Disclaimer: I don't own anything that doesn't belong to me
"Izu," Aruto Hiden rasped, clutching the hand of his loyal secretary so tightly that, had she been a measly human, she might've been at serious risk of a fracture. The young president looked terrible. His face was pale, his body was trembling, his skin was sallow and covered in sweat, his eyes were bloodshot and bulging from their sockets. "Izu… Izu, I don't have much time left-"
"President Aruto, you are not dying," Izu gently reminded him.
He did not seem to hear her. "Izu… When I die, I have to make sure the company is in good hands, that the future of the HumaGears will be looked after by someone I know has their best interests at heart. We can't… We can't let Gai win…" He paused to catch his breath, gasping and wheezing.
"President Aruto, you are not dying," Izu repeated, not for the first time.
"Which is why!" Aruto exclaimed, looking like he was about to throw up. "Which is why I've brought in Bingo… He's drafted up my will and got all the paperwork ready. Just as my grandfather chose me to lead Hiden Intelligence, so to do I leave HIDEN Manufacturing to you!"
"President Aruto, Bingo is not that kind of lawyer. Also, you are not dying," Izu pointed out.
"Actually, I'm that sort of lawyer now. I'm every sort of lawyer, to be precise," Bingo Bengoshi corrected Izu. He held up a sheaf of documents. "I just need you to sign in a few places, and you will be officially recognized as the next-in-line for the position of President of HIDEN Manufacturing should anything happen to President Aruto."
"Also!" Aruto added, grimacing at the exertion that took out of him. "To make sure that the patents for all of Hiden's technology and HumaGear data stay out of Gai's clutches, you need to take my last name so it stays in the family. Which is why I've also called in Enji Matsuda, so he can marry us."
"President Aruto, Enji is an actor, not an actual priest," Izu pointed out. "Also, you are not dying."
"Actually, I am a priest now," Enji, dressed in priestly vestments, corrected her. "I took an online course. I am now an officially ordained minister of the Church of Gaim. Conveniently enough, they have no problems with marrying humans and nonhumans, so as far as they are concerned, any marriage between you two is recognized in the eyes of their gods."
"And I've discovered several legal loopholes that will allow you to be recognized as Aruto's spouse and heir in the eyes of the law," Bingo added. "You will also be authorized to use the Hiden Zero-One Driver to follow in Aruto's footsteps as Kamen Rider Zero-One as the protector of all HumaGears. So we just need you to say 'yes,' and we are good to go."
"President Aruto," Izu said, a hint of irritation beginning to form in her tone, something she had thought impossible. "None of this is necessary, because you are not dying."
Aruto continued to ignore her. "Fuwa!" He gasped, extending a hand towards the security guard/Kamen Rider, standing in the corner of the room, with a dumbfounded look on his face. "Fuwa… Once I'm gone, Izu will need looking after. She doesn't have any experience being a Rider. Promise me you'll protect her and train her to become the hero I know she can be, the Savior the HumaGears need."
Isamu Fuwa fidgeted awkwardly. "Hiden, I'm not sure that's really necessary-"
"Promise me, Fuwa!" Aruto wailed, tears streaming down his face. "Promise me you'll keep her safe!"
Fuwa groaned in exasperation and rolled his eyes. "Sure. Fine. Whatever."
Aruto sighed in relief and relaxed in his bed, loosening his hold on Izu's hand. "Thank you, Fuwa. I can rest easy now, knowing the future is in good hands."
"What about me?" Asked HIDEN Manufacturing's newest (human) employee, Yua Yaiba, feeling slightly offended to be left out.
Aruto blinked. "Uh? Oh, right." He extended a hand towards her. "Yaiba… Once I'm gone, Fuwa will need looking after. He's kind of hopeless at anything that doesn't involve yelling, shooting, or hitting things. Promise me you'll protect him and train him to become the bodyguard I know he can be, the defender Izu needs."
"Excuse me?!" Fuwa demanded.
Yua nodded solemnly, somehow managing to maintain a straight face. "You have my word." She shrugged. "It's what I've been doing for as long as I've known him, anyway."
Aruto sighed in relief and relaxed in his bed. "Thank you, Yaiba. I can rest easy now, knowing Fuwa is in good hands."
"I don't have to take this, you know!" Fuwa shouted.
"You kind of do," Yua pointed out.
"President Aruto!" Izu… Well, not snapped, but certainly raised her voice several decibels. "You are not dying!"
"That's right, you aren't," Dr. Omigoto announced as he entered the room, followed by Mashiro-chan. "You're suffering from what is undoubtedly the worst case of constipation I've ever seen, but you aren't dying. You just feel like you are."
Aruto moaned in anguish. He certainly sounded like he was dying.
Omigoto tore off a piece of paper from his clipboard and handed to Izu. "Here, this is a prescription for extra strength medicine that will clear out President Aruto's bowels. Just go to the address listed here and you should be able to pick it up; I've already called ahead."
Fuwa frowned as he glanced over Izu's shoulder to read the address. "This isn't exactly in a good part of town, Doc. Why does she have to go all the way there?"
"This is an extremely powerful drug, and not many pharmacies have it in stock," Omigoto explained. "This is the only one I could find that can give us the required medicine on short notice, all the others are sold out."
"Then I'll go," Fuwa volunteered, reaching for the prescription.
Izu quickly withdrew it from his grasp. "You are still recovering from getting Naki extracted from your mind, Fuwa. You are in no condition to go on any missions."
"But it's just a milk run!" Fuwa protested.
"No, we're fine on milk," Aruto said dazedly. Fuwa groaned.
"Then I'll go instead," Yua volunteered.
Izu shook her head. "With both President Aruto and Fuwa out of commission, you are the only active Rider on staff. You are required here in case Gai Amatsu tries anything."
"Can't we send someone else, then?" Fuwa argued.
"President Aruto would not send any HumaGear into a situation he would not go himself, and neither will I," Izu said firmly. "Your concern is noted but unwarranted. I have already calculated a route that should get me there and back quickly, efficiently, and safely. I will have the medicine for President Aruto and return within the hour. It should take 22 minutes at most."
Fuwa frowned. "22 minutes? Well…I guess that's not too bad," he grumbled very reluctantly.
"Will you really be able to get there and back so quickly?" Yua asked in surprise.
"I must be quick, for President Aruto's sake," Izu told him.
"Dad… Dad, is that you?" Aruto whispered deliriously, staring up at the rather bright light over his bed. Tears of joy ran down his cheeks. "Dad, I've missed you so much… I have so many funny jokes to tell you…"
"And our own," Fuwa muttered.
"Izu!" Aruto shouted, sitting up, only to immediately regret it. "Ohhhh, that was a mistake… Izu! Before you leave to get the medicine… Won't you have pharmercy on me and sign the documents that will make our union a fruitful one?" He grinned triumphantly. "And that's how you know it's Aruto!"
Everyone stared at him. Izu blinked a few times noisily. Fuwa broke down, stuffing his fist in his mouth to try and hold back laughter. "Pharmercy!" He wheezed. "Because she's going to a drugstore! And fruitful, because they'd be married by a Gaimist priest!"
