Chapter 30: Kamen Rider Blade

Parting with the Past

 

Dr. Sarc fell to his knees. He shook his head with disbelief. He thought of Megan, his daughter. He thought of his wife. I was at her deathbed…I watched her die.

 

“You expect me to believe…I’m Trial B?” Sarc asked softly. “I don’t think so…”

 

“Then how would you explain that body of yours?” Tennoji asked.

 

Sarc looked at his shaking hands. He felt perfectly human, scared and in panic. But something in his mind clicked. He felt…unnaturally strong. And artificial. He grasped his chest. He felt no heartbeat. Just a thrum, like an engine.

 

“So…I did die that time…during the attack,” Sarc said.

 

“During the cover up, yes,” Tennoji said. “Dr. Cranston allied with his enemy, this ‘Dark Shaper’, who wiped out BOARD to remove all evidence of INET’s involvement with recreating the Undead, and setting them loose. He allowed a select few, including myself, to survive.”

 

“I died…” Sarc said. “If I died, then who am I?”

 

“Someone who has a burden to bear,” Tennoji said. “You carry the will and drive of Dr. Sarc. To continue his work…you’ll chase down Blade, and give birth to the Second Joker. All to find the secret of eternal life.”

 

“I’m…” Sarc said, still in shock. “I have my memories. My will…I’ll continue what I have to do…”

 

***

 

Megan smiled and walked through a bed of flowers. The air smelt fresh and felt warm. Comforting. She took a deep breath and smiled. Ahead, her father set up a camera to take a picture of her mother.

 

Her mother sat in a white dress and hat. She looked radiant, pure and alive. Her father looked to her and smiled. “Come on, Megan. You too…”

 

Megan smiled and walked towards her father. But the landscape suddenly shifted. The flowers around her died, and she saw both parents dead on the ground. Dead flower petals floated from the air like snow.

 

Megan awoke with a gasp. She breathed heavily and grasped her pillow so tight her knuckles turned white. She looked to her dresser, where she kept a picture of her and her parents standing in a field of flowers.  

 

Just a dream…she told herself.  

 

But the dream left lingering chills. The girl pulled her covers tight around her body.

 

***

 

Benjamin and Ken stood side-by-side and stared out the windows of Bobby’s home. They said nothing for a while, as they both wondered how to tell Megan about her father, or whether they should say anything at all.

 

Further, they needed a way to stop the man.

 

Benjamin broke the silence. “Ken…” he said softly. “You can stay here and rest…What happened with Sarc is my responsibility. I’ll take care of it.”

 

“No…” Ken said. “I’ll go with you. There has to be a way to help him so somehow…so Megan can have her father back.”

 

“But what he tried to do to you…”

 

“I know,” Ken said. “But it doesn’t matter. I’ll never get that close to becoming a Joker again.”

 

The door to the room opened, and Bobby walked in looking especially cheerful. “There you guys are,” he said. “Listen, with you and Zayden both suppressing all this Joker…stuff…I figure it’s a fresh start. We should go somewhere and celebrate.”

 

“Sorry, Bobby,” Ken said. “Benjamin and I have a job to do…”

 

***

 

Zayden took Ava by the hand and walked her from the hospital. He still didn’t completely understand human emotion. A part of him was the Joker, created by the Dark Shaper based on INET’s Undead research. A part of him was the Human Undead, created by INET in an attempt to make an immortal. He experienced no natural upbringing or family. But if he had a family, he imagined his feelings of love for a little sister would feel like his feelings towards Ava.  

 

Ava winced slightly when she stepped into the sun and rubbed her eyes.

 

“You’re sure you’re alright?” Zayden asked.

 

“Yep,” Ava said with a smile. “That’s what the doctor said, and they’re never wrong.”

 

“Good,” Zayden said. “Let’s go home and tell your mother.”

 

“No, not yet,” she said. “I wanna go somewhere. I’ve been in bed in there forever.”

 

She pulled Zayden by the hand. “Come on, let’s do something fun!”

 

***

 

Zayden forgot about Undead and Riders when with Ava. They went to an amusement park, rode roller coasters and rides, and took a spin on a carrousel.

 

He smiled when she smiled. Laughed when she laughed. He felt human.

 

Zayden took her to a gift shop and bought her a small giraffe figurine.

 

“It’s so cute!” she said as she stuffed it into her shirt pocket.

 

Zayden and Ava left the gift shop just as it started to rain. Ava pulled an umbrella from her backpack and opened it. She handed the umbrella to Zayden, and they walked beneath the umbrella on their way home.  

 

Neither noticed Nicolas watch from nearby.

 

***

 

Taiga walked to Nicolas from behind and laughed at the look of longing on his face.

 

The teen said nothing. He turned and walked away, but Taiga followed.

 

“Let me guess what you’re thinking…” Taiga said. “‘Everyone’s evolved but me. Everyone’s become stronger. Everyone but me. Why?’ Am I right?”

 

“Stop talking,” Nicolas said. “And don’t follow me…”

 

He broke into a run.

 

***

 

Ken parked his motorcycle on the side of a city road and called Benjamin. “Find anything?”

 

“He worked alone after BOARD,” Benjamin said. “That office he was using wasn’t even his. No clue where he could be now. You?”

