In Plain Sight
Shotaro had had an inkling that something was wrong from the start. Philip wasn’t acting any different, but there was still this weird vibe he gave off. Something about the way he moved or the way he sat or the curtness with which he dismissed Shotaro in favor of finding something else to do—nothing Shotaro could really put a finger on, but something all the same.
It wasn’t until they were face to face with a Dopant that everything became clear. The Cyclone Memory appeared in the right-hand side of the Double Driver and Shotaro completed the transformation, but Philip, next to him, didn’t collapse. His consciousness had made the transfer just fine; Shotaro could feel him there beside him in his mind as clear as day.
And moreover, that was definitely Philip’s voice shouting, “Don’t let him get away!” He wasn’t referring to the Dopant, but to himself. His body was making a run for it.
Philip switched to Luna so he could restrain his own runaway body while Shotaro tried to take the Dopant out from a distance with Trigger. It was a disaster. The Dopant got away. Shotaro cursed, but privately he wasn’t that bothered. This one hadn’t caused too much trouble yet, so it was kind of a relief to be able to focus on what was going on with his partner.
Double’s right eye flashed as Philip explained. “You aren’t aware of Yeerks, are you, Shotaro? They’re an alien race of slug-like beings which possess the ability to enter another’s body through the ear canal, wrap around the brain, and take control. I was unfortunate enough to fall prey without knowing about the threat.”
“Fall prey how?! You never leave the office!” Okay, he was outside right now, but it was a pretty rare thing. And he’d been with Shotaro the entire day.
“The Sharing,” Philip said simply. “The group Aki-chan recommended as a means of improving my socialization skills turned out to be a front for the invasion. Isn’t that right, Ellim 427?”
Still bound by Double’s outstretched yellow right arm, the entity possessing Philip’s body scowled.
A chill ran down Shotaro’s spine. Philip—no, this Yeerk had invited him to the next Sharing meeting that weekend. He’d said that something important was going to happen then. “Then—if we went to that meeting together—”
"We’d have had both halves of this city’s masked vigilante in our grasp," the Yeerk said haughtily. “Unfortunately, I miscalculated. I didn’t realize it would be only him sharing your body as Double.”
“The Yeerk’s control is usually absolute,” Philip spoke up. “It was probably an instinctual assumption that he would continue to control me even while transformed. So far as I have been able to ascertain, they’ve never run into anything quite like us before.” Shotaro could feel his partner’s amusement. “He would have been in for an unprecedented promotion if he’d managed to deliver you to his superiors.”
“What do you plan to do with me?” Ellim asked. He didn’t look particularly concerned. “You can’t maintain your transformation forever.”
“We can’t,” Philip agreed. “But there is one thing we can do. Shotaro, let’s return to the office.”
The RevolGarry made returning to the Narumi Detective Agency while transformed and dragging a struggling teenager less of a hassle than it might have otherwise been. Double grabbed a spare tie out of the dresser and bound Philip’s wrists to the ladder by the desk so they could think this over in relative peace.
«So how do we get him out of your body?» Shotaro wasn’t eager to hash this out aloud, as that would give Ellim the chance to butt in with unwanted commentary.
«There are two ways,» Philip replied. «The first is to convince him to leave of his own free will. As he would be extremely vulnerable in that state, he isn’t likely to agree to it. The other method is to simply wait for three days.»
«What happens after three days?»
«Three days is the limit on how long a Yeerk can remain in its host without returning to the Yeerk Pool—»
«Ah, yes, you aren’t aware. It’s a feeding ground, more or less. If a Yeerk does not absorb the nutrients it needs from the Yeerk Pool every three days, it will die and eject from its host. Somewhat like a Memory Break.»
«Three days, huh?» Double turned to look at Philip’s body, currently struggling against that tie. Shotaro rubbed the back of their head. «So we keep you here for that long and you’ll be free.»
«Exactly.» Philip beamed mentally. «There are likely to be problems even after that, as other Controllers will wonder what has happened to him, but we can worry about that when we get to it.»
Double’s right hand rested on the Luna Memory. Shotaro could tell Philip was hesitant about returning to his own body, which wasn’t really his anymore, not entirely. So he offered, «We don’t have to un-transform. We can stay like this.»
«For three days?» Philip shot back skeptically. «You can’t eat while we’re transformed, Shotaro. And you can’t go to the—»
«Okay, I get it.» Shotaro sighed. «All right. See you on the other side, partner.»
