TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED – KALEIDOSCOPE
Chapter 27: Beasts of Burdens, Part 6.
The chase across the rooftops continued with Prowl running and dodging all he could, always managing to stay one step ahead of the airborne monster that was doggedly pursuing him.
Though there were many twists and turns made on the way around the roofs and their fixtures in order for the cyber-ninja to keep clear of the bat-monster's swoops and attacks, Prowl always made sure to lead the chase back towards the same particular direction as he fled.
"Ratchet, are you ready?" he spoke into his comlink. "We're coming your way now."
Soon after, the cyber-ninja's path across the rooftops lead him to leap over another street with a boost from his jetpack. But as Blood flew after in pursuit, the monster was forced to rear back as a chunk of debris came hurtling up towards it through the air — missing only thanks to the beast's sharp senses and quick reactions.
Flapping his wings to hover in place, Blood turned his attention to where the projectile had come from and spotted the Autobot Ratchet standing on the streets below with his magnets at the ready.
The medibot was positioned in the middle of the road of one of the city blocks that the Pretenders had rampaged through earlier that evening in their attempt to draw the Autobots out. And thanks to the trashed state of his surroundings, Ratchet was spoiled for choice for things to use as ammunition, as was apparent by the numerous pieces of junk and debris that were already floating in the air around him coated in the pink glowing energy from his magnets.
With but a gesture of his arm, the old mech sent several of the items flying forwards like cannonballs. The vampire beast flapped back and forth through the air to dodge the hurtled objects. But as they sailed past the airborne monster, Ratchet was already levitating more and more junk off the ground to add to his arsenal, which was then quickly launched upwards in succession with catapult-like swings of his arms.
A trash can, a broken lamp post, a chunk of concrete — things just kept sailing one after the other up towards the flying Blood, who nimbly kept ducking and weaving his way between them. And while the bat-monster may have panicked slightly at one point when Ratchet suddenly went as far as to launch an entire car up at him, causing his eyes to bulge comically out of his head, the mutated criminal managed to remain untouched so far by the continuous barrage.
However, while the junk and debris at Ratchet's disposal was plentiful, his aim was somewhat haphazard at times. There were plenty of objects Blood didn't have to work at all to avoid as they simply shot past, seemingly being thrown that way to cut off and discourage the creature from trying to fly away from its current position over the streets.
This continued on until eventually, the bat-monster released a sharp screech in realization as it looked around and saw that everything that had been launched towards it so far hadn't actually fallen back down afterwards. Instead, it remained floating and drifting in the air all around it, and was now loosely surrounding and blocking off its paths in every direction.
"Hah! Gotcha! Let's see you try to fly away now, you blasted wing-thing!" Ratchet exclaimed from below as he'd stopped picking up additional debris in favor of controlling what was already airborne. Moving his hands in slow and circular patterns, he looked like a magician casting a spell as he carefully manipulated the collection of mass swirling around the mutant.
Back up in the air, the flying monster's sharp senses were distracted and confused by the cloud of junk and debris encircling it on all sides like a small asteroid field. Even though it remained as quick and nimble as ever, it now had less warning AND opportunity to dodge as stray pieces of the surrounding cloud suddenly shot towards the center to strike at it from all sides.
Blood now struggled to dodge as pieces of debris flew at him one-by-one randomly from every which direction, the confined space he was trapped in resulting in him getting smacked and clobbered across the face and body several times over. And as the angered winged beast went into a frenzy — wildly punching and slashing at the offending projectiles to ward off as many of them as he could — he failed to take much notice of a black and gold police motorcycle amidst the swirling cloud of debris as it slowly drifted into place behind him.
That is, until it suddenly transformed and was released from the magnetic hold to leap down at Blood from behind.
Using the extra thrust from his jetpack, Prowl reached the monster and pounced on its back before it had time to react. Screeching in dismay, Blood attempted to swipe at and shake off his unwanted passenger, but the Autobot refused to be thrown off as he grappled with the vampire from behind.
Reaching around Blood over the base of the wings and up from underneath his arms, Prowl's hands came together tightly behind the beast's neck, securing it in a double shoulder lock. Locking his legs around its torso as well, the cyber-ninja had now effectively glued himself flat against the slightly larger creature's back.
"Now, Ratchet!" he shouted, doing his best to cling onto the squirming creature.
"Finally...!" the medibot grunted as he released his hold on the numerous objects floating in the air around them.
Losing the pink aura of Ratchet's magnetic energy, the swirling cloud composed of junk and debris fell apart and started clattering to the ground before the medibot while he shifted the focus of his magnetic manipulators, using them to instead grab hold of Prowl and him alone.
As the pink glow solely enveloped the cyber-ninja, Blood found that despite the obstructions around him finally being gone, the monster was still restrained and unable to fly away no matter how hard he flapped his wings. The Autobots collective efforts had him on a magnetic leash.
"Kh! Oh, no you don't!" Ratchet grunted as he was pulled forward, his feet skidding briefly across the pavement before he reasserted his balance. "You're not going anywhere anymore!"
Fighting back against the monster's pull at the other end of the magnetic energy running between them, the old Autobot appeared reminiscent of a cowboy that was trying to rope in a lassoed wild stallion.
"Hmph! Since you'd discarded your weapon and armor, my magnets were unable to latch onto an organic like you — no matter how much of a scientific abomination you are...!" Ratchet grit out as he dug in his heels. "However, the Autobot clinging onto your back right now is a whole 'nother story. Now... Get. DOWN. HERE!"
With a cry of exertion, the medibot reared back against the magnetic pull and then swung forwards and downwards, causing Prowl — and by extension the winged beast — to be yanked out of the air and plummet straight down, slamming into the streets below with tremendous force.
As the brutal impact shook the ground — knocking up an explosive cloud of dust and debris at the point of impact — tire-screeches sounded behind Ratchet as several police vehicles quickly arrived and gathered a short distance down the road.
