Bike Hero Volume 1
Here I was, standing 24 years old.
My late teen years hadn't been that easy.
My childhood was filled with hatred and despair, and that despair would haunt me for the rest of my life.
But fear not, my future would begin anew.
However, my future was far from being depressing.
Destiny was calling for me.
But I couldn't stress how ridiculous it was to work at a junkyard, selling scraps for profit.
At least I didn't return to school because of the green belt that I was wearing.
Otherwise, it would be strange and concerning if I did.
For my former teenage self, the past was the past.
What lay was indeed a new beginning.
I felt relieved to start a new life for my well-being.
One morning, I was searching for scraps through the junkyard.
While at the junkyard, the place was ever so grimy and had a foul-smelling odor.
I couldn't stand working in that condition, not minding how I had to take care of myself financially without someone's support.
I would never forget the time where my hands were so filthy that I couldn't take the time to wash them, let alone not realizing my regret of being employed in a pointless job.
Yes, even it got all over my clothes.
And after all, there was no going back, and nothing couldn't be changed.
No, my decision couldn't be changed, and so was my fate.
For what it was worth, I had wasted my life only to be captured by a mad scientist and then saved by that girl.
Perhaps, my destiny could be meaningless!
But something was about to occur.
I heard faint footsteps, looking around to see where the sound was coming from.
Then, I heard a feminine voice: "Oye. Te estuve buscando."
Did I hear Spanish?
I only knew a few words from my school days but not in a sentence.
Heck, I even tried learning it from a Spanish textbook, but it was unnatural and awful because of how cheap it was!
The voice continued: "Well, I suppose you don't understand Spanish. I'm just speaking it for fun."
Her manner of speech was that of a mixture of Mexican and Texan accents.
Once I turned around from behind, I saw a girl.
I could remember it clearly!
But wait, could my destiny be possible after all?
Being spooked, I cried out: "Ah! It's you! I know you! I knew you from the laboratory five years ago! And have you been stalking me?"
The girl went mute for a minute before uttering: "Stalking you? I'm not just stalking you, George. I'm looking for you to take you on a mission with me. I've been searching for you for five years."
How did she know my name?
And how did she get information about me?
It was bizarre.
But it had something to do with a connection.
The connection regarding the laboratory incident five years back.
I spoke to her: "Mission? What mission are you talking about? I don't even know you that well!"
She replied: "I knew you from high school five years ago. The only exception is that I hadn't spoken to you before because I was a loner like you."
I replied: "A loner? Like me?"
She nodded: "Yeah. I was that 19-year-old girl back then. And even then, I had a troubled childhood."
A 19-year-old girl?
So we were the same age, and we both had an unfortunate childhood?
It just didn't get any weirder.
But I was surprised that we both had in common.
But how come?
How come she knew everything about me without meeting me back then?
Did we both have a connection regarding our fate?
From the look of it, she looked a bit older than she was, from what I could remember.
Well, compared to myself.
However, her clothing didn't change one bit too.
I said: "Uh, I see. But you still haven't answered my question. What's in it for me? Why do you need me for your mission? It doesn't make any sense, and you approached me out of the blue. Besides, I'm trying to work and make a living on my own! I'm a loser, and I will remain that way! So leave me alone and don't come back! I want to be alone for good! Heck, I'm speaking to a stranger, for crying out loud!"
Strangely, the girl started giggling, not taking my complaints seriously: "You're exaggerating, George. Don't take yourself seriously. It will be a temporary thing. Once that is over, you can go about your day again. I promise. So will you cooperate with me?"
I hesitated, trying to think up a question for her which I did: "Oh yeah? Can you at least tell me a little bit about yourself?"
She contemplated, briefly staring at the ground before nodding: "Sure. I don't mind telling you a little bit about myself. However, it might take longer than that."
I suspired, preparing myself to hear what the girl had to say.
It was as if she was trying to convince me into joining her task, which I had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, I might as well shut up and listen.
Besides, I wanted to get on with my life without anything getting in my way.