Philip took a deep breath to steel himself, then pulled the Memory out of the Driver. Double dissolved, leaving Shotaro standing alone.
Ellim 427 let out a low whistle of surprise. "Welcome back."
Shotaro marched up to him, hands on his hips in an attempt at menacing. It was an attempt that fell flat, considering Philip was actually slightly taller than him. He forced his voice to be cold and level, and he tilted the brim of his fedora down to cover his eyes. “You probably already know, what with Philip’s consciousness being back and all, but just so we’re clear: You aren’t leaving this office, Yeerk.”
“You think you can keep me here.”" Ellim laughed. He was no longer bothering to struggle; he just smirked in a very un-Philip-like way. “You’re as half-boiled as ever, Shotaro.”
Shotaro couldn’t help himself. He’d feel bad for it later, but right then all he knew was rage as he pulled his fist back and decked his partner in the face.
Akiko wasn’t a Controller, Philip had informed Shotaro during the ride back to the office; she’d found the Sharing through a web posting, but thought it was too cutesy for her tastes.
So she hadn’t believed a word of it—not until she’d come to the office in person and they’d given her a demonstration of Philip’s body remaining conscious even after she stuck Cyclone into Philip’s belt. Ellim had tried going limp in an attempt at fooling her into releasing him, but she’d mustered up enough suspicion to try tickling him to see what would happen.
“I’m ticklish?” Philip observed from the right-hand side of Double. “What a fascinating discovery!”
Between Shotaro and Akiko, it didn’t seem that there was any risk of the Yeerk escaping. They relaxed. Feeding him turned out to be a mess; he wound up with coffee and rice splattering his shirt. But the real trouble came after dinner when Ellim stated matter-of-factly, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Shotaro and Akiko exchanged a look. Untying the Controller, even just long enough to let him use the bathroom, would be... a problem. Philip was scrawny enough he could probably fit out the window.
Akiko lit up. “Can you hold it for, like, ten minutes, Philip-kun? I have an idea.” She didn’t wait for an answer before she darted out of the office. Shotaro was torn between amusement and sympathy as he spent the next ten minutes watching the Yeerk in his partner’s body squirm with discomfort.
Finally Akiko returned, brandishing a shiny pair of handcuffs. “Ta-da! Courtesy of Ryu-kun.” She made a beeline for Philip and untied him, then snapped one half of the cuffs around his left wrist and the other around Shotaro’s right.
“Eh?!” Shotaro shouted. “What the heck, Akiko?!”
“Well, I can’t take him to the bathroom. I’m a girl.” She folded her arms over her chest. “Better get going.”
“Fine, fine. C’mon, Philip.” It was out of instinct that Shotaro addressed Ellim by his partner’s name, but he winced when he realized he had.
Akiko refused to hand the key over. When Shotaro protested that he couldn’t leave the office handcuffed to Philip’s body, she replied that if he had the key there was a chance the Yeerk could snag it from him.
“Ryu-kun will just have to handle the Kamen Rider business for the next few days,” she said. “I’ve already told him what’s going on, so don’t worry.”
Shotaro cringed. “He can’t be happy about that.”
“He’s not,” she admitted. “But there’s nothing else we can do.”
“Then we’re stuck together?” Ellim said with a quirk of the lips. “What a thrilling scenario.”
One slipper later, he was holding his head in pain. “Quit trying to talk like Philip!” Akiko snapped.
Shotaro was glad she’d handled that, because the line had been enough to make him blush.
He had to admit she had a point, though. As uncomfortable as it was, he wound up sleeping with his arm hanging off the bed while Ellim/Philip slept on the floor.
(He woke up partway through the night to find Philip in his bed curled up against him. He didn’t have the heart to protest.)
“Dammit, Akiko,” Shotaro grumbled the next morning. How was he supposed to change his clothes while handcuffed to his partner? His shirt and vest were rumpled from sleeping in them, and tying his tie was a lost cause.
Ellim looked down in dismay at the messy shirt he was wearing. “Sheesh... How inconvenient. Shotaro, we should ask Aki-chan to come free us so we can change.”
At that, Shotaro’s mouth set in a hard line. “Nah. It’s not like we’re going anywhere for the next couple of days, so I think we can deal with this.” He made his way over to the kitchenette, dragging Philip behind him, to start a pot of coffee.
“I don’t know if I can bear two days of your coffee.”
“You won’t have to put up with it if you get out of Philip’s head,” Shotaro replied lightly.
“And let you kill me? I don’t think so.”