Glancing over his shoulder from his hunched forward position, the medibot was greeted by the sight of an alarmed Lieutenant Kelly and Captain Fanzone hurriedly emerging through the front-doors of the foremost vehicle.
"Wha... What was that impact just now?!" Kelly exclaimed as she stepped out on the driver's side.
"Hey, Autobot!" Fanzone called, slamming the door on the passenger side shut while more officers could be seen emerging from the other vehicles behind them. "Hey, I'm talking to you, machine-man! What the heck did you just DO?"
Staring disinterestedly at the humans that were scurrying up behind him, Ratchet deactivated and retracted his magnetic manipulators into his forearms before rising back up to his full height.
"By the looks of things, human, we just finished cleaning up one of your messes for you," he answered sardonically while turning to face back forward.
As the cloud of dust before them settled and drifted apart, the cyber-ninja and the winged Pretender could be seen lying in a crater going down several feet, with the monster at the bottom barely clinging onto consciousness after having suffered the full brunt of the impact by itself.
"...You're welcome, by the way," Ratchet added to the gobsmacked officers, just for good measure.
"Skreee-ee..." Blood groaned weakly in a daze, raising his head slightly only to let it flop back against the ground, unconscious. Meanwhile, Prowl untangled himself from the creature's back and carefully rose to his feet, his figure dirtied but unharmed.
"There. He's out cold for now," Prowl noted as he looked over towards Fanzone and his policemen. "But you should probably hurry up and restrain him as quickly as possible before he wakes up again."
As the officers stood there blinking, nonplussed at the scene before them, they finally pulled their act together once an annoyed Captain Fanzone barked at them to do just that.
"Well? You heard the robot! Hurry up and get to it already!"
"Ah! Y-Yes, sir. Right away."
As the humans around his feet finally sprang into action and started surrounding the downed beast in the shallow crater, Ratchet just rolled his optics and snorted.
Shooting through the waters like a torpedo, Gilmer (and his weary passenger, Bumblebee) continued the trek through the city's drainage canals. As they reached a point where the canal split down the middle, the shark-monster swam off into the leftward path, prompting one of the officers in the police cars tailing them on the adjacent roads to report into his radio.
"Sir. They went down the left canal at the intersection."
"Okay, got it! Continue pursuit," Lander responded into his own radio at the other end of the transmission. After quickly consulting a map lying spread-out on a car hood in front of him, he turned to look up at the giant robot who'd been peering over his shoulder. "Looks like they're going to come out the westmost outlet at our location."
"Agreed," Wheeljack nodded as he looked between the map and a holographic GPS-screen projected from his forearm. "The course Bumblebee's energy-signal is traveling suggest so as well."
Nodding, Lander then whirled around to face the surrounding officers. "Everyone! Get into position!"
Soon after, Gilmer traveled through a corner in the drainage canal, swimming with such speed that they listed towards the outer edge of the bend and caused Bumblebee to scrape against the side of the canal as they traversed it.
"Ghaah!" the Autobot squeaked as metal groaned and sparks flared from his back being dragged along the concrete wall.
As the path gradually straightened out again, Gilmer finally drifted back towards the center of the canal while he mindlessly swam onwards.
"Urgh... My hood is gonna need a LOT of buffing and polishing after this ride...!" Bumblebee groaned as he peered over his shoulder at his scraped up back.
*Beep* "Bumblebee. Can you hear me?"
At the call over his comlink, Bumblebee pressed the side of his helmet against his shoulder in order to activate his side of the link, allowing him to respond to the call.
"Y-Yeah, I'm still hanging in here." A beat, then a groan. "Oh, great...! Now you've got ME doing it..."
"Save your grumbling for later, kiddo. According to your energy-signature, you're almost at the exit now. Do you see it?"
Struggling to raise his head so he could look over both his monstrous steed and the torrents of water splashing against him, the yellow Autobot peered down the straightforward path stretching out in front of them and could indeed see what appeared to be the very end of the canal. Beyond it he could glimpse the wider waters of the Detroit River running perpendicularly past.
"Yeah...! I, *blub*, I think so!"
"Alright. Be ready to do what I told you at my signal!"
Below him, Gilmer had clearly spotted the canal's outlet ahead as well — his speed picking up even further as he rushed forward in a perfectly straight line, caring about nothing but to reach the river waters on the other side.
As the shark-man was quickly approaching the end of the drainage canal, Bumblebee carefully released one of his hands from the large dorsal fin he'd been clinging on to and let the freed arm hover at his side.
"Wait for iiiit..."
"Wheeljack...!" Bumblebee said through grit teeth, annoyed. They were almost at the outlet now.
Transforming his free hand into his stinger, Bumblebee jabbed the weapon into Gilmer's side and released an electric blast.
Roaring as the current traveled through him, the shark-monster bucked and arched wildly in pain and rage, eventually causing Bumblebee to lose the rest of his grip. Shaken off Gilmer's back, the Autobot fell backwards into the waters. He bounced like a skipping stone in the beast's wake before finally disappearing underneath the surface with a violent splash.
But despite the dislodged Autobot being rendered an easier target behind him in the water, Gilmer opted to ignore him entirely in favor of plowing onwards.
Though now slightly dazed and wavering as it swam, suffering from lingering contractions and spasms from the electric aftershocks, the mad monster didn't care. The Detroit River was visible right ahead. And with just one more push, it would be out of the cramped canal and free to disappear into the depths of greater waters.
But as Gilmer eagerly dashed forward to leap out the drainage canal's outlet, a shout of "Now!" was sounded, immediately followed by a large net getting raised out of the water and strung up across the entire exit in front of him.
The netting had been secured on one side of the canal's outlet by the police while the other end was now being pulled taut by Wheeljack. And flying right into their trap, an entangled Gilmer crashed down onto a dry bit of the lower embankment outside, just a few meager feet short of having reached the actual river.