 

“I’m coming up empty too,” Ken said.

 

“Well…let’s keep looking a little longer,” Benjamin said.

 

“Sounds like a plan,” Ken said.

 

He ended the call and put his helmet back on. The rider swerved from the side of the street and throttled onto the road.

 

TrialBKen barely drove a block before Trial B leapt through the air and tackled him from his bike. Ken hit the ground hard and rolled across the pavement.

 

The teen scrambled to his feet. “A Trial…”

 

He flipped open his phone and tried to call Benjamin. But he couldn’t get a call through — he didn’t realize Benjamin drove through a tunnel at the time.

 

He called Megan instead.

 

Meanwhile, Trial B lunged at Ken. The creature swung its arms and kicked, but Ken dodged and sidestepped each blow.

 

“Megan!” he shouted. “I need you to try reaching Benjamin!”

 

***

 

Megan sat in front of her computer while on the phone with Ken. Bobby stood nearby and leaned on the desk.

 

“What is it?” he asked. “Another Undead?”

 

Megan shook her head. The Undead Tracker showed no signal. “A Trial Series.”

 

“Oh…” Bobby said. “Well that’s fun.”

 

Megan hung up with Ken and kept trying to call Benjamin. She finally got through. “Benjamin, Ken’s fighting a Trial Series. He needs help.”

 

“I’m on it,” Benjamin said.

 

Bobby sighed. “Well…looks like there’s no time for a party. Same as always around here.”

 

The doors to the office opened, and Nicolas stepped in without a word.

 

Megan shot to her feet and stepped back. “You…”

 

***

 

Ken didn’t want to transform. He didn’t want to risk it. Not yet, at least. So he ran to lead the Trial away from the city.

 

The teen dashed into a run-down industrial area as explosions sparked around him. One shockwave hurled him through the air, and he crashed against the ground.

 

Ken looked up, and he saw Trial B walk through the smoke of the explosions. The teen stood and armed his buckler.

 

“Transform!” he shouted just as Trial B opened fire.

 

Explosions sparked around the rider and kicked up clouds of dust that enveloped him.

 

Kamen Rider Blade charged through the dust to attack.

 

***

 

Bobby grabbed Nicolas by the shirt and tried to push him back. “You have some nerve coming here...and I apparently have some nerve too, seeing that I’m shouting at a lunatic Kamen Rider!”

 

Nicolas sighed with annoyance and knocked Bobby’s hands away. “Calm down…I didn’t come here for you.”

 

Nicolas walked into the room and took a seat on the couch. He leaned forward and looked to Megan.

 

Megan knitted her brow. “You came for me…?”

 

“Right,” Nicolas said. “Dr. Sarc is your father, right? Where is he?”

 

“What?” Megan asked.

 

“He tried to help me,” Nicolas said. “He gave me Blade. He offered the Joker’s power…I need to find him.”

 

Megan shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Nicolas stood and grabbed Megan by the shoulders, not out of anger, but out of desperation. “Tell me where he is. Please…”

 

“Nicolas…” Bobby said. “Megan’s dad is dead.”

 

“Tell me what happened,” Megan said. “Tell me everything…”

 

***

 

Blade blocked a pair of punches and ducked beneath a third punch. He snapped a roundkick the monster blocked, then swung a hook punch.

 

The Trial grabbed Blade by the wrist and twisted him into an armlock. “Kenneth Grayson…” the villain said with a metallic voice. “Accept your fate.”

 

The Trial threw the Rider through the air. Blade crashed against the ground and tumbled aside.

 

Trial B extended his hand and fired bursts of jagged energy that exploded around the Rider with massive bursts of spark and flame.

 

Nearby, Kamen Rider Garren throttled onto the scene. He drove straight towards Trial B, who had to dive aside to avoid getting run over.

 

Garren skid his bike to a halt near Blade. The Rider pulled out his gun and fired at Trial B. Bullets sparked against the monster and forced him several steps back.

 

“Ken!” Garren shouted over his shoulder.

 

“I’m okay,” Blade said as he stood.

 

But when he got to his feet, he saw no sign of Trial B. Neither did Garren.

 

***

 

Nicolas walked Megan to the INET building where he fought Blade and Chalice. They moved onto a walkway that wrapped around the base of the building.

 

Megan looked about nervously. “This is where you fought Blade?”

 

“Right…” Nicolas said as he led her ahead.

 

Megan didn’t notice Taiga watch from the distance.

 

***

 

“She went with Nicolas?” Ken asked as he and Benjamin joined Bobby in the office.

 

Bobby nodded. “They went to that INET building where her dad asked Nicolas to go…the other day when he fought you. And yes, this is her dad that’s supposed to be dead.”

 

Benjamin rolled his hands into fists. “That bastard…he must have told her.”

 

Ken nodded. “Come on, we’ve got to get to her.”

 

Ken and Benjamin bolted out the door.

 

“Hey, wait a second!” Bobby called out. He sighed with annoyance. “Always in and out, in and out. Ugh.”

 

***

 

Nicolas stopped and turned to face Megan. “Does this place remind you of anything? Did your father ever bring you here?”

 

She shook her head. “Maybe we should ask Benjamin.”

 

“No,” Nicolas said. “Why’d you even ask me to bring you here if you just want to check with Garren?”