“You’d rather starve? I doubt that’s a pleasant way to go even for a slug.”
“I’m not going to die.” Ellim just smiled. And he kept smiling even as he took the cup Shotaro offered.
Shotaro couldn’t do a whole lot while handcuffed to Philip. He couldn’t even catch up on typing his case reports. In the end, he settled down on his bed with Akiko’s laptop for a Saheiji of the Wind marathon. Ellim watched over his shoulder for the first couple of episodes, but eventually he dozed off.
“Just two more days, partner,” Shotaro muttered. He pulled the blanket up over Philip and patted his shoulder.
For Philip, the one saving grace in all of this was that he still had access to the bookshelves of the planet. His body and mind might have been under the Yeerk’s control, but his spirit was free to access the infinite archive of the Earth’s memories even now. He spent an inordinate amount of time in the bookshelves even when he wasn’t being controlled by a brain slug from beyond the stars; now, though, he had more reason than not to remain there and read to his heart’s content.
He wasn’t too worried. He knew he’d be back with Shotaro in just two more days.
He plucked a book at random from a shelf and leafed through it. Pangaea? “Intriguing,” he murmured as he skimmed the text.
The sound of the bookshelves shifting snapped him out of his reading. He looked around in confusion, stepping aside to make way for a shelf that was headed in his direction. “This can’t be. Who—?” There were very few people who had managed to find their way here.
The shelves parted, and there before him in that infinite expanse of white stood somebody who could have been Philip’s twin. Same features, same posture, a book in hand—though he was dressed in all black and had a cockier look on his face than even Philip could have ever managed. He knew instantly who he was looking at.
“You cant be here.” Icy fear gripped his chest.
“I can’t?” Ellim 427 spread his arms and grinned. “And yet here I am.” He bowed with a flourish. When he righted himself he opened the book up.
Philip stepped closer, hesitantly. “What are you looking up?”
Ellim didn’t answer at first. He just said, “There really is an unimaginable amount of information available in here. History, science, even fiction. Not to mention practical information.” He snapped shut the book he was holding. “For example, how to escape a pair of handcuffs.”
Philip’s eyes widened. “You’re not—”
“This ability of yours will be an invaluable asset to the Empire, Philip. I really appreciate it.”
But Ellim just turned and walked off, fading into the empty blankness of the bookshelves.
So maybe Shotaro got a little engrossed when it came to Saheiji. Could he help it? The show was brilliant. When he stood up to stretch a few hours later and made his way over to the coffee pot, he didn’t immediately realize that the other end of the handcuffs was hanging wide open.
He glanced back at the bed. “Hey, Philip, you want some?” And then he did a double-take. Philip—no, Ellim was sitting there, handcuff-free. “What the—?!”
Ellim held up one of the hair clips he’d been wearing, smirking knowingly. It was bent into some unrecognizable shape from having been used to pick the lock. Shotaro shouted and lunged for him, but he’d already started for the door.
“Get back here!” Shotaro hurried to catch up, but with Ellim’s head start the Controller was already out in the hallway. Shotaro tripped over the step up into the hall, and at some point he managed to lose his fedora. The free end of the handcuffs swung around uselessly as he ran. “Get back here with my partner, you—”
Ellim stumbled into a tall, curly-haired figure coming down the hall. “Sho-chan? Philip?” Watcherman asked in confusion, glancing from one to the other.
“Watcherman, don’t let him get me!” Ellim exclaimed. He ducked around the informant and continued his escape.
“Oh, for crying out—” Shotaro couldn’t get far, though, before Watcherman grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Is something going on between you two?” he asked in confusion.
“Yeah, so just lemme go so I can get him! I don’t have time to explain, okay?”
“Now, now, Sho-chan, why don’t you just calm down.” Watcherman took hold of Shotaro’s arm and tugged him back toward the office.
Ellim breathed a sigh of relief. He was finally out of that office. Now he only had to make it a few blocks to the nearest Pool entrance and he’d be home free.
“Where do you think you’re going?” came a familiar voice from behind him.
He stopped and turned. “Have you come to stop me, Ryu Terui?” he inquired in his best Philip imitation. Which was pretty good, all things considered.
“Don’t ask me questions in that tone of voice,” Terui growled. He reached into a pocket. For a moment Ellim thought he might be going for the Accel Memory, but he only pulled out a pair of handcuffs.
Ellim turned and ran.
“Oh no you don’t!” Terui followed close on his heels.
