I posted this little piece on DeviantART for a contest on one of the groups there, but I figured I'd give it a whirl here too. It's a Transformers fic with a Batman twist. Who could ask for more?
Gotham City Nightbeat
"Approaching the city."
"Good. Keep alert for any Decepticon activity."
Nightbeat kept rolling through the urban sprawl, heading for a certain section of the city. He passed the sign welcoming him to Gotham City, flood lights illuminating the rash of graffiti and one or two bullet holes piercing the sign. It seemed like an appropriate welcome to one of the most corrupt cities in North America. Being relatively new to Earth, Nightbeat decided that before he cut communications with his commanding officer, he should ask the question that had been haunting him ever since his assignment had steered him toward Gotham City.
"Is it true what they say, Jazz?"
"This city," Nightbeat murmured. "They say there's something here."
A brief silence filled the communications link. Instead of laughing at Nightbeat as most bots would, Jazz carefully considered the question. Jazz was a smart and shrewd character, but he had a lot of trust in his hand-picked Special Ops agents. They might all be a little weird in the head, but they were all smart and deadly when they wanted to be. If Nightbeat was asking a question about something, he was serious about finding the answer.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know. It's a possibility. If it makes you feel better, keep an optic out for it."
The channel was closed and Nightbeat continued to drive through the alien city. Like any good agent, he was attentive of the details around him. Deeper into the spark of the urban jungle, the buildings grew taller, the air tuned stifling, and the stars disappeared from the sky as light pollution consumed them. Heat lingered from the humid summer day that had just passed; the mugginess remained, mixing with the choking fumes of exhaust. Skyscrapers crowded close to each other; marvels of Earth construction, towers of glass and steel that lit up the night like gaudy glowsticks. More like glided cages for the creatures who worked within.
Nightbeat had no intention of driving toward the opulence abundant in the center of the city. The glittering lights and blare of car horns from pristine models costing more than some families made in a lifetime. Rich humans dressed in their finery- silks, satins, or suits- all designed to make the lesser humans around them feel lower than they already were. It was a shallow, insular world that had nothing to do with Nightbeat's mission, so he was more than happy to bypass the glittering world of the wealthy and corrupt.
He headed for a place more familiar to him. No matter what planet he was on, there was always a slum to head to. They were all unique in their own way, but no matter their sight, sound, or smell, they were all recognizable for what they were. A home to the downtrodden. A place where the underworld thrived. Corruption and violence came a lot more honestly in the slums, where the denizens of the dark places didn't have to hide behind glittering facades. In an odd sense, Nightbeat felt much more at home in places like that.
Working with a combination of online maps, satellite imaging, and highly trained intuition, the Special Ops agent made his way down dark streets. Light was flickering and sparse; light bulbs in the streetlamps were either dead or dying. Some were smashed. The streets he crawled through were choked with loose newspapers and blowing garbage. Dirt had settled into this little corner of the world. Dirt ground into the streets, grime caked up the sides of buildings. Some kind of black soot stained the upper portions of the taller buildings. The stench of rotted garbage and urine billowed from the narrow allies. Wary eyes of scraggly cats and rats the size of small dogs reflected in the glare of car headlights, hissing beastly noises before scrambling away.
The buildings that lined the streets here were a combination of dilapidated workplace and gutted husk. Crumbling bricks and falling tiles. Structures that were slowly being consumed by rot. Most of the windows were dark. Some were boarded up. Where light shone, the images revealed within were stark and garish. The shadow of a fist heading for a woman's face. A needle descending into someone's arm. Contorted human forms through ragged curtains. Billowing smoke from every manner of drug seeped out the cracks in windows. Under his wheels, Nighthead heard and felt the crunch of discarded needles.
Graffiti shone brightly everywhere, like wreaths stretched across the bottoms of buildings. Some were hidden in the allies. Others showed up in the most unexpected places, like in the arch of overpasses and beneath the lip of roofs where it would seem the human artists would have had to defy gravity to place art there. The messages and images immortalized on the streets ranged from the benign to the bizarre, the friendly to the frightening. A white-faced clown with his head thrown back, caught in the throes of insane laughter. The eyes of a cat in the face of a woman. A motif of bats stretching up the entire side of a building.
Overhead, something flashed by. A form leaping the space between two buildings.
It was dark. Blacker than the night. Too large to be a bird. The sound of cloth flapping followed after it.
Could the stories about this city be true...?
Nightbeat slowed to a halt, idling on the side of the road. If there was one thing capable of hijacking his attention, it was a mystery. The creature who made Gotham City its home certainly embodied the spirit of a mystery, an enigma wrapped in shadows. The moment his latest assignment started to hint that the Decepticons had ties to the criminal underworld of Gotham City, Nightbeat had immersed himself full throttle into understanding the inner workings of the city. Corruption was the name of the game here. Even in the light of day, the city was dark. An urban legend had been given birth here. A figure shrouded in darkness, who stalked the streets of the city at night. Was it an alien like the Cybertronians, or some kind of demon with supernatural powers? Was it a result of mass hysteria, or a living, breathing entity meting out vigilante justice?
