza Generals. Despite appearances, that's more difficult."
"If you say so."
They fell silent as the formerly-darkened room blazed a deep orange; shadows and perspective warped, and space seemed to spin around them. In their minds, the Great Leader's voice spoke.
Hundred-Eyes Titan…General Shadow…I have been defeated.
"What?!" Shadow gasped.
I severely underestimated the seven Kamen Riders, the familiar deep tones boomed. But as unlikely as it seemed, I prepared for this eventuality! For now, I must return to the stars to recover. In the meantime, the two of you will carry out my vengeance!
"That's the Great Leader for you," Titan said, impressed. "A plan for everything."
More than you know. One of my old Shocker bases was never discovered…it has slowly been using prototype cloning technology to create a new army of cyborgs, completely undetected—leaving them dormant until such a situation as this arose.
Shadow took all of this in, keeping a poker face and glancing sidelong at his comrade.
Titan, meanwhile, ignored him, gesturing down at Yuriko. "And the girl?"
Your first target is the most dangerous—that damned Stronger! He was about to continue, but General Shadow pre-empted him.
"I understand. Even with such forces at our command, it would be wise not to underestimate him. And we will need enough reserves to deal with the other six." He produced his deck of cards, withdrawing the top card without looking and tossing it to Titan.
The Black Satan executive caught it—the Queen of Diamonds.
"But now we have someone Stronger can't raise a hand against," Shadow almost purred.
Jo Shigeru breathed the sea air and, for the first time in over nine months, let himself relax.
It was over.
The task he had dedicated himself to, sacrificed his human body for, was done. Black Satan, and the Delza Army after it, had fallen; their master had left the Earth, hopefully for good.
Not that there was any going back. No happily ever after, now or ever. He'd agreed to meet his seniors again after taking a day to get his bearings. Then his fight would go on, just as it had for all of them. There was work to do. There would always be work to do.
That was what the name 'Kamen Rider' meant, and he had not given himself that name lightly.
But today would be different. Today was for casting off the last vestiges of his old life. There wasn't much. He'd got rid of most of his personal effects, severed all ties, when he first faked joining Black Satan. All that was left was saying goodbye to old man Tachibana, and…Yuriko.
The death of one friend had set him on this path; and all that lay at the end, was the death of another—maybe more than friend.
He reached the bottom of the hill, throwing his jacket over one shoulder and trudging up the hill, breath frosting in the winter air his body could no longer feel.
At the top, he reached for the flower he'd tucked into his jacket—then paused. The grave wasn't right.
The wooden marker was askew and badly scorched, and the soil…it hadn't been dug up, but it had sunk down, as if caved in from the inside. As if…
The body was no longer there.
He jerked around, looking away from the desecrated grave, managing to contain a scream. He couldn't stop himself shaking, though.
Yuriko opened her eyes—and immediately squinted, intense lights glaring directly down at her. "I'm…" The operating table she was secured to seemed familiar. From the time I was first modified…Shigeru went through the same.
She shook off her drowsiness. "I'm already one of your cyborgs," she spat back at the disembodied voice. "What do you want now?"
"And yet you are not fully one of us. Not yet."
"Don't bother trying to convert me. Reviving me in the first place was a mistake."
"You should consider it. After all, you have nothing else. The Great Leader showed you many things during your resurrection, didn't he?" No answer. "Stronger has new comrades now. Tomorrow, he rides off on a new mission. He doesn't need you."
She gave a vicious grin, though her voice was shaking. "If you think I need Shigeru's approval, you don't know me at all. I'll take you on alone if I have to."
"Will you? Are you strong enough? All that time trying so hard, just to keep up with Stronger…how much can you manage on your own?"
"Let me off this table and come out of hiding, let's find out."
"We can give you power! Power beyond—"
"Go to hell!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. "Or better, just shut up already! I've had enough of your damn preaching!"
"Impressive spirit. As expected, you won't join us willingly. However, planting those ideas in your mind now makes the brainwashing process easier."
As their minions set to work, Mr. Titan stepped back from the microphone he'd been using to communicate with Yuriko, turning to General Shadow. "It won't take long."
"Is the Super Dynamo ready?" Shadow asked.
"It will be installed simultaneously," Titan replied, making to leave.
Shadow stopped him with the hilt of his sword. "Don't have her use it unless absolutely necessary."
"Having doubts, General?" Titan said mockingly.
Shadow chuckled. "All I'm doing is thinking—you should try it." He took a step back as Titan bristled, holding up a cautioning finger. "If all goes to plan, she won't even need that power to kill Stronger. And if something should go wrong with the brainwashing…better if she doesn't know, or we will have created a terrifying enemy."
"You're quite the schemer," Titan admitted. "Did it stop Stronger from killing you?" he added with a laugh, sauntering out of the room.
"Titan—!" Shadow hissed, clenching his fists.
