“It’s Smylex, all right,” confirmed Batman once he arrived in Largandra and analyzed the chemicals left behind in the Elf’s body at the infirmary of Arsha’s castle. “The Joker’s had help in altering it for an Elf’s biochemistry. Most likely, Dr. Borg.”
“We haven’t heard anything from the Joker since that incident with the Sources,” mused Megumi.
“That just makes me wonder if the Joker is even acting of his own accord,” muttered Batman.
“…He’s the butt of Hiro’s gag,” realized Megumi.
“I don’t think I get it,” interjected Arsha.
“The Joker thinks of life as a demented joke,” explained Batman. “He figures that all it takes is one bad day to drive anyone insane.”
“He believes all accomplishments to be the butt of a joke,” guessed Arsha.
“Exactly,” confirmed Batman. “Because of that, and combined with the unknown trauma that caused him to be what he is now, he wants to watch the world burn.”
“It has to be on his terms, though,” remarked Megumi. “Right now, he’s burning it on Hiro’s orders. He’s become Shocker Rift’s Court Jester.”
“My Court Jester would take offense to that,” muttered Arsha. “He does see the gag in life, but he believes it to be a more positive gag.”
“For what is life but a few tricks and jests?” asked a voice. “When all know some events are rather silly, we all become the jester! If not, then we become truly grave until our graves are filled!” Arsha giggled a little as a human male dressed in a Jester’s outfit came in. “I hear someone’s taking the joke of life the wrong way?” asked the Jester.
“Palantro!” cheered Arsha as she hugged him. “It’s been too long!”
“I’ve heard that you had quite the adventure in your first year as Captain,” replied Palantro as the embrace was broken.
“I also had a bit of a wobble in my faith that I would be a good Captain,” murmured Arsha. “But, I bounced back. Gotta laugh at life sometimes.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” agreed Palantro. His face then went grim. “However, I heard that a clown has poisoned an Elf earlier.”
“He’s not a clown, he’s an escaped Asylum inmate,” corrected Batman. “He’s insane and he’s a chemical genius.”
“A dangerous combination,” gulped Palantro. “What’s this disgrace to Jesters look like?”
“Here he is,” replied Megumi as she pulled out a picture of the Joker.
“…Charming,” mumbled Palantro. He then did a double-take. “Hey, wait a minute! I saw him going into the abandoned Largandra Playing Card factory an hour ago!”
“Where’s that?!” asked Megumi.
“North of town,” replied Arsha. “We need to raid it!”
“He’ll get away in the crossfire,” argued Batman. “I have a plan that can make him realize he’s the butt of the joke.”
The Joker looked outside the gate of the factory with only a slight smile on his face. He knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out what. He dismissed it as he moved off. “Let’s see, now,” he mused to himself. “I suppose I COULD detonate this factory, but then the resulting gas would kill everyone and Hiro DOES need people alive right now…” The alarms interrupted his thoughts. “Oh, for…WHAT IS IT NOW?!” he shouted as he pulled out his gun and dashed towards a security station. He then saw who was passing by the cameras. “Well, it looks like I have bats in my belfry! And a tiger and fox!”
Batman, Arsha, and Megumi ran through the corridors of the factory. “Where?!” snarled Megumi.
“He’s not going to make this easy,” remarked Batman. They arrived at the large vats of chemicals.
“Why here?” asked Arsha.
“Because it reminds him of how he got that face of his,” replied Batman. “If he’s going to face us, it’s going to be where he’s reminded of how chemicals warped his skin and mind.”
“Ah, ah, AH!” called the Joker’s voice. “Don’t you know it’s rude to explain the joke?” A light then flashed onto the Joker above an open vat. A rope was suspended over the vat and was holding a young Japanese man over it.
“I take it he’s not from around here,” remarked Batman.
“Not even from any of the subdimensions that make up this universe!” laughed the Joker. “He’s from Hiro’s home universe! As a matter of fact, he’s the first of the…er…Reiwa Riders, I believe everyone’s calling him.”
“Now I wish I brought Hiroki here,” muttered Megumi.
“He’s Aruto Hiden,” explained Batman, “President and CEO of Hiden Intelligence, a manufacturer of androids called HumaGears. His real dream is to be a comedian, but he’s been failing in that regard.”
“Hey!” protested the young man, Aruto.