I said: "Okay, I'm listening."
Hence, she told me this: "When I was a kid, I had a happy and loving family. I was born and raised in Chula Vista. My mother would cook me the best food while my father would take me to see the rodeo every morning. But something took an unfortunate turn. The Sureños, loosely affiliated Mexican gangs, killed my family before burning down the house where I fondly remembered. One day, I was sent to the orphanage and lived there until something happened when I was 16 years old. The Haywoods, a white family, adopted me, manifesting me with joy. However, they were nothing like my biological parents. I experienced racism, neglect, and, uh, well, you get the idea. It was traumatic, and there was no love. When I was in my high school days, my life there was pointless. I had no friends, no purpose in life, and no happiness. Nothing. I was a loner. But then, that was when I saw you for the first time, sensing your loneliness."
I didn't want to interrupt her speaking, but I thought up a question for her out of my curiosity.
I asked: "So you were just like me, huh?"
She continued: "Yeah, but my past self has been long gone. It got worse. My foster mother threatened to kill me if I did anything stupid, which I hadn't. Her reasoning didn't make any sense. That was when I had decided to take justness into my own hands. So one day, I bought an ax from the store, lying about my intentions to use it, and massacred the Haywoods with it. I could remember their corpses lying on the floor, laughing hysterically as I was free at last. But on the inside, I could feel the pain and despair that was running through my mind. I made a stupid mistake, George."
I gulped, making it seem like I was speaking to a psychopath.
Was I really speaking to a psychopath?
I said: "And, uh, what happened after that?"
She carried on: "The police came and arrested me. The judges gave me a life sentence at the court because California doesn't have the death penalty. I remembered that once I got on the bus, I broke down in tears because I thought it would be my end. They took me to a women's prison where I saw hell waiting for me to anguish. It wasn't pretty. I underwent many traumatic experiences there. It was so traumatic that I can't even describe it to you, George. Then, I had decided to take a rebellious route. And that rebellious route was to prove myself as having the title of the most ferocious fighting woman in prison. Since that moment, I dyed my hair blue, and my personality changed from timid to aggressive. I became a different person. I saw the prison as a new home to me, gaining friends and foes along the way."
I gulped again, nervously thinking that I met a former prisoner who might have managed to break out of prison.
Unless she had been bailed out of it for some reason.
I could be wrong, of course.
I questioned her: "But you're not in prison anymore. How did you manage to get out of it? Did you escape? Did someone bail you out? I'm just curious to know!"
Perhaps, my curiosity could've been too much.
She replied: "I'm getting to that point, George. So some time passed by, a group of FBI agents approached me with a smile while eating my lunch. They asked me to follow them, which I did, taking me to a secretive location."
I said: "Are you saying that because it's top secret?"
She said: "Obviously, uh, yes. If I told you about it, the FBI is gonna kill me! It is between me and the FBI! Not you! You hear me?"
I shivered, not expecting her to be this anxious about it.
I might as well respect her secret.
I said: "Uh, okay. I was only asking you that because I was curious. Uh, but go ahead."
She continued: "As I was saying, the FBI agents interrogated me concerning my freedom from prison. They wanted me to look for this person under the name of 'Kingpin,' a leader of the Echo Brotherhood, and if I found him, then they would let me out of prison for good. As much as I cared about it, I agreed to their offer in favor of earning my freedom. In other words, I became an informant. My prison life was coming to an end, for a brief time if things went well for me."
Another question came into my mind.
I couldn't bear to hold it in until the last minute, but I had to ask her this.
I said: "The FBI interrogating you about your release? What in the world are you talking about? Are you trying to make up lies on me? Also, who is this 'Kingpin'?"
She irritably said: "If you can shut your mouth for once and stop interrupting me, then I will tell you! I'm about to get to that point!"
Oh, how rude of me.
Maybe I should've kept my mouth shut so she could continue with her story.
I embarrassingly said: "Oh, sorry! I was asking you too much out of my curiosity and worriment! Keep going."