Stretching its arms forward against the net surrounding it, the sea-monster feebly began dragging itself across the ground towards the beckoning waters. But its desperate attempt was cut short as Wheeljack grabbed hold of the ends of the net and instead pulled it back.
"Oh no you don't!" the Autobot declared. Planting his feet, Wheeljack gave the netting a mighty tug and swung around with a great heave, slamming the net and the shark-man inside it against the concrete walls that surrounded the canal outlet.
The impact was violent enough to leave a cracked and shallow crater behind it in the wall. But even after sliding to the ground in a heap, the faltering monster was down but not out, as it was soon struggling to push itself back to its feet while trying to tear apart the net.
"It's still not down!" Lander called out at the sight.
"Leave it to me!" Wheeljack declared dramatically as he sprang forward while cocking back a fist. "Hey, Toothy! Chew on this!"
The gurgling sea-monster had turned its head just in time to receive Wheeljack's boxing hook right into the side of its face, the punch sinking deep into the flesh of its cheek.
Knocked back by the heavy blow like a recoiling spring, Gilmer slammed against the concrete wall once more where he slowly collapsed and slumped to the ground unconscious.
With the Pretender finally lying out for the count at his feet, Wheeljack rose back up from his forward-leaning stance and pumped the fist he'd used for the attack.
"Hah! 'Hook', line, and sinker!" he declared proudly before pointing down at his fallen opponent. "You may or may not be a fish, but either way, you're fin-ished. Hah!" he laughed at the cleverness of his own joke and turned around to face the surrounding officers, looking around with a "Eeh? Eeeh?" gesture as he fished for their reactions.
However, instead of the cheers and chuckles he'd been expecting, all he got at his dramatic declaration was a drawn-out and awkward silence, complete with some nervous coughing sprinkled in.
There might even have been some cricket chirping too.
"Um..." Lander finally spoke up with some hesitance, "Was... Was that supposed to be a pun or something...?"
Annoyed at the poor reception, the Autobot placed his hands on his hips and looked away with a huff.
"Hmph. I'm NEW to this planet, you know. Cut me a little slack, will ya?" he harrumphed.
Meanwhile in the background, a thoroughly exhausted Bumblebee could be seen crawling out of the drainage canal outlet, causing some of the nearest police officers to cautiously step back as he collapsed into a gasping and undignified wet heap in front of them on the river embankment.
But Bumblebee wasn't the only Autobot having a rodeo experience that night.
Back near the intersection, vehicles were slammed and clobbered aside as the giant minotaur, Dauros, staggered and flailed about uncontrollably while struggling to dislodge the pink Autobot perched on his back. As he tottered back and forth unsteadily, he naturally attempted to swipe up at Arcee over and over with his massive arms. However, whenever he tried, the femme would either sway just out of reach from his clumsy grabs or use her grip on the minotaur's horns to abruptly wrench his head this way and that, continuously sending him stumbling off balance by steering him around.
Watching the pair gradually travel further down the road away from him, Bulkhead continued his struggles to free himself from the wreckage of the collapsed elevated highway that currently had him pinned to the ground. However, with his arms trapped underneath the heavy rubble as well, he struggled greatly with attaining any sort of useful leverage against the weight piled on top of him.
Pausing momentarily in his efforts, the Autobot decided to change his approach.
Focusing upon one of his hands, he found that while he was unable to pull the arm free, he was at the very least able to flex and create room for his fingers amidst the debris.
He transformed said appendage into his inbuilt buzzsaw. A muffled grinding noise trailed out from underneath the concrete rubble as Bulkhead steadily got to work on cutting through the boulders pinning his arm down.
Meanwhile, back at the mad rodeo show down the road, the flailing and tottering Dauros eventually managed to steady himself by driving a cloven hoof deep into the pavement beneath him.
Having finally attained some balance, he quickly raised himself up and reached with both arms behind his head. But in response, the Autobot vaulted forwards and used the minotaur's face as a springboard to launch herself skywards.
As the minotaur staggered backwards, clutching at a bruised snout, Arcee dived forwards and away from him through the air. She landed in a handstand on the ground, then used her momentum to pivot about and do a series of backflips across the pavement like an Olympic-level gymnast in order to create some further distance between herself and her opponent.
Coming to a stop in a cat-like, backwards-skidding crouch, the Autobot looked over to see the minotaur nurse its snout before turning to face her with rage in its eyes.
Releasing aggressive snorts like the mad bull that he was, Dauros scraped a leg across the ground in preparation before he began to charge, heading straight towards Arcee's location with his horns aimed forwards.
"...Okay, Mister Bull," Arcee said softly as she rose up. "Let's play Gallus gallus domesticus."
To the surprise of the police officers watching from the sidelines, the Autobot then began running towards the approaching minotaur as well, the two of them quickly reclosing the distance between them as they headed on a straight-on collision course towards each other.
But right before the horned behemoth and the sleek robot could reach one another — a collision with a seemingly obvious outcome — Arcee surprised everyone by transforming at the last second and sliding sideways in vehicle-mode into the minotaur's legs. With his legs knocked out from under him, the charging Dauros naturally went flying over her and crashed onto his face, carving a groove in the pavement after himself as he skidded harshly forwards across the ground.
Unsteadily picking his bruised and battered face off the ground after he'd come to a stop, the prone and dazed Dauros made a pitiful sight until the honking of a car horn prompted him to look back over his shoulder. Behind him, the pink car that was Arcee drove and skidded to a halt a short distance away, positioning itself right in front of some of the rubble from the elevated highway that had collapsed to the ground earlier.
Transforming back to robot-mode, the female Autobot then stood up and turned to look his way with a smug little smile on her face that made the minotaur's blood boil.
"Come on now, little bull. Is that the best you've got?" she mocked him while beckoning him towards her with a small wave of her hand.