Shigeru leant against his bike, staring into a cooling coffee cup, letting each passing car shower him in dust. Trying to feel something.
Up until now, there had always been a clear course of action. Even when Yuriko died, having Delza as a target for his rage hadn't done anything to bring her back, but at least he knew what to do.
But there was just something off about this. No clue who had done it, or why, or even what exactly they'd done. Where would you even begin? Whenever he tried to summon up the drive to investigate, he just felt empty. Desolate as this wind-blasted stretch of road, out in the middle of nowhere.
The bravado cast off for once, he turned his face to the heavens with despairing eyes. "I don't even get one day, huh?" he whispered.
Kazami, Yuki…all of you…is this what it's like? Year in, year out?
He tossed the cup aside, not having drunk a drop, grasping his head with one hand. "I thought it'd all be over…" I can't…keep living like this!
Something rustled in the scrub behind him.
In an instant he was upon them, tearing through the stunted greenery and seizing the black-suited, faceless figure within—he didn't recognise the Shocker insignia, but it was unmistakeably the same kind of cybernetic footsoldier used by Black Satan and Delza.
He hoisted its metal-laced body off the ground with ease, slamming it back into a withered tree. It let out a mechanical screech, lashing out at him; he let the punch hit him square in the face, unflinching. Slowly, his mouth parted into a savage grin.
Now, at least, I know what to do.
A second of the bio-engineered Combatmen emerged to his left, seemingly blinking into existence out of thin air. Shocker was like that. The more its presence was focused on a given area, the more it repelled conventional reality. This was only a minor scouting party—when the organisation was out in full force, places you knew like the back of your hand could suddenly appear completely alien as space, distance and light all twisted away from the normal.
Shigeru neither knew nor cared; he caught the sword the second Combatman swung one-handed, the blow resonating with the clang of metal on metal. He tightened his grip, a surge of electricity bursting from his hand, travelling down the blade in a flash, and frying his attacker, the body toppling rigidly to the floor with a defeated whine.
He returned his attention to the first Combatman, keeping his right hand clamped around its neck. He held up his left, the glove having completely burned off to reveal the metal skin beneath, sparks still arcing around it.
Having demonstrated this, he nodded to his right, still gloved, holding the soldier by the throat. "That one's the same. Now, my questions are short and they have easy answers." He leaned in close, a wild gleam in his eyes. "So all you have to decide is: Are you more scared of your boss, or of me?"
Finishing its report, a Combatman saluted and returned to its station, leaving General Shadow. "Jo Shigeru is coming…he's taken the bait."
"He is alone, I trust?" Mr. Titan asked, currently wearing his human face and filling the room with smoke with the aid of a cigarette holder.
"Naturally," Shadow confirmed, waving aside the smoke as he stalked across the room to check a console, Combatmen and the occasional larger cyborg parting before him. "Have some faith in my plan, Titan."
"Your plan? Taking all the credit?" Titan muttered, taking a drag and blowing smoke in Shadow's direction.
Shadow chuckled, his transparent helmet rising and falling with the action. "You should just leave the planning to me. You wouldn't know a successful plan if it crawled out of the floor and bit you in the face."
"Like you're one to talk!" Titan snarled.
"Au contraire," Shadow replied, waving a disapproving finger. "I remind you of my masterful coup of the entirety of Black Satan."
"You 'remind' me? I was dead at the time."
"Something I can only construe as a further point in my favour."
"The fact that you outlived me due to cowardice while I took matters into my own hands?"
Shadow gave a disappointed sigh. "If you label intelligence as cowardice, we'll never get anywhere. Ah!" He tapped a monitor. "Here he comes."
Titan rose to his feet. "Is she ready?"
"Of course. Get everything in place." He shuffled his deck, flipping the top card: the Ace of Spades. "Death is on the cards today."
Shigeru was already transformed when he rode into the valley; it appeared empty, but his helmet's sensors were picking up a storm of electrical activity from around and below. His head tracked left and right as he progressed, watching for the slightest movement.
The silence stretched on, though. The air was thick with it. It hung over the expansive, near-empty valley, heavy, oppressive, unbearable. He was expecting action, danger, vengeance. His blood surged with the anticipatory thrill of it. But still, nothing.
He could bear it no longer. "Delza!" he roared. "Or whoever thought they could defile the memory of Misaki Yuriko! Come out!"
In answer, the world around him seemed to dissolve into fire and thunderous noise. All was red and molten and filled with the shrieks of rending, fragmenting metal.
Landmines, or subterranean missiles, or something; he had to be out of their midst, and fast. Trusting his metal body to hold together, he gripped tightly to his bike and spurred it forwards, more explosions rocking him from every direction, his vision blurring, ears pounding. One went off directly beneath him and he was hurled from the saddle, landing on his back with a weak groan.