 

Megan heard footsteps come from around a corner. She opened her eyes wide when she saw who approached — Dr. Sarc. Her father.

 

“Megan…” he said with a smile.

 

“Dad…” she said with a gasp. “It really is you…”

 

She ran closer to him. A part of her wanted to cry and hug him. But another part of her wanted to shout in a fit of anger.

 

“Why?” she asked “If you’ve been alive this whole time…why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“I had something I had to take care of,” Sarc said. “Something important…”

 

“For mom’s sake…” Megan said as she knitted her brow. “You helped recreate the Undead…helped set them free…Do you really think that would make mom happy if she were here? She’d hate you!”

 

Sarc lowered his head. He stepped around Megan and walked towards Nicolas. “You’ve been looking for me? Then come with me…”

 

Megan grabbed him by the arm. “Wait…dad…”

 

He ignored her and focused on Nicolas. “Come with me…”

 

Sarc grabbed Nicolas by the arm, but the rider knocked the man’s arm away. Sarc sighed with annoyance, grabbed Nicolas by the arm, and hurled him through the air. The boy crashed against the other side of the walkway.

 

Megan opened her eyes wide with shock and stepped back. “How did you…”

 

***

 

Ken and Benjamin sped through the city streets towards the INET building, near the secret lab where Benjamin last saw Dr. Sarc.

 

They each opened their throttle to full.

 

***

 

Nicolas climbed to his feet and armed his belt. “Transform.” He flipped the buckler open. “OPEN UP”

 

An energy field slid across Nicolas and activated his armor.

 

Kamen Rider Leangle lunged and punched at Sarc. But the villain grabbed the Rider by the wrist and squeezed.

 

Leangle pulled his arm free and swung a roundhouse kick Sarc ducked to avoid. The Rider spun and swung a back-fist strike that Sarc blocked.

 

Sarc’s body crackled with electricity as he transformed into his true self: Trial B.

 

Megan backed father away from the Trial. “It can’t be…”

 

Leangle flipped open his belt holster and pulled out two cards: The Three of Clubs, labeled with the Mole Undead, and the Four of Clubs, labeled with the Rhino Undead. He swiped the cards through his staff’s slit. “SCREW; RUSH.”

 

The end of his staff spun like a drill, and he lunged while spearing the weapon towards Trial B.

 

The monster grabbed the staff and hurled the Rider through the air. Leangle smashed against the side of the building and crashed against the walkway. The impact knocked him from his armor with a wave of purple light.

 

Trial B walked towards Nicolas and lifted him over the shoulder. The monster turned and started to walk off while carrying the unconscious boy.

 

“Wait!” Megan shouted.

 

Trial B hesitated, looked over his shoulder to Megan, and then looked ahead and kept walking.

 

Nearby, Ken and Benjamin dashed up a stairwell and ran towards Megan.

 

“Megan!” Ken shouted.

 

“Where’s Nicolas?” Benjamin asked.

 

Megan said nothing. She looked ahead, still stunned at what she saw.

 

***

 

Dr. Sarc took Nicolas to one of INET’s secret labs. The boy lay unconscious with a gas mask over his face. On the table next to him lay a Trial.

 

Sarc supervised as two former BOARD techs drew blood from Nicolas and injected that blood into the Trial.

 

Tennoji watched through the window of an adjoining room. He smiled wickedly. “Welcome, Leangle…”

 

The villain didn’t notice Taiga had followed Trial B back to the secret lab.

 

***

 

Ken, Benjamin, Bobby, and Megan sat in the office. Megan sat in the chair by the window and stared outside. The others said nothing, thinking it best to give Megan time to think.

 

Ken broke the silence. “I’m sorry…for not saying anything about your father.”

 

“We would have told you sooner,” Benjamin said. “We just wanted to reason with him first.”

 

“Well…” Bobby said. “Isn’t the good news that your dad’s alive? I mean…that’s great…right? We should celebrate!”

 

They said nothing and didn’t look at him.

 

Bobby stepped back. “Or not…that’s fine too.”

 

“We know that Trial took Nicolas…” Benjamin said.

 

“But why?” Ken asked.

 

Megan said nothing. She stood and started walking from the room. “I’m going out…”

 

Ken, Benjamin, and Bobby lingered in silence.

 

“We should have kept it a secret…” Ken said.

 

Megan’s computer suddenly beeped an alarm, and Benjamin looked to the monitor. A video file opened and showed an image of Trial B standing in a warehouse. Nicolas hung from a chain on the warehouse ceiling.

 

“It’s Nicolas,” Benjamin said.

 

Benjamin bolted from the office, and Ken followed while pulling out his phone and making a call.

 

***

 

Zayden answered the phone at the Jacaranda Café. Ken explained everything.

 

“Nicolas…” Zayden said.

 

“Zayden, come on,” Ava called from a nearby table. Cassie set the table with plates near a cake, meant to celebrate Ava’s recovery. “It’s time for cake.”

 

Zayden hesitated. “Ken…”

 

“It’s okay…” Ken said, having heard Ava’s voice. “You should stay there. We’ll take care of it.”

 

“Ken-”

 

“I mean it, it’s okay,” Ken said. “You deserve your moment. We’ll be alright…”

 

***

 

Ken and Benjamin raced down the streets. They opened their throttles to full and armed their bucklers.

