Beast Wars is owned by Hasbro, but Lady Dementia and Jennifer Parsons own the plot. Why? Because they're the zany people who came up with it, that's why. If you have a problem with that, feel free to send us a letter about it...
by Jennifer Parsons and Lady Dementia
In the rocky and ragged Quadrant Skeletron, two patrol partners were having a rather loud one way conversation. As it went, one was in for it and one was out of it.
"You think I was always this way?" Rampage asked. "Did you just assume that I've been, as you put it, a homicidal manic, all my life?" Quickstrike, eyes wide and response torn between yes and no, shook his head in a yes/no sort of hopefully neutral way. He didn't know where the words had come from, they had just popped out! Now he was about to be ripped into pieces. "Well you're wrong." The menacing Rampage said in a doomsday voice.
"S-s---" Quickstrike started to stutter, backing up as Rampage was about to emphasize his point by rearranging him into something like a crushed ball of foil, when he heard a voice saying,
"So, just what were you like then?" Both the crab and the fuzor turned away from the horror picture tableau toward Tarantulas, who was leaning against a rock in a seemingly casual fashion, a half amused, half alert and cautious expression in his yellow visor. Some of the late afternoon sun that was pouring over the top of the nearby cliffs silhouetted him slightly and made his shiny exostructure blinding in places. Automatically, Quickstrike noted that Tarantulas had strategically placed himself with the sun to his back so he would be difficult to hit or see. He knew the spider had already planned a fast escape too.
Rampage, ignoring him for a second to burst into an insane cackle, replied to the spider's challenge, "Why do you want to know?!"
"I've always had a... Curiosity about where you were before you attacked Omicron." Tarantulas chuckled a bit, like it was an 'in' joke or something.
"Would You like to hear?" Rampage rounded aggressively on Quickstrike.
Anything to keep from being disemcircuited, "Yeah."
Abruptly the crab sat down against a nearby boulder. Tarantulas remained standing, and Quickstrike edged closer to a nearby cliff and went into beast mode. Hopefully if Rampage lost it again he could climb up and over the lip and get away before his patrol partner decided to fire a missile at him. Rampage began.
"After I first escaped from the lab in which they were performing horrifying, excruciating experiments on me,... No, much more painful than when I ripped you apart, Tarantulas; I wasn't violent or homicidal. At this point I was just seeking a spot apart...
Staring puzzledly at the controls to the spaceship, Rampage pushed buttons, muttering to himself, "Okay, not that one... Not that one... What about this one-nope, not that one. Hmm, maybe the red one?"
"Ah. The red one."
The planet disappeared behind him, and soon he was journeying peacefully through space. He might have gotten lost at this point, had he not been curious enough to push more buttons. THAT was when he got lost. Luckily, pushing one of the buttons opened the glove compartment, which contained many useless space maps. Three weeks later, he was forced to burn the maps to keep the ice from forming on the dashboard since the ship was nearly out of fuel and he was conserving the power, which probably explains why he discovered a planet two megacycles later. He brought the ship down in a neat pile, and crawled out of the smoldering wreck, thanks to his invincible spark.
Still, it was a 'good landing', since he was able to walk, or at least crawl, away from it. To his good luck, he was in an organic's junkyard; there was lots of tasty-looking old batteries and half-full oil containers around, and the ship was hardly noticeable. After a few days of scavenging however, he started running out of stuff to eat. He did remember a mention of something called a 'job' and had a basic concept of what it meant, but never having done it before he was a bit confused about what kind he wanted. I guess I'll go with whatever I can get.
Organics stared as he walked down the street, but didn't talk to him. Suddenly a sign on a... Postal? Office caught his eye. WORKERS WANTED!!!!
"A Postal worker?!" Tarantulas started chuckling.
"Yeah. What about it?" Rampage asked in a menacing tone, taking a single step towards the spider, who could only laugh harder and shake his head in disbelief. "Look," the crab said in irritation, "do you want to hear the story or not?"
Tarantulas tried to stifle his amusement. "S-sure," he wheezed.
"And you?" the crab asked pointedly of Quickstrike. The fuzor looked between Rampage, Tarantulas, and the cliff, then sighed. "Ah guess so."
Rampage was slightly mollified. "Well, okay, then...."