He smacked the side of his helmet with the palm of his hand, realigning some connections that had been knocked out of place and refocusing the sensors in his mask's compound eyes—the highly-sensitive instruments within locked on to all the remaining sources of electrical noise, highlighting the position of each buried explosive. As he'd suspected, they were all honing in on him, and staying still wouldn't guarantee his safety.
He threw himself to his feet, smashing the fingers of one hand into the sandy ground with a grunt, running some of his enormous electrical supply down the arm and into that hand.
Trails of fire blazed to life around his hand, dozens of them, streaking out in all directions and cutting burning lines across the earth as they homed in on each bomb, seeking out and detonating them before they reached Shigeru, forming a circular wall of explosions around him.
He strode out of the expanding cloud of dust, stamping over the small fires and embers that littered the ground, poise undiminished by the barrage, scarf billowing out behind him—implacable—crackling with electric power—Kamen Rider Stronger.
Standing up and abandoning his concealment atop the cliff above, Mr. Titan (still human-faced) threw down his binoculars in disgust. "Damn him."
"You really expected such a straightforward tactic to work?" General Shadow asked, blinking into visibility at his side.
"And you can do better, I take it?"
"Without a doubt."
"Then you handle the rest of this 'brilliant plan'." Jabbing at Shadow with his cigarette as he passed, Titan stalked off to observe from another part of the cliff. "And when you fail, I'll just have to finish Stronger with my own hands."
In the valley below, Stronger had sighted his two nemeses (though not close enough to clearly identify them) and continued his implacable advance; as he reached the foot of the steep slope, it seemed to come alive with activity, scores of Shocker-model cyborgs—twisted mergers of human, animal and machine—emerging from the ground, a great seething mass of swarming bodies, a giant-sized vision of a disturbed anthill. Around them, perhaps hundreds of Combatmen sprang as if from nowhere, like a dark fungus spreading across the earth as Shocker's presence grew thicker in the air.
Normally, Shigeru was the picture of calm when fighting. Keeping a cocky air about him, he taunted his enemies into losing their cool, maintaining an arrogant swagger in the most desperate of situations.
Not now, though. A line had been crossed.
As the great wave of bodies crashed and broke against him, he half-bent forwards, a wrenching howl emerging from the mask, the oddly desperate noise causing General Shadow to flinch slightly despite the distance. Fuelled by that same fire, Shigeru's first blow tore right through the nearest cyborg, dousing its nearby allies with equal parts blood and engine-oil.
He kept up his momentum, giving his utmost to stay afloat in the sea of enemies, his punches enough to obliterate the mass-produced Combatmen from existence in a blaze of red light, even near-misses bowling over any who stood near. A gorilla-pattern cyborg grappled him from behind, and he ran a charge through his body to throw it off balance before pitching forwards, staggering as he hauled its immense weight over his shoulder. For a moment, standing over it and poised to strike, he found himself staring down into the thing's terrified eyes. Human eyes.
Indeed, these were not the cyber-demons of the Delza Army; Shocker's troops were of the same origin as Black Satan's—as him. Ordinary men and women, once, and he might've ended up like them but for a combination of luck and cunning. This was often the way. Physically, he knew, there was little to nothing separating Riders #1 and #2 from any other Shocker cyborgs. It was the man behind the mask that made a Rider.
With a silent apology, he brought his fist down, shattering the ape's skull. Almost immediately, something caught around his neck; a long, barbed cord, hurled by a birdlike cyborg hovering above. He instantly grasped the weapon with both hands to avoid being choked, ignoring the biting pain. The pull was incredibly strong, though, and he was lifted fully into the air, hoisted a full twenty feet above the battlefield. The creature was still tugging the cord tighter, the barbs digging in, making dents in his metal skin and threatening to pierce right through.
The red power-lines running down his limbs flared brighter as he channelled his internal supply again. "Electro-Fire!" Sparks flew from the cord where he touched it, rapidly advancing back up towards his attacker and eventually delivering an electric shock directly into its body. It gave a spasm, stunned, and both of them began dropping like stones.
In the moments before they hit the ground, Shigeru gave a two-handed heave on the cyborg's weapon and dragged it down until it was underneath him, channelling all the energy he currently had charged up into his right leg. "Stronger…" His whole body emitting a vibrant red glow, he turned a quick somersault before slamming his charged-up foot into its side.
They hit the ground in a storm of artificial lightning, this shockwave hurling the surrounding foes back and clearing out a small unoccupied circle at the centre of the army for Stronger, who stood up straight, tearing the remnants of the cord free of his neck, nothing but twitching scrap left of his unfortunate opponent.
After that, the rest of the army stayed a few feet back, leaving Shigeru in his little cleared-out circle—at first, he thought out of fear, but then, as the roar of battle died down, he heard the slow, resonating noise: A single pair of gloved hands delivering half-hearted applause.
His head flicked around as the army parted on one side, opening a clear path between him and the source of the noise—"Shadow!"
The General gave a slight incline of his head in greeting. "Jo Shigeru…you're tense today."