“Well, he’s just one of many!” laughed the Joker.
“One of many what?” asked Megumi.
“Hiro’s finally letting me have some fun,” explained the Joker. “I’ve noticed that too many comedians take a rather positive view on the joke that is life, so I needed to get rid of the competition and that fat lie they keep spreading! Life is one demented gag and a comedian can’t lie but so much to their audience!”
“So the Elf you killed was a comedian?” hissed Megumi.
“And Arsha’s Court Jester is next if you don’t back off!” warned the Joker.
“I don’t respond well to threats!” growled Arsha as she transferred her hair piece to her waist. She then snapped her fingers and her dress changed into a suit of armor.
“Nice try, girl!” taunted the Joker. “But I sell the tricks! I don’t buy them!”
“What about this trick?” asked a voice. Jazz then appeared and got Aruto away from the vat’s opening.
“Wha…wha…where…?!” spluttered the Joker.
“Cyber-ninjas like myself,” explained Jazz, “can fade into the background with enough training. No hologram generators, no Spark shielding, nothing!”
“Leading to younger bots to be overconfident,” replied a woman’s voice in a cold manner. Jazz then boosted his audio receptors to hear the whine of a ranged weapon priming itself for a shot.
“DOWN!” ordered Jazz. Everyone hit the floor as a purple beam of light tore through the space between the vats. Jazz then looked up to see Shockwave stepping out of the shadows with her right arm in gun mode.
“I suppose I need to work on the silencer for my weapon,” remarked Shockwave. She then converted it back into arm mode. “As the chemicals will catch fire the instant a stray shot hits them, I see no logical reason to risk my life with firearms.”
“For once, I agree with your logic!” hissed Jazz as he holstered his gun and brought out his nunchucks.
“A most illogical weapon,” muttered Shockwave as she took out a staff. She then twirled it and made various striking motions as Jazz went backwards to avoid them. Batman then charged at the Joker and fought him on one of the gangplanks while Arsha and Megumi freed Aruto.
“Thanks!” he bid. “Boy, I’ve heard of being tied up in dangerous business, but that’s just ridiculous! Hai! Aruto ja…naito!” (Yes! It must be me, Aruto!) He turned around, then pointed towards the two ladies in an exaggerated fashion.
“…Even though I know the context, that wasn’t even remotely funny,” remarked Megumi.
“I don’t know what’s worse,” mumbled Aruto sadly, “my HumaGear secretary, Izu, explaining my jokes when no one laughs, or someone getting it and still not laughing!”
“Hey, don’t forget me!” called a psycho woman’s voice. A woman in a harlequin’s outfit with a large hammer then came down from the ceiling.
“Harley Quinn, if I’m not mistaken,” mused Megumi as she fastened her belt.
“Vortex Driver!” it announced.
“Not really,” replied the woman as she pointed to her fancy-looking headphones.
“A HumaGear?!” yelped Aruto.
“An Assassin-type HumaGear,” explained the woman, “fashioned by Mister J to look like Harley Quinn. I suppose you can call me Quinn-Droid! Or the Trigono Magia, whichever works!”
“Magia?!” squeaked Aruto. The Quinn-Droid then pulled out a silver device with a slot inside it. She held it to her waist and it formed a belt strap. She then took out a rectangular device that was black with brown coloring breaking it up. She pressed a button on the smaller device’s top.
“TRIGONO!” it announced in a scary voice.
“A Zetsumerise Key!” revealed Aruto. “Similar to my Progrise Keys!”
“It sounds like it combines ‘zetsumetsu’ (extinction) with ‘rise’,” mused Megumi. The Quinn-Droid then inserted the Zetsumerise Key into the buckle and pressed a button on the buckle’s left side. Red wires then penetrated the Key.
“ZETSUMERISE!” announced the belt, the ZetsumeRiser. The Quinn-Droid’s human exterior was then destroyed and revealed the inner robot before the robot’s faceplate retracted and dozens of tendrils came out of its mouth. The tendrils then fused with the robot to make a new exterior based on the Trigonotarbid, an extinct common ancestor of arachnids, similar in appearance to Harvestmen and Daddy Longlegs. The new Trigono Magia still laughed in Harley Quinn’s voice.
