Rob's Pile of Transformers: "Night Work"

EmarZero suggested it, and try as I might I couldn't help thinking about it till an idea came to me. It's a lot shorter than I originally intended, but whatever. As with "Shadow of Obligation", I'm playing in Dave Van Domelen's "Tales of the Intermezzo" universe here, filling in the gap between G1 and BW. Enjoy!

Night Work


 The place is called Axelgrinder's.  Named after the guy who owns it, but the 
joke is that the name describes what their fuel does to your systems.  Not a 
very funny joke. 

 Planet Brawn it ain't.  It's a run-down, filth-infested, slimy-looking, 
hoodlum-spawning dump, and that's putting it nicely.  There's a layer of junk 
scattered around on the floor, along with a few passed-out delinquents. 
The fuel-preparation practices are best described as questionable.  If 
the inspection agencies ever set foot in the place it'd be shut down 
faster than a Predacon shot out of a photon cannon.  That's not too 
likely, though, since there's almost nothing left of the sign outside 
to tip anybody off that there's an eating establishment inside.  It's 
my favorite local juice joint.

 Axel's is nice and quiet.  You can sip down whatever fuel turns your circuits, 
and nobody'll bother you.  I like it cause it's dark, and the regulars don't 
feel the need to come up and start blabbing to you, and hardly anyone stops in 
who's not a regular.  I go there a lot, tip well, and keep my yap shut.  I'd 
come in that night for a tall, strong Enervesence mix, something that'd last me 
a long time, give me a while to think.  Spend a lot of time thinking, these 
days.  I have the time, and Axel's is a good place for it. 

 Course, every now and then we get some lost type who wandered into the wrong 
part of town.  That night was one of those nights, unfortunately.  I was about 
half-way through my mix when he catches notice of me.  Little guy, Predacon.  
Flashin' his symbols all loud and proud.  I seen the type before.  Drunk, most 
likely, or maybe just obnoxious.  Or both.  Comes staggering over, big mean 
smile on his face.

 "I know who you are!" he exclaims.  "Oh yes, I know.  You're--"

 "I'm not anybody," I snapped at him.  "'Cept a bot in need of a drink.  And 
some peace and quiet."

 "Oh, I know who you are, I do indeed."

 "Well good for you.  Now go back to your table before your mouth gets you into 
trouble."

 "I know, I know, I know.  I read your files, yes I did.  All about you!"

 "Axel," I called out to the barkeeper, "You don't usually let known file 
hackers into your place, do ya?"

 "Sure as hell DON'T," Axelgrinder said, throwing his weight around, and giving 
my pal a look.  Axel's big, real big.  Doesn't let no trouble go down in his 
place.  My Pred pal gulped and sat down next to me.  Shut up for a minute.  I 
didn't look at him, just hoped he'd pass out or go away.  No such luck; he 
started whispering to me instead.

 "Not much work, now, is there," he rasped.  "Not much use for you on your own 
planet."

 "Why don't you run on home, Predacon," I said.

 "And no-one remembers your glory days," he kept on blathering.  "When you 
worked with the mighty Optimus Prime himself!  Heh heh!  Oh, you had respect 
back then, didn't you!  Heh heh!"

 I wasn't gonna let him get a rise outta me.  I been through it plenty of times, 
and maybe it used to bother me, but nowadays he'd have to do a lot better than 
that to get me started.  That's what they all want, these Predacon punks, to 
stir up trouble so they can have it out with you.  When you're safe and sitting 
in a bar, it's just a nuisance.

 In the longer term, though, I can't help wondering where it's all leading.  
Sometimes I see things that make me wonder... 

 He was still going.  "...just a worthless old heap now, aren't you?  Can't even 
pull in a decent case!  Just track down little scraps that the real cops throw 
out to you.  Heh heh!  Everyone knows what a hero you were.  Good thing not many 
of them know how hard you've fallen now.  What a disgrace!  Heh heh!  Not much 
honor left for you now, is there!  All you got left is what's in that glass." 

 I just ignored him, stared into my drink and made like he wasn't there.  If you 
ignore 'em, most of them get tired of it and go away.  I learned a long time ago 
it's not wise to start a fight if you can avoid it.

