Double the Fun
So much for "Four's a Crowd" being a one-shot. CURSE YOU, PLOT BUNNIES!
This is the second in what will eventually turn out to be a quartet of one-shots focusing on two famous sets of twins -- one being from Harry Potter, the other from Transformers. I own neither of these universes (J.K. Rowling and Hasbro have that blessing), so please don't sue me.
Most of the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products mentioned (or at least their original versions) come from the Harry Potter books or from Wikipedia, though a few (such as Barnyard Bullseyes) are my own creation. Dead End's book quote comes from Peter S. Beagle's "The Last Unicorn." Hey, the line seemed like something he'd say...
This fic takes place directly after Fred and George's escape from Hogwarts in "Order of the Phoenix." It is recommended, but not required, that you read "Four's a Crowd" before reading this.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
One always assumed some amount of risk when they entered Wheeljack's laboratory. Oh, not that the inventor wasn't a brilliant mech; his inventions had done so much good for the Autobot cause. But his inventions had a nasty habit of melting down, exploding, or otherwise glitching at exactly the wrong time. Mechs had learned to turn and walk (or even run) the other way whenever they heard the dreaded words "Hey, come down to the lab, I want to show you something." Even Ratchet, one of Wheeljack's closest friends, and the Dinobots, who regarded him as a parental figure, had learned to exercise caution in the vicinity of the labs. One simply had to learn to expect anything when entering the engineer's domain.
So none of the mechs present at this demonstration were particularly surprised when, the instant he flicked his newest contraption on, a red-headed young human man popped into existence on the table next to the device. It was something new, granted, but one learned to expect surprises from Wheeljack.
Jazz clapped enthusiastically. "Nice one, 'Jack! Now the 'cons won't be th' only ones with a teleporter!"
Wheeljack's head-fins flickered a puzzled lavender. "It's a portable energy collector, not a teleporter."
The human glanced about, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he was surrounded by giant robots. "Nice flat you've got yourselves here," he noted. "Little too much orange for my tastes, but I like what you've done with the rock highlights."
Optimus Prime furrowed his metallic brow as he studied the human. Bright red hair, a lanky frame that was mostly obscured by a loose dark robe, one hand clutching a traveling valise, and the other holding what appeared to be a broom... no human he was familiar with. Though the manner of his dress closely resembled the typical garb of the wizards that secretly inhabited this planet, wizards whom he had only become acquainted with two summers ago...
"Fred!" Sideswipe exclaimed, shooting out of his seat with a huge grin. "Long time no see! How are you?"
"Delightful, thank you," Fred replied, offering a bow.
"Sideswipe, you know this human?" asked Prime.
"Oh yeah!" Sideswipe replied enthusiastically. "This is Fred Weasley! Sunny and I have been writing him for awhile now! Remember him, Prowl?"
"How could I forget?" said Prowl in a leaden voice, rubbing one temple as if feeling a CPU ache coming on.
"He and his twin brother helped us fight the Stunticons two years ago," Sideswipe went on. "Remember, when they were ripping up London? Fred took on Dead End and beat him, and George got Breakdown real good..." His voice trailed off, and he frowned at the young wizard. "Where's George?"
"Oh..." Fred looked about, as if expecting his twin to materialize in much the same manner as he had, then gave an indifferent shrug. "He's somewhere. But enough of that. Where's this Prime fellow you've told me about, Sideswipe?"
The red Lamborghini patted Prime's shoulder. "Right here."
Fred whistled appreciatively. "Big fella." He gave a stately bow as if Prime were royalty. "Good to meet you, Sir Optimus Prime."
"Just Prime," he replied, nodding. "May I ask what business brings a young wizard Apparating into the Autobot base?" Privately he made a note to thank Jazz for suggesting all the Autobot officers read up on wizard terminology and basic spells.
"You must be psychic!" Fred exclaimed. "I was just about to explain. You see, Prime, me'n the brother... well, we're in a bit of a bind."
"Who'd you frag off this time?" asked Sideswipe. "Your mom finally making good on her promise to skin you?"
"Oh, Mum'll have our heads as Quaffles when she finds out, but no, that's not it," Fred replied, sounding totally unconcerned. "No, actually, m' brother and I have... well... you might say we've had an early graduation."
"You dropped out," Prime translated. "I don't believe that's wise..."
"You'd have run off too, if you'd seen what the Ministry's done to Hogwarts!" Fred insisted. "Umbridge is a cow, Draco and his cadre are worse than ever, Filch is happy for once, which is bad in itself..."
Jazz gave Sideswipe a questioning look. Sideswipe replied with an I-don't-know-what-he's-talking-about-either shrug.
"...so George has found somewhere to lay low awhile until the Ministry gets fed up of searching for us and we can go back to our shop," Fred explained.
"Oh, you started your joke shop?" Sideswipe grinned. "Great! How's business?"
"Smashing," Fred replied. "But as I was saying, George has a hiding place, but I need somewhere to crash awhile -- we agreed it'd be best if we split up until they stop searching for us." He offered Prime an expression of innocent pleading. "Please, Prime, could I stay here awhile? I'm quiet, well-behaved, take orders, and I'm housetrained to boot. Please?"
"I would beg to differ on the quiet, well-behaved, and 'take orders' statements," Prowl said flatly. "With a track record like that, we can only hope the last one is true as well."
Jazz clapped his hands over his mouth and snorted, trying valiantly not to laugh at Prowl's comment.