It was kind of hard to get a job interview at that time of day since it was near closing time, but after Rampage knocked on the doors hard enough to break them down (he DID apologize for that), the man in charge decided to give him a chance. He took the robot to his office, leading him past rows of mail-mangling devices known by such populace-deceiving names as 'sorters', 'Post Office boxes', and 'destination bins' while Rampage looked on in wonder. He had no idea what they were for, but from his experience with scientists and their tools, they looked painful. The man in charge sat down behind his desk and gestured for Rampage to take a chair. He promptly flattened it, but that did put him at eye-level with the guy, so it worked out pretty well (except for the chair).
"In order to get a job here," the man started, "you have to know what to do with packages like this." He placed a package on the desk in front of him. "Now, what do those stickers say?"
Rampage looked at the package. It was covered in stickers that said, in big 72-size font, 'FRAGILE'. He said so.
The man shook his head. "No, no, no. These stickers say 'Fraa-jeel-lay." He said it again slowly so Rampage could understand him.
He shrugged. "Fraajeellay." Apparently words were pronounced differently here in the Post Office. Big deal. As long as he was getting paid, who cared?
"Do you know what you do with packages that say Fraajeellay?" the man asked. Rampage shook his head silently. "You do this!" The man threw the package over his shoulder to smash on the floor with a breaking sound as the robot's optics widened in surprise. Apparently fragile things were treated differently here, too... "It's recommended that you don't actually do that in front of the customer for politeness sake, but in reality nobody cares if you do or don't." The man smiled. "Any questions on that? No? Okay, now it's your turn!" The man handed Rampage a package marked 'FRAGILE'. "What is that word?"
"Fraajeellay," Rampage said obediently.
"And what do you do with it?"
He threw it over his shoulder to smash against the wall.
The man clapped. "Good one! Let's move on to letters and flat packages, alright?" Rampage nodded as the man placed a standard sized envelope and a large, flat envelope on the desk. "These are good for such things as Frisbee with your fellow employees, or paper airplanes, or even paper-wad fights. It's really easy!" He picked up the envelopes and crumpled them up into little balls. "See? Now you try." He gave Rampage some letters, and the robot balled them up. "Good! As it happens, we do have an opening at the front desk if you'd like it."
"That's why I'm applying," Rampage said, and the man smiled.
"Great! Now if you'd come this way, I'll just complete your training as we walk..." They went back towards the front area of the Post Office, walking past the sorters, PO boxes, and destination bins, or, as Rampage learned, they were more affectionately known as 'mashers', 'crammers', and 'piles' by the Post Office workers. Since it was now after-hours, the man gave him a very brief tour of the Post Office computers he'd be using, then scheduled him to come in to work in the morning.
He arrived next morning, bright and early, at eleven thirty.
"Hey, hey! What are you doing here early?!? I said you could sleep in!" The manager exclaimed.
"I believe in showing up bright and early so that I can accomplish more." Rampage said with a proud work ethic.
"No, no, no, my poor ignorant fellow... That's not how we do things here at the Postal Service. You see, working here for extended periods of time can be rather... Stressful." The man's voice rose oddly on the last word. Rampage wondered about that for a second, but decided it was probably the stress. "So we make things as laid back as possible. Why, don't even think of showing up until one!"
"Don't the packages get late?" Rampage asked innocently.
"That's not our concern, is it." The man stated. Just then a biped yellow and green skinned lizard-like reptile walked in, a small ball with a 'J ' on it clenched tightly in left hand's claws. "Ah, here's our computer expert. She'll show you the ins and outs of these things in detail." The man walked off, and the lizard creature pointed at a computer.
"Thiss is the computer connected to the machine in charge of organizing the destination binss. As you can see, there are 3 basic destinations for packages that weigh a lot but take up little space." Rampage peered at them, reading off:
"The Bermuda Triangle... Charr... Timbuktu..."
"And don't forget about the pawn shop." The lizard said, fingering an expensive-looking necklace she was wearing. "Now thiss here computer scans sstamps to determine whether or not there is enough posstage on them. Every third package marked 'urgent' is automatically sent back, and every tenth package is sent to one of the three destinations all ordinary packages go to. Every package with a stamp worth over ten dollars is put into the retirement fund. This computer is also in charge of food itemss... When sensorss above the boxess detect a funny smell or steam rising from them, the packages continue. Well, that's that. Here's your complimentary squeeze ball."