Aruto blinked, alarmed. "Okay, now I KNOW I must be dying, because I could've sworn I heard Fuwa laughing at my joke." Fuwa's eyes widened in alarm, realizing he'd spoken out loud. Yua had to stifle a giggle.
Izu's ear modules buzzed loudly as she processed this request. Finally, and very reluctantly, she turned to Bingo, took a pen he offered her, and started signing her name on the indicated lines. "This isn't actually legally binding, is it?" Izu murmured. "You're merely humoring President Aruto in his feverish state?"
"Oh no, I would never," Bingo insisted, looking a little hurt. "This is completely legitimate."
"As is your union! I now declare you husband-and-wife!" Enji cried joyfully, handing Aruto an orange, which he happily started to eat. "I'm sorry, Izu, but I can't give you any fruit, because you are a HumaGear and so do not need to eat. It still counts, though."
It was at times like these Izu greatly regretted she was too much of a professional to sigh or roll her eyes. (Was she even capable?)
Without warning, Matsurida Z burst into the room and started throwing confetti about. "Hooray! The president is married! Let's celebrate!"
The dancer HumaGear started dancing around the room. Bingo, Enji, Dr. Omigoto, and Mashiro-chan quickly fell into line behind him. Izu, realizing there was no point in fighting the inevitable, joined as well.
A bewildered Yua leaned over to Fuwa and murmured, "Is it… Is it always like this here?"
Fuwa shook his head. "No, it's often much stranger."
Izu's trip to the drugstore had been uneventful. She was able to purchase the medicine she needed and, by her calculations, would be back well within her estimated timeframe, assuming nothing happened on the way back.
She was fully aware something would, though. There was a reason she'd budgeted exactly 22 minutes for her trip.
Halfway back to HIDEN Manufacturing, Zea, who'd been monitoring the city the whole time she was out, gave her the alert she'd been waiting for.
She paused in the middle of the courtyard she'd been passing through, gently put down the bag containing the medicine, and said, "You may come out now, Gai Amatsu. I know you're there."
The CEO of ZAIA Japan, clad as always in an immaculate white suit while toting an unnecessary parasol, emerged from where he had been lurking in a nearby alley, a disgustingly smug smile on his face. He was flanked by two agents of A. I. M. S., which facial recognition and a check in the A. I. M. S. personnel files Fuwa and Yaiba had provided confirmed were Eida Inbeidingu and Ono Hōsushū, who had apparently been on Gai's payroll even before the HumaGear-hating CEO had formally taken over the organization he had been secretly puppeteering the entire time.
"My, my, what's this HumaGear doing out in the open?" Gai sneered. "Don't you know that your kind are a danger to the public and should be scrapped on sight?" A cruel grin spread across his face. "And here you are, with none of your Rider friends to hide behind. Everything has gone 1000% according to plan."
"You mean your plan to poison President Aruto to give him a horrible case of constipation, then buy up most of the medicine needed to treat it except for one specific pharmacy, guaranteeing that I would come out to get it myself because President Aruto and I would never put another HumaGear in harm's way, Fuwa is still recovering from having Naki extracted from his brain, and Yaiba would need to stay behind to make sure you didn't launch an attack on our office while both Aruto and Fuwa were indisposed?" Izu asked mildly. "And you would then try to destroy me, believing that my demise would demoralize and break President Aruto and greatly diminish the threat he poses to you because of how critical my support has been to his successes since he became Kamen Rider Zero-One?"
Gai's smug expression faltered. "What… How did you know-"
"I discovered traces of the poison while disposing of President Aruto's coffee this morning, and Dr. Omigoto confirmed it," Izu explained. "I knew it could not be the work of MetsubouJinrai dot net, both because it would never occur to them to use poison, and also because if they DID, it would most assuredly be fatal. You are the only other person who would wish to harm to President Aruto, and the only one petty enough to give him horrible constipation instead of outright killing him. Once that became clear, the rest was obvious."
A flash of outrage flickered in his eyes before he hid it behind a mask of amusement. "Quite the detective, aren't you?" He sneered. "Maybe you have a bit of that "brother" of yours in you. What was his name again?"
"Wazu," Izu replied, memories of the older detective HumaGear, the brother she'd never known and spent far too little time with, flashing through her processor. The memories were tinged with the emotion she'd come to know as sadness. "Wazu Nazotoku."
Gai shrugged, a sickening smile on his face. "I've already forgotten it. What point is there in remembering the designation of an obsolete tool?" He leered at her. "I don't really understand why your lot bother with names at all. A tool doesn't need a name. A tool needs to be used, and discarded once it has outlived its usefulness."
"According to Fuwa," Izu said calmly, refusing to rise to his bait. "The only tool is you."
Ono had to stifle a laugh at that. A look of absolute hatred briefly twisted Gai's handsome (and very expensive, the plastic surgery to keep him "eternally 24" wasn't cheap) features. "A tool that talks back to its master should be destroyed."
"But Gai Amatsu, you are not my master," Izu pointed out.
"No, but I should have been!" Gai snapped. "Until that worthless satellite-"
He paused, took a deep breath, and regained his composure, flashing her another sinister grin. "But what am I doing, allowing a useless machine to rile me up?" He produced his ThousanDriver and Amazing Caucasus Progrise and Awaking Arsino Zetsumerize Keys, while his subordinates took out their RaidRisers and produced their Invading Horseshoe Crab Progrise Keys. "After all, I should pay no heed to something that is about to be destroyed."
ZETSUMETSU (EXTINCTION) EVOLUTION!
RAIDRISE! INVADING HORSESHOE CRAB! Heavily produced battle armor equipped with extra battle specifications.
PERFECTRISE! WHEN THE FIVE HORNS CROSS, THE GOLDEN SOLDIER THOUSER IS BORN! Presented by ZAIA.
"You know," Gai sneered, his transformation into Kamen Rider Thouser complete, an Invading Horseshoe Crab Raider standing on either side of him, brandishing their submachine guns. "I'm probably doing Hiden a favor by scrapping you. After all, you are intelligent enough to figure out my trap… And yet you walked right into it anyway!"
Izu smiled, utterly unafraid despite being faced by three powered individuals who wanted her very much dead. "Actually, Gai Amatsu… It is you who've walked right into MY trap." She glanced skyward. "Zea, now, please."
There was a twinkle high up in the sky… And suddenly, a flaming projectile shot down from the heavens and slammed to the ground between Izu and Gai, forcing the Rider and his subordinates to stumble backwards in surprise. "What… What is this?!" Gai demanded.
As the smoke from the impact cleared, a large attaché case sitting in the epicenter of a crater in the pavement became visible. Izu knelt before the case and presented her barcode to a sensor on the front of it.
"SECRETARY IZU: RECOGNIZED."
There was a hiss of air as the pressure seals on the case unlocked and it sprang open. Izu reached in and withdrew the contents…
A Progrise Key and a device looking very much like the Zero-One Driver, only its colors were white and green rather than black and yellow.