While there was no telling if the mutated monster still had the ability to comprehend spoken words or not, by the enraged look on his face, he at least clearly understood her intent. The minotaur brushed away a trail of blood from his bleeding snout, then slammed its palms violently against the ground to thrust itself onto its feet and started charging towards the Autobot once more in another mad bull rush.
Snarling, snorting and frothing in rage, Dauros leaned forward into his run, angling his head even lower down than before as he ran forwards with the intent to gore the smaller robot on his horns. That she wasn't moving anywhere this time but remained standing in place while facing him only encouraged the monster to press faster onwards towards her.
Bending her knees into a half-crouching position while she watched the minotaur approach, it was clear to Arcee that he wouldn't allow her to slip underneath his attack again this time. Which was just as well, as that wasn't what she was planning to do anyway.
As the charging Daruos bore down upon her, Arcee once again acted right before impact, this time diving forwards to grab at the minotaur's head between the horns and vault herself into a forward flip over his body. This also served to keep the monster's head low as he continued past underneath her and violently slammed head-first into the large pile of debris she'd been standing in front of.
Bits of gravel skittered across the ground in several directions. When the ensuing dust cloud from the impact finally subsided, Dauros could be seen standing bent-forward amidst the scattered rubble, his horns lodged into a mostly intact stretch of road from the elevated highway that had come to lie resting on its side like an impromptu wall or barricade. And judging by the way the minotaur was acting, he clearly appeared to be stuck.
Snarling and roaring furiously, he pushed and pulled against the road's surface, trying his best to dislodge himself from the overturned slab of road.
Realizing it was too big and too intact to shake loose, he then started to pound his fists against its surface. After a few seconds of punching, Dauros finally managed to crack and damage its surface enough to wrest himself free, coming loose from the wall with two chunks of asphalt and concrete still lodged atop his horns.
But as the minotaur staggered back from having finally released himself, he ended up landing into someone else's waiting embrace as giant green metal-arms suddenly wrapped themselves around his midsection from behind.
"Gotcha!" the arms' owner, Bulkhead, exclaimed, having had at some point emerged from the rubble he'd been buried under and made his way over in time to catch the minotaur in a tight waist lock while it had still been distracted.
Finding himself in the tight grip of the large Autobot's arms, Dauros stomped and snarled in fury as he tried to free himself once more. As the robot stood crouched behind him to maintain his low grip around the minotaur, Dauros started slamming his elbow back into the other's head to make him let him go. But while the Autobot's head was rocked to the side from each harsh blow, his grip around the monster remained unrelenting.
"Hrmph. Knock it off, I'm not letting go!" Bulkhead lightly growled as the minotaur's elbow continuously impacted against the side of his head. "Now...! Let's see if you're hardheaded enough to take this! Huruaaaarh!"
With his one remaining eye lighting up with a determined glow, Bulkhead let out a roar as he threw his upper body back while keeping his feet planted on the ground, lifting the minotaur along with him and slamming it nape first into the ground behind him in a German suplex.
As if a small meteor had impacted the ground, an explosion of dust and minor debris was kicked up from the violent impact. Small bits of gravel clattered across the ground once more, and as the dust clouds settled, Arcee lowered her arm from her protective stance to see Bulkhead still standing in a backwards bridge. The minotaur in his embrace was planted upside down in a shallow crater that spiderwebbed outwards across the pavement.
Finally, Bulkhead released the villain and pulled himself forward with a grunt. But even as he stood up and turned around, Dauros still remained standing in place upside-down, balancing on the back of his head, nape and shoulders before he ever so slowly tipped over and crumpled into a heap on the ground.
As Bulkhead stood steadying his breath, Arcee stepped forwards to study the unmoving Dauros: his tongue lolled out on the ground and his eyes had rolled up in his head as the minotaur lay on his side, clearly unconscious.
"Good going, Bulkhead...!" she applauded. "I don't think he'll be getting back up any time soon after that!"
"*Huff, huff* Good... 'Cuz I really need to sit down a little myself right now," the one-eyed Autobot said tiredly before he took another step back and plopped down on his rear with enough force to crack the concrete beneath him.
Resting his arms over his knees, Bulkhead sagged forward where he sat and released a great sigh of exhaustion while Arcee walked over to stand beside him. With an amused smile adorning her face, she placed one hand onto her hip while using the other to pat the young-bot's shoulder in sympathy.
Having been securely restrained and even muzzled, the unconscious vampire beast that had once been the criminal called Blood was being winched with a crane out of the crater it had left in the street. With Prowl's assistance, the police carefully guided the suspended creature into the back of a heavily fortified transport vehicle while Captain Fanzone was off to the side on the police radio, taking stock of the overall situation.
"...Zat right? Then that means all three Pretenders are now accounted for and ready to be hauled off to the zoo. Good to hear," Fanzone chuckled satisfied into the communicator before he was given pause. "...What? No, you idiot, we're still taking them to Blackwater Prison! That was just a, y'know, a figure of speech!"
Meanwhile, Ratchet was doing the same as he stood nearby — two fingers pressed against the side of his helmet as he communicated through his comlink.
"Good. Then as soon as you've finished helping the humans secure that thing for transport, we'll regroup with Arcee and Bulkhead and head on back to the ship." A pause. "What do you mean things didn't go that well? You caught the thing, didn't you? ... What are you talking about, 'it fell flat'? What did?" Another pause. "Well clearly your joke was bad, and you should feel bad."
As the police officers got to work on strapping Blood down in the vehicle, Prowl couldn't help but stare at the Pretender in thought as he stood next to Lieutenant Kelly.
"It's so... odd. That 'creature' in there..." he began quietly, gaining the woman's attention. "Just such a short while ago, he used to be an ordinary human, right? While he may have been a career criminal, he was still fundamentally no different from you or your officers, or even anyone else living in this city...!" he mused in deep thought, before finally turning his head to meet her gaze. "...Do you think you'll be able to turn him... back? Him and his companions?"
"Who can say..." Kelly replied as she turned her head back towards the transport vehicle. "We will try, of course, but without knowing just how they became this way — or by whom — then there probably won't be any guarantees for what we'll be able to do."