She waltzed off, leaving him to wonder at the strangeness of the work. Well, better start clicking, he thought, and went about directing the packages and letters to Timbuktu, the Bermuda Triangle, and Charr. Suddenly there was a loud Brrrriiinnngg brrrriiinnggg brrriinggg... From a device sitting on the table. What should I do about this? He looked around for help, but no one was around. Then it stopped, a voice said,
"I'm sorry, but this is currently lunch hour. Please call again when lunch hour is over. Thank you!" And the noises ended. Must be automatic, he decided. He went on clicking energetically, using a minor part of his neurocircuitry to design an automatic clicking/selection program so he didn't have to focus on the boring job that much. Megacycles passed. He was having trouble staying awake. But for the occasional paper airplane that went sailing over his head and the contests to see who could get them going highest, farthest, fastest, etc., and the odd banging noises he heard occasionally, he might have gone into recharge. Thus he was grateful when the man who had shown him around at first told him he was needed in the express air loading area.
After showing him to the loading carts, he said,"While we may not have handlers as expert as those on commercial spaceliners, you'll be working with the second best handlers in the galaxy! They'll show you what to do."
A handler waved him over. "Most of these packages are Fraajilay marked, they've been preshaken, so you can just toss them on in. Just leave the urgent ones, they just came in today, but be sure the ordinary ones get a good bouncing around." Rampage picked up three packages and squished them together, then threw them in. This isn't so bad, he thought. It's a lot more fun than sitting at the computers clicking and calculating pi.
But then something very disturbing happened, something that spoiled his whole day and gave him definite second thoughts about having a job. From where the crammers and piles were, he heard a sudden maniacal scream and some hideous laughter:
"I CAN'T TAKE IT ANY LONGER!" The person screamed.
Someone yelled, "Hit the deck! He's lost it!" Then there were loud, sharp, short sounds that seriously alarmed him.
"Get down!" A handler yelled at him. A few minutes later, it was over. A vehicle with a screaming device like an alarm on top of it pulled up and organics from it rushed inside the post office and removed the organic who had 'lost it'. A white vehicle with Pute-mawhey Asylum on the side brought more organics who dragged the screaming man into the back and drove off. A shiver ran down his back as he drew on the times he'd been dragged off, screaming into some experiment. Compared to that, this was a virtual paradise. He was sure glad it wasn't him that had been dragged off... Within the next megacycle, the manager grimly informed him he would be having a new position with the crammers and mashers.
"This is a," the manager snickered, "sorter." He only managed to keep a straight face for a second before laughing again. Rampage began to get the feeling that Post Office devices didn't really do what the Post Office employees told people they did. "It scans the addresses on the mail and divides them into...nevermind. I think Joe's about to give you a demonstration." The man waved off the rest of his explanation and pointed to where another lizard-like being, this one male, stood on top of the sorter.
He was holding a flat rectangular box up above his head, turning to show everyone. Around them the rest of the Post Office workers paused, clearly regarding the box with awe. It was duct-taped, Scotch-taped, electrical-taped, padded with bubble wrap, covered with 'Fragile' (Fraajeellay, Rampage reminded himself) stickers, and was a marvel of safe packaging for whatever precious item was nestled inside, awaiting only delivery to its final destination.
"Oooo," Rampage found himself sighing.
"Aaaaah," the other workers echoed him in the vast silence of the Post Office's back room.
Joe the lizard-man lowered the package reverently back into his arms, careful not to jostle it. Every eye was locked on him as he took a couple steps forward on top of the masher and knelt, offering the box to the manager who had been showing Rampage around.
Rampage was as caught up in watching as everyone else, yet he was somewhat uncomfortable, like he was seeing a ritual obviously held holy and sacred by the Postal Office. He comforted himself by thinking that he was now one of them. He thought about how lucky he was, being initiated into the cult here on his first day!
Joe bent his head humbly before the man. "Will you do the honors, Post Master, sir?"
Rampage had to muffle a gasp of shock as the person he had thought of as merely the manager was revealed as the being of absolute power here in the dark back rooms of the Postal Office. THIS was the Post Master?! He regarded the man with optics full of wondering respect as the Master accepted the package gravely.
"Indeed." The Post Master looked around the room, holding the box tenderly. "Attend me, all of you." Rampage faintly heard a pin drop somewhere, and the Master frowned. People cringed, Rampage included, but the man apparently decided to graciously pardon whoever was foolish enough to drop a pin while he was speaking. "Look, I tell you, and wonder upon this item!" He raised the box, turning slowly to let everyone see it as he continued talking. "It is a perfect package, sealed to keep its contents safe. It is MAILING PERFECTION!!" the Post Master screamed, and Rampage cowered back into his nearest neighbors, who were doing the exact same thing, at the man's rage. "...And we must destroy it," the man finished in a malevolent purr.