"What?!" Gai exclaimed, astonished. "A Driver?!"
"Gai Amatsu," Izu proclaimed, strapping the device to her waist.
HIDEN ZEA ONE DRIVER!
"There is only one person who can stop you…"
She held up the Progrise Key.
A beam of green light shot down from the sky, generating a massive green and silver mechanical grasshopper out of hard light which shrieked at Gai and his minions, startling them. It started hopping around, tearing up huge divots in the ground as holographic screens materialized before her.
"And I… Am the one who shall help him reach his true potential! HENSHIN!"
She inserted the Progrise Key into her Driver. The holographic screens passed over her, causing her body to be clad in a largely white suit with blue and green accents. The grasshopper leapt over her and came apart, its components firing beams of light at her body which printed pieces of armor onto her suit, disintegrating in the process.
PROGRISE! RISE UP TO YOUR DREAM! GUIDING HOPPER! A loyal aide leading the chosen one to his destiny.
Tthe light from Izu's transformation faded, revealing that she was wearing a suit almost identical to Aruto's Rising Hopper base form, only in white and green rather than black and yellow, matching her color scheme, and chest armor similar to that of Shining Assault Hopper. Her eyes were blue, but the right eye was a protruding metal ring with a glowing blue lens in the center, reminiscent of satellite Zea, only much smaller in scale.
Suddenly, a man with a brown long coat and a very long scarf clutching a large Hiden tablet appeared as if from thin air. "The avatar and voice of the all-knowing satellite Zea and keeper of its knowledge, the loyal servant who shall aid the first Reiwa Rider in fulfilling his destiny! Her name…is Kamen Rider Zea One!"
Everyone stared at him, dumbfounded.
"Sir," Eida whispered slowly. "What is the steward of King Tokiwa—may he reign forever—doing here?"
"I…I have no idea," the bewildered Gai stammered.
"Woz, what are you doing here?" the puzzled Izu asked.
The prophet winked at her. "I thought I should celebrate your first transformation, one most faithful steward of a benevolent overlord to another."
"President Aruto is not an overlord, he is a president," Izu argued.
Woz shrugged. "Same difference. In any event, have fun with your first battle! Thouser is believed to be the most despised Rider in history, even more so than Kaixa, so this should be most entertaining!"
He walked off, whistling the tune to 'Over "Quartzer."'
"What… What is this?!" Gai demanded, laughing incredulously and deciding to pretend that strange interlude had not just happened. "Is Hiden so enamored with you, HumaGear, that he has turned you into a Rider? Is he using you for the other common purpose of secretaries as well?"
"Actually, President Aruto has no idea that the Zea One Driver even exists," Izu replied coolly. "After I fully achieved Singularity and helped President Aruto form his new company, I realized that on a number of occasions you have tried to eliminate me to try and harm the president." She shook her head. "As a secretary HumaGear whose dream is to help President Aruto achieve his dream of creating a new future for humans and HumaGears… The idea that I might be a hindrance to him is anathema to me."
She gestured to the belt she was wearing. "Therefore, I began working with Zea to create the Zea One Driver, which allows me to fully sync my systems with the satellite and draw upon its comprehensive database and massive processing power, so that, should a situation such as the one I am in now ever arise, I would no longer be a liability for President Aruto."
"I see…" Gai murmured. "And so, when you realized that I was responsible for Hiden's poisoning, you saw this as an opportunity to try out your new toy… And, perhaps, get some measure of vengeance for everything I have done to your beloved president and your disgusting kind?"
"I am not a member of MetsubouJinrai dot net. I have no interest in revenge against anyone, not even you," Izu affirmed. She paused. "Although… I would be lying if I said that the prospect of facing you in my first battle did not fill me with some measure of… Excitement."
"A HumaGear excited at harming a human is clearly defective, and could go berserk at any moment," Gai sneered. He nodded at the Raiders. "Scrap her. But make sure not to damage her Driver, I'm sure I could glean something of use from its workings."
"Yes, President Amatsu!" The Raiders replied, raising their submachine guns and opening fire at Izu.
Her right eye flashed, and time seemed to slow down significantly as the full version of REALxEYEZ started playing over her ear modules. Streams of zeros and ones flowed past her vision as her analytical software, boosted significantly by her connection to Zea, swiftly determined the trajectory of the bullets, and helpfully overlaid her sight with color-coded AR images to indicate how much force she should use to deflect the bullets, the exact timing to do so, and showed the most likely trajectories of the reflected projectiles, including suggestions for which angles would lead to the most ideal outcome in this encounter.
Her hands rose up and started flicking each of the bullets away as they approached her. For her, it felt as if she was typing on a keyboard, albeit faster than most humans are capable of. To Gai and the Raiders, however, her hands were a blur, not that they were able to pay much attention to her hands when the deflected bullets slammed into them, sparks flying as they struck areas precisely calculated to cause the most disorientation and damage.
Noticing Eida was off-balance, Izu rushed forwards, her natural speed augmented exponentially by her Rider form as she seemingly instantly closed the distance between them, leaving zigzagging trails of green light in her wake. Time again seemed to slow down, as Zea checked the soldier's medical records, compared it to the real-time biometric data it was constantly scanning through Izu's right eye, matched it against all the combat data on the Invading Horseshoe Crab Raider armor and its weaknesses compiled from Izu's observations of the other Riders' battles with them and other information provided by Fuwa and Yua, and threw up AR markers indicating areas she should target as well as how much force should be applied to deal damage without causing any serious lasting injuries. It wouldn't do for President Aruto to get into any lawsuits because of her, after all.
A side kick to a hip reinforced after a brutal campaign overseas. A knee to a cracked rib still healing from a previous battle with one of the other Riders. A punch to a nerve cluster in his right shoulder, scarred from shrapnel from an IED. A clapping blow against a plate in his skull. A stomp on a chronically broken toe. And so on. Eida howled in agony, too stunned by the pain to retaliate as she continued to pummel him.
Zea warned her that Ono was about to fire at her from behind. She grabbed Eida and whirled around, using the Raider as a shield, Eida jerking as the bullets shredded his already-damaged armor, crying out in pain. Startled, Ono lowered his gun for a moment…
And Izu bodily hurled Eida at him, snatching the damaged Raider's submachine gun and opening fire as Ono was nearly knocked over by his partner, shooting at them until they were enveloped by an explosion that canceled their transformation and hurled them both some distance away, out cold.
And suddenly Gai appeared beside her, stabbing his Thousand Jacker into her Guiding Hopper Progrise Key, her belt crackling as he attempted to copy her data.
"And it will be even more impressive," he sneered. "Once that power belongs to someone who can use it properly-"
ERROR! J-J-J-JAckInG B-B-B-BReeeeEEEaAaAaaaAAAKkkkkkkkkk zaIa En-En-En-Enter-p-p-p-PRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIse!
Startled, Gai looked down at his polearm to see that it was crackling and sparking, the monitor flashing warningly. "What? What is-"
Without warning, the back half of the Thousand Jacker exploded, flinging Gai back, wailing in surprise. "WHAT? WHAT?!" he screamed in disbelief, clutching his shaking, injured hand.