Stronger drew himself up. "Still alive? I didn't tear you out by the roots, I guess."
"It was the Great Leader's final wish as he fled this world for us to live once more, that's all."
'Us'? I already fought most of the resurrected Delza with my seniors…who else has been revived? Shigeru kept his guard up, wondering if he could turn the situation to his advantage. "Only come to taunt me, or do you think you can win on your own?" If I can turn this into a one-on-one, taking out the leader might be enough to put the fear into the rest.
Shadow gave a low chuckle. "Don't think you can goad me. But if you want a duel, I do have an opponent for you…" With a stage magician's flourish, he whipped his cloak out before withdrawing it; behind it, a figure had appeared out of thin air, standing beside him.
This all-too-familiar cyborg slowly raised her head, those clear human eyes fully visible through the yellow goggle-like lenses. Antennae swept back from her helmet—black spots on red like the rest of her attire, brought into contrast by the yellow of her scarf, gloves, boots and belt. And, as always, her mouth was drawn into that full, determined line.
Shigeru froze up. He didn't know whether to be overjoyed or appalled—Is this really her? If it is, what've they done to her? If it's a fake, is that better or worse? All that shoved-aside emotion from those months past came flooding back, more raw than ever, and he took a tremulous step forwards, reaching out a hand in her direction. "Yuri…ko…?"
Giving Stronger no more time to stew in his uncertainties, Shadow snapped his fingers; Tackle, the Electro-Wave Human, strode forwards, seizing Shigeru by his outstretched arm and tossing him to the floor.
He rolled away, backing off as she advanced mechanically, the Shocker army parting around them to allow her pursuit to continue. He tried jumping to his feet, and made it halfway before she landed a kick to his chin, knocking him back into the dirt. She lunged down at him, and he threw his upper body forwards, catching her by the wrist and stopping the punch. Muscles and gears straining against each other as their enhanced physiques struggled, he slowly stood, pushing her back.
"Yuriko…what did they do to you?" he asked softly. I have to get to Shadow…no matter who's in the way! He made a fist with his free hand, swinging it around—and stopping before contact. Heh…of course I can't do it. Who was I kidding—
She planted an open palm in his stomach, reversing his grip on her wrist, using the two vantage-points to throw him again. As he spun in the air, she charged up electrical energy around both arms, scything one up and one down. "Denpa-Nage!"
A damaging frequency coursed through Stronger's body, throwing all his mental circuitry off-balance as the invisible force buffeted him, finally landing him face-down.
"Exactly as planned," Shadow noted with his usual smugness. "But it's all right, Stronger. You don't have to fight her—all you have to do is die."
"Sorry, Yuriko…" Shigeru muttered from where he lay. "I know you'd want me to fight. I guess I'm pretty weak after all…"
"Get up," Shadow snapped as his silent assassin stood waiting. "At least die on your feet, Jo Shigeru."
This time, as Shigeru rose, Stronger's metal shell faded from around him, leaving his slightly-battered human form as all his will to fight drained away. "I really…don't know what to do…" If I'm going to die, I at least have to know if it's really her. If Yuriko's alive, then it's not so bad. He hadn't noticed her flinch slightly upon seeing his human face.
He sprang forwards, seizing her by the shoulders. "Tackle! Yuriko! Weren't we going to have a life together? When all the fighting was over?"
Something changed. She struck him again, staggering him back, but clearly her mind and her body weren't in agreement; even as she landed the blow, her face contorted and she finally spoke—"Shigeru!"
Damn… He stood hunched over for a while, pain wracking his body. Without all the armour I have as Stronger…her strength is really somethin'… He managed to crack a smile. "I'm glad…"
When he leaned up again, he was grinning through bloodied teeth and lips. "It's really you…that's great…"
She took halting, shuddering steps forwards, fists still raised. As it had seemed before, her mind had awoken, but her body still obeyed outside forces. "Shigeru, listen to me. We can…rgh!" Her teeth ground together as she held herself back for a moment, before marching resolutely on. "…we can both get out of this alive."
Hope rushed back to him, hearing her tone of voice. She has a plan. "You clever girl…what do I have to do?"
Her answer, however, filled him once more with dread. "Fight," she commanded. "Hit me with everything you've got!"
"What?! Why—" He scrambled back as she lunged at him again, trying to keep a safe distance between them.
"They think I was unconscious for the operation…for at least half of it, I was using tiny bursts of electro-waves to throw off their instruments. Their brainwashing was incomplete…" She took another forced step forwards, growling as she slowed it as much as she could. "…I hoped I could count on you to widen the cracks."
General Shadow listened attentively, the only outward sign of his inner frustrations the occasional twitching of his fingers as they rested on his sword-hilt. Unexpected…but no cause for alarm. There's still no way Stronger can do anything but die…
"But to fully clear it out," Yuriko finished, "my systems need a reboot. If they're temporarily overloaded with a lot of electricity…"
"Even so, I don't know if I can…!" Shigeru gave a hiss, angered at his inability to act.