"Joe." The lizard-man snapped to attention. "Turn the masher on to its highest setting."
Joe gasped, clearly terrified by the order. "N-no! Not...not the highest setting! Post Master, sir, anything but that!!" The Post Master took one eye off of the perfect package to give him a glare. Joe gulped and saluted, resigning himself. "Y-yes, Post Master. Right away, Post Master!"
Rampage looked at the sorter while Joe scrambled over to a keypad set into its side. It was a giant machine. From where he was, Rampage could see the slots set into it. It looked like mail was fed into one end on a moving treadmill, sent through a scanner, then through a strange spot with what looked like a hydraulic system set up above it, and then mechanical arms grabbed each piece of mail according to destination and put through the correct slot into a weird thing that looked sort of like a catapult. It didn't make any sense to him. For one thing, he couldn't figure out how anything larger than a thick envelope could get through the slots. Or where the mail went once it DID get through. For that matter, why was the sorter nicknamed the 'masher'?
A moment later, it all made sense.
Joe pushed some buttons and steeled himself. "Ready, sir!"
The man pet the package in his arms like a cat and smiled evilly. "Then, my pretty, it is time we say goodbye..." With that, he threw it onto the treadmill. "BWAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!! GOODBYE!!!"
The scanner beam flashed, and Joe, mouth set in as grim a line as a lizard's lips could get, read the display screen. "Destination: Chicago! Prepare for incoming! Go long!" he yelled, and a woman split off from the huddled employees to grab one of the destination bins labeled as 'Chicago, If You're Lucky' and wheeled it towards an 'X' marked on the floor...and then past it to stand behind a half-wall built of 'Urgent' packages from a month ago.
"Ready!" she screamed back.
The hydraulic system pounded into motion a moment later, and Rampage gaped in surprise as they beat on the poor, perfect package as it went through on the treadmill. The bubble wrap burst, splitting open much of the tape. Something cracked. The package emerged a battered, flattened, pitiful wreck of its former glory. Rampage joined in the spontaneous cheer that burst from his fellow employees at the sight.
Joe was frantically pushing buttons. "Sir! Th-the engines! They can't take it!"
"Slag the engines!" the Post Master said passionately. "Full speed ahead!"
Mechanical arms grabbed the pathetic bundle and, since it was still slightly too large to fit through one of the slots, crammed and punched at it until it DID fit. It plopped into a catapult and was promptly launched through the air.
Time froze. Or at least it went really, really slow.
Rampage was afraid to breathe as the remains of the package slowly sailed across the room. He could vaguely tell what was going in the rest of the room through his excitement and fear as the mail gradually moved along...towards the Chicago destination bin!
The woman behind it began to drag it away, but everyone saw that the package was faster than she was, and it would succeed on arriving. A mass scream of, "Nooooooo!" went up. The man next to Rampage leaped towards the Chicago bin...
"I will not be defeated so easily!" the Post Master shrieked.
...the package kept flying in slow motion...until, at the last second, it was intercepted by the heroic employee, who had launched himself into its path! It slammed into the side of his head and bounced off to land in the 'Wherever We Feel Like Sending It' bin. The man landed on the Chicago pile, crushing countless boxes marked 'Fragile' and grinning as the woman kissed him in thanks.
"My hero!" she exclaimed.
Rampage finally started breathing again, almost blacking out as he inhaled precious air. Around him the back room went wild with celebration. The other employees swarmed the hero, slapping his back and promising free drinks.
All except Joe. "She can't take it!" he yelled, panicking and desperately throwing himself away from the masher (Rampage no longer wondered why it was called that). "She's gonna blow!!!"
"Take cover!" the Post Master ordered, and then the world turned upside down and inside out and it was generally a bumpy ride.
"Ooooh, what happened?" Rampage asked when they dug him out from under the collapsed 'Urgent' package wall. "Owwww..."
"The masher exploded," the lizard-woman who had instructed him earlier said casually. "We've been given the rest of the day off so somebody can fix it. You wanna come get drunk with the rest of us?" She gestured at the group of Postal Office employees behind her.
Rampage looked up at her, his weakened work ethic meeting peer pressure. "I have to work tomorrow...besides, I'm robotic. I can't GET drunk."