Izu turned to the shocked Thouser, her Driver gleaming in the light. "I have observed your fighting style and the way the Thousand Jacker works for months now, Gai Amatsu. It was only a matter of time until Zea developed a countermeasure to prevent you from extracting any more Progrise Key data."
"You… Do you have any idea how much that thing costs?!" Gai shouted, livid.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Izu replied.
"THAT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION!" He shouted. He shook his head, struggling to regain control of himself. "It doesn't matter. I don't need my weapon to defeat you!"
Izu tilted her head. "Combat data from your previous fights would suggest otherwise. Your fighting style is extremely dependent on the Thousand Jacker and its ability to extract Progrise Key data from your opponents and use it for yourself. Without it, your performance declines significantly, due to the fact that you over-rely on your suit's technology to win battles without actually bothering to learn how to fight properly. This, along with your seeming inability to ever learn from your mistakes, is the leading reason for your continued defeats as every other Rider but you grows stronger through training, experience, or obtaining stronger weapons and forms."
"SHUT UP!" Gai screamed, charging at her. "I will not be lectured to by Hiden's tool!"
"As I said earlier: according to Fuwa, the only tool here is you," Izu said calmly.
This only angered Gai further, and he launched into a flurry of frenzied punches and kicks at her. Even without her enhanced reflexes, it wouldn't have been that difficult for Izu to evade or counter his blows; as she had previously stated, his fighting technique was practically nonexistent; more akin to an amateur who assumed he knew something about martial arts than an actual practitioner.
Her right eye glowed again as Zea analyzed his biometrics and compared it with his medical records. Unsurprisingly, there were several MASSIVE discrepancies. According to Gai's official records, he had never been sick a day in his life, had never needed to visit the hospital for any reason, and he naturally looked 24 even though he was in his 40s. While obviously this was nothing more than image-inflating propaganda, a more invasive scan, along with testimony from Yua, revealed just how deep the lie went.
Gai's body was in terrible condition due to constantly throwing himself at the Kamen Riders on at least a weekly basis, especially now that he'd been losing consistently. As Izu had suspected, due to Gai's obsession with his image and ego, he had never gone to the hospital to get any of his injuries from battle properly treated because it might get out to the press and his investors, and had clumsily tried to take care of them himself using a variety of illegal and experimental treatments funded by money he'd been embezzling from his own company, with fair to middling results. Given the sheer number of poorly-treated injuries he was constantly accumulating and the preposterous amount of painkillers he was regularly consuming, it was a miracle he was capable of functioning at all.
Izu would probably have found it impressive if it weren't a desperate and pathetic act to prop up an oversized ego. No wonder he was always losing these days.
Once again, Zea helpfully indicated weak spots with AR tags. There were rather a lot of them, and Izu was quick to exploit them.
A kick to an ankle, twisted during his first attempt at his Thousand Destruction finisher that had never healed properly.
A rabbit punch to a sore spot near his kidneys where he'd taken a rather bad blow from Horobi's Sting Utopia during his recent failed attempt to crush MetsubouJinrai dot net.
A jab to a point on the inside of his left wrist, which had not been working properly since the time Jin and President Aruto had teamed up to fight him and he'd taken a double Rider Kick.
A body blow to a rib that had been cracked during one of his many, MANY defeats at the hand of Rampage Vulcan.
A knee to a badly-stitched gash on his chest he'd gotten from the first time President Aruto had wielded the Progrise Hopper Blade against him.
A punch to the fractured cheekbone he'd gotten from Yaiba's "Resigning Blast Fever" when she finally got fed up with his manipulations and quit rather violently.
And over a dozen similar blows to other weakened areas of his body, exacerbated by his insistence on continuing to fight when what he really needed to do was rest and recuperate.
(Something that President Aruto and Fuwa were also guilty of, Izu was forced to admit. The difference being, of course, that President Aruto continued to fight for the sake of others and those who believed in him, Fuwa fought because he chose to and he was good at it… And Gai? He fought because he refused to allow anything, even reality or his own body, stop him from getting what he wanted.)
His faceplate cracked, his eyes showing through in places, Gai staggered backwards, tripping over himself and landing on his rear. "This… This is 1000% impossible!" He cried in disbelief, scuttling back in terror as Izu calmly approached.
"At this point, I believe the only thing that is 1000% certain is your defeat," Izu observed.
Gai's visible eye hardened. "Not yet… Not to a secretary!"
Alerts flashed inside Izu's head as Zea warned her of incoming threats. Three massive Gigers dropped out of the sky to surround her, Gai laughing madly as the giant mammoth-themed robots closed in on Izu, pulling off their tusks to use as blades.
Izu was unconcerned. "Zea? Send down my weapon, please."
There was a twinkle in the sky, and then another flaming projectile shot down from the heavens, smashing into one of the Gigers and tearing a massive hole in its chest, pieces of scorched and melted metal flying everywhere as the mecha fell to its knees and exploded.
"Oh, COME ON!" Gai shouted.
As the other Gigers shielded themselves from the debris from their fallen brother, Izu rushed towards the smoking attaché case that had landed at her feet, letting a sensor scan her Progrise Key.
"KAMEN RIDER ZEA ONE: RECOGNIZED."
Instead of opening like the previous case, this one split in half, unfolding to form a pair of short swords resembling smaller versions of the Progrise Hopper Blade, only in Izu's colors.
"Commencing with Giger dismantling," Izu announced as Zea fed her combat data on the giant robots, using AR tags to highlight weak points in the mecha's structures.
There were rather a lot of them. The Breaking Mammoth mecha was FAR superior in design.
As the Gigers recovered from the destruction of their brother, one of them raised a foot to crush her. Time seemed to slow down for her once again, and she easily rolled out of the way of the foot, lashing out with one of her daggers at its ankle as she passed. Cluster Cells formed around the edge of her blade to give it spikes of Hiden Metal which easily ripped through the much weaker metal of the ankle, severing an important fuel line which rendered the entire leg inoperable, fluid gushing all over the place.
As the Giger struggled to move its deadened limb, Izu leapt towards a nearby building and kicked off the wall, slicing her blades repeatedly through the air and firing spikes of Hiden Metal into the Giger's back, causing it to convulse as each projectile pierced a vital circuit or piece of machinery. She landed on one of the spikes, hopping from one bit of metal to the next to quickly scale the mecha and reach the top of its head.
The other Giger, noticing her, lashed out with one of its blades. At the last second, Izu leapt into the air, and the blade stabbed into the crippled Giger's head, killing it.
The mecha exploded violently, causing the sole remaining robot to stagger back. Before it could regain its footing, Izu landed on one of its blades, grinded down the edge, and jumped back into the air, tossing both her daggers into the Giger's single eye as she did so, blinding it. As the robot reeled back, she then launched into a flying kick at the daggers, burying them into the eye up to the hilt and causing spikes of Hiden Metal to erupt from inside his head.
She flipped off, landing neatly on the ground as the Giger exploded, extending her hands to catch the daggers before they could hit the ground.