She went on: "Then ever since I got out of prison, the task that I was given became a temporary thing unless it were to be successful. The FBI agents told me that Kingpin might have a connection with a boy under the name of George Sugiyama, which is you, and my second objective is to protect you at all costs from harm and death. For five years, George, I've been monitoring your every move but in a good way, including the time where I set you free from the lab experiment and the time where I saw you testing out your powers for the first time from that green belt of yours. It's called the Jade Belt, right? The FBI refers to it as the Emerald Belt, which I will also refer to from now on. As an informant for the FBI and a former prisoner, I will make sure that justice will prevail in every aspect of society, and my fight for freedom is more important than reliving my dark past. Well, that's it about me, and I'm done talking. Now you can say something, George."
Well, I could move my mouth again.
Concerning what the girl had said to me, how in the world could she be stalking me for the past five years?
It was very unsettling.
I could definitely see her as a guardian angel, but I didn't know what else to describe her as.
A guardian angel wouldn't do something like that.
I mean, I could be overthinking it.
I said: "So you have been looking after me for five years? Exactly five years? I should've known."
She said: "You are putting yourself in danger, George. But technically speaking, I can't lose you to anyone. If I do, my mission will fail, and I have to go back to prison for the rest of my life. That's why I'm asking you to cooperate with me, so I don't have to go back. I'm not asking for much. Besides, what I said about justice and all of that was ridiculous. It was an excuse. I'm just saying these to make myself look cool but don't mind me."
Should I cooperate with the girl for real?
If I refuse, I will miss an opportunity to prove to myself how better I could be.
If I accept, I will put my superheroic skills to the test, and nothing would turn out bad again.
What should I do?
What should I do?
What should I do!?
I was panicking!
Okay, George, I wasn't panicking literally, but I needed to pull myself together.
You know what, I might as well take on the mission.
After all, my promise was to save innocent lives from the Echo Brotherhood, and I would break that promise if I failed to do so.
So I made my final choice.
But before I could do it, I asked her this: "If I may ask, what is the Echo Brotherhood? Is it like a terrorist group or something?"
She explained: "The Echo Brotherhood is a terrorist organization sponsored by multiple yakuzas via Japan. The value in forging a better future for Earth through technological means but comes with a deadly price. However, it used to be associated with Japanese nationalism among Japanese Americans around World War II, but it had since faded into obscurity. So yeah, they have been around for a while. Does that answer your question?"
I slowly nodded: "Uh, yeah."
Before I could ask her another question, she pointed at the Jade Belt, which I was equipped with.
She said: "That green belt of yours. I think by using it, you can make a difference. If we can work together, we can take on the Echo Brotherhood from your power, and I will forever be out of prison, never returning to it. That's an excellent idea, right? But if you still insist on not teaming up with me, I will be on my way then. Adiós, George."
Wait, she was leaving!
I wouldn't let her leave yet!
I couldn't leave her hanging!
I must do something about it!
I uttered: "Wait!"
She stopped and turned around, looking at me with an unfazed expression: "Oh? Have I changed your mind, George? If you have something to say before I leave, then say it."
Why was I sweating?
Also, my heart was racing.
I wanted to say something to her, but I couldn't come up with something important to say.
Oh, now I know.
Tetchiness was taking over my body as if I had no control over it.
I didn't know why I got so angry, but it wasn't pretty.
Could she get angry, too, if I yelled at her?
It would be a stupid thing to do.
I knew I wanted to express my anger towards her because I didn't know what else to consider.
I closed my eyes tightly to where I could only see voidness for a brief second.
I clenched my fists, readying myself to let it out: "You know what! My life has been pointless, and nothing doesn't seem to get any better! I want to make a difference by saving lives and to be admired by everyone on the planet! I've been pushed around like I was nothing! And just by looking at you, we both have in common! I will never be that loser like I was five years ago, and I know I can change everything! They can beat me up, rip me into shreds, call me names, and kill me all they want, but I will never give up on myself! God, I almost tried to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge! My family doesn't like me one bit, and I haven't heard anything from them for like forever! But now is the time to change me! And because of this, I want to be a hero! A hero who everybody in the name of virtue can admire! So yeah, I will join your mission to get my revenge and take justice into my own hands! The Echo Brotherhood must be punished for their atrocities! So you can just shut up about it!"