"Please, Shigeru…even if my body can't take it and I die, that's better than living as the slaves they made us to be, right?" She had halted herself now, standing with one arm raised, mentally straining to hold her own punch back.
"This is really what you want…" After a long silence, Shigeru threw his head back and laughed. "That's like a plan I'd come up with!" Now that's my kind of woman. "And if there's even one chance in a hundred of living free together…"
He ducked off to the side just as the blow finally came, rolling backwards from a kick she swung after him and jumping back up onto a boulder. "General Shadow!" he yelled, pointing. "It wasn't me you underestimated this time!"
Shadow bristled. He can't be…he wouldn't…!
Shigeru tore off his gloves, raising the metal hands in a slow arc over his head. "Henshin…" Finally, he brought them together in a shower of sparks. "STRONGER!"
With a burst like a flashbang going off, he was clad in the bulky, beetle-horned armoured body once more, leaping down to confront Tackle, the nearby Shocker cyborgs flinching back as the edges of his electric aura brushed them.
Keeping deadly focus, he curled his hands into fists, advancing towards her—before faltering again. "Damn…I want to, but…I can't…"
"Idiot!" she snapped. "Who are you?"
"Who are you, and why are you fighting?" she yelled.
He was taken aback for a moment, before smiling broadly behind the mask. Thank you.
Shadow glanced from one to the other. What was all that about…?
Without warning, Stronger closed in and struck Tackle a full-force blow. "The heavens call out!" he cried, driving in another punch with each subsequent sentence—"The earth cries out! The crowd roars!"
Oh good, this speech again, Shadow thought to himself, giving a preparatory signal to the assembled cyborgs now it seemed the tide was turning. Still, I'd prefer to wait until one of them kills the other, whichever it is.
Stronger was receiving blows, too, with surprising regularity. When did she get this strong…? I guess I wasn't the only one Delza forced to improve… Still, it pained him to be striking a form so dear to him, and he guessed she was feeling the same—worse, even, for not being of her own volition.
He almost choked on the words as he continued, the practiced recital giving him something else to focus on. "Calling on me…to defeat evil!" Yuriko had sometimes questioned him about the bombastic straightforwardness of his characteristic introductory speech, but he'd always held firm to its fittingness. There were situations which involved many grey areas and moral quagmires: His battles did not number among those. If he was unfortunate enough to have to deal in absolutes, he would at least do so with gusto.
His voice dropped to a low rumble as they continued their exchange of blows. "Listen well, evildoers…I am…the warrior of justice—" The gravelly whisper suddenly rose to a shout. "KAMEN RIDER STRONGER!" At this, his latest attack hit hard, driving Tackle back several metres across the dirt in a trail of dust.
She dropped to one knee, panting, electricity playing wildly about her body from the cumulative force of their fight. "Hey…didn't I say everything? I need as much charge as possible!"
Silently assenting, he dropped to one knee himself, driving his hand half into the ground and sending a pulse of energy through it. "Den-Shock!"
"Gaaah—!" The charge coursed through her, steam billowing out from her overtaxed circuits as she toppled backwards, eyes rolling back in her head, her transformed state vanishing.
Stronger bowed his head, silently asking for forgiveness, momentarily forgetting himself—then wrenched back to reality as a length of cold, jagged steel was rammed into his back.
"Heheh…" The lizard-model cyborg messily withdrew its spike-headed spear, producing a second spray of blood, machine-oil and sparks. It reached down and hauled Stronger up by his neck, stomping along at Shadow's gestured direction until it found a sandy area of ground; its eyes glowed for a moment, igniting an explosion that carved out a huge crater in the soft earth. It leaned back, preparing to toss Stronger in—
—then lost its grip on him as Misaki Yuriko dived into it from behind, the pair of them tumbling into the pit together.
They'd rolled apart by the bottom, and she was already up as it heaved itself off the ground, in a guarded stance and keeping her distance.
"You're not dead?" it gargled, raising its weapon.
"Lot of energy still running through me from just now…" she muttered. "I'll have to discharge it." She crossed one arm over the other in front of her, letting the wild, painful electricity jump back and forth between her fingers.
Shigeru never needed to say anything to transform…he just wanted to. I never bothered saying anything, before.
But, there's something powerful in psyching yourself up like that. I think I understand it now…
…since, with the shape he's in, it's all down to me now.
She flung her arms out to her sides, her fingertips brushing as they passed and causing a huge spark. "Hen…shin!" At the second syllable, she brought them back in, holding her left hand open in front of her and passing her right down through the field of electricity dancing between the fingers and palm.
The surging arcs of light spun outwards, enveloping her body and transforming her once more into the insectoid cyborg.