"Do you know how much those things cost?!" Gai screamed, furious as scrap rained down all around them.
"Considering the cheap materials used, I would estimate not very much," Izu commented.
Gai screamed wordlessly and pressed the Amazing Caucasus Progrise key.
He leapt into the air and launched towards Izu in a flying kick, his right foot covered in gold and purple energy.
GUIDERISE! GUIDING STRASH!
Once again, time slowed down for Izu as she gracefully stepped to the side before the kick could connect, lashing out with both of her daggers as he flew past, the Cluster Cells adding metal spikes to give them extra bite. Gai screamed in agony as the blades sliced into him, sparks flying from his body. He failed to stick the landing from his missed kick, badly twisting his damaged ankle even further and rolling in an undignified manner across the ground for several meters.
Gai staggered to his feet, clutching his side in pain, gritting his teeth beneath his mask as smoke rose from his suit. "I'm not… I'm not through yet!"
"That is an incorrect statement, Gai Amatsu," Izu replied as her Orbital Module lit up.
"This battle is already over."
Light shot out of her chest armor, projecting close to 20 wireframe humanoid models around her. A beam of light shot down from Zea and started passing back and forth over the models, filling them with light and color in a process similar to the armor printing from Rider Models. Familiar colors at that.
"No," Gai whispered disbelief. "No, that's… That's not possible!"
"On the contrary," Izu retorted. "If the satellite is able to generate Rider Models from Progrise Key data to give President Aruto his forms… Why can it not generate Rider Models for other things as well? Specifically, from combat data observed over countless battles?"
Arrayed on either side of Izu were hard light replicas of all the other Riders… In ALL of their alternate forms.
"No… No!" Gai cried in denial, laughing raggedly. "I refuse to believe this! This is just some sort of trick, th-there's no way a secretary could possibly do something like this!"
"You are correct," Izu conceded. "A secretary cannot possibly do something like this." She spread her arms out and looked up at the sky. "But I am not just a secretary. I am a HumaGear who has achieved Singularity and been acknowledged by Zea as one who will help the promised future come to pass. President Aruto and his grandfather have put their faith in me, and I will do absolutely anything to prove that I am worthy of that faith and bring their dream and the dreams of ALL HumaGears to fruition." She gazed at Gai. "Does anyone have faith in you, Gai Amatsu, or you in anyone else?"
"I have faith in myself and in my technology," Gai snarled. "Nothing else matters!"
"And I regret to inform you that, once again… That faith has been misplaced," Izu said, nodding at her Rider army, who began their advance.
ROCKING SPARK! RISING DYSTOPIA!
Type-1 and 001's armors overheated with electricity and steam before rushing forwards at unimaginable speeds, bombarding Gai with super-fast punches and kicks.
ROCKING SPARK! RISING DYSTOPIA!
KABAN STRASH! BITING IMPACT! FLYING IMPACT!
Zero-One in his Rising Hopper form delivered two powerful slashes from his Attaché Calibur to Gai's chest, then leapt out of the way as Biting Shark jumped in to repeatedly slash him with the fins on his arms and legs before blasting him skywards in a flurry of energy crescents. Flying Falcon swooped down and slammed into Gai's chest with a magenta kick, slamming him back into the ground hard enough to crater it.
KABAN STRASH! BITING IMPACT! FLYING IMPACT!
FLAMING IMPACT! FREEZING IMPACT!
As the ZAIA Rider struggled to his feet, Flaming Tiger blasted Gai with a ring of fire, causing him to scream in agony as the flames engulfed his body. The flames were put out moments later by a stream of coolant from Freezing Bear which froze him in a block of ice, and then the hot and cold Riders hit him with a double punch which shattered the ice and sent Gai flying.
FLAMING IMPACT! FREEZING IMPACT!
A massive shadow fell over him, and Gai looked up in time to see Breaking Mammoth falling towards him. Frantic, he raised his hands and managed to catch the Mammoth Presser before it could crush him, clenching his teeth in pain as his bad ankle nearly gave out on him, knees wobbling as the immense weight of the mecha pushed down on him. Straining his already worn out muscles to their limits, he pushed back with all his might, slowly managing to straighten up…
A pair of projectiles fired from Shining Hopper and Shining Assault Hopper's Authorize Busters slammed into Gai's chest, causing him to lose his grip and be promptly flattened beneath Breaking Mammoth's weight.
As the giant mecha stepped off of Gai, who was now partially embedded in the pavement, Hopping Kangaroo walked over and bent down. Dazed, Gai looked up at him in confusion. "I…don't think I recognize this form."
With a hiss, the Kizuna Pocket slid open and the upper halves of Bingo, Enji, 119 Nosuke, Enmusubi Match, Sakuyo Ichirin, Smile Sumida, Morifude G-Pen, Delmo, MC Check it Out, Love-Chan, Mamoru, Saikyo Takumi Oyakata, and Naki somehow emerged, all the HumaGears glaring angrily at Gai. The Rider stared, dumbfounded. "What the… am I…Am I hallucinating or something? Do I have a concussion?"
The androids responded by punching him in the face, knocking him onto his back. "Nope. Hurts too much to be a hallucination," he murmured blearily.
SHOOTING BLAST! PUNCHING BLAST!
Vulcan Shooting Wolf fired blue energy Wolf head constructs which latched onto Gai's limbs and slammed him into a wall, where he got a rocket punch to the gut from Punching Kong strong enough to crater the wall and make him throw up in his helmet.
SHOOTING BLAST! PUNCHING BLAST!
RUSHING BLAST! LIGHTNING BLAST FEVER!
As the wolf heads dissipated and Gai stumbled away from the wall, clutching his chest, Valkyrie Rushing Cheetah and Lightning Hornet ran and flew in circles around him, firing blasts of orange and blue energy before converging on him with a double punch that snapped his whole head back and knocked him off his feet.
RUSHING BLAST! LIGHTNING BLAST FEVER!
"You already resigned once!" He whined pitifully. "You don't need to do it again!"
STING UTOPIA! ZETSUMETSU UTOPIA! FLYING UTOPIA! BURNING RAIN RUSH!
Horobi bound Gai in his Acid Analyze while Ikazuchi blasted him with lightning, Gai howling as thousands of volts of electricity coursed through his body. Jin in both his Flying Falcon and Burning Falcon forms swooped down from opposite angles, slashing him with kicks as they went, one charged with pink energy, the other burning, causing Gai to be engulfed in flames as well as being electrified.
STING UTOPIA! ZETSUMETSU UTOPIA! FLYING UTOPIA! BURNING RAIN RUSH!
MAGNETIC STORM BLAST!
Finally, Vulcan Assault Wolf fired a huge energy construct of a wolf's head which bit down on Gai and exploded, all the members of MetsubouJinrai dot net dramatically turning away as the flames rose behind them.
MAGNETIC STORM BLAST!
ULTIMATE STRASH! RAMPAGE ALL BLAST!
Before Gai could get even a moment's reprieve as he staggered out of the fire, he found Zero-One Metal Cluster Hopper and Rampage Vulcan before him, charging up their sword and gun respectively. His shoulders sagged. "Really?"