“Catch me if you can!” it laughed as it fired needles from its mouth. Megumi, Arsha, and Aruto leapt out of the way as the Trigono Magia jumped around and forced them to take cover from her needles.
“Okay, time to get down to business!” declared Aruto as he pulled out a black, silver, and red device with a yellow circle and a reader shaped like the Zetsumerise Key. He then fastened it to his waist as it formed a belt strap.
“ZERO-ONE DRIVER!” it announced. Aruto then pulled out a device that looked similar to the Zetsumerise key, but it was neon yellow and evoked a grasshopper. This was the Progrise Key he had mentioned. He then pressed the button on his Key.
“JUMP!” called the Key. He then held the Key in front of the belt’s reader.
“Authorise,” reported the belt. A giant, mechanical grasshopper with transparent armor then appeared and hopped around Aruto. He then rotated the front of the Key to reveal the inner workings of the mechanical grasshopper.
“Henshin!” he announced as he inserted the Key into the Zero-One Driver’s right hand slot.
“PROGRISE!” called the belt as a black undersuit covered Aruto and the grasshopper split and shrunk into armor pieces. “TOBIAGA RISE! (JUMP UP AND RISE!) RISING HOPPER! A jump to the sky turns to a Rider Kick.” The armor then attached itself to Aruto’s undersuit-clad body and his eyes and jewel between his helmets’ antennae flashed to indicate his transformation was complete.
“…I almost forgot why I put this thing on,” Megumi mentally chided herself as she got up and held her i.d. tag in her right hand before striking her pose. “Henshin!” she called. She then inserted the i.d. tag into the belt and spun the wheel, becoming Kamen Rider Royal. “Kamen Rider Royal!” she introduced herself. “Evil will ultimately bow to me!”
“Kamen Rider Zero-One!” announced Aruto. He then pointed to the Trigono Magia. “Omae o tome rareru no wa tada hitori,” he then pointed to himself, “ore da!” (There’s only one person who can stop you, and that’s me!)
“Er, Arsha Royana!” stumbled Arsha. “Er…I, er…you know what, forget it, let’s just fight.” The two Kamen Riders and Princess then charged at the Magia and punched and kicked, keeping its fire unfocused.
Jazz was still dodging Shockwave’s staff as it whacked pipes off and released steam. “Come on!” taunted Jazz. “Where’s the logic in a Decepticon obeying an organic?”
“There needed to be only ONE murder,” explained Shockwave. “The Joker was taking this too far as he saw this to be an opportunity to cause chaos. I will make him return with me once I deliver our alliance’s message.”
“You killed an Elf just to deliver a message?!” snarled Jazz.
“Caan is ours to hunt,” replied Shockwave, dismissing Jazz’s rage. “Stay out of our way. Do not interfere or more innocents will suffer.” Jazz then grabbed the staff on Shockwave’s downward swing and wrested it from her, tossing it aside and charging at her with his nunchucks. Shockwave then shifted her stance and held her hands in a twin knife-hand style by her right and vibrated them so fast, one could hardly notice. She then thrust forward and struck Jazz’s shoulder armor. It shattered and the blows pierced Jazz’s internal protoform, enough to make him leak Energon. Jazz was flung back by the force of the strike and hit a wall before sliding down and clutching his shoulder in pain to try and prevent more Energon from leaking. Shockwave then threw a device to the ground that spewed smoke and caused a small amount of electromagnetic energy to confuse Jazz’s sensors. Jazz was left alone, still in pain.
“MEDIC!” he called
While Jazz’s fight went on, Batman and the Joker were engaged in one of their usual duels and the Joker was explaining his philosophy as usual. “Come now, Batsy!” he laughed. “You can’t tell me you’re not insane! You dress up as a flying rat for some arbitrary concept that gives the illusion that there IS justice, there IS such a thing as mercy! Why not admit it, your condition is like mine; crazy as a soup sandwich!” He laughed again, then…he heard it. Batman…chuckled while blocking one of the Joker’s chops. “Is that a laugh I’m hearing?” giggled the Joker. “You’re finally admitting it!”
“Oh, that’s not the joke I’m laughing at,” chuckled Batman.
“…What other joke IS there?” asked the Joker, genuinely confused.
“Oh, you’re telling it, you just don’t know it,” replied Batman as he took to a higher gangplank.
“Then you’re going to have to risk the funny and explain it to me!” demanded the Joker.