"Whatever!" the Shocker machine-man spat, lunging at her; she sidestepped out of the way, but it deflected her counterattack with a rising swipe of the spearhead, drawing blood from her arm; following up, it brought the shaft of the spear around, smashing it down into the back of her neck and dropping her to one knee.
"Hah!" It kept up the downwards pressure, bracing itself against her attempts to rise. "We only needed you for your connection to Stronger! What are you planning to do with your power?"
"You don't…know anything," she hissed.
"What's that? You'll have to speak up!" it laughed.
"Even Titan knew I'd improve some day…I'm not limited to the power you bastards made me with."
But if I want to hurt a monster like this, I'll need something more…Stronger could do it easy, so…
…right! We both have the same power source, I should be able to use it too!
She jerked one foot forwards, digging down with mechanical strength, directly in front of the Shocker cyborg's foot, in turn pushing up the soft ground beneath it, unbalancing it.
In the moment it wavered, she smacked the spear away with her left hand, rising off her knee, using the rotation to slam her right fist into its gut.
Upon impact, there came a tremendous burst of electricity, penetrating right through the cyborg's midsection, which sparked and fizzed, its scaled skin bursting off a moment later. It staggered away, clutching at its stomach. "Khaaa—!"
He's open! She leapt into the air, leaning her body back as she came back down and folding one leg behind the extended one.
Just now making it to the lip of the large crater, General Shadow choked as he saw Yuriko flying down at his minion. Impossible—
"Tackle—Den-KICK!" She rammed her descending foot, alive with blue lightning, into the lizard's weakened abdomen, slamming straight through it; as she landed behind it, putting one hand to the ground to steady herself, it fell away in two pieces, both exploding simultaneously a moment later.
Desperate to regain the initiative, Shadow barked a few orders at the nearest two Combatmen; they hauled Stronger to his feet, Shadow drawing his rapier and holding it to the wounded Rider's neck.
"Come back to us quietly, Misaki Yuriko!" he ordered.
"Like hell!" she shot back, sneering up at him. "You'll just kill him anyway if I do!"
He nodded. "Perhaps. But I still don't think you can watch me kill him, no matter what logic you apply to it."
She sighed. "You're right…but…" If I can do those…there should be one more technique we share…
She dug the fingers of one hand into the ground, channelling her power outwards, aiming it at the top of the crater. "Den-Shock!"
That, too?! Shadow just barely stepped back in time as sparks exploded from the ground in front of him, disorienting him—when he'd recovered his senses, the Combtamen lay in pieces beside him, his enemies nowhere to be seen until he wheeled around—Tackle, supporting Stronger over one shoulder, had already made it past him, attempting to escape before being encircled by the army once more.
Titan, currently lounging atop a boulder some ways off, wanted to be furious that their enemies were still refusing to die. But he couldn't help be amused by his rival's failure. Besides, there's no reason for concern. If Shadow keeps screwing this up, I'll just step in and crush them both myself; accomplishing the mission and showing that arrogant bastard up at the same time.
"Enough, enough, enough!" General Shadow declared, the break from his usual composure startling. "Again and again, you scrape by at the last moment…first the damned Kamen Riders, and now you too, Tackle…"
She tutted, wagging a finger at him. "Watch how you phrase that."
"I got stuffed with a lot of new info in case they wanted me to play mind games with you, Shigeru…" she said. "Why didn't you ever tell me that 'Kamen Rider' thing meant something? I always thought it was just some cool-sounding name you pulled outta your ass."
"I didn't really know, either…" he admitted, standing away from her and steadying himself. "I thought it was an urban myth…'till I met the real thing. I've been trying to live up to them, since—I understand the weight that name carries, now."
"Me too. And hell if I'm gonna let it be a boys' club." She clenched a fist high overhead. "From now on, it's Kamen Rider Tackle, you got that?"
Stronger's head bowed slightly. "I…didn't want you to have to take this path too…there's no rest from it."
She chuckled. "What, and I'm gonna let you walk it alone? Idiot."
Shadow gestured towards them with his sword, his booming voice filled with its usual force again, addressing his army. "No more games! Attack all at once! To dust with them!"
The pair of rebel cyborgs tightened their stances as the tide of bodies washed towards them. "You gonna be okay?" Tackle asked, eyeing Stronger's wound—still dripping and crackling as both organic and mechanical components did their best to begin the slow process of self-repair. "A little scrape like that's not enough to put you down, right?"
"Heh." He smacked a fist into his chest. "Who do you take me for? Well, Kamen Rider Tackle…ready to earn the name?"
They spun around each other, each striking the first blow past the other's back and catching the onrushing cyborgs off-guard.
"Denpa-Nage!" Tackle's emitted electro-waves toppled the front rank of Combatmen facing her; she continued the technique's circular motion into a crouch, Stronger vaulting over her back to plant a kick into the cyborg behind them, crumpling its face into a concave shape. They moved forwards in unison, the hands that struck down Black Satan striking once more in unison.