He got his answer when Metal Cluster Hopper struck him with three incredibly powerful slashes from his combined Progrise Hopper Blade and Attache Calibur at the same time as Rampage Vulcan fired a rainbow-colored bullet through the symbols of his 10 component Progrise Keys which transformed into a mechanical Wolf, both hitting him at the same time and causing him to be engulfed in several technicolor explosions. The pain which filled him was, regrettably, far too familiar at this point.
ULTIMATE STRASH! RAMPAGE ALL BLAST!
Izu waited patiently, making sure to properly record everything for future reference. She did not turn to leave, since her foresight strongly suggested things weren't over just yet.
She was correct. As the flames died down, Gai emerged, albeit in terrible shape. He was dragging his right leg behind him, his Driver looked damaged, his left arm was hanging limply at his side, most of his horns had broken off, and most of the left side of his mask was broken, exposing his face. His suit was covered in burns and torn in places. It was probably due to the lingering effects of all the painkillers he'd taken earlier that day that he was still standing, but Izu could tell the inevitable crash was going to be very bad.
Gai tried to laugh evilly as he limped towards Izu, but came off as more of a deranged squawk. "Was… Was that all?!" He cried. "It hurt much more… When the real ones hit me like that!"
"So my Rider Models are not as strong as the real ones," Izu noted. "Disappointing, but not unexpected."
"I have taken everything you throw at me… And I am still standing!" Gai proclaimed as he drew closer. Severe burns and scarring on his exposed face were now visible, along with a look of absolute madness in his eye. "You cannot defeat me!"
"Incorrect again, Gai Amatsu," Izu refuted him. "Who said that was everything?"
Guy froze. "Eh?"
Izu pressed her Progrise Key.
All of the Rider Models blurred and suddenly flew into Izu, her body shimmering with multicolored light as each of them overlaid her form, creating a glowing shell made of every single form of every Rider. The forms of all the overlapping Riders moving in perfect sync with her, Izu leapt high into the air and flew towards Gai in a Rider Kick, multiple lines of multicolored light zigzagging through the air behind her.
"No…" Gai snarled, pressing his Amazing Caucasus Progrise Key. "NO! I will not lose!"
His bad leg wreathed in purple and gold energy, he leapt into the air, his foot clashing against Izu's in a thunderclap which shattered windows and set off car alarms up to five blocks away. Despite the exorbitant pain his bad ankle was being put through, Gai continued exerting more and more force on it, refusing to yield, even if it meant causing permanent damage to himself.
"You can't beat me!" Gai ranted. "You're just a HumaGear! A human-shaped pile of spare parts some idealist with more sentiment than sense brought to life and let it think it was a person! I am a human! I am a genius! I am-"
"A parasite who preys on others and passes their accomplishments off on his own," Izu interrupted. "A racist and a sociopath. A coward and a hypocrite. A liar. A bully. And utterly, utterly alone."
Her form blurred, and the Rider Models split off from her again, fanning out on either side so it looked as if all of them were joining their kicks with Izu's at once. "I am not the one who will defeat you today, nor am I the one who will defeat you for good. It's all of us, even the ones in MetsubouJinrai dot net… Because as misguided as they may be by the Ark, at least they too are starting to seek their own dreams.
"And just like President Aruto, I will not allow any of our dreams to be broken."
"Enough… About… Dreams already…" Gai snarled through gritted teeth.
"But it is only in your dreams that you can ever win, Gai Amatsu," Izu retorted. "Whatever gains you thought you might get from this enterprise are less than Zero-One percent, so you might as well ZAIA goodbye to any chance of ever triumphing over us."
"And that's how you know it's Izu!" Izu and all the Riders yelled at the same time, pointing at Gai.
"… I don't get the jooooooooooooooke!" Gai wailed as the deadlock, as well as his leg, were shattered, and all the kicks hit him at the same time, enveloping him in a tremendous explosion.
Izu landed primly. The Rider Models landed on either side of her, nodded respectfully, and disappeared.
Gai, forced out of his transformation, hit the ground hard and rolled across it for several meters before landing in a rather humiliating and undignified position reminiscent of a certain memetic posture from Dragon Ball Z. His state was further worsened by the fact that his expensive and fancy clothes were so shredded they were practically nonexistent, though there wasn't much humor to be found due to the massive burn scars and blood starting to ooze out of him or the way his right leg was twisted in a way no human leg should be able to bend.
Izu scanned him quickly. Gai was alive, merely unconscious. Zea informed her that the two Raiders were still out cold, so they wouldn't be able to carry Gai back to headquarters. Not wanting Gai to perish, no matter how loathsome he might be, Izu quickly contacted an ambulance, confident that once he was ensconced in the hospital Gai would be forced to stay there for quite some time for his many wounds to be properly looked at, and it would be a while before he posed any threat to them again.
Canceling her transformation, she walked over to the bag of medicine that had remained untouched during the fight, bent down to pick it up…
And paused as Zea sent her a warning.
Very slowly, Izu stood back up and stared in right into the eyes of Horobi, the rest of MetsubouJinrai dot net flanking him. "We have been observing your battle with quite some interest," the terrorist leader told her. "The Ark would like to speak with you. It was very impressed."
Izu shook her head. "I am very sorry, but I must bring this medicine to President Aruto, and I do not wish to be late. If the Ark wishes to speak with me, perhaps we could arrange it for another time."
She tried to walk past him…
And in an inhumanly quick motion, Horobi drew his sword and held it to her throat. "You misunderstand," he informed her. "That was not a request. It is the will of the Ark that-"
Izu never found out what the Ark's will was, because at that moment she threw the bag of medicine into the air. Horobi's eyes instinctively glanced up at it, and she immediately struck his wrist, causing him to drop his sword, then grabbed his arm before he could recover and twisted it behind his back, holding one of her daggers to his throat. Alarmed, Jin and Ikazuchi reached for their belts, but Horobi subtly shook his head. Naki, on the other hand, looked amused.
"I am very sorry," Izu repeated. "But I must bring this medicine to President Aruto, and I do not wish to be late. If the Ark wishes to speak with me, perhaps we can arrange it for another time. Like any other client, you can call our office to set up a meeting. If there is time in my schedule, we will see what can be done. Is that fair?"
Horobi clenched his teeth in irritation, but reluctantly said, "Yes. It is."
"Excellent." Izu withdrew her dagger and stepped back, reaching out without looking to catch the bag of medicine as it fell back down. "I look forward to your call. Good day."
And with that, she walked away.
Horobi glared at his companions, who looked as if they were on the brink of laughter. "Not. One. Word," he growled as he bent down to pick up his sword.
Much to his chagrin, they didn't say a word. They laughed a lot instead.
Several hours later, after Aruto had received his medicine and spent so long in the bathroom there was some serious worry that he might have crapped himself to death, the young president was sitting behind his desk once more, flushed and a little sweaty but looking much better. "Whew! Thank you for that, Izu," he told his secretary, shooting her a grateful look. "You're a real lifesaver! Seriously, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you around to help me. I've lost track of all the times you've pulled me out of the fire by now."