 

“TURN UP” The bucklers emitted energy fields the bikes rode through, activating the Riders’ armor.

 

The two Riders sped into a warehouse and skid to a halt when they saw Trial B, standing beneath Nicolas. Unconscious and in chains, Nicolas hung from the ceiling of the warehouse.

 

Blade and Garren stepped off their bikes as Trial B stalked towards them.

 

Blade unsheathed his sword as he and Garren charged. The Rider chopped his sword. But Trial B blocked, punched Blade in the chest with a burst of spark, and bashed his elbow against Garren’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Trial B bashed a pair of punches across Garren’s head.

 

Blade slashed upward. But Trial B blocked and clawed Blade with a burst of spark, whipping him backward.

 

Above, Nicolas opened his eyes as he regained consciousness. “Where…where am I?” He struggled against the chains. “Get me down from here!”

 

Trial B clawed Garren’s chest with bursts of spark that knocked him back several steps. Blade moved in from behind and slashed. But Trial B blocked and clawed Blade with a burst of spark.

 

Garren recovered and punched Trial B in the head. The villain staggered.

 

Kamen Rider Blade slashed Trial B with a burst of spark. He pressed on and swung upward, and then downward, both swings landing a blow. 

 

Garren armed his blaster and fired. Blasts sparked against Trial B and knocked him back several steps. The villain staggered but stayed on his feet.

 

“Benjamin…” Trial B said. “So that’s the way you treat me now?”

 

Garren hesitated and lowered his weapon. “What…?”

 

“After everything we went through together?” Trial B asked.

 

“It can’t be…” Garren said.

 

Trial B’s body crackled with electricity and reverted back into the form of Dr. Sarc.

 

“Sarc…” Garren said.

 

Garren and Blade flipped their bucklers and pulled out their cards. Energy fields slid over them as they powered down their armor.

 

“Sarc…” Benjamin said. “What did you do to yourself?”

 

“I’d gladly sacrifice myself to unlock the secret of eternal life…” Sarc said. “You should understand how I feel. Both of you….You’ve both lost people you loved. Ken, your parents died in that fire. Benjamin, an Undead killed your girlfriend.”

 

Ken narrowed his eyes. “Do you really think we’ll listen to you? Why are you even here? You should be making things right with Megan…You’re her father!”

 

“Ken…” Sarc said. He stood casually and placed his hands behind his back. “It’s regrettable things didn’t work out for you as I planned.”

 

The villain charged crackling electricity in his palm and prepared to strike.

 

“Don’t listen to him!” a voice shouted from the entrance. They looked to see Megan run to the scene. She stormed into the warehouse. “That’s not my father…That Trial stole his memories…You’re a fake!”

 

She looked to Ken and Benjamin. “Stop him!”

 

Sarc sighed. “What a troublesome daughter…”

 

His body crackled with electricity and transformed into Trial B.

 

Benjamin narrowed his eyes. “How can you even say that…

 

Benjamin and Ken armed their belts. They shouted together: “Transform!” They flipped their bucklers: “TURN UP”

 

Their bucklers emitted energy fields. They ran through the fields and transformed into their armor.

 

Blade and Garren launched at Trial B with a flurry of punches. Trial B dodged and blocked the punches, but they forced him several steps backward.

 

Blade roundkicked Trial B in the gut. But Trial B bashed the back of his fist across Blade’s head.

 

Garren swung a hook punch Trial B dodged. The villain bashed a trio of punches against Garren’s chest, knocking him back a step with each blow. The villain sidekicked Garren in the chest.

 

Kamen Rider Blade roundkicked Trial B, and Garren bashed a punch against the chest. The blows knocked the villain several steps backward.

 

Blade leapt with a flying sidekick that bashed Trial B off his feet. The villain crashed against the ground and tumbled across the concrete, rolling to a stop near Megan.

 

Trial B scrambled to his feet and grabbed Megan from behind.  

 

“Let her go!” Blade shouted.

 

Above, Nicolas struggled to move against the chains. He managed to grab his Ace of Clubs and buckler, and then slide the card into the buckler.

 

Nicolas flipped the buckler open. “OPEN UP”

 

An energy field slid across his body as he transformed into Leangle, snapped off his chains, and fell to the ground. The Rider stood and glared at Trial B.

 

“How dare you…how dare you do that to me…”

 

Leangle lunged and swung his staff upward. The staff slashed Trial B with a burst of spark, knocking him away from Megan. Leangle pressed on and twirled his staff through a series of blows Trial B blocked with bursts of spark.

 

“Megan!” Blade shouted as he and Garren ran to her to side.

 

“I’m okay,” Megan said.

 

Leangle swung high and wide. But Trial B ducked and punched the Rider in the gut with a burst of spark. The villain kicked Leangle in the chest, turned, and leapt upward.

 

Trial B crashed through a skylight and leapt from the scene.

 

Leangle lowered his staff. He turned and started to walk away.

 

“Nicolas…” Garren called out to him. “Nicolas!”

 

Leangle snarled and turned while charging at the Riders. He swung his staff and bashed them aside one-by-one.

 

“Nicolas, stop!” Garren shouted as he grabbed Leangle from behind.