"Yeah, Prime, please can he stay?" pleaded Sideswipe, giving the commander a look that a human could only describe as "puppy-dog eyes." "He can stay in me and Sunny's quarters!"
Prime considered. Fred's request was more complicated than it sounded. The Autobots' relationship with the Ministry of Magic had been strained from the very beginning -- Cybertronians in general were wary of anything that couldn't be explained by their scientists, including magic, and the wizards as a rule distrusted technology, especially technology that wasn't even of their world. Somehow both Prime and Minister Fudge (with a great deal of help from Albus Dumbledore, much to Fudge's chagrin) had managed to preserve a precarious truce between their people, but he knew it wouldn't take much of an excuse for the Ministry to cut off ties to the Autobots. And harboring a fugitive, even one as young as Fred Weasley, could very well be that excuse.
On the other hand, though, if he DIDN'T grant the young man some form of asylum aboard the Ark, he would have his conscience harping on him for some time... not to mention the displeasure of the twins to deal with. And unhappy twins were a recipe for disaster if he ever saw one. Besides, it was only one young Hogwarts dropout begging shelter from them, not a pack of Death Eaters. How much trouble could he be?
His gaze moved from Fred's anxious face to Sideswipe's pleading expression, then to Jazz's amused grin, Wheeljack's puzzled stare, and Prowl's exasperated look. "Jazz, radio Spike and Carly and ask them to set up one of the human guest rooms for one," he ordered. "Sideswipe, take him to Red Alert for a security check and to bring him up to speed on regulations, then give him a tour of the base. Prowl, tell all units to be on the lookout for Ministry of Magic officials approaching the Ark."
"He's stayin'?" asked Jazz.
"I believe that's been established."
Sideswipe whooped in glee and dashed forward, scooping up the young wizard and trotting out of the labs with him. "This is going to be great! Oh, wait'll I tell Sunny! We're going to have a blast..."
Prowl gave a weary sigh, his door-wings wilting. "Are you certain this is a good idea, Prime?"
"Aw, c'mon Prowl, he's just a kid," Jazz assured him. "Where's th' harm?"
Wheeljack's energy collector began to fizzle, as if deciding it had been ignored long enough and demanding attention. The three officers wisely vacated the labs as the engineer hurried toward his project and began frantically fiddling with it.
SEA FLOOR, PACIFIC OCEAN
The Constructicons had all been busily hunched over the designs and components for Megatron's latest superweapon, but they raised their heads almost as one and stared, nonplussed, at the tiny figure that had suddenly materialized out of thin air on the workbench. They continued to stare, utterly speechless, hands and tools frozen over the exposed electronic guts of the cannon, as the human glanced around the Nemesis' repair bay to take in his surroundings. Nodding once as if satisfied with what he found, he turned to face the six of them and offered a cheery grin, as if facing thirty-foot robots from outer space were an everyday matter for him.
"Cheers, good fellows. Nice setup you have here -- though I must say the purple is overkill. Makes it look as if Lockhart's been doing your decorating."
"What -- the -- slag?" drawled Scavenger, managing to kick his vocalizer into gear at last.
"Rumble, is that you in another of your disguises?" demanded Hook, recovering quickly and assuming charge of the situation. "How many times have we told you that this area is restricted until further notice?"
"Who's Rumble?" the young human inquired, arching a scarlet eyebrow. "Name's George. George Weasley."
"A human?" Long Haul gaped -- as much as a mech wearing a mask and visor can gape, anyhow. "How the slag did a human make it here?"
Scrapper turned away from the others and radioed Megatron. "Lord Megatron, we have a human infiltrator in the repair bay."
"A what?" Megatron exclaimed. "How the slag did it get there?"
"We're still unsure," Scrapper replied.
"Capture it and keep it there," Megatron ordered. "I'll be down shortly."
"Yes, sir," he replied, then cut the connection.
"Look at the weird clothes," suggested Bonecrusher, reaching out and poking at George with a massive finger. "Bet it's one of those wizard fleshies the Stunticons told us about that one time."
"The Stunticons," Hook repeated, deactivating his optics and suppressing a shudder at the mention of "that one time." When they had finally managed to wrangle Motormaster's subordinates out of the Autobots' custody that day, it had been Hook that had dealt with them -- and the memory of that would haunt him for vorns to come. Both Wildrider and Dragstrip had been worked over by the twins and been a mess, Breakdown had somehow managed to get organic waste products up his olfactory vents, and Dead End had been locked into some sort of semi-offline state that had taken him days to shake off. Even nearly two years later, the Stunticons still refused to take missions to the United Kingdom and Dragstrip was still leery of entering a darkened room or corridor.
"This... thing took down a Stunticon?" asked Mixmaster, arching an optic ridge. "It's smaller than a cassette!"
"If it's a wizard, don't underestimate it," Scrapper advised. "Their spells are rumored to be quite powerful..."
"Spells?" laughed Hook. "There's no such thing as magic. Whatever 'magic' this fleshling works is mere trickery."
"Try giving Dead End and Breakdown the 'mere trickery' explanation," suggested Scavenger dryly.
George seemed to be enjoying the attention, smiling broadly and turning from side to side as if to show off his profile at all possible angles. It was obvious that he heard every word of what the Constructicons were saying -- and loved every bit of it.
Megatron stormed into the repair bay at that moment, Starscream close on his heels. George whirled to face the Decepticon leader, grinned brightly, and gave a polite bow.