 Just then another stranger came up from the other side.  I didn't look at him, 
either.  Just tensed up, ready to move if I had to, sized him up out of the 
corner of my eye.  Pairs are bad news.  You get two punks together and they get 
cocky fast.  New guy spoke first. 

 "Too bad Unicron didn't eat this place," he said.

 I turned to him, slowly, gave him a once-over.  Nondescript little fellow, 
black with some grey and gold trim.  No insignia.  Nothing to make him stand 
out.  I answered him: "He did.  He spat it back out." 

 "That was back in the day, huh."

 "We didn't have days back then.  You got a problem?"

 "Our robo-kitty's been trying to get out of the house.  We hoped you could 
help."

 "Let's talk," I said, standing up to leave.  I left the drink where it was. 

 My first friend had been listening.  "Haw haw!  Robo-kitties!  Hah hah!  Oh, I 
heard you were having hard times, detective, but that's the best!  Robo-kitties!  
Hah hah hah!" 

 "I'm leaving, pal.  Here, have my drink," I said to him.  I tossed the whole 
thing in his face.  He sputtered for a minute.

 "Why -- you -- little --"

 Then I slugged him upside the head with the glass; that put him on the floor.  
I waved to my new buddy.  "Let's go.  I don't talk business in here."  I didn't 
worry about the Pred.  He wasn't moving, and if he did then  Axel'd take care of 
him.  One way or another.  "Come to my office, and tell me all about your 
kitty."

-  -  -
  My office is as dark as the bar, but messier.  My friend was nervous 
the whole walk over.  Can't blame him; it's a pretty rough looking part of town.  
That's why I set up shop here... keeps people from bothering me unless they're 
serious.  "Have a seat," I told my friend.  I dropped into a chair behind my 
desk, where I could take notes if needed.  These cases could get pretty complex. 

 "So tell me about your kitty," I said.

 "We safe here?"

 "We're plenty safe.  I'm pretty old, you know.  I didn't get that way by bein' 
stupid." 

 My pal sighed.  "They don't know who the kitty is.  All we've got is a some 
vague hints, rumors in the alleyway.  The way they're coming down, some people 
think the source might not be reliable, like we're being fed a line on purpose."

 "Who do they think it is?  I mean the source."

 "Pred secret police."

 "That could be tough.  They got their fingers in all sorts of things.  If any 
one knows much about 'em, they aren't talking."

 My friend shrugged.  "That's why we came to you."

 "I don't know anything more than anyone else."

 "I'm told that's never been a problem for you."

 "You brought data?"

 "Yep."  He pulled out a little disk, tossed it onto the desk. "Everything our 
guys have cooked up.  Rumors, sources, the works.  And a drop spot if you find 
anything."

 I picked it up; he stood up, making for the doorway.

 "I gotta split.  I can't be seen here again.  Good luck.  It's been an honor to 
meet you... Detective Nightbeat."

 "Thanks, kid.  Hey - you got a level head, and you seem to know when to keep 
your mouth shut.  Keep that up -- you'll go far."

 He left, disappeared out into the streets.  I popped the disk in my computer 
and started reading.  Lot of work to do... wandering kitties always were big 
trouble, even if they never actually got off the planet.  But if they really 
went missing, and made it into a restricted space-time zone, there'd really be 
hell to pay, all the way up the line.  So far it hasn't happened...  and I don't 
intend to let it, either.  Not on my shift.

 There's talk that the whole thing is suicide, that we can't keep restricting 
things like this forever.  I've thought about it, thought hard.  I can't see any 
other choice.  The restricted zones are where our history happened -- anyone 
entering them could change the whole outcome of the last war, or worse.  So for 
now, I'm throwing my lot in with the Maximal government, and hoping like hell 
that they're right about all this, that we can keep everyone out of the 
restricted zones.

 Cause if they're wrong, we're all in a deep, deep load of slag...

******************THE END************************

AUTHOR NOTE: I might be able to squeeze a couple more chapters from this 
story... but for now consider it finished. :]

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