Did I just say all of that?
Still unfazed, she unexpectedly smiled: "Good. Because that's all, I want to hear from you, George."
Why didn't she get angry with me?
Why was she so happy all of a sudden?
Did I prove myself wrong if it wasn't for my unnecessary rant?
I guess it was.
But without warning, she approached me closely, getting close to my personal space.
I didn't flinch as I knew what was to be expected because I threw a little fit.
And because of my stupidity, I should've done more than that to get her fired up too.
But she hadn't done anything violent, leaving me surprised.
Instead, she said this to me: "If you want to make a difference, George, you must learn something from yourself. Teaching yourself a lesson is a way to learn from your past mistakes, and I knew the hard way by the time I got out of prison. Again, it might be temporary because I just might fail the mission depending on how much effort I have to undertake. No, our mission. If you want to prove yourself to be a hero, you must show it to the world that you are. If you don't show it to the world, you won't be a hero. Remember that, George. And besides, it is good to let out your anger. I don't mind at all, so there's no need to apologize."
Must I show the world to be a hero?
I would definitely keep that in mind.
I think I had learned something new every once in a while.
Once she said it, she lightly punched me in the chest close to where my heart was.
It didn't hurt at all.
Then, she spoke: "I will ask you this one more time. Will you cooperate with me with this mission, George?"
Yet, I didn't have a choice but to take my word for it.
I nodded and said: "Yeah. I will cooperate. For the sake of justice."
And then, a sign of darkness had lifted out of my body.
I was no longer feeling shy, angst, and depressed.
Because I made a friend.
My first friend, to be exact.
Because we both had something in common.
Both understood the meaning of loneliness and found a way to overcome it.
Speaking of which, I hadn't gotten her name yet.
So I said: "Uh, I haven't gotten your name yet. And, uh, and we've been talking for a while now. So, uh, do you mind telling me your name?"
She answered: "Oh, how rude of me. Sometimes I can forget things whenever I'm around people, but it shouldn't be a big deal. You can call me Twinkle. However, it's my nickname, so I prefer not to use my real one."
That was fine by me.
Twinkle should be a memorable name.
I twinkled, no pun intended and said: "Well, it's nice to meet you, um, Twinkle. I hope we can get along just fine. Now let's go ahead and find this Echo Brotherhood that you have been mentioning."
Twinkle replied: "I'm sure we will."
Twinkle turned around, slowly treading away from me.
I asked: "Where are you going?"
She briefly froze and replied: "We're going somewhere important, George. You'll see when we get there. Vamos."
Could she at least stop being so discreet?
No matter anyway.
I stood for a moment.
An abstraction came to me.
I gazed at the azure, musing on over something esoteric.
Where had Lady Luck taken me?
It seemed she led me in a positive direction.
But could things get better?
I snapped out of it when Twinkle was speaking to me, bringing to my attention: "¡Oye! ¿Para qué estás parado allí? ¡Vamos!"
I swayed my head and replied: "Oh right! I'm coming!"
Was that Spanish again?
Man, if only I could understand what she was saying to me!
It was so frustrating!
It was quite peculiar to learn more about her.
Her unique personality could give some away just by how I was looking at her.
But I didn't want to be seen as a weirdo.
But why was she mixing English with Spanish?
I asked: "By the way, what language are you even speaking, Twinkle? Why are you switching between English and Spanish?"
Twinkle gave me a serene look, answering my question: "I'm speaking Spanglish, George. Someday, you'll understand more from me than others."
She was right.
I started following Twinkle as directed.
I still didn't know exactly where she was taking me, but I hope it wasn't too suspicious.
And yet, our journey of finding the culprit began.
And that journey would lead me to some twists and turns.