"Hello!" he announced cheerily. "Name's George Weasley. Delighted to meet you, really delighted..."
"Shut up," snapped Megatron, and he scooped up the young human in one hand and raised him to eye level. George wriggled a little against the black metal fingers wrapped around his torso, but more to settle himself comfortably in the Decepticon's grip than in a terrified bid for freedom. He met Megatron's glower with a confident stare of his own.
"How did you get into the base?" he demanded.
George just smiled.
"Answer me!" he bellowed, shaking George violently. The red-haired head snapped back and forth a few times, not causing injury but rattling George's wits enough that it took him a moment to pull himself together and reply.
"How can I answer you?" he asked plaintively. "You just told me to shut up. I'd say you need to make up your mind..."
Starscream gave a high, raspy laugh. "Having a little trouble with the squishy, O Mighty Megatron?"
"Insolent fleshbag," Megatron hissed. "I should crush you now and be done with you!"
"Aw, please, mighty Megs -- can I call you Megs? -- don't squish me. I make an awful mess. Besides, it was all an accident, I was just trying to Apparate to the Autobot base to visit my friends Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. Cut a man a little slack for making an honest mistake..."
The furious look on Megatron's face leeched away, replaced by a cunning smile. "A friend of the Autobots, then?" His grip on the wizard boy loosened just slightly. "You have just earned a temporary lease on your life, human. For your friendship with the Autobots makes you valuable to us now."
"You've got to be out of your processor, Megatron!" protested Starscream. "Keeing a fleshling on the Nemesis? It's unthinkable! If I were leader of the Decepticons, we'd have destroyed the disgusting thing..."
"Shut up!" barked Megatron, slinging his free arm back to backhand the Decepticon Air Commander. "Constructicons, build a suitable habitat for this flesh creature. He is in your charge from here on out."
Hook's mouth curled into a distasteful frown, repulsed at the idea of playing nursemaid to an organic, but he extended his hand and took George from Megatron anyhow. "Yes, Lord Megatron."
"Keep him in good health," Megatron ordered in a warning tone. "If we're to have any leverage with the Autobots, we want to make sure he suffers no... permanent damage." He smiled wickedly and strode out, grabbing Starscream by a wing and wrenching him forcibly out of the room.
Hook gazed down at the rumpled fleshling in his palm and gave a disdainful snort. "You're going to be a lot of bother to me, human."
George gave a smirk that was disturbingly reminiscent of a Lamborghini's. "You really think so?"
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
For the first four days or so after Fred's abrupt arrival in Wheeljack's lab, life progressed pretty much as normal. True, there was the expected circuit-wracking fit from Red Alert when he learned that a human had somehow managed to gain entry without causing so much as a blip in the security systems. Spike, who had helped Fred settle in, liked the kid well enough, though the differences between their particular dialects of English had caused a couple of slip-ups and plenty of good-natured laughs. The Autobots continued business as usual, and if Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were occasionally seen conferring with the young wizard every now and again, or one of the three were found smirking for no apparent reason... well, at least they were keeping each other out of trouble.
They all should have realized it was the calm before the storm.
On the fifth day of Fred's stay, Ratchet and First Aid were busy fixing a few glitches in a monitor when Sideswipe limped in, rubbing his backside and wearing a sheepish grin.
"What the frag happened to you?" demanded Ratchet. "Prowl finally took my suggestion to start paddling you?"
"Um... no," Sideswipe replied, still grinning in an embarassed manner as he gingerly made his way toward the medic. "I... uh... ain't feeling too sharp, so Prowl let me off duty... but he sent me here..."
Ratchet gestured sharply toward the examination table. "Lay down. Now. First Aid, get a scanner. Sideswipe, what does your diagnostic... Primus on a stick!"
Sideswipe had lain face-down on the examining table, and the cause of the discomfort to his skidplate became apparent immediately. The paint was blistered and patchy, as if exposed to the elements too long, and the bare metal was oozing energon in places. Sideswipe's sheepish expression intensified.
"What have you gone and done to yourself?" Ratchet demanded testily.
"Nothing, nothing at all," Sideswipe said a little too quickly.
"With you, it's never 'nothing at all,'" retorted Ratchet.
First Aid looked up from the scanner. "Boss, I'm getting a clean bill of health, but his internal temperatures are slightly elevated."
"Give me that," Ratchet barked, grabbing the scanner from his apprentice and inspecting it himself. "Nothing wrong with your cooling systems, so why the frag are you running a fever? Spit it out, Rosie..."
Jazz burst in at that moment, grumbling with uncharacteristic temper and clamping an energon-stained rag over his face. Ratchet left off questioning the Lamborghini and rushed to the Porsche's side, practically shoving him into a chair.
"What happened?" Ratchet demanded, prying Jazz's hand and the cloth away from his face. "Sparring with a Dinobot or something?"
"Frag no," Jazz muttered, wiping at his olfactory sensor -- the source of the leak, as energon was bleeding from the air vents with alarming speed. "Bought a cube of energon offa Fred. Said if I drank it, he guaranteed I'd be able to skip out on th' next meeting. Trusted th' kid, took th' stuff, an' now I'm bleedin' like a stuck pig."
"A stuck what?" asked First Aid, cocking his head to one side. The young medic still wasn't up to speed on human figures of speech.