 

Leangle knocked Garren away and stabbed him in the chest with a burst of spark. He twirled his staff at Blade, but Blade sidestepped and dodged.

 

“Fight me!” Leangle shouted. “Fight me!”

 

“Stop it, Nicolas!” Garren shouted.

 

Leangle swung high and wide at Garren’s head. But Garren ducked, aimed his gun, and blasted Leangle’s chest with bursts of spark. The blasts forced the evil Rider several steps backward.

 

Blade slid a card through his sword. “BEAT”

 

The Rider lunged and swung a punch that energized with blue power. The punch bashed Leangle and shot him backward. Leangle crashed against the pavement and tumbled aside.

 

The evil Rider breathed heavily and climbed to his feet. He stared at the Riders and closed his buckler, triggering a field of energy that slid over him and powered down his armor.

 

The boy turned and staggered from the warehouse.

 

“Nicolas…” Blade said as he and Garren powered down their armor and ran after him.

 

“Nicolas, I know how you feel,” Benjamin called after him. “I know you’re confused.”

 

“Stop talking,” Nicolas said as he stormed ahead. “And don’t think for a second that you saved me…”

 

***

 

Ken, Benjamin and Bobby joined Megan in the office. Megan opened several hidden BOARD computer files and showed the images to her friends.

 

“Those are data files…” Benjamin said. “Of Sarc’s memories.”

 

“So they used these files to make the Trial…” Ken said.

 

Megan nodded. She hovered her mouse over the delete key to remove the files. But she hesitated. She couldn’t do it.

 

“Okay…” Ken said. “Then who built the Trial…”

 

Bobby shrugged. “Maybe her real dad’s still alive…?”

 

“That’s actually a good theory,” Ken said as he leaned towards Megan. “We don’t have proof he died…maybe he built this Trial. It’s too early to give up hope.”

 

“Either way,” Benjamin said. “We have to hurry up and put this Trial down.”

 

***

 

Zayden sat in the Jacaranda Café and played the guitar for Ava. The rider learned the skill from a human he met during one of his earliest adventures.

 

Ava smiled as she watched. “I didn’t know you could play…”

 

“I’m just matching what I’ve seen,” Zayden said.

 

Ava walked over and sat closer to Zayden. “We’re going to make lots of memories together, Zayden. Just don’t run off again…I won’t keep waiting.”

 

***

 

Dr. Sarc stood in Tennoji’s lab as former BOARD techs finished the latest Trial, laid across a table.

 

Tennoji walked into the room. “Well done, Sarc. With you and Trial G both fighting Blade…you cannot fail. So…should we have a test? Perhaps on the cute little tiger who tried to sneak in here unnoticed.”

 

Taiga heard from the rafters. She hurried backward and ran.

 

***

 

Taiga dashed from the lab, hidden in chambers beneath the ruined BOARD base.

 

Trash G dashed through a blur of motion and tackled her to the ground.

 

Taiga crashed and tumbled aside as she shifted to her true form: the Tiger Undead.

 

Trial G shifted his staff into a defensive stance. Purple armor thick with black tendrils covered his upper body and arms. Strapped, black leather covered everything from the waist down. His head and face looked white and almost skeletal.

 

The Trial charged and stabbed at the Undead, but the Undead dove and rolled aside to avoid the blow.

 

Tiger Undead stood, just as Trial G slashed her chest with a burst of spark. The impact knocked her back several steps.

 

Trial G pressed forward and swung the ends of his staff to bash her with bursts of spark. He swung wide with a slash to the chest, then speared her chest with a burst of spark. He twirled his staff upward and downward diagonally, and left and right, slashing the Undead with a relentless assault.

 

A wide slash sparked against Tiger Undead and knocked her off her feet. She crashed against the ground and rolled across the pavement. Slowly, she rose to her feet when she realized why the monster’s attacks seemed familiar.

 

The Trial moved with the technique of Kamen Rider Leangle.

 

Trial G pounced and bashed the ends of his staff against Tiger Undead with bursts of spark. He swung low, but Tiger Undead jumped over the blow, leapt through the air, and fled from the scene.

 

***

 

Tennoji finished watching the battle through the viewscreen in his lab.

 

“Splendid,” he said to Dr. Sarc, who stood nearby. “Now the only question is how to lure out Blade…”

 

“Leave that to me,” Sarc said.

 

***

 

Taiga drank a glass of water in the nightclub Nicolas called home. The boy looked at her quizzically. “What are you doing back here?”

 

She ignored the question and stared ahead with a look of fear. “In every battle...there are rules. A Pattern. The Riders shouldn’t be in that Pattern. Neither should that…thing.”

 

“Thing?” Nicolas asked.

 

Taiga didn’t answer. “Why were we brought back…the Undead? We were creations of the Great Beast of Hell, the Mogralord. His soldiers in the battle that would have wiped out and restarted the Wheel of Time. All part of the Pattern. But now…”

 

A wave of vertigo washed over Taiga, and she collapsed to the floor. Nicolas noticed the pale-green blood of the Undead drip from her shoulder and arm.

 

***

 

Megan sat on her bed that night. She picked up the picture of her, her father, and mother, and looked. She traced her hand across the photo.