A mechanical roaring sound came from somewhere close by. Terui shouted, and Ellim could hear him crashing to the ground. Fang had shown up to protect Philip—or at least, it thought so.
“Thank you, Fang!” he called over his shoulder. He picked his pace up and rounded a corner. Time to put some distance between himself and his pursuer.
He was brought to a halt by something whacking him sharply in the head.
“Stop right there, you—you pod person!” Akiko stood before him with a slipper in hand, her cheeks puffed out angrily.
“I don’t have time for this.” He shoved past her... only to be tugged back suddenly as she clapped a handcuff around his wrist.
“Heh heh. You thought I only had the one pair?” Akiko held up her own wrist, adorned with the other half of the cuffs. “Being married to Ryu-kun is convenient.”
“I would rather not know what you and Ryu Terui get up to in your spare time that leads to you carrying around handcuffs, Aki-chan,” Ellim said in clear disgust.
“Now there’s your first mistake, because Philip-kun would be dying to know.” She slapped him with her slipper again. “And then I’d have to do that to punish him for prying into a married woman’s private life.”
“I didn’t even—!”
“Now let’s go! Back to the office with you.” Grinning, Akiko led the way back toward the entrance.
Terui was still struggling against Fang until Akiko walked by and grabbed it out of midair. “It’s okay, Fang. Philip-kun is just fine. See?”
Fang roared plaintively, then hopped up onto Ellim’s shoulder.
Sighing in defeat, Ellim could only allow himself to be escorted back inside.
The ladder behind Shotaro’s desk proved a more effective place to handcuff the Controller, so that’s where he wound up when Akiko returned him to the office—after Shotaro shoved Watcherman out of the office quickly enough to obscure his view of Akiko dragging in a handcuffed Philip, anyway. They didn’t need any awkward questions about what the Narumi Detective Agency got up to in its downtime.
(The possibility had occurred to Shotaro that Watcherman was a Controller too, coming to check up on Ellim, but by the time he thought of that it was too late to do anything about it. Terui volunteered to keep an eye on the informant for the next few days.)
For the most part, Shotaro and Akiko ignored the captive Controller. Even just acknowledging him was tiring; he looked like Philip and he sounded like Philip but he so very clearly wasn’t. And for the most part he didn’t speak to them either. Whether he was just trying to hatch some escape plan, or whether he was deliberately giving them the cold shoulder, they couldn’t tell.
The effects of starvation started to manifest that night after Akiko had gone home. Shotaro was at his desk working on some paperwork he’d let fall by the wayside. For the first time in several hours, Ellim spoke up. “You’re a torturer, you know that?”
The Yeerk sounded exhausted. Shotaro could barely even imagine what Philip must be going through now.
“You could save yourself the trouble, you know.” Shotaro was trying to remain cool, aloof—hard-boiled. He had to stop typing, though, so he could pull down the brim of his fedora.
Ellim scoffed. “You know your partner’s suffering now too, right?”
Shotaro bit his lip. After a moment he got to his feet. He crouched down in front of Ellim, who was smirking as if he knew he’d gotten to Shotaro.
And then Shotaro put the Double Driver on. When the matching belt appeared around Philip’s waist he reached over, fished Cyclone out of Philip’s pocket, and shoved it into its slot.
“Then you can have that body all to yourself,” Shotaro finally responded. He didn’t even bother to pose as Philip’s consciousness entered him and Double’s suit materialized.
«I should go back,» Philip commented idly, a few hours later, as they got up from behind Shotaro’s desk to stretch their legs.
«What, and have to deal with that jackass? No way, partner. You’re staying right here until he’s starved out.»
«You can’t remain as Double for that long. We’ve been over this.»
Shotaro rubbed the temple on his side of their head. «It should only be a few more hours if you’re right about this three days thing. It’ll be fine.» He swayed where he stood and leaned against his desk for support.
«It’s already past midnight, Shotaro. You need your—»
«My sleep? Even if you were in there with him I wouldn’t be able to sleep, moron.»
They moved over and sat down on the bed in the alcove. Ellim was tapping a foot up and down idly. He wasn’t saying anything, though. He wasn’t even really looking at anything. He was clearly dazed.
Philip sighed. Double’s right hand tapped at the portion of their face where their mouth would be, if they had one. «Maintaining the transformation for this long is not without problems. I can tell you’re exhausted.» He moved his hand down to rest on the Cyclone Memory in the Driver.