Ratchet handed Jazz a clean rag. "Hold that over your facial vents until your self-repair systems handle it. Vent bleeds always look worse than they really are. And how did I know Fred had a hand in this?" He glowered in Sideswipe's direction.
"You wound me, Ratchet," Sideswipe said in a hurt tone, wincing as First Aid scraped flaking paint from his aft. "A blow to my friend is a slap in my own face, you know."
"What the slag did Fred give the two of you?" Ratchet barked.
"Just some samples from the Cybertronian version of Skivving Snackboxes," Sideswipe replied, his voice dripping with utter innocence. "Fred needed test subjects and I needed to get off of patrol duty, so..."
Ratchet opened his mouth for a spectacular retort, only to close it again when Bluestreak charged into repair bay, optics wide and bright with fear. Instantly all optics were on the young gunner as everyone sensed something was seriously wrong with him. For one thing, he was completely silent. In fact, both his hands were clamped over his mouth, as if he were trying to bottle up his speech by physical means.
"Bluestreak, what's wrong?" asked Ratchet, the rage draining from his voice instantly. "What happened?"
Bluestreak whimpered pitifully.
"C'mon, Blue," Jazz coaxed gently, his voice slightly muffled by the rag still clutched to his faceplate. "You can tell us anythin'."
Gingerly he lowered his hands. He opened his mouth to speak... and closed it again and clapped his hands back over it when a horrific screech emerged from his vocalizer, a screech like the sound a cat made when its tail was shut in a heavy door.
"What the frag?" Sideswipe gaped, fighting to hold back a hearty guffaw.
"Try again," urged Ratchet. "Might have been a temporary glitch in your vocalizer..."
Bluestreak opened his mouth as if to protest -- but instead of his usual easy chatter, he uttered a terrific string of clucks, brays, bleats, quacks, snorts, and barks before slapping a hand over his mouth once more. Sideswipe lowered his head back to the table with a thunk, giggling uncontrollably, and even Jazz couldn't suppress a chuckle. Bluestreak, meanwhile, would have gone bright red had Cybertronians possessed the ability to blush.
Ratchet arched an optic ridge. "Fred gave you an energon cube?"
Bluestreak nodded, giving Ratchet a look similar to that of a whipped puppy.
"And may I ask just WHERE Fred is getting this energon from?" Ratchet demanded, whirling on Sideswipe.
"Oh, you always assume it's me..." Sideswipe complained, despite wearing a huge grin.
"Because it IS always you," retorted Ratchet.
Once again the medbay doors opened, and this time it was Hound who strode in, a strange look on his face as if he couldn't decide whether to be amazed or irritated. Hovering by his side, pointed face set in a look of horrified indignation, was a large blue-and-white mechanical bird, whistling angrily.
Jazz gaped at the avian construct. "Mirage?"
The bird twittered furiously, and Hound opened his mouth as if to explain.
"No," Ratchet snapped, cutting him off. "Don't say a word. Just get him in here."
Sideswipe howled with laughter.
Back in the Lamborghini's quarters, Sunstreaker couldn't suppress a chuckle of his own as Sideswipe related the goings-on in medbay over their private link, though his words were occasionally rendered unintelligable by his laughter. Fred, meanwhile, only nodded seriously and recorded what Sunstreaker relayed to him in a small cloth-bound book.
Day 1 of testing -- Energon version of Fever Fudge, when consumed by an Autobot, produces effects similar to the candy version when consumed by a human, except paint-rot forms on backside instead of boils. Doubt Essence of Murtlap will work as antidote. Nosebleed Nougats tested with exceptional results, with added bonus that nosebleed seems to stop on its own without an antidote. Barnyard Bullseyes a hit -- will work on antidote for Bluestreak. Canary Creams also successful. Will investigate Puking Pastiles and Fainting Fancies at a later date. Weather's beautiful, company's nice, Prime's a great fellow and Ratchet doesn't seem to like us -- can't imagine why. How are things on your end, George?
SEA FLOOR, PACIFIC OCEAN
It had been five days since George Weasley had arrived in the Decepticon base, and for that entire time Megatron had worn a gloating smirk, Hook and his cadre had nearly worn themselves out between studying up on caring for a human and trying to get Megatron's latest "toy" ready for action, and the Stunticons had practically been walking on flimsiplast shells, waiting for the proverbial bomb to drop. The rest of the Decepticons either ignored the human entirely or tried to wrangle their way into repair bay for a gawk at him. Hook had lost count of the number of times he and the others had physically tossed Skywarp out on his aft, only for him to teleport back in moments later.
And the center of all this fuss simply basked in the attention, as if his sole purpose in coming here was to be entertained by the bustle and fuss he had caused.
"He's up to something," muttered Starscream, peering into the repair bay and watching the Constructicons haul Skywarp out yet again. "That human came here for a purpose, and I want to know what it is."
Dead End, who had joined Starscream in his study, snorted. "We're all doomed. Granted, we were doomed anyhow, what with this grudge match between Prime and Megatron that passes as a war, but a wizard aboard the Nemesis shall only hasten it." His visored gaze rested on the cage sitting on a table, where George was humming to himself as he flipped through a cloth-bound book. "Has Megatron contacted the Autobots about his captive?"
"Not yet," Starscream replied. "Wants to wait awhile, he claims. Let the Autobots suspect something's up when they can't contact their little fleshbag friend. Once they're good and worried, he'll deliver an ultimatum of some sort -- he hasn't decided what yet."
"And in the meantime this accursed organic will be the death of us," Dead End complained.