Scanning the skies, Nightbeat found nothing. No indication that there had been anything leaping from roofs moments before. Unlike most agents, he was not the kind to dismiss a mystery when no evidence supported it. He refused to think the dark shape he'd just seen had been a loose sheet being blown around by the wind. Instead, Nightbeat filed the strange occurrence away to be considered later.
The sound of garbage shuffling around drew the Autobot's attention to his immediate surroundings. Humans were creeping out of the allies, materializing from their shadows. They were a rough looking bunch by Earth standards. Their faces were unshaven, their bloodshot eyes sunken into their dirt, scarred faces. The glint of metal piercings and replaced teeth flashed in the night, as did the metallic shine of tyre irons, crowbars, and chains. Nightbeat was instantly reminded that Gotham had one of the highest rates of crime in the country. Car theft and other automotive-related crime was among the most common problem. That was quite unfortunate for any Cybertronian, given what their alt modes tended to be.
Having no desire to be stripped of all his valuables, Nightbeat flicked his headlights on high and blared his horn loud enough to deafen the approaching humans. He revved his engine and shot out of there, kicking up dirty water and newspapers in his wake. Curses followed him down the street, and someone threw a crowbar right into his aft section. There was no point in retaliating, so he kept driving until he knew he was safe from the human thugs.
Gearing down to continue through the streets at the speed limit, Nightbeat could not shake the feeling of being watched. It was not just his overpowering sense of paranoia that informed him of this feeling, either. He felt eyes on him. No matter where he looked or how deeply he scanned, he could not find a source for the sensation, but nevertheless it persisted. A hard, unblinking stare that crept across his armour like a physical touch. There was definable weight to the stare, powerful and heavy as it weighed down on him with an unrelenting regard. It was as if the shadows of the city had come to life, each one possessed of an eye trained to watch his every move.
Hoping to detract attention, Nightbeat purposefully passed beneath an overpass, using it as cover to switch out his alt mode. Gone was the royal blue with yellow flame. It made him too noticeable. He let himself fade to black. A nondescript shape low to the ground, tinted windows and dim lights. Nearly invisible in the dark streets around him.
Out from underneath the overpass, he was relieved to find that he no longer felt the unblinking stare of an unseen force on his back.
Movement yet again caught his attention. That dark shape again, moving away from him. Moving with almost inhuman grace, leaping the space between buildings with shocking ease. Not even Nightbeat's trained audios could pick up on the fall of footsteps. The only hint that it was a corporeal being and not some haunting illusion was the determination with which it moved. It was a creature on a mission. Even at a distance, Nightbeat could feel dark purpose radiate from the being.
Realization caught him when he realized the direction the creature was moving in was the direction he needed to be. Down the incline of crooked streets, the dirty harbour spread out with its murky water stinking of salt and dead fish. The docks jutted into the water like wooden claws. The air was thick with more than the permeating stench of the water. Tension laid as thick as the fog setting in. Warehouses loomed ominously. Black, glassy eyes staring down at Nightbeat as he crept around them. The whisper of rancid air blowing through the allies.
On his scanners, new signatures appeared. Unmistakably Cybertronian life signs, paired with the equally recognizable signature of Decepticon agents.
The silence of the night was shattered by the sound of bone-chilling laughter. There was no mirth within the sound. It was pure insanity. A bloodcurdling noise that spoke of no morals and no conscience. Echoes bounced off the buildings, creating a demonic crescendo of noise. Laughter filling every dark space, continuing even as the original source trailed into silence.
Nightbeat moved in quick before he missed the opportunity. Months of tracking down Swindle and his fellow Combaticons narrowed down to this moment. A trade was going down between the Decepticon team and one of the most dangerous criminals in Gotham City. In return for chemicals the Decepticons manufactured, their partner in crime was going to reveal access codes to all power stations within the city's limits, giving the 'Cons unprecedented access to drain the city of every drop of energy it possessed.
On his feet now, the Special Ops agent headed straight for the large, gaping doors facing the water of the harbour. Lights blazed from within, illuminating the bizarre scene within. Colours of every sort smeared the walls. It was a circus of some sort, or a carnival made of nightmares. Gigantic jack-in-the-boxes lined the walls, a carousel of demonic horses prancing a hellish circle. Clowns were an overpowering motif. Clowns whose glowering stares pierced through the darkness. Clowns that leered and clowns that laughed. Clowns with blood smeared on them. Blinking, flashing lights cast twisted shadows over cages filled with... things. Humans whose faces were stretched into grotesque expressions. Gibbering, mad laughter came from them. Blood dripped down the bars of their cages where they had tried to claw their way to freedom. Hyenas whose maws frothed with bloody saliva paced in front of the cages, waiting to bite off unsuspecting fingers.
In the middle of the madness, the Combaticons stood with a human. Corpse-like white skin was smeared with red. Dark circles ringing the eyes. A violently purple suit. Green hair. The self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime himself.
The human threw his head back and laughed again. "Another one of you rickety robots? The more the merrier!"