 

She remembered the pain she went through when she lost her mother, and then her father. She remembered crying night after night: “I’m too young to be an orphan, I’m too young to be an orphan.”

 

Most kids didn’t realize they needed their parents once they hit their late teens or early 20s. But they did. Maybe even more so than when they were children.

 

***

 

Bobby and Ken stayed in the office. Bobby looked up, towards Megan’s upstairs bedroom.  

 

“I hope she’s okay…” he said. “What if that thing really is her father?”

 

Ken shook his head. “I trust her…and I know she’ll get through this. I believe in her.”

 

***

 

Megan’s cellphone beeped with a text message. Still holding the picture, she picked up her phone and opened the message.

 

She screamed and dropped the picture and phone.

 

Ken and Bobby barged into her room.

 

“What is it?” Ken asked.

 

Megan stared at her cellphone in shock.

 

Ken lifted the phone and read the text message. Dr. Sarc sent the text, asking to meet with his daughter.

 

Bobby looked over his shoulder. “That’s it…proof he’s alive.”

 

“This doesn’t prove anything,” Ken said.

 

Megan grabbed the phone. She texted back. “I want to see you too. I’ll be waiting at the place you, mom and I went for her last birthday.”

 

“Are you serious?” Bobby asked. “You can’t-”

 

“This is our second chance to go after him,” Megan said. “I’ll use myself as bait.”

 

“Megan, you’re not thinking straight,” Ken said.

 

“Please…” she pleaded. “If he’s behind all this…if he’s done anything to my real father…take him out. Just take him out.”

 

***

 

Taiga awoke in a nightclub booth. She winced and grabbed her arm, now bandaged. She looked to see Nicolas passed out at the bar.

 

She stood and walked towards him.

 

Nicolas opened his eyes slightly. “Not even a thank you?”

 

Taiga hesitated. “Do you want to know why they captured you? I’ll tell you…that will be my thank you.”

 

That got his attention. Nicolas sat up to listen.

 

***

 

Megan stood in a field of flowers and waited. Several groves of trees and bushes dotted the area. She shifted uncomfortably, with her arms crossed over her chest. About 10 minutes passed before she saw Dr. Sarc walk towards her on a path of mulch.

 

“Megan…” he said softly. “I’ve missed you.”

 

“Then why didn’t you see me sooner?” she asked.

 

“Please forgive me,” he said as he walked towards her.

 

“Stop right there,” she said. “Don’t come any closer.”

 

“What are you saying?” he said as he kept walking. “Don’t you recognize your own father?”

 

“Stop right there!”

 

Sarc stopped. “You’re not alone…are you? Ken and Benjamin…they’re here too, right?”

 

“I knew it…” Megan said. “I knew you weren’t my father. You’re just after Blade…”

 

“Megan…how can you say that,” he said as he hurried towards her. “What would your mother think?”

 

“Stay away!” Megan shouted as she ran from him.

 

Dr. Sarc chased after her, and Ken and Benjamin bolted from the nearby bushes to follow.

 

Megan ran towards an adjacent park, dotted with small amphitheaters and bridges. She tripped and fell.

 

“Megan!” Sarc shouted. He leaned down and tried to lift her, but she swatted her hands against his chest. “Megan, stop. Stop!”

 

“Leave me alone!” she shouted. “You’re hurting me!”

 

Sarc let go of his daughter and stepped back, his eyes open wide with fear. He knitted his brow as if about to cry. But tendrils of electricity snaked around his body as he transformed into Trial B with a scream of sorrow and anger.

 

Ken and Benjamin caught up to them. Benjamin jumpkicked Trial B backward.

 

The two riders armed their belts. “Transform!” They flipped their bucklers: “TURN UP”

 

Their bucklers emitted energy fields, and they ran through the fields while transforming into their armor.

 

***

 

Zayden played his guitar in his room, in the basement of the café. He lifted his head when he sensed the battle between Blade, Garren and Trial B.

 

“Ken…”

 

He stood to leave, but stopped when he noticed Ava in his doorway. She held a tray of food and looked saddened.

 

“You’re leaving again…” she said. “Aren’t you?”

 

Zayden set the guitar aside. “Ava…I have to go…but it’s not like before.”

 

“I’m not going to keep waiting on you,” Ava said, tears swelling in her eyes. “If you don’t come back, I’m not waiting!”

 

“I’m coming back,” Zayden said. “I promise.”

 

Zayden walked around her and ran from the café.

 

***

 

Garren swung a hook punch Trial B dodged.

 

Blade swung a punch the monster blocked. Trial B punched Blade in the gut with a burst of spark and bashed the back of his fist across the Rider’s helmet.

 

The blow dazed Blade, but he stood his ground and swung a punch. Trial B caught Blade by the wrist and punched the Rider’s chest with a burst of spark.

 

Garren swung another hook punch Trial B ducked to avoid. The monster punched Garren in the gut and bashed a fist against Blade’s chest.

 

The two Riders shifted stances around the Trial. Punching and kicking. But the monster blocked and evaded their attacks with quick and simple movements. A sidestep. A block. A counterpunch. The Trial moved with deadly efficiency.

 

Blade snapped a roundkick. But Trial B caught Blade by the leg and slammed the back of his fist across the Rider’s head, knocking him back.