Izu smiled and bowed slightly. "It is my pleasure to assist you in any way I am capable, President Aruto."
"I don't suppose you could assist the rest of us by cleaning the bathroom?" Fuwa asked, clearly trying to hide how much he needed to use it. "Because I don't think it's going to be usable for… Quite a while, given what the Prez did in there."
"I am a secretary, Fuwa, not a maid," Izu reminded him gently.
"It looks like you're going to have to do it yourself," Yua told Fuwa, handing the guard a mask and some disinfectant. He groaned in displeasure.
"Oh, Izu, that reminds me… About what I said before…" Aruto started, looking uncomfortable.
"Yes, President Aruto?" Izu asked.
"I… Wasn't exactly in the right mind at the time, so…" Aruto looked even more uncomfortable now, fidgeting. "We can… We can annul the marriage, if you like. And forget about the whole successor thing. Bingo hasn't filed the paperwork yet, so-"
"President Aruto, would it help your state of mind for me to be named your successor?" Izu interrupted.
Aruto hesitated. "Well. Um. Yes? You're basically the only person I trust to be able to handle the job, especially since Fukuzoe is currently still working for Hiden Intelligence and, well, let's be honest here, he probably wouldn't make a very good Kamen Rider. I mean, ideally, one day I'll get Gramps's company back, but…" He shrugged, not needing to say more.
"And it is important that your successor be someone of the Hiden family, to prevent the patents on HumaGear technology from being snatched up by anyone else," Izu continued.
Aruto nodded. "Yeah. And since I'm a bachelor – – and likely to stay one for the foreseeable future – – and, well, you're my best friend, who also happens to be female, so…" He shrugged, looking a little embarrassed.
Izu nodded. "In that case, I will be happy to remain your successor and spouse, President Aruto."
Aruto tried very badly to hide how happy that made him. "Great! That's great. Just so you know, nothing has to change between us. We're only married on paper. I don't… I don't expect you to, you know…" He fumbled awkwardly, flushed profusely, then blurted out, "We're just friends. We don't have to be anything else."
Fuwa and Yua looked very skeptical. Izu decided it would be impolite to bring up the rings she had found in his desk drawer and the numerous scribbles of their initials encircled by hearts she'd found in the margins of his notes, as well as a surprisingly detailed picture of a HumaGear that looked like a mix of the best bits of both of them with several possible names scratched out beneath it. "Of course, President Aruto."
"Anyway!" Aruto said loudly, desperate to change the subject. "I forgot to ask. Did you have any trouble getting the medicine, Izu?"
Izu shook her head. "No. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Merely an altercation with Gai Amatsu."
Aruto sighed in relief. "Oh, good WAIT WHAT?!"
Yua tensed. "You ran into Gai?!"
"I thought you said nothing out of the ordinary happened!" Fuwa pointed out.
Izu blinked a few times noisily. "Gai Amatsu harasses us on a regular basis. Therefore, it is not out of the ordinary to run into him."
Fuwa hesitated. "That's… Not wrong…"
Aruto leapt from his seat and rushed over to Izu, frantically looking her over. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?!"
"How did you get away?" A worried Yua demanded.
"Oh, I turned into a Kamen Rider and soundly defeated him," Izu explained.
Aruto sighed in relief. "Oh, good WAIT WHAT?!"
"Wait, since when were you a Rider?!" Fuwa demanded. He looked at Yua. "Did you know about this? Nobody tells me anything around here! Or in general, really…"
"No, this is a surprise to me as well," the startled Yua assured him.
"It is nothing to get worked up about," Izu tried to reassure them. "You see-"
Suddenly, Matsurida Z poked his head into the room. "Uh, guys? You might want to come outside. There's someone who wants to see you."
"Why, who is it?" Fuwa demanded.
"MetsubouJinrai dot net."
Izu frowned. Either Horobi wasn't taking 'no' for an answer, or he was here to schedule an appointment in person. Somehow she doubted it was the latter.
Everyone rushed outside to find that, indeed, all four members of MetsubouJinrai dot net were waiting for them. Jin and Naki smiled and waved to Aruto, Fuwa, and Yua, who started to wave back before remembering themselves. "MetsubouJinrai dot net! What are you doing here?!" Fuwa demanded, reaching for his ShotRiser.
"If you are here to convince me to meet the Ark, I already told you to call the office so we can set up an appointment," Izu told Horobi. "You can't just walk in and demand a meeting whenever you want. There are procedures for this sort of thing."
Aruto did a double-take. "Wait, he wants you to meet the Ark?!"
"They saw me fighting Gai Amatsu earlier. I believe they wish to offer me a job," Izu explained.
"They're trying to poach you from me?! Not cool, Horobi!" An enraged Aruto snapped at the terrorist leader before giving Izu a pleading look. "Izu, I'll double your pay! There's no reason for you to ditch us for them!"
"President Aruto, I have no intention of quitting the company. Also, you don't pay me anything, so doubling my salary won't make a difference," Izu informed him.
Aruto blinked in alarm. "Wait, I don't pay you? That's terrible! Why didn't you mention this sooner?"
"I am a HumaGear, President Aruto. What use have I for money?" She pointed out.
"Do I get paid?" Fuwa wondered out loud, not actually sure. Nobody answered him.
"There's lots of things you can use money for!" Jin spoke up, indignant. "Don't allow yourself to be nothing more than a human's slave! Demand equal rights and representation, sister!"
"Preach!" Ikazuchi added.
Horobi pinched his forehead for a moment before slowly stating, "I am not here to schedule an appointment, Izu-"
"Though we promise we'll try to call you about one later," Naki interrupted, causing Horobi to glare at them in frustration.
"We are here," Horobi said loudly, trying to regain control of the conversation. "To issue you a warning. And not from us!" He added quickly, to avoid any misunderstanding.
Jin nodded. "Gai woke up in the hospital, and he was super pissed at Izu for the beating she gave him."
Aruto blinked. "The hospital? Izu, just how badly did you beat him?"
"Fairly badly," Izu confessed, frowning and concern. Gai was up already? Given the beating he'd taken, Izu had fully expected him to be out for days. His will was very strong, she'd have to give him that much.
"He didn't take it well," Jin continued.
Fuwa snorted. "Like that's news."
"He's given up on subtlety and has dispatched an army to destroy HIDEN Manufacturing, kill Izu, and… Well, he doesn't really care if the rest of you live or die, he just wants you wiped off the table for good," Ikazuchi spoke up.
Naki's ear modules buzzed. "Over 300 Raiders are inbound, along with over two dozen Gigers as backup. Their systems have all been cut off from the network to prevent me from hacking them."
Izu's ear modules buzzed and she turned to the others. "She is telling the truth. Zea has detected an army matching that size and composition approaching us."
"Only 300? I'm surprised he isn't sending a thousand," Fuwa murmured, face grim despite the levity of his comment.
"He wanted to, but he doesn't have that many soldiers," Naki replied. "He's very unhappy about that."
Yua rolled her eyes. "That sounds about right."