Shotaro growled in frustration—a frustration that Philip could feel easily thanks to their transformation. If their positions were reversed, he would be just as hesitant to let Shotaro go back to such a harrowing situation.
No—maybe he’d be a bit less hesitant. Shotaro suffered from the additional problem of believing that Philip was always in need of his protection. It was something he’d never quite gotten over, not since Sokichi Narumi had uttered the words Take care of that child with his dying breath.
A flush of embarrassment washed over Double from their left side. Shotaro knew exactly what Philip was thinking.
«Would it help if I told you I’m fascinated by the Yeerk’s fugue state? I might regret it for the rest of my life if I fail to experience it.»
Shotaro sighed. «You’ve made your point. Go ahead. But if it starts to look bad I’m pulling you out of there again.»
Philip would have smiled if he could. «Understood. I’ll see you later, partner.»
He withdrew Cyclone from the Double Driver.
Even with his partner sitting less than two feet away from him, Shotaro was alone.
Ellim seemed to sleep at one point, but he twitched and murmured under his breath. And when Shotaro looked at him, he could see that Philip’s body was sweating profusely.
He had to get Philip out of there.
He barely had the Driver on before he was reeling. Usually the Double Driver connected him directly to Philip’s mind, but up until now it had bypassed Ellim. This time it wasn’t just Philip who Shotaro could sense through the link. It was like the human mind and the Yeerk were one.
“Philip! Philip!” Shotaro knelt in front of him and shook him. “What’s going on in there? Philip?!”
Philip’s eyes blinked open. “Shotaro,” said his voice, mockingly. “You’re so naive. Didn’t he tell you he wanted to experience this?”
So it was still Ellim.
“What’s happening?” Shotaro asked, more guarded now.
“The fugue. Simply put, I’m dying.” Despite this, Ellim smirked. “I can’t be saved now. You’ve murdered me, Shotaro Hidari.”
It had something to do with Ellim’s connection to Philip. Even as he died, his memories were leaking into his host’s mind—and across the psychic bridge connecting Philip to Shotaro, as well.
He could see the Yeerk’s life prior to having a host, a blind and deaf existence swimming in the Yeerk Pool it called home. He could see the first time Ellim took a host, a huge, lumbering alien with blades jutting out from its elbows and knees. He felt the contradictory sensations of Ellim’s joy at seeing the world in a new light—in any light, actually—and his host’s rage and helplessness.
Shotaro practically jumped out of his skin. “Philip?”
Philip sounded exhausted. «That giddiness... it’s familiar.»
Now that he mentioned it, Shotaro had felt it before too. That was the same glee Philip felt whenever he got to experience something new.
Shotaro’s face flushed with rage. “That’s completely different! You’re not—”
Philip laughed gently in his head at the same time Ellim barked out a harsher laugh aloud.
Ellim had gone through host after host. Another one of those bladed aliens—Hork-Bajir, the memories said they were called. And then humans. Philip was his third human host, but the first who was actually worth anything. Ellim had been overjoyed to learn that Philip was one half of Double, and even moreso when he’d found out about the bookshelves.
But he hadn’t even had Philip for a week before Shotaro found out. Thank goodness. Shotaro was already kicking himself for letting his partner suffer for this long.
He didn’t know how long had passed since the fugue state had started. At some point he’d started clinging to Philip. When he finally pulled away there were tears staining both of their faces, though the only expression on Philip’s face was one of exhaustion.
On the floor next to him was a dead slug that rapidly dissolved into dust.
“How do we stop this?”
Finally able to change out of that messy shirt, Philip dug through the dresser looking for something to wear. “It’s not preferable to fight them head-on. Their hosts are human. Or if not, then innocent, sentient creatures all the same. Attacking them as Double would have worse consequences than just a Memory Break.”
Shotaro cringed at the notion. Attacking innocent people, whether they be humans or aliens with swords for elbows, wasn’t how a Kamen Rider operated.
“I can’t just do nothing, though,” Shotaro said. He flopped back into his chair and swept his fedora from his head. “If I can’t handle the case as a Kamen Rider, I’ll do it as a detective. Nobody makes this city cry and gets away with it.”
Philip managed a smile. “Don’t you mean ’we’, partner?”
“Heh. Yeah, I guess I do.” He smirked at Philip. “You doing okay?”
Having finally picked out a green-and-blue striped shirt to change into, Philip nodded. “I’m just fine. Thanks to you.”
They could handle this. With Philip’s knowledge and Shotaro’s determination, nothing was beyond their reach.