“The joke that you’re an agent of chaos,” laughed Batman.
“How is THAT a joke?!” protested the Joker.
“You think you destroy order when, in reality,” explained Batman, “you’re making an order that YOU believe is right!”
“What?!” snarled the Joker.
“You heard me!” taunted Batman as he dodged the shots from the Joker’s gun. “You need people to help you carry out your plans to cause chaos. You want to make yourself king of an insane world. You want people bowing to you and preaching the gospel of madness! People helping other people, being king, people bowing to you and preaching gospel, these are all signs of making a new status quo! On top of that, I know, deep down, you view Hiro’s order as wrong!”
“You’re starting to make me a very angry clown!” warned the Joker.
“You want people to bow to you on YOUR terms!” continued Batman. “You hate the idea that someone is making a better order!” Batman then laughed and laughed and laughed, making the Joker angry.
“Stop laughing!” he ordered as he pulled out a pair of grenades.
“Why?!” taunted Batman. “I thought you wanted me to laugh at your jokes!”
“THAT’S NOT THE JOKE!” roared the Joker as he pulled the pins and launched them at Batman. Batman escaped before they exploded.
“You said to me once,” recalled Batman as he landed on the same gangplank as the Joker, “that all it would take is one bad day to drive the sanest man alive to lunacy, well I found that all it takes is one good day to make the craziest man alive a functioning member of society!”
“NottruenottruenottrueNOTTRUENOTTRUENOTTRUENONONONONONONONONOONOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” The Joker’s shriek was so loud and so long, he passed out after losing his breath. Batman then ran up to the Joker and checked for a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found a normal pulse.
“I hope you can think on what I’ve said,” he wished the Joker. He then joined Arsha, Royal, and Zero-One in fighting the Trigono Magia.
“Batman, Arsha, stand back!” warned Royal as she spun the wheel. Zero-One then pushed his Progrise Key into the belt a little before it returned to its original position.
“Final attack!” called the Vortex Driver as both Riders leapt into the air.
“RIDER ROYAL KICK!” announced Royal as she stuck her foot out.
“RISING IMPACT!” called the Zero-One Driver as Zero-One stuck his foot out, Both Riders then sailed through the air and struck the Magia, landing behind it and causing it to explode. Some of the internal lubricants of the Magia then dripped into the vats, causing them to change color. When it was confirmed there were no more attacks, Arsha cancelled her armor, returned her hairpiece to her bun, and pulled out a scanner, getting a reading on the vat’s contents.
“…I don’t believe it!” she breathed. “The lubricants made the chemicals non-toxic! If we can synthesize them, we can finally dispose of these chemicals safely!” Batman took out a test tube and gathered a sample of the lubricants.
“Your alchemists may need this,” he advised.
“Thank you,” bid Arsha.
“MEDIC!” called Jazz’s voice. Everyone dashed off to see Jazz clutching his shoulder and gasping in pain. Royal then whipped out her communicator.
“POmega, get Ratchet here now!” she called.
“Crystalocution,” muttered Optimus as Ratchet tended to Jazz back at the Royana’s castle. “Shockwave knows more than Five Servos of Doom.”
“What’s Crystalocution?” asked Megumi.
“It’s a fighting style that targets the enemy’s fracture points,” explained Optimus. Arsha winced. Just then, Ratchet came out.
“He’s stable and wants to talk to you three,” he reported.
“We’ll be right there,” declared Arsha. They entered the room where Jazz was resting from repairs.
“How are things?” asked Optimus.
“Could be better,” mumbled Jazz. “I’m gonna be laid up here for five days.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” sympathized Optimus.
“Prime, the attack was just to get your attention,” continued Jazz. “You, Megumi, and Arsha, that was just a message for you three.”
“What kind of message is that?!” protested Megumi.
“A sick one,” replied Arsha.
“Hiro and his allies want you to stay out of the way as they hunt for Caan,” explained Jazz.
“I can’t do that,” answered Megumi.
“I somehow thought that’d be your answer,” muttered Jazz.
“Right now,” continued Megumi, “I have a duty to perform.”
While everyone talked, Aruto looked into the cell where the Joker sat in handcuffs, sobbing to himself. Aruto shook his head in pity. “Poor guy,” he muttered. “Couldn’t see that life is a more pleasant joke than he thought.”