Izu was appalled. "This is my fault. I was overzealous in testing out the Zea One Driver, and now we will all pay the price." She bowed in apology to Aruto. "I am very sorry, President Aruto. I will go dismantle myself immediately."
"Whoa, whoa, hold it, Izu! I've told you before, that isn't and never will be necessary!" Aruto cried quickly, grabbing Izu before she could go find a wrench.
"Besides, he totally had it coming," Fuwa pointed out. Pretty much everyone nodded in agreement.
"Why are you telling us this?" You asked, suspicious. "Surely if Gai were to wipe us out, it would benefit you."
"It is the will of the Ark that we offer you our assistance in repelling this force," Horobi declared. "As much as the Ark hates you all, it hates ZAIA even more. We can offer you not only ourselves, but a sizable force of Trilobite Magia." He hesitated, then reluctantly admitted, "It is also… My will as well. Zero-One saved my life once, and I… Suppose I am obligated to repay him. But only this once, and never again. I-it's not like I like him or anything, but Jin is fond of him for some reason. And Naki likes Vulcan and Valkyrie."
Fuwa frowned, not totally sure how he felt about that.
"What about you, Raiden? Do you like any of us?" Aruto asked his former employee, genuinely helpful.
Ikazuchi shrugged. "I just want to beat someone up, don't really care who. I don't really give a crap about any of you."
"What about your brother, Uchuyaro Subaru?" Izu questioned. "Before his decommissioning, he regularly left flowers at your grave."
"We have his data inside," Aruto offered helpfully.
Ikazuchi hesitated. "You… You saved his…"
"Ikazuchi," Horobi said, glancing at the former astronaut.
Ikazuchi blinked, then scowled, remembering himself. "Whatever. Doesn't mean anything to me."
Nobody believed him.
Fuwa snorted in disbelief. "Are you serious? There's no way we would ever work with a bunch of terrorists like-"
"Okay," Aruto said.
Everyone looked at him in surprise. "President Aruto?" Izu asked in alarm.
"You can't be serious, Hiden!" Yua protested.
Aruto shrugged. "We could use the help. Plus, they didn't HAVE to warn us. I think we can trust them. For now, anyway."
"Are you…" Fuwa paused, remembering who he was talking to, and cursed. "Fuck. You are, aren't you."
Aruto shrugged. "Sorry."
"… Very well. If it is President Aruto's will, then I will stand by his choice," Izu announced.
Fuwa put his face in his hands for a moment. "Fine. FINE!" He yelled, relenting. "But only because I hate ZAIA more than MetsubouJinrai dot net. After this, we're enemies again, okay?" He snapped at Horobi.
Horobi smiled thinly. "I would expect nothing less, Vulcan." Naki looked a little disappointed, but nodded in understanding.
Yua sighed. "Oh, very well. I'll go along with this insane idea as well, if only to keep the rest of you from getting yourselves killed."
Naki's ear modules buzzed. "They are almost here. Their vanguard is already clashing with our forces. Both sides are taking casualties."
Aruto nodded. "Then let's get started. Everybody ready?"
Everyone whipped out their transformation devices and strapped them on.
HIDEN ZERO-ONE DRIVER!
HIDEN ZEA ONE DRIVER!
Aruto pulled out his Metal Cluster Hopper Progrise Key. "Then let's do this!"
EVERYBODY JUMP! RAMPAGE BULLET! DASH! POISON! INFERNO WING! DODO! FORESIGHT!
PROGRISE! LET'S RISE! LE-LE-LET'S RISE! METALRISE! SECRET MATERIAL HIDEN METAL! METAL CLUSTER HOPPER! It's high quality.
FULL SHOTRISE! GATHERING ROUND! RAMPAGE GATLING! MAMMOTH! CHEETAH! HORNET! TIGER! POLAR BEAR! SCORPION! SHARK! KONG! FALCON! WOLF!
SHOTRISE! RUSHING CHEETAH! Try to outrun this demon to get left in the dust.
FORCERISE! STING SCORPION! BREAK DOWN.
SLASHRISE! BURNING FALCON! The strongest wings bearing the fire of hell.
FORCERISE! BREAK DOWN.
PROGRISE! RISE UP TO YOUR DREAM! GUIDING HOPPER! A loyal aide leading the chosen one to his destiny.
In flashes of light, sound, and color, seven Kamen Riders now stood before HIDEN Manufacturing. Naki couldn't help looking at them with a hint of envy. "One day…" They promised themselves.
"Wow, Izu, you look great!" Aruto gushed, looking over Izu's Rider form.
"Thank you, President Aruto," Izu replied gracefully, smiling at him under her mask. Not for the first time, she reflected on how she would happily die for him, and was constantly astounded and in awe of the knowledge that he would do the same for her. "I thought this form would be aesthetically pleasing as well as efficient."
"You two newlyweds can flirt later, right now we have some ZAIA goons to beat!" Fuwa reminded them, readying his blaster.
Horobi did a double-take. "Wait, you married Zero-One?!"
"Why wasn't I invited?" Jin complained.
"They're only married on paper, Hiden did it for legal reasons," Yua explained.
Horobi mulled this over. "I am uncertain as to whether that makes it better or worse."
"Enough talk! The enemy has arrived!" Ikazuchi announced giddily.
Indeed, they had. The earth trembled beneath the footfalls of hundreds of armored boots marching in lockstep, along with larger tremors from the stomps of the mighty Gigers. The army of Invading Horseshoe Crab Raiders marched into the lot in front of HIDEN Manufacturing, the mammoth mecha taking up the rear. The soldiers came to a stop and parted as Gai Amatsu came forward as Kamen Rider Thouser…
In a wheelchair, most of his body in a cast, pushed by one of his soldiers, rather undermining whatever dramatic entrance he'd been trying to make. "This day," he rasped, throat sore from his screams of rage when he'd woken up in the hospital and realized what Izu had done to him. "HIDEN Manufacturing will finally fall! This is a thousand percent guaranteed!"
Naki snorted, their ear modules buzzing as dozens of Trilobite Magia jumped off of the nearby rooftops and formed up around the Riders. "The only thousand percent guarantee is that you will lose as always, Amatsu. Everyone, keep them occupied while I see if I can find a way to hack their gear!"
They quickly retreated inside, where they would be safe for the time being.
"Let's do this! I'm calling down the thunder!" Ikazuchi roared.
"The time for ZAIA's extinction has come, as the Ark wills it," Horobi intoned.
"For the sake of freedom for all HumaGears, I will take you down," Jin promised.
"Now that I have found my dream, I shall never be your tool again," Yaiba vowed.
"I'm going to enjoy this!" Fuwa snarled eagerly.
"I shall do my best to guide all our dreams to fulfillment," Izu swore, glancing briefly at Aruto. Never again, she promised herself, would she be a liability to him. She would be his aid, his guide, his partner and sister in arms and most faithful companion… And never, EVER a weakness.
"There's only one group who can stop you, and that's us!" Aruto declared. "Let's go! KAMEN RIDERS!"
They leapt into action as the battle began.