Beside her, Prowl nodded in understanding. "And of course, it's not like they're capable anymore of telling you who was responsible for their transformations in the first place."
"If it were up to me, we'd just leave 'em like that!" Fanzone offered his opinion as he approached the pair, tucking away his communicator. "It's nothing they don't deserve for what they've done, even goin' as far as doing crazy experiments on their own bodies like that. So we may be obligated to at least try curing them if only to reduce the dangerous headaches that they now pose. But if they're stuck that way fer good, then — as long as they're securely locked up — I'm sure as shoeshine not going to lose any sleep over it," he shrugged dismissively.
"Hmph. That's the first thing I've heard you humans say that I can agree with," Ratchet snorted where he stood behind him, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why get involved where you're not wanted? Let others deal with their own messes...!"
"Are you still saying that, Ratchet?" Prowl protested while Fanzone raised a quizzical eyebrow at the old mech. "I know you weren't personally involved that first time, but don't you think we had some obligation to try setting things right for pushing them to this point?"
The medic's only response was a loud and derisive, "BAH."
As Prowl grimaced at Ratchet's dismissive attitude, Captain Fanzone spoke up.
"Whoa, whoa! Hold the phone there!" he interrupted pointedly, looking up at the pair. "Just what are you talking about, bicycle-boy? You can't seriously be feeling guilty for what these creeps did to themselves, are you?"
"But... But like the media said... If only we hadn't interfered, then maybe they wouldn't have-"
"Bah! Media, schmedia..." he scoffed. "Didn't your momma ever teach you not to believe everything you see and hear on TV?" A beat. "Wait... Do you Autobots even HAVE mommas?" he trailed off, puzzled.
"Um... We have motherboards..." Prowl answered tentatively, sounding just as confused. He then looked over at Ratchet, going, "Wait. Do you think Vector Sigma counts?"
"What?" he replied dumbfounded, having even less understanding of the Earth-term than the younger Autobot did.
"A-Anyway, the Captain's got a point," Lieutenant Kelly took over before the conversation veered off even further. "The media thrives on sensationalism. And after your battle with Starscream tore up downtown, people are no longer certain how they feel about your presence here in Detroit. Something the media's naturally latched onto and playing up for effect." The policewoman then mused to herself, "Though now that I actually think about it, the mainstream networks' seems to have been overly focused on the negatives and the naysayers' side lately..."
Shaking her head, she then looked back up at them as she got back on track.
"Anyway, I promise that the actual population itself is more evenly divided about you. For instance, remember that one reporter, 'Animated Personality Vangelus', who you've run into a few times? He made his name doing critical consumer reports on Sumdac System products, but now he can't stop gushing about you guys on his show at any given opportunity. Heck, ever since you saved him and the other people Starscream took hostage, he's even gone as far as to found an Autobot fan club online."
"Is... Is that so?" Prowl said awkwardly with a raised optic-ridge after Kelly held up her phone screen to show him the exuberant-looking homepage, adorned with pictures of each of them.
"Yup. Far as I know, it's been pretty popular actually," she added with a light shrug as she repocketed her phone. "The club and his show are all on the internet though, which might be why you hadn't picked up on it."
"Personally, even I think it's ludicrous how the supposed blame for the Pretenders' actions is all being pegged on you guys," Fanzone took over, gaining the group's attention. "Take it from an old cop like me: you stopping a group of robbers from getting successfully away with a crime doesn't make you somehow solely accountable for their later actions. Especially not when it apparently involves them going headfirst over the deep-end and deciding to book a doctors appointment with friggin' Doctor Moreau of all people!"
"Moreau...? Wait. So you know the culprit?"
"What?" Fanzone blinked in puzzlement at Prowl's earnest reaction. "No, no, that was just a movie-reference. Doctor Moreau is..." he trailed off before groaning. "Ghaah. Never mind all that," he exclaimed and whipped a finger up at the Autobot. "What I'm trying to say is that you can't go around holding yourself responsible for the nonsensical actions of deranged, criminal lunatics! Ya hear?"
"I'll... try to keep that in mind," the cyber-ninja responded hesitantly before returning a small smile to the two officers.
"...Hmph. Yet you humans seem perfectly willing to blame us Autobots for that Decepticon's actions," Ratchet scoffed derisively down at them with crossed arms.
"Oh, for Spark's sake, Ratchet..." Prowl groaned and facepalmed at the older 'bot's unnecessary comment.
Just as they were about to end up on a positive note and everything...
"Well, yeah..." Fanzone started with a sarcastic drone as he half-turned to face the medibot. "But given how you're both giant, shapeshifting SPACE-robots from the same planet or whatever, do you really think the people of this planet find it as easy to make the distinction between you? Or that many of them would even care to?" he barked. "Furthermore, wasn't the entire reason that flying death-machine even came to Earth in the first place all because he was pursuing you Autobots here, targeting that crazy WMD you apparently brought with you?!"
Making a grunt of annoyance at the not-so-unfounded accusation — because, to be honest, the renegade, Optimus, had said something similar — Ratchet spoke through clenched teeth as he leaned down towards the Police Captain.
"Okay, first of all:" he ticked off on his fingers, "the All Spark is a sacred artifact, and isn't meant to be used like some crude weapon. Second: do you really think we actually landed on your planet by choice? Or would opt to stay here even a single nanoklik longer than we'd have to?!"
"Well that's just peachy...!" Fanzone snorted sarcastically. "And just how many others like Starscream can we expect to visit while you're all stuck down here?!"
"You just leave worrying about that to us! But trust me: the instant we're able to go, we'll leave this mudball behind, and then I promise you won't see any of us ever again!"
"Whose planet are you calling a "mudball", you extraterrestrial, rust-bitten, cantankerous old droid!"
"D-Droid?! Why you little...!"