"He's a human!" retorted Starscream. "What can he do, dent our shinguards?"
"He's a wizard," countered Dead End. "You would not ask that question if you had seen him and his infernal twin in action. Be thankful they're not both here, or we would all probably be rust fodder by now..."
And it was at that precise moment that the fireworks went off.
Starscream had once been caught in the thick of an American Independence Day fireworks display while doing a low flyover of a small town, and he had come out of that experience slightly singed and with no desire to relive it. Well, he relived it now, in great detail, as the corridor outside the repair bay filled with multicolored sparks and explosions. Dead End, for his part, began howling almost instantly as a firecracker blackened his paint from the knees down.
"STARSCREAM!" bellowed Megatron, charging full-tilt down the hallway, his armor smoking a little. "What in blazes is going on?"
"Why am I expected to know?" demanded the F-15.
A brilliant multicolored dragon, formed entirely from glittering sparks, rounded a corner, heaving fire at a hysterical Swindle and Blitzwing as it pursued the mechs. Megatron raised his arm and fired a blast from his fusion cannon at the creature. The Combaticon and triple-changer flung themselves to either side to avoid the blast, but the dragon met the shot head-on... and promptly split in two. The halves quavered a moment, then the sparks composing them shifted and reformed to form two whole, seperate dragons. These creatures grinned evilly at one another before launching themselves at their prey again.
"That was intelligent," Starscream sneered.
"And I suppose you think you can do better!" bellowed Megatron.
A Catherine wheel shrieked toward Starscream's head at that moment. Instinctively he readied his arm guns and fired his null rays. The shots were absorbed by the fiery disc, and it gleamed brighter and hotter as if gaining energy from the blast.
"Stop fraggin' shooting at the things!" demanded Hook, emerging from repair bay carrying a fire extinguisher. He waited while a silver-tailed rocket veered into firing range, then hosed it down. The rocket merely shook off the blanket of foam and howled forward, impacting against Hook's chest and making the surgeon stagger.
"This is YOUR fault, Megatron!" Starscream shouted over the din of exploding fireworks and whistling rockets. "You insisted on keeping that fleshling here..."
"Shut up, Starscream!" Megatron bellowed. "Who are you to question my decisions?"
Dead End chuckled. "Haggard, I would not be you for all the world. You have let your doom in by the front door, though it will not depart that way."
"What the slag are you blathering about?" demanded Hook.
"I read it in a book," Dead End remarked. "It seemed an appropriate line for this occasion..."
Megatron roared and struck out with both fists, toppling both Starscream and Dead End. "Why am I cursed with a plague of morons?"
Meanwhile, George glanced up from his book to see Rumble and Frenzy pelt by, screaming in terror, as a fiery, smoking purple bat winged after them. The two cassettes charged out the door and into the hallway, where he could see a large sparkler spelling out the words SLAG and YOUR MOTHER WAS A GARBAGE DISPOSAL. Smiling to himself, he dipped a goose-feather quill in his inkpot and penned a little note beneath Fred's last entry:
Everything's smashing at this end, Fred. Food is good, but service is lousy. Hook needs to smile more. Good to hear the Skivving Snack-Cubes work. If we don't find an antidote for the Barnyard Bullseye shortly, let's plan on a gift basket for Bluestreak. Oh, tested a crate of Wildfire Whiz-Bangs here. They were an absolute hit. Megatron's fusion cannon causes them to double, and Starscream's null rays boost their power. Flame retardant foam appears to have no effect. Tell Sideswipe and Sunstreaker hello for me, and I'll see about getting blackmail pictures for them. Hopefully Colin Creevey doesn't know we nicked his camera yet.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
"Grapple is going to have a fit," noted Hound.
"Grapple, Pit," muttered Trailbreaker. "Prowl's going to blow a fuse. And that's saying something."
The two mechs stared at the mess that had been made of the corridor leading to the officers' quarters. Few mechs ever paid much attention to the floor, of course -- but maybe they'd start paying attention now, seeing as it had been replaced with thick sloppy mud and opaque greenish-brown water that came up to a minibot's waist in places (which they knew now thanks to Bumblebee blundering into it earlier). The buzz and crick of insects and frogs was clearly audible, and Hound's sensitive olfactory sensors picked up the scent of stangant water and decaying vegetation that now cloyed the hallway.
"Got to admit, the kid's good," Trailbreaker said with grudging admiration, reaching out with a foot to kick at a stand of reeds that had sprouted at the point where the orange alloy of the floor ended and the indoor swamp began. "Doubt even Wheeljack and Perceptor could pull something like this off."
"Wheeljack and Perceptor don't deal in magic," Hound replied. "Besides, Perceptor's been trying to disprove it's existence ever since Fred showed up. Maybe he'd stop if he'd come out of his lab long enough to see what's been going on in the rest of the base."
Trailbreaker nodded agreement. There had certainly been enough proof over the past two weeks to prove some mysterious power was afoot. First there had been the slew of mysterious illnesses and other complaints, ranging from simple fevers and fainting spells to Mirage's spectacular bird-transformation (luckily, it had eventually worn off on its own) to mechs suddenly changing color without warning (poor Bluestreak and Smokescreen were still trying to sort themselves out among their comrades). Ratchet had nearly ripped off his own chevron in his subsequent fit.