Stronger parried a swung sword, wrenching it out of the way and creating an opening; Tackle spun around, ramming a back kick up into their foe's chin and hurling it away.
Shadow watched, stunned, as they continued to carve through his troops like this; one always covering or setting up for the other, never letting an enemy get close, sometimes seeming to strike in every direction at once. Working together, their strength wasn't just combined—it was exponential.
Another punch, another, another stream of roaring electricity, and more and more mounds of metal and flesh toppled before them, the half-melted fragments that now littered the ground still burning from the heat of their power. Shocker's army fell like wheat, its troops tumbling away en masse from the whirlwind of violence at their centre.
"Teyaah!" One of two remaining cyborgs split into three pieces.
"Den-Shock!" The final line of Combatmen disintegrated.
Finally, both Riders took to the air once more, aiming themselves at the final cyborg—a twelve-foot monstrosity, almost completely mechanical—and carving through it at opposite angles, opening two enormous holes in its body.
"Rider Double Kick!"
The duo slid to a halt side by side as it collapsed in on itself, the knuckles on her right hand knocking into his left in a gesture of mutual congratulation.
"Hey, Shadow…" Stronger looked over towards his old enemy. "You're looking calm."
Tackle nodded. "It's all over now. Doesn't that make you angry?"
Shadow merely stalked towards them with measured slowness. "No, I'm beyond that now…I'm merely impressed. What glorious fate, to be blessed with such marvellous enemies! And trust me, this is far from over."
Emerging from a sudden pillar of flame, Titan appeared beside him. "You've had your chance." He shoved his leaner rival back. "Leave this to me."
"I can't allow that," Shadow replied, drawing an irritated growl as he pushed back.
As the two squabbled, Tackle stepped forwards, cracking her knuckles. "Let's go. You take Shadow, I've got Titan."
Stronger almost did a double-take. "What…? I'm not saying you're weak or anything—especially not now." He put a hand on her shoulder. "But that's Hundred-Eyes Titan. Will you be all right?"
"Yeah." She pulled his hand down, holding it tight. "Don't worry about me. But the only way we're getting outta this hellhole is taking these two down." She put her other hand over his ribs, near his injury. "And you couldn't take 'em both like this."
"This time, we're gonna live through this."
"That's a promise." She broke away, her eyes lingering on him for a moment before her back turned. "Titan! You're fighting me."
"Am I?" The finely-dressed commander asked cheerily, stepping away from his quarrel to keep pace with her. He discarded his cigarette, letting his human face dissolve into his many-eyed true visage. "That's quite some confidence you've got…intriguing."
"I want to pay you back for last time, Titan," Tackle said, a dangerous tone entering her voice as they circled each other. She kicked aside a severed mechanical arm, part of the huge expanses of scattered debris the battle had left. "Remember what you said? 'I'm not here to fight women'. I'm not giving you the choice today."
"Admirable," he admitted. "Do you remember what else I said, though? That I was disappointed. That you hadn't become any stronger since leaving Black Satan. Your model should be capable of improving over time."
"I improved plenty, after that. For the longest time, I couldn't defeat Black Satan's machine-men alone…but when you get back to hell, ask the Shark Machine-Man how 'easy' I was."
Titan nodded. "And with the new tricks you picked up today, you might have made an interesting opponent…once. But my power has grown too—as of my final upgrade, even Stronger's power was nothing to me. Sorry, but I'll take care of you in one hit, then finally get to test this body against the Charge-Up mode I've heard so much about."
She grinned. "Go ahead and try it."
Shadow likes to fight indirectly… Stronger reminded himself as they paced towards each other. But this time might be different. I've seen through all his tricks before…his illusions follow the same pattern, and aren't harmful if you don't fall for them…
But like I saw last time, he has tremendous power when he really exerts himself…even in Charge-Up, he nearly killed me…
He stared into the impassive face, trying to read the warped slits of the once-human's eyes that gazed unblinkingly out through the transparent helmet. Once they were standing face-to-face, Shadow stood perfectly still, the only sign that he was even alive the steady pulsing of the stark veins against his abhorrently-pale skin.
I'll have to go all-out from the start…but this mode only lasts sixty seconds…if I start too early, I might run out of time…too late and he'll kill me before I can form-change at all…
Sweat slicked his brow, covering the inside of his great horned helmet. Change at the exact moment he strikes…half a second off and I'm dead.
Five seconds passed. Ten. Twenty. Shigeru's breathing grew sharper. He twitched.
Shadow struck—feinting low, then raising his blade high and thrusting—
A gloved hand caught the blade, millimetres from impact; Stronger stood unmoved, his form gleaming silver, hundredfold power flowing through his circuits.
For a moment, his new strength easily pushed Shadow back, but then the Delza General's eyes narrowed as he called upon his own reserves. For a moment, they struggled in a deadlock, then with a rush of noise they parted, moving apart and back together, clashing with lightning speed, vanishing then reappearing all around the valley.