As the hunched-over giant robot and the police captain were getting all up in each other's faces trying to glare each other down, Prowl and Lieutenant Kelly exchanged a glance at the sidelines and sighed wearily in unison before stepping in to separate the two.
"Calm down, Ratchet."
"Captain, enough already."
Once the two grumps had been coaxed into stepping back from each other, Kelly turned back around to address the two Autobots, making a show of 'coughing' once into her fist in order to disarm the previous tension and get the conversation back on track.
"Eh-herm...! Those things aside — on the behalf of the Detroit Police Department, I would like to thank you Autobots for once again helping defend our city, this time in aiding and protecting us against the Pretenders, as well as saving the Captain from the clutches of that winged monstrosity," Lieutenant Kelly earnestly told them. "If not for you, there is no telling what might have otherwise happened tonight."
Behind her, Fanzone merely looked aside with crossed arms while grumbling under his breath before he was prodded by a not-so-subtle elbow from the lieutenant.
"Hmph... Yeah, what she said... I guess I can't deny that you at least saved my bacon back there," Fanzone reluctantly admitted while rubbing awkwardly at his neck.
"Indeed," Kelly continued before extending a hand towards Prowl, a gesture that was reciprocated by the Autobot, allowing her to 'shake hands' with the larger being's finger. "We're truly grateful for your assistance."
Taken off guard by this sudden change in mood, Ratchet simply stared nonplussed down at the two humans before eventually looking away with a dismissive scoff.
"Hmph, yeah. Let's just see how long that gratitude lasts this time..." he noted while turning on his heel to stomp off in a huff.
Prowl, on the other hand, gave the two humans a small but appreciative smile and a nod before moving to catch up with his companion down the road — the pair subsequently transforming into their vehicle-modes and driving off together once they'd cleared the surrounding police vehicles.
"...Yeesh. What a hard case," Fanzone commented with his hands on his hips as he watched them go. Behind him, Kelly couldn't help but let her head sag at the irony.
Back at the area surrounding the intersection that had served as the original battleground that night, people and Sumdac robots were only just getting started on the monumental task that was cleaning up the mess left behind from the Pretenders' rampage.
While the giant, trashcan-bodied disposal droids known as 'Trash Bots' spread out and began collecting wrecked Police drones and other debris that lay strewn across the streets, the police were double-checking the restraints holding Dauros in place after having chained up and winched the unconscious minotaur into the back of a transport-vehicle much in the same way that Blood had been.
Deeming the cargo safely secured, the officers gave the clear for the large vehicle to close its armored doors. The minotaur was then carted off, followed by an escort of several police vehicles as they left.
But as the small convoy departed, no one paid much mind to the lone fire truck tractor-unit that stood parked above upon one of the nearby elevated highways, sitting there quietly as if whoever driving it had stopped to observe the scene below in silence.
As everything seemed to be under control, the fire truck eventually restarted its engines and slowly turned around on the elevated highway before driving off into the city, disappearing peacefully into the night.
Having regrouped on the way, the crew of the Orion were now driving together down the quiet lamplit streets on the outskirts of the city, animatedly discussing their individual battles from when they'd separated as they made their way back towards their ship.
"—and then I went 'You may or may not be a fish, but either way, you're fin-ished', ha-hah!" Wheeljack said completing his anecdote, causing mass groaning to ensue from the surrounding vehicles.
"Aw, come on."
"...Even for you, that one's a bit of a reach. Don't you think so, Wheeljack?"
"Hmph. Philistines, the lot of you...!" the scientist-turned-sports-car harrumphed at Bumblebee, Prowl, and Arcee's less than enthused reactions to his wit.
"...Um. I kinda thought it was funny," Bulkhead chimed in after a pause, which prompted an immediate dissonance of reactions from his companions.
As they then started to fiercely argue amongst themselves what exactly does and doesn't constitute a good one-liner, the ambulance driving in front gave an exasperated groan.
"Oh, for Spark's sake. Let's just get back to the ship already, shall we?" Ratchet said tiredly as he pulled ahead.
Despite being invested in their bantering, the robots in disguise slowed down before a crossroads with a Stop sign as it was natural. However, the chatter between them came to an abrupt halt as the leader of the group simply drove straight ahead and across without even pausing.
"Wha- R-Ratchet! What are you doing?!" Arcee exclaimed aghast, causing the ambulance to finally brake.
"What do you mean what am I doing?" the transformed medic asked as he half-turned on the empty road to look back towards them from the other side of the intersection.
"What do you think, Doc-bot?" the yellow hatchback called over, a bit personally annoyed considering his own recent circumstances. "Didn't you see the Stop sign?"
"You're supposed to brake and look out for oncoming traffic or crossing pedestrians before you drive past it," Bulkhead supplied.
"Well, there weren't any of those, now were there?"
"Yeah, but you didn't check first to make sure, did you?!" Bee shouted indignantly at the medic's petulant response.
"Wait..." the police motorcycle spoke up as something dawned on him. "Ratchet, don't tell me that you don't know Earth traffic rules properly?"
"Oh, boy..." Wheeljack sighed tiredly in realization from the back of the group.
"Why would I need to anyway? It's not like I intend to go gallivanting about and head into the city more than strictly necessary. No, until we're finally ready to leave this dumb planet again, I'm more than happy staying put on the ship," Ratchet harrumphed annoyed.
"Besides," he continued as he turned to face them fully, "for cases like tonight when I do have to come up here, all I need is to do this:" — «WeeWoo WeeWoo Wee» the ambulance sounded as it momentarily blared its lights and sirens — "and everyone quickly clears the road for me and lets me go through. So what's the big deal?"
As they were all in their vehicle-modes, it was hard to decipher the Autobots' individual expressions as they quietly stared dumbfounded across the intersection at their ship's medic and captain.
What was easy to decipher, though, was the way the vehicles seemed to flinch away from the pink supercar in the center of their group as a particularly angry-sounding growl erupted from her engine.