Then there had been the trick weapons -- false guns, cannons, and missile launchers that were unfortunately nearly indistinguishable from their working counterparts. If a mech was lucky, a trick weapon would merely turn into something goofy but harmless upon being picked up, such as a rubber chicken or a pillow. If he were unlucky... well, several mechs, Hound included, had sported dents for awhile after the fake weapons had sprung out of their hands and pistol-whipped them about the head a few times. Prime himself had finally called Fred to task, stating that the trick guns were not only irritating, but dangerous -- what if a soldier grabbed a trick gun instead of his own weapon in trying to defend himself? (Hound had noted with some amusement that Prime's own helm had looked a little battered while he had been reprimanding the young wizard.)
And now... now it seemed Fred had a sudden desire to redecorate the halls of the Ark to suit his bizarre whimsy. The Portable Swamp had only been the latest gag -- previously there had been encounters with false doors, invisible pits in the floor (one of which had dropped an unfortunate Blades right on top of Hot Spot's desk), and entire hallways mysteriously vanishing, only to reappear some time later. Mechs had wandered for hours trying to reorient themselves, and poor Fireflight, who was somewhat directionally challenged to begin with, had gotten lost so many times he had finally locked himself in his quarters and refused to come out until Fred had gone home.
"Suppose we should warn somebody," Hound noted. "Or at least rope off the area."
"But where would the fun be in that?" asked Trailbreaker, cocking his head to one side in amusement.
"Hmmm." Hound mulled that over a bit. "Good point."
"Out of my way!"
The two mechs turned to see Tracks roaring down the corridor in Corvette mode, smoke pluming from his squealing tires as he rounded the corner. "Late for patrol, out of my way, have to hurry..." he babbled.
"Tracks, we should let you know..." began Hound helpfully.
Tracks ignored Hound's statement completely, rocketing past him and Trailbreaker... and straight into the swamp. His tires scrambled for purchase a moment in the muck and slime before giving up, and he swiftly transformed and floundered out, covered in mud and howling like a turbohound.
"...that Fred's been busy and there's a swamp in the corridor," Hound finished, then burst out laughing. Trailbreaker joined him, leaning over and slapping one knee.
"Not funny, you treehuggers!" Tracks snapped, wiping gunk off his chestplate with a disgusted look. "Oh, repulsive! When I get my hands on that self-styled wizard for covering me in this foul sludge..."
"What you Tracks want from me Sludge?"
Hound turned to see the Dinobot right behind him, eyeing him curiously. Sludge's gaze moved to Tracks, and a look of childlike curiousity came over his face. "What happen to him Tracks?"
"Portable Swamp," Hound explained, still giggling a little. "Ran right into it."
"Swamp in here Ark?" asked Sludge, optics brightening.
"No thanks to that pestiferous Fred Weasley," complained Tracks, plucking plant matter from his hubcaps. "I'm all muddied! And I'd just waxed too..."
"Me Sludge not mind mud," Sludge said with a huge grin. "In fact, me like playing in mud!" And with that announcement he transformed to his Brontosaurus mode and thundered forward, leaping into the bog with a massive splash that spattered the other three mechs -- and Optimus Prime, who had just emerged from his quarters -- with a fresh coating of muck.
"You -- you -- you moronic lump of slag!" cried Tracks in fresh agony.
"No, me Sludge," Sludge corrected. "Not Slag. You Tracks get mud in optics?"
Optimus Prime regarded the scene before him amusedly -- the newly acquired swamp in the hallway that he had just sunk knee-deep in, the Dinobot lounging in the muck with a blissful expression, the miserable-looking and very dirty Tracks, and the mud-flecked Hound and Trailbreaker struggling valiantly not to laugh. Then his shoulders heaved in a sigh of long-suffering. "Hound, will you tell Fred, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker to please report to my office?"
"Yes sir," Hound replied, unable to keep a note of mirth from his voice.
SEA FLOOR, PACIFIC OCEAN
"It's a plot!" shrieked Breakdown. "A plot by the Autobots! They planted this human here to drive us insane until we tear each other apart with our dental plates!"
Thundercracker groaned and whonked his helm against the console where he and Breakdown were supposed to be watching the monitors. "For the eighth time, Breakdown, the Autobots wouldn't put a human in danger like that. Siddown already."
"I am NOT sitting down!" the Stunticon snapped. "Last time I sat down, that fragging human cast some kind of sticking spell on the chair! It took Hook hours to cut it off!"
Thundercracker remembered that incident, and he had to admit it had been humorous seeing Breakdown hobble toward the repair bay with the chair fastened securely to his aft. Or at least it had been humorous until he discovered a similar charm had been placed on the keyboards of the computers in the command center. Megatron had roared with laughter as the Constructicons pried a mortified Thundercracker's hands from the keyboard.
And that hadn't even been the worst of George Weasley's pranks. Thundercracker had long lost count of the number of times he had been called by the wrong name thanks to his color scheme suddenly switching to red and white or black and purple, and Rumble and Frenzy had swapped colors so many times that even Soundwave was still puzzling over which was which. Random fireworks were still being discovered in odd corners of the base -- just yesterday Astrotrain had been seen fleeing from a particularly large flaming dragon and a cluster of rockets. The Constructicons, after being swamped with complaints of vent bleeds, high internal temperatures, paint-rot in unmentionable places, sudden blackouts, and spectacular projectile fuel tank purges (what George had lovingly referred to as "bazooka barfing"), had finally convinced Megatron to discard the current store of energon as useless and go on another raid to restock.