 

Garren moved in from behind. But Trial B turned and kicked the Rider in the gut.

 

Suddenly, Trial G dropped to the scene, swung his staff into a fighting stance and charged at Blade.

 

Trial G stabbed Blade’s chest with a burst of spark that knocked him to the ground. The Trial swung upward; the staff bashed upside Blade’s head and whipped him back.

 

Trial G swung wide, and the staff slashed Garren to the ground with a burst of spark.

 

Blade and Garren tumbled next to each other and rolled into crouched positions.

 

“It’s a Trial…” Garren said.

 

“Another one?” Blade said.

 

Trial B and Trial G charged to attack.

 

Trial G bashed the end of its staff against Blade’s gut.

 

Trial B grabbed Garren by the neck and bashed its knee against the Rider’s chest.

 

The attacks forced the Rider’s backward, deeper into the wooded park.

 

Trial G swung its staff through a series of slashes and strikes. Blade did his best to dodge and block. But several blows sparked against his armor, forcing him several steps backward.

 

Garren tried to counter Trial B’s attacks. But Trial B clawed the Rider with bursts of spark. The Trial punched Garren, knocking him off his feet.

 

Garren tumbled and rose to his feet near Blade.

 

Trial G twirled his weapon, and the staff batted both Riders with bursts of spark.

 

Nearby, Taiga led Nicolas to the park. They kept their distance but watched the battle close enough for Nicolas to see the details of Trial G’s moves.

 

“It can’t be…” Nicolas said.

 

“It can,” Taiga said. “It was created from you. I believe it’s called Trial G. Well…how does it feel to be copied?”

 

Nicolas narrowed his eyes as he watched.

 

Blade and Garren closed in on Trial G from the sides. The creature stabbed the ends of its staff against the Riders with bursts of spark. Trial G swung wide to slash Blade to the ground, and then swung upward to club Garren upside the head.

 

The two Riders tumbled backward.

 

Megan ran towards the scene from nearby. “Ken! Benjamin!”

 

“Stay back!” Garren said.

 

Kamen Rider Garren had to throw himself in front of Megan to block a swing of Trial G’s staff. The staff whipped Garren aside with a burst of spark.

 

Trial B watched as the artificial Undead attacked Blade and Garren, with Megan in harm’s way.

 

“Megan…”

 

Trial B leapt through the air.

 

Trial G swatted Blade aside, swatted Garren aside, and swung his staff in a wide arc that would have sliced through Megan.

 

But Trial B dropped to the ground between Trial G and Megan. The staff slashed through Trial B’s back with a massive burst of spark.

 

Nearby, Nicolas armed his belt. “He’s just a damn copy…”

 

He ran towards the battle. “Transform!” He flipped open his buckler: “OPEN UP”

 

The buckler emitted an energy field that slid over Nicolas and activated his armor.

 

Trial G slashed Garren to the ground.

 

Leangle moved in from behind and swung his staff through a pair of strikes that slashed the artificial Undead’s back with bursts of spark.

 

The Trial snapped around, and Leangle chopped his staff. The Trial lifted its staff, and the weapons clashed with a burst of spark. Leangle pushed his staff against the villain’s weapon and forced the artificial Undead backward.

 

“Nicolas!” Garren shouted as he climbed to his feet.

 

Blade stood next to Garren and looked towards Megan. “Benjamin, look!”

 

They saw Trial B standing in front of Megan.

 

The monster’s legs wobbled as smoke sizzled from his back wound. “Megan…”

 

Trial B collapsed to its knees and fell onto its back. “Megan…”

 

His body crackled with electricity and reverted back to the form of Dr. Sarc. “Megan…”

 

“…dad?”

 

“I remember,” Sarc said, his voice weak. “I was made by him…by Dr. Sarc…after the attack on BOARD.”

 

His artificial mind flashed back...

 

A critically injured doctor Dr. Sarc pulled the unused Trial B Mark II from storage. He whispered to himself while he worked, to stay conscious.

 

“I’ll fix my mistakes…” he said as his strength wavered. “Through you…that’s your purpose…to clean up my mess…”

 

He laid Trial B across a lab table and sat on a neighboring lab table. “I don’t have much longer to live…” he said as he looked to the Trial. “In my place…please take care of my daughter…Please protect her…”

 

Dr. Sarc winced and grasped his chest. “All that’s left is to give you copies of my memories…”

 

Sarc laid down on the lab table and hooked his head up to a piece of cybernetic equipment. He activated the machine.

 

Trial B convulsed as Sarc’s memories downloaded into its systems. Electricity flashed through Trial B as it took the shape of Dr. Sarc.

 

On the neighboring lab table, the real Dr. Sarc released a final gasp of pain and died.

 

Minutes passed. Or maybe hours. Tennoji and several lab techs gathered around Trial B after finding the room.

 

“An interesting procedure…” Tennoji said. The villain looked to Trial B and smiled wickedly. “This could be useful…modify its programming.”

 

He leaned down and looked Trial B straight into the eyes. “You are Dr. Sarc…and you will continue to do your research. For me…”

 

Megan couldn’t stay stronger any longer. She cried as she knelt next to the Trial modeled after her father. The Trial her father created to right his wrongs. To protect her.

 

“Dad…” she said between sobs.