Above all their heads, the glass skylight of the warehouse exploded. A demon dropped in, jagged black wings spread wide as it glided down. It was the mysterious creature that had been following Nightbeat throughout the night. Under the stark lights of the warehouse, the creature was revealed to be man-shaped, covered in heavy Kevlar armour. The cowl it wore was black and horned, the eyes of it blazing white-hot.
"The Bat!" crowed the clown-man. "This just gets better and better!"
Smoke bombs went off, casting a white haze over the entire scene. The Bat
"What's going on!" Onslaught bellowed over the chaos erupting around him.
"Are we being double-crossed!" Swindle demanded.
Their only answer was the continued cackling of the crazed human.
"Oh batty Bats! Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
A crackling in Nightbeat's head announced that someone was trying to hack into his communications. Going on a hunch, he opened the channel to the invader. A growling voice came through:
"Go after your own kind. Leave the clown to me."
The channel cut off.
Nightbeat launched into the fray, tackling Vortex around the legs. He had the element of surprise on his side, as well as being accustomed to lurking through foggy settings. It was a talent that came to him from spending so much time skulking in the shrouded underworlds of alien cities. The moment they hit the ground, one of Vortex's propellers snapped off. He howled, lashing out to strike Nightbeat across the faceplate.
Their struggle alerted the other Combaticons. Drawn by the noise of metal clashing against metal, they came through the smoke like Titans. A one-on-one fight was fine, but a single Autobot against the entire Combaticon team? Nightbeat's chances of coming out of this in one piece were quickly slimming down. He would keep fighting, though. This had been his mystery, his mission, and his bust.
"Holy raging robots!" a young voice exclaimed from somewhere above the melee. "Incoming with backup!"
A tiny figure swooped in from the rafter, flinging a handful of pellets before grabbing a pressurized grappling hook from his belt and shooting it, swinging away on the anchored rope. Nightbeat twisted away from the pellets, swinging Swindle in front of him to act as a shield. The pellets struck home on the Combaticons, screams erupting from the team as ice exploded across their armour. Their joints froze. Panic lit their optics.
It was the advantage Nightbeat needed to take all five of them down. Taking Swindle by the ankle, he flipped the mech to the ground, knocking him out with a well-placed punch to the faceplate. He then launched himself at the four remaining Decepticons, taking them out while they struggled to crack the ice in their joints.
"You'll pay for this!" Onslaught spat.
"Looking forward to it," Nightbeat growled as he knocked the mech unconscious with a heavy sedative he liked to keep handy. Just to be sure of the Combaticons' surrender, he secured each of them with stasis cuffs and chained them to separate pillars around the now-ruined warehouse. He didn't dare set them near each other, too paranoid that they could somehow form Bruticus if given the chance.
Straightening from his finished task of securing Brawl's immense form to a cement pillar, Nightbeat cast his gaze around. The smoke had finally cleared. The young boy that had come to his aid moments before sat on one of the rafters near a swinging light. The brightness of the light obscured much of his form, but Nightbeat was given the impression of a masked face paired with a red and black outfit. Oddly enough, the boy was applauding Nightbeat's work.
To the left, muffled sounds of a scuffle continued. Fleshy fists and clothed bodies. Humans fighting each other. Nightbeat jerked in that direction, discovering the clown-man engaged with the demon bat. It was the tail end of their engagement. Blood streamed down the side of the clown's face, mixing with his ghastly pale skin. His bizarre smile remained, laughter still spilling from his lips even as he was pummelled into submission. His opponent had blood oozing out his side from an open wound gouged through his armour. The wound did nothing to stop the dark creature as he continued to fight.
Nightbeat was just about to reach in to lend a hand when the Bat landed a heavy punch to the center of the clown's face. Unconscious, the human fell to the floor. His horrible smile remained in place.
"Robin!" barked the shrouded figure.
"Got it!" called the boy, swooping down from the rafters to handcuff the clown.
The man, the urban legend, turned to regard Nightbeat. In turn, Nightbeat scrutinized the figure. What had first been thought to be wings was a cape cut with a jagged edge. A horned cowl like a demon. White lenses hiding the eyes, creating an unblinking, haunting stare. A scan revealed that the suit was actually quite high-tech, disguising all life signs from even Nightbeat's advanced scanners. On his chest, the man-legend wore an emblem in the shape of a bat.
Without a doubt, this was the creature who had been following Nightbeat throughout the slums.
"Who are you?" demanded the armoured man, his voice the same rough tone it had been over the communications channel.
Nightbeat drew himself up. "I am Autobot Agent Nightbeat, a special operations agent for the Autobots. I came here following leads about Decepticon movements in Gotham City."
"Wicked," said Robin. "Always wanted to meet one of you Cybertronians."
"I wanted to meet you as well," replied Nightbeat, more so to the man than the child.
The masked vigilante said nothing.
In the brief silence, the Autobot shifted, glancing back at his Decepticon captives. "As soon as I am able to contact my kind for a transport to come pick these Decepticons up, I will gone from this city."
"Good," said the black-clad man, turning on his heel and heading for the shadows.
"Wait!" Nightbeat called. He knew the mission was over, the mystery solved, but he still had to ask... There was no way he could leave without confirmation... "Who... are you?"