The raid itself had been rather... interesting, to say the least. The humans at the power plant had unexpectedly put up a fight, leading Megatron to give the order to incinerate every last one of them. To a mech they had drawn weapons... with very mixed reactions. Thundercracker had suddenly found himself holding a large rubber bird of some sort instead of a laser pistol, while Skywarp's gun had leaped from his hands and proceeded to club him over the head several times, the black Seeker cursing and squealing all the while. Everywhere Thundercracker looked he saw more the same -- every Decepticon was either staring blankly at some random object in their hands that had taken the place of their weapon, or they were howling dismay as the weapon turned on them. It would have been very funny had it not also been incredibly mortifying.
They could only be glad that the Autobots had shown up just as the Decepticons were fleeing with their stolen energon -- they never would have lived this botched battle down had any of the Autobots, especially those fragging twins or that thrice-blasted saboteur, witnessed their humiliation.
And despite all the madness, Megatron refused to release or destroy the human boy. He professed that he was too valuable, both as blackmail against the Autobots and as a research object that the Decepticons might puzzle out his magic for their own use. Thundercracker, however, was of the (private) opinion that his commander was continuing to hold the boy simply because he was unwilling to admit defeat, even in the face of imminent embarassment and/or destruction by a teenage smart-aft of a wizard.
Skywarp's giggle over his comm cut off his thoughts. "Hey TC!"
"Frag off, 'Warp, I'm on duty."
"Step out for a sec, Breakdown can handle it," Skywarp assured him. "You gotta see what's going down in the medbay. Megatron and Hook look ready to tear each others' fuel lines out."
Now THAT got his attention. "Be back in a minute, Breakdown."
"But... but..." sputtered the Stunticon.
"Unless you'd rather go to the repair bay yourself and tell me what's happening there," Thundercracker suggested.
"No thanks, I'll hold the fort," he said quickly. Everyone knew none of the Stunticons would willingly go within shouting distance of the repair bay so long as George was there.
When Thundercracker finally reached the repair bay, he skidded to a halt and simply gawked. A crowd had gathered to witness Megatron and Hook's furious argument, many taking bets on who would begin laying into the other first. The other Constructicons shrank back, trembling, as if afraid one or the other of the fighters would turn on them next. And lying on a table in the middle of the bay was the cause of the entire argument -- the latest superweapon Megatron had demanded of Hook. Or rather, what was left of it. The entire thing was riddled with cracks and char marks and was billowing a foul-smelling smoke. The wall straight ahead of the cannon looked to be plastered in an organic-looking brown material.
"I told you, there's nothing wrong with the design!" Hook protested. "If I had quality materials to work with rather than the substandard scrap you allotted me..."
"Substandard!" bellowed Megatron. "Don't you DARE shift the blame, Hook! I expected a weapon from you, not a smoking mess!"
"It worked perfectly during the tests," squeaked Scavenger, daring to volunteer information.
"Are you suggesting someone sabotagued it?" demanded Megatron.
"Impossible," sniffed Mixmaster. "The only ones who were even near the weapon after the testing were ourselves and..."
Instantly all eyes turned to the cage, where George Weasley was jotting something down in his book. He glanced up, noted that he was once again the center of attention, and offered a quizzical expression in return. "What's the matter? Got an ink blot on my face or something?"
Megatron let out a scream of rage and raised his right arm, pointing the fusion cannon straight at George.
What happened next was rather a blur. Thundercracker recalled a sharp CRACK, an explosion, and a flash of light, but not much else. All he knew was that a few seconds later, he found himself lying flat on his back, smoke rising from his armor, groaning mechs on either side of him. Turning his head, he was startled to see Megatron flat against the opposite wall, a dazed look on his face, a mangled mess hanging from his arm where his fusion cannon used to be. On his cockpit...
"Blimey, what a temper," George noted, clicking his tongue and shaking his head as he crouched on Thundercracker's cockpit.
"How did..." began Thundercracker. "Shouldn't you be..."
"Expelliarmus, my friend," he explained, lifting what appeared to be a thin stick between his thumb and forefinger and waggling it in front of the Seeker's face. "Always wondered how a Disarming Spell would affect a weapon that wasn't a wand. Rather messily, I must say."
"So... that's your wand?" He knew he was sounding rather intelligent about now, but hey, if the wizard was talking to him, might as well make sure the information he gave was useful.
"So we could have kept you from wreaking havoc in our base just by taking your wand from you?"
"Well... not entirely. Would've kept me from casting Color-Changing Jinxes and Permanent Sticking Charms, but since I already had the ingrediants for the Skivving Snack-Cubes in my luggage, not to mention the stuff to make the trick weapons, it wouldn't have stopped those." He nodded at the broken cannon. "Or from turning that thing into a Dungbomb Launcher. Pity it didn't work, that would have been wicked."
Thundercracker groaned and thunked the back of his head against the floor. "I can't believe a single human could cause so much chaos."
"Not a single human, my blue friend. I had help."
Thundercracker rolled his head to one side to see Skywarp sitting with his back against the wall, laughing so hard optic fluid was trickling down his face. "Skywarp, you HELPED this kid?"
"Why not?" giggled the black Seeker. "Someone had to provide him with the energon and weaponry to make his gag stuff, not to mention plant everything. And he had great prank material..."