 

Sarc could barely move. But he managed to turn his head and smile at Megan.

 

She leaned down and hugged him as she cried against his shoulder. Sarc summoned enough strength to hold her. “Megan…”

 

Blade lowered his head as he watched. Garren looked aside. In a sense, Megan finally found her father again, only to lose him a second time.

 

Kamen Rider Blade looked to Trial G, who parried Leangle’s staff and slashed the Rider with a burst of spark.

 

Blade unsheathed his sword. He focused his grief and anger on his target and charged to attack. “You bastard!”

 

Garren followed.

 

Blade slashed Trial G’s back with a burst of spark. The monster snapped around and swung its staff wide, but Blade dodged, giving Garren room to move in and punch the creature’s chest.   

 

Trial G staggered back a step, and Leangle swung his staff through an upward arc that slashed the monster.

 

The three Riders circled around their target. Trial G swung wide, arcing blows to keep the Riders back. But as they dodged and parried, they managed to strike back.

 

Blade blocked a blow, as Garren moved in and bashed an uppercut against the monster’s gut. Trial G swung upward and clubbed Garren upside the head. Leangle saw the opening and swung wide, slashing the monster with a burst of spark.

 

Nearby, Zayden ran onto the scene. He summoned his buckler. “Transform!” He swiped his card through his buckler: “CHANGE”

 

His body rippled as he transformed into Chalice.

 

Chalice pounced and swung his bow through a pair of strikes that sparked against Trial G. The attacks sent the monster staggering backward, but it stayed on its feet.

 

The four Riders swarmed around Trial G and struck with an overwhelming force. Blade slashed Trial G with a burst of spark. Chalice swung upward and slashed the creature’s chest. Leangle swung his staff, and the weapon clubbed the monster’s head. Garren bashed a roundkick against the monster’s side.

 

The attacks knocked Trial G off its feet, and the monster tumbled across the ground.

 

The monster rose to its feet, but Blade and Chalice moved in. Blade dashed past Trial G while slashing the monster, and Chalice dashed past the creature with a slash from his bow. The attacks knocked the creature to the ground.

 

Leangle leapt through the air to attack.

 

Garren pulled out his blaster and fired. Bullets sparked against the monster, and Leangle landed with a chop that sparked through the creature’s chest.

 

Kamen Rider Chalice pulled the King of Hearts from his holster and slid the card through his buckler: “EVOLUTION”

 

His cards flew from his buckler and formed a line in midair. Then each card shot towards his buckler and splashed across his midsection. The Rider’s armor rippled and transformed into Wild Mode.

 

Kamen Rider Blade attached his Rouze Absorber to his left gauntlet. He slid the Queen of Spades into the absorber: “ABSORB QUEEN.” He swiped the King of Spades through the Absorber’s slot. “EVOLUTION KING”

 

Blade’s cards burst from his buckler and circled around him while glowing with golden light. Then, the cards shot towards him and splashed across his entire suit of armor, transforming him into his King Form.

 

Chalice swiped his Wild Card through his bow: “WILD”

 

Kamen Rider Blade slid five cards into his sword: “SPADE TEN; JACK; QUEEN; KING; ACE — ROYAL STRAIGHT FLUSH”

 

Chalice triggered his bow and fired a pulse of jade-tinted energy that punctured through Trial G with massive bursts of spark.

 

Five energy fields slid into place between Blade and Trial G. Blade charged through the fields. They splashed against his armor one-by-one while energizing his sword. Kamen Rider Blade dashed past the monster and swung his sword through a streak of golden energy that tore the Trial apart.

 

Secondary explosions erupted through the Trial’s body as its energy overloaded and exploded with a final burst of golden flame.

 

***

 

Megan had helped her father sit against a tree. She sat next to him and held his hand. She kept her gaze low. She could barely stand to look at him for fear she would fall apart completely.

 

Sarc looked to her and smiled. “Megan…” She looked up to him and smiled, trying to hold back her tears. “I’m glad you’re alright…and I’m sorry. At least now…I can go be with your mother.”

 

Megan smiled and nodded. She lifted his hand and held it in hers.

 

Sarc’s gaze drifted as his body started to discharge bursts of electricity. His body reverted back into Trial B and disintegrated.

 

Megan held her hands together, and when she opened them, she saw her father’s wedding ring remained. She grasped onto the ring, tightened her hands around it, and cried.

 

***

 

Tennoji watched the end of the battle through his holographic monitor. “Poor Trial B…” he said mockingly. “You served your purpose.”

 

He pulled an Undead card from his pocket — the same card that Sarc kept in the hidden drawer along with the King of Hearts.

 

The villain laughed as he looked at the card.

 

***

 

Benjamin stared out the window in the office of Bobby’s home. Megan had told the riders about her father’s last memories.

 

“Tennoji Hiroshi…” he said. “Just what the hell is he after?”

 

Megan sat in front of her computer, with Ken and Bobby next to her. She looked at the files used to download her father’s memories into Trial B’s mind.

 

Benjamin walked over to join them. He noticed Megan held her father’s wedding ring in her hands.

 

“You’re sure you won’t regret this?” he asked.

 

“I’m sure,” she said. “I have all of you here…”

 

She hovered the mouse over the delete key. And she clicked.

 

To be continued…Chapter 31