"After a truly harrowing night, the city of Detroit — and this reporter — can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the monstrous Pretenders have finally been subdued and taken into police custody," the reporter Lester Black spoke at the camera crew, holding a microphone in one hand while the other still cradled the severed head of his ruined camera-bot like a security blanket.
"This was in no small part thanks to the timely appearance of the Autobots, whose heroic actions helped keep our brave officers safe while they fought. With the deranged criminals abruptly mutating into even more nightmarish monsters than they already were, things turned dicey for a moment. But thanks to the Autobots cooperation with our Detroit Police Force, all three of the Pretenders were eventually caught before they could either escape or inflict further harm."
"Um, are you fine with this, sir?" the young, attractive blonde who served as Powell's personal secretary asked as she turned from the news broadcast to face the man's desk. "Won't this undo a lot of the work we've put into nurturing anti-Autobot sentiment in the media these last weeks?"
"One has to pick their battles wisely," the CEO of Sumdac Systems responded in a bored manner from his chair as he used a remote to mute the TV. "Trying to continue pushing our smear campaign right now will just serve to make our own efforts far too conspicuous instead. Better to ease up as we wait for this to blow over, then return to subtly stoking the fires again at a more opportune moment."
"...Understood, sir. As we try to sway the public firmly against them, we wouldn't want to draw too much attention towards our own agenda in the process," the woman said while raising one arm to leaf through the memo pad she'd been holding against her chest.
The smarmy businessman nodded smugly towards her before turning back towards the TV-screen with an annoyed expression on his face.
"That's right. Autobots or Decepticons, whatever they want to call themselves — these metal monstrosities cannot be allowed to continue running unchecked as they have! Once public opinion has been properly persuaded into seeing them as the menaces that they are, no one will bat an eye at Sumdac Systems — the world's greatest robotics company — rightfully stepping up to rein in these rogue robots and bring them under human control. Rather, the public will thank us for it instead!"
"I understand what we're aiming for, Mister Powell. However..." the secretary momentarily looked aside in a nervous manner as she searched for the right words. "If anything, the Autobots have proven themselves to be formidable opponents in battle. And while they are indeed responsible for a lot of damage to the city, they have also saved quite a lot of people from danger as well." 'Yourself included' was smartly left unsaid. "Are.. Are you really certain things will work out as smoothly as you think?"
At his secretary's concerns, the man slammed a fist upon his desk as he angrily stood up behind it.
"Of course it will! What do you take me for?! I'm Porter C. Powell! I OWN this city!" he barked at the flinching woman before pointing towards the image of the Autobots on the muted TV-screen. "And mark my words! Whether it's alien or whatever, the advanced technology behind those robots will soon belong to me as well!"
A large robotic hand with three stubby fingers raises a canister into the air before pressing down on the top, spritzing some of its liquid content onto a glassy surface.
The canister was then put away in favor of one arm coming back up with a squeegee in its grip while the other held a piece of cloth. After going over the sprayed surface with the squeegee and then finishing by wiping the excess liquid away with the cloth, the owner of the arms — Bulkhead — proceeded to blink with both of his fully functional, and now freshly cleaned optics.
"Good as new," he mused out loud in a satisfied tone, happy with the work the ship's medic had done to restore his eyesight back to its optimal state.
Dumping the cleaning tools he'd used down into a storage compartment that was deployed out of his stomach like a drawer, the robot retracted it back into his body before turning his head down the hallway where two of his fellow Autobots were approaching.
"Well? How'd it go?" he asked good-naturedly, though he could already guess the results from the preening look on Bumblebee's face.
"Check it out, buddy," Bumblebee boasted proudly as he held up his arm to project a holographic diploma. "The exam was a breeze. Passed with flying colors and everything!" he smiled smugly.
"Took you long enough though," Prowl smirked at his side, causing the yellow 'bot to let out an annoyed grunt as he lost some of his swagger.
"Hey, that's great, Bee!" Bulkhead congratulated him. "That means we're clear to go tonight as planned, right?"
"That's right, guys! We're finally free to go topside again! It's time to hit the town! WOOH!" Bumblebee raised an arm into the air and cheered, which was quickly mirrored by Bulkhead.
With their arms still in the air, the two turned their expectant gazes to Prowl who — after a moment of stubborn silence — finally gave into peer pressure and halfheartedly raised his own arm while letting loose a lackluster, "...Wooh."
Acknowledging that was the best that they were going to get from the cyber-ninja, the three of them walked off together with the intent to head out straight away.
"Sooo..." Bumblebee's voice drifted through the air as they were leaving down the hallway. "What's this I hear about a fan club?"
"Ugh. You told him, didn't you," Prowl groaned.
"Sorry. It just slipped..." Bulkhead answered apologetically. "By the way, didn't any of the others want to come with?"
"Nah," Bumblebee casually replied. "Looks like the old-bots are going to be busy for a while longer."
Just as the yellow Autobot stated, at that moment in the ship's common room, Arcee was currently in the middle of arranging data on the digital whiteboard she'd been using for her classes once more.
"Okay," she started as she utilized the holographic screen projected from her forearm to set up her display on the larger monitor. "While you may have failed the exam this time around, your results have given us a clearer image of what we need to concentrate on as we move forward. Now..."
As she picked up her pointer stick and began her lecture, her lone remaining student — Ratchet — remained quiet as he sullenly sat there at the school bench.
And the medi-bot's grouchy mood wasn't exactly helped by the fact that a short distance behind him at the room's entrance, Wheeljack was currently leaning up against the doorframe — his shoulders shaking and his fist banging repeatedly against the wall as the scientist desperately tried (and failed) to muffle his own laughter.
In a large room inside Detroit's Blackgate Prison, the Pretenders were currently chained and detained inside relatively small but sturdy, transportable crate cages while a number of guards stood on constant watch all around them.