At that moment an ebony hand swooped down and plucked George off of Thundercracker, and Megatron stalked away with an angry mutter. George grinned and waved cheerily at the two Seekers, looking not at all concerned at being hauled off by an irate Decepticon warlord.
"Well, that was fun," chuckled Skywarp, hauling himself to his feet. "Wonder what Megatron'll do to him now. Probably won't be pretty."
"He won't try to kill him again," groaned Thundercracker. "He already tried that once and it didn't work. Whatever happens, I just hope we never see him again."
MOUNT ST. HILLARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
"I don't see why I had to be dragged in here," Sunstreaker grumbled, slouching against the wall of Prime's office with his arms folded across his chestplate. "I didn't do anything..."
"Didn't do anything my drive shaft," Sideswipe snapped, though he wore a mischevious, totally unrepentant grin. "You were completely in on this."
"Thanks for nothing, dumbaft," snorted Sunstreaker.
Fred simply sat on a stack of datapads on Prime's desk, swinging his legs idly and looking rather unconcerned at the proceedings.
"Are the two of you done arguing?" inquired Prime, leveling a stern gaze upon the two Lamborghinis.
"Never," grinned Sideswipe.
"Then I suggest you finish quickly," Prime advised. His attention turned to Fred. "Mr. Weasley, you have some serious explaining to do."
"It was all in fun," Fred replied earnestly. "No one was hurt, right? Besides, I just needed to be sure our joke-shop products worked."
"You chose to test your products on my troops?" Prime asked, his optics narrowing slightly.
"We already knew they would be harmless, we just wanted to know if they'd work," Fred replied. "I mean, the Ministry's dealing with your people now, it made sense to have Autobot-compatible products in our store."
"I see." Prime leveled his gaze on the twins now. "And you two saw fit to aid him in his schemes?"
Sideswipe shrugged. "Like he said, no one was permanently damaged. And if it gives us more ammo, more power to him. I was happy to help. Sunny needed bribing, but he agreed in the end."
Sunstreaker glowered at Fred. "You owe me a lot more than a wax job, kid."
"Sorry, Sunny, we had a contract," Fred replied.
Blaster's voice crackled to life over Prime's comm. "Prime, we've got a communication from Megatron. He wants a word with you."
Megatron? "Patch it to my office."
Three pairs of optics and one pair of organic eyes turned toward the vidscreen in Prime's room, where the image of the Decepticon leader's face blinked into view. The dictator had a crazed look in his optics... and was it Prime's imagination, or did he appear to be twitching?
"What do you want, Megatron?" Prime demanded.
Megatron thrust his fist toward the screen. "Slag it, Prime, TAKE your cursed fleshling back!"
"George!" Sideswipe and Sunstreaker exclaimed.
"Hello, bro," Fred said cheerfully. "Having fun?"
"Loads," George grinned from his current position in Megatron's grip. "You should've seen the look on Hook's face when his cannon went off, mate."
"Yeah, you wrote me saying you were going to rig that. How'd that work out?"
"Better than we'd hoped. How'd the swamp go?"
"The Dinobots loved it. They were rather put out when Wheeljack chased them out and Prime made me clean it up..."
"Hold on, hold on," insisted Prime. "So all this time, your brother has been hiding out with the Decepticons?"
"Why not?" Fred replied. "Gives us both a chance to test our products."
"And made some new friends, too," George piped up. "Skywarp's not so bad once you get to know him..."
"PRIME, SEND AN AUTOBOT TO RETRIEVE YOUR PET HUMAN NOW!" shrieked Megatron, his temper having long since reached its breaking point. "Before I crush him!"
"Aw, if you didn't want me around, all you had to do was say something," George said with a put-out look... and he vanished from Megatron's grip.
"What... how..." the Decepticon leader stuttered, rage giving way to dumbfounded shock.
Fred gave a small wave. "Well Sides, Sunny, it's been fun. But I have a feeling I've overstayed my welcome here, so I'd better head back to the joke shop. The Ministry's probably done looking for us anyhow."
"Come back soon!" Sideswipe ordered, shaking Fred's hand carefully.
"Leave the Portable Swamps at home," Sunstreaker advised.
"We'll see each other again," grinned Fred. "Oh, and there's special discounts at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes for all Autobots! See you there!" And he Disapparated with a flourish.
Sideswipe smiled. "I like that guy. He's got style."
"Get out of my office and report to Prowl," Prime ordered. "He'll decide what punishment the two of you will serve for being accomplices in Fred Weasley's schemes."
"Yes sir," Sideswipe replied with a jaunty salute, and he grabbed his brother by the arm and dragged him out. "Quit yer whining, Sunshine, it was SO worth it, wasn't it..."
Megatron glowered at Prime over the vidlink. "This was a plot, wasn't it?"
"Not one of my doing, Megatron. Wizards are, as a rule, unpredictable. Besides, if George Weasley wreaked half as much chaos among your troops as he did among mine, I almost pity you."
"Spare me your pity," Megatron snapped. "This isn't the last time we'll have a wizard in our clutches... and perhaps the next one will be a little more... manipulable for our purposes." The screen blacked out.
Prime allowed himself a small chuckle. "Careful, Megatron," he told the silent screen. "The problem with playing with fire is that, eventually, you get burned..."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: So ends the second story. I have no idea when the third one will come out, but rest assured neither Prime nor Megatron has seen the end of the Weasley twins... and Megatron has NO idea what he's messing with, does he?
As for the next story, I'll leave a one-word teaser -- Quidditch.