Something jerked Stronger to a halt—the pain in his side was worsening. He collapsed to his knees, gritting his teeth, hearing Shadow approaching and standing over him, sword raised. He looked down—energy was leaking out of the wound, spilling out and dissipating in the air. "Ghh…"
"You're done," Shadow said calmly.
"Do you know…" Stronger began. "…why Charge-Up only lasts a minute?" This gave Shadow momentary pause. "That's as long as my body can contain all this power. If I don't use up all of it within that time, I'll explode."
"It hasn't even been forty seconds," Shadow said dismissively. "You're just stalling!" He lunged; Stronger jerked to the side, letting the blade pierce through his shoulder.
"Gyaah—! Right…but my energy's a little unstable right now." The sword had glanced off his mask on the way down, breaking off part of his faceplate; amidst the tangled mess of human and machine beneath, a pained grin was visible. "Let's see if I can give you that last twenty seconds' worth, all at once!"
"No—" Shadow tried to withdraw his weapon, but Stronger grasped it two-handed, the roar of the energy build-up he was attempting drowning out their voices. Still, before he had the chance to let go of the sword, Shadow saw Shigeru's lips moving to form the words:
The silver trimmings vanished as all that accumulated destructive power was shunted from his body over to the General's, frying him from within; he leapt away, snarling like a cornered beast for a moment before sinking to the ground, still twitching.
Tackle gasped as she hit the ground, rolling and recovering as fast as she could, resuming her stance.
Titan rubbed his wrist. "I thought you'd die quicker…but you're still weak."
"Maybe…" She took a deep breath. "Guess I've got no choice."
"What's this now?"
"Well, funny thing. My plan to have Shigeru zap my circuits back into line? I shouldn't have survived that," she admitted. "I was mainly trying to motivate him to fight, so one of us could live. But my body took way more of a charge than it should be able to withstand. You implanted something in me while I was still under, right?"
"Think what you want," he said dismissively.
"Well, see…thanks to the info-dump you gave me…I think I know what, too. Your final trump card in case all else failed. You must've seen it was compatible with Stronger and figured I'd be able to handle it too."
His central eye twitched involuntarily. Impossible, she knows about—?
She crossed her arms above her head, spreading her footing and bellowing, "CHARGE UP!"
The flare of light that enveloped her momentarily blinded Titan—and the moment he'd recovered, she was upon him, smashing a shining silver fist into his face. He fell back, but quickly dug his back foot in, catching her other hand and throwing her past him; she kicked off the ground, flipping upright and sending a wave of electricity his way.
He tried to jump over it, but it caught his legs, bringing him to the ground. She swung a kick into his face, and as he landed on his back, grunting in pain, a pistol flashed from his hip; he fired with remarkable speed and accuracy, loosing a deadly explosive round. She grunted as she swung her fist into it, the explosion washing past her as she charged onwards.
He'd managed to stand with the time he'd bought himself, but she knocked the gun away before he could get a second shot off. He spun a kick into her side; she blocked the next one as he spun round again, reaching an arm around his neck and pulling it down into her rising elbow, drawing a guttural roar of pain as she struck his main eye.
Her next punch impacted his chest, remaining there as something seemed to try and repel her blow from his skin; a barrier of pure heat.
He gave a weak laugh as she continued to try and press in. "You shouldn't maintain contact for so long…my body is far hotter than magma. You'll just melt your arm."
She winced as the heat began to sear away her glove from the prolonged struggle. "Yeah? Well I got a hundred times charge right now…that can't be good for you. We'll see who dies first."
With a final effort, she twisted her arm, forming a rapid drilling motion that punched through Titan's defences, through his chest and out his back. Even as he choked in disbelief, she howled in pain; the heat inside his body was even more intense. She tore free, steam rising from her arm.
With a disgusted, weary look in her eyes, she gave Titan a final kick, shoving him back onto the fallen General Shadow, the pair of them exploding on impact. She staggered away from the blast, her Charge-Up form wearing off, making her way over to Stronger.
Still on his knees and bleeding profusely in two places now, he propped his head on her when she got close enough, taking in desperate gasps. "Did I…hear you right? You were planning on dying earlier?"
"Yeah…" He closed his eyes, both of them shifting back to their human forms, battered and bruised. "I hoped, in life or death, you could find peace somehow…but acting like that…I guess you really are a Rider."
She crouched in front of him, placing her forehead on his, the low crackle of the desolate battlefield around them totally tuned out. "Sorry. But it's not so hard, with both of us."
He nodded, keeping his face lowered. "I'm so…glad, you're…" He trailed off. "You were amazing, there."
She grinned. "Hey. Can't mope around in the middle of nowhere all day."
"Right." Still tired and unsteady, they stood, and he took her arm. "There's some awesome guys you need to meet."
"And a lot of work to do."