The mutants snarled and struggled inside their individual containers, either by trying to break the cages themselves or by slipping a hand through the bars in fruitless attempts to swipe after the men outside. But armed with powerful shock prods and even animal tranquilizers, the vigilant guards were able to ward off and keep the three beasts in check whenever they became too unruly.
Peering into the containment room from a higher floor through an observation window, Captain Fanzone stood and watched this take place while speaking with the man he'd invited to join him.
"Sumdac Systems is helping us build customized jail-cells that can accommodate their sudden extreme growth spurts, as well as their currently more crazed, feral nature. But until those are properly finished, we'll have to make do this way for a little while."
"Goodness..." the other man said as he gazed through the window. "They're being treated as if they're wild, mindless animals instead of actual people."
To his companion's slightly dismayed observation, Fanzone simply placed his arms on his hips and scoffed.
"Well, personally, I calls 'em like I sees 'em. But then again, I guess that whole conundrum is why City Hall decided to bring you in for consultation on this matter in the first place."
Turning to face the man beside him, the police captain raised an eyebrow towards him.
"So? What's your take then," he asked, "Mister Black?"
At the captain's expectant gaze, the businessman Prometheus Black quietly looked back and forth between Fanzone and the observation window a few times before he'd gathered his words.
"...My company, Biotech Unbound, focuses on using science to push forward the human potential, Captain Fanzone," he spoke solemnly. "On allowing our customers to realize their ideal selves, as well as unlocking the possibilities that lie beyond. ...But this?" he gestured towards the Pretenders, acting appalled and concerned by what he was seeing. "I mean, there exists a dark underbelly to every profession out there, Captain, so of course one hears things in the business — like the unsanctioned and frankly unethical bio-modifications some might purchase via the criminal underworld..." he spoke condemningly. "But this right here is simply monstrous, in every sense of the word."
Watching the man huff ever so slightly from his impassioned speech with a raised eyebrow, Fanzone decided to move matters along.
"Well, your friend, Mr. Powell, has assured me that you're pretty much a leading expert when it comes to this biotech stuff, so do you think you might be able to cure them? Turn them back into humans, or as close as those thugs ever were?" he appealed to him. "I realize it's a bit much to ask considering your own clinic was one of the places they robbed during their week-long crime spree — and in broad daylight to boot. But..."
"Say no more, Captain," Prometheus cut him off with a raised palm towards him. "You don't have to give me the hard sell. ...Rather, on the chance that the equipment they stole from me had anything to do with the Pretenders mutating even further as they did — devolving them into these gargantuan, mindless predators incapable of rational human thought — then I'm all but obligated to lend a hand, doing my best to undo this... this criminal abuse of biotechnology."
"Well, um... I guess that means you're onboard then. When can you get started?"
"Hmm. Let me think..." the man said while he gazed through the observation window in thought before looking back towards the policeman. "First off, I will require DNA samples for analysis in my lab," he declared pointedly. "Starting with fresh blood samples from the three of them as they are now."
"Gotcha," Fanzone nodded back at him, pleased with the man's decision to cooperate. "I'll instruct our lab people to procure some for you. Oh-ho, they're just going to love this assignment," he scoffed as he turned to leave, shaking his head with rueful sympathy for the upcoming headache his coworkers would be forced to deal with in extracting said samples from the uncooperative subjects.
As the Captain left him alone in the room, Prometheus Black turned back towards the observation window — placing a hand upon its surface as he leaned towards it.
"Aah. Alas, my dear Mr. Blood, Gilmer, and Dauros," he mused as he peered out at the wrangled Pretenders, a wide and sinister smirk slipping onto his face now that he was alone. "You three may have unfortunately failed in accomplishing our shared objective of destroying the Autobots, but do not let that get you down too much. Your efforts will help push along my personal agenda for this city quite nicely, not to mention serve to advance my research even further from now on. So you all can take some small solace in this, at the very least."
Chuckling smugly, the businessman turned away from the observation window — the overcoat draped from his shoulders fluttering behind him as he walked towards the doorway.
"It's been a pleasure doing business with you... gentlemen..."
Out in the larger room behind him, the Pretenders snarled and struggled furiously in their cages while the police officers tried to pacify them. Shaking and headbutting and even tilting their head sideways to comically gnaw at the thick metal bars, their animalistic and hateful roars reached out far and wide, echoing into the night sky outside the prison.
END OF CHAPTER 27
Ugh. I was hoping to get this out right before summer, but as always, life happened and I had to put writing the final pages on hold. At least with this we've finally concluded the "Beasts of Burdens" story arc, at long last. I wanted a quick story to foreshadow the threat Prometheus Black would pose later on in this fanfic, but I never expected it to mutate into such a monster of its own (much like the Beast Pretenders themselves did, heh). That the last few years have been a little extra draining for me didn't help on my productivity either.
At the very least, I hope you found the Beast Pretenders and the battle against them entertaining. We'll see a little more of them somewhere down the line, but they'll probably mostly just serve as Meltdown's mutated muscle like they did in TFA-canon rather than sentient characters.
On a different note, I pretty recently finally got to watch the original Japanese version of "Robots in Disguise, 2001" in its entirety. The show is silly as all hell, but delightfully so.
I've since moved on to try watching the Transformers anime "Beast Wars II", but it's proven a touch more exhausting to get through, one of the chief reasons being the "Jointron"-trio which I'm already convinced have to be some of the most blatantly obnoxious and annoying Transformers-characters in the entire franchise. Seriously, read their TFwiki page. It's a (bad) trip.
At the very least the show's duo of the delightfully campy Starscream and his lumbering life partner, BB, make for far more charming characters, so I'll probably try to soldier on through the rest of the episodes only to see more of them.
Ps: Thanks again so much to Erbor who helped me beta this chapter.
In the next story arc, we'll finally return the focus to Optimus and Sari.
The two will have to help Lieutenant Kelly as her police car suddenly starts getting its own ideas about how to enforce "law and order" — something which doesn't escape Megatron's notice.