She waved away his protest. "Aw, we'll find something that'll work. C'mon!" Joe walked over and helped her lift the robot to his feet. "Trust me," she told Rampage with a wink. "Hangovers do WONDERS for your attitude in the morning..."
"Say... Ain't it a bad idear, lettin' down your guard like that?"
"Probably." Tarantulas said.
"What would you know about it?" Rampage snapped. Tarantulas clicked his claws together, which actually said a great deal more than anything that ever came out of his mouth. If Rampage hadn't been engrossed in his story, he might have taken notice of it, but instead he continued.
The lizards led him downtown into a combined eatery/bar called 'Bnenlsbnigh's Place'. As they entered, the other customers in the darkened room glanced casually at them, then looked back and studiously minded their own business. One of the customers, a robot like himself, looked really surprised, and almost tipped his chair over. Rampage began to feel distinctly uneasy. Meanwhile, Joe went up to the barkeeper and ordered from another lizard of his species.
"Hi, Ben. I'll take the usual for me and her, and something to put my friend there under the table."
"Just hold on a second." The other lizard said, rummaging around under the counter. "Here ya go. Uh, be a bit careful tonight." He handed Joe two drinks covered with insect flotsam and a large cube of energon, and pointed them at a table near the door. Rampage watched as Joe and the she-lizard lapped at their drinks with long tongues. He looked back at his cube. I hope I don't blow a breaker or something, he thought. Here goes. He lifted the cube and began absorbing the power.
"Is it working?" Joe asked curiously.
"Nothing yet. Of course, I wouldn't know."
Just then the other robot who had almost tipped over his chair stumbled over. He sure was in a bad state; he could hardly walk.
"Hey there," he slurred, and getting into Rampage's face, began babbling out every thought that evidently entered his metaprocessor. Rampage leaned back in distaste. Finally the other bot stepped back and stumbled to his table, slumping and putting his head in his arms.
"What happened to him?" Rampage asked.
"Oh, he got drunk." Uh oh... He imagined himself blabbing out, "Oh yeah, and I'm a secret laboratory experiment with an invincible spark who escaped and am hiding here, so forget you saw me!" He imagined himself being dragged screaming back to the lab. Abruptly peer pressure was smashed by fear. He glanced out of the corner of his optic and noticed that the drunken robot was whispering into something. Slag! I have to get out of here now!
"I, uh, forgot I have to do something." Rampage said, standing up nervously.
"Well at least finish that." Joe indicated the half finished cube.
"Okay." Anything to get out of this trap, he thought. Gulpgulpgulpgulpgulp! "Bye!" He stepped out the door and abruptly a wave of dizziness passed over him. He had to transform to his tank mode just so he didn't fall over. I... Don't... Feel... Good... He thought.
Rampage fell silent, staring at the ground with an unidentifiable expression on his face. Tarantulas waited for a moment, then scowled impatiently.
"Well?" he demanded. "What happened?"
The strange look on the crab's face intensified. "Uh, well, it's hard to say."
Tarantulas had the distinct feeling that Rampage was stalling, and, looking closer, he finally figured out what the look on the crab's face was: embarrassment. Rampage was EMBARRASSED. Now the spider was definitely interested. "What happened?"
"Er...I can't really remember," Rampage muttered, still looking at the ground.
The first thing he saw when he woke up was the shattered remains of the space ship. Somehow he had gotten back to the junkyard. He didn't remember HOW, exactly, but since he hadn't woken up in chains he thought that wasn't too bad...until he moved.
"Hey, man," Joe said crankily, "stop moving!"
"Yeah!" another voice chimed in. "I can't sleep with you tossing me around!"
More mutters of agreement and annoyance followed, and Rampage froze. Slowly, carefully, he raised his head until he could look over his shoulder. Slowly, carefully, he put his head back down. He didn't want to jostle any of his fellow employees who happened to be using him as a pillow, after all. And putting his head down slowly and carefully was better than banging it against the ground repeatedly.
Even if that was what he felt like doing.
What had happened last night?! He only had the faintest memory of stepping outside the bar and almost collapsing...then nothing. Well, there was some stuff he had dreamed about dancing with some of his female coworkers and talking with the 'bot from the bar and drinking another couple cubes of energon...and inviting everyone over to his place for a party...and telling Joe he was a swell guy...and challenging some people to an arm-wrestling match...and bringing those same people to the hospital...and realizing drinking and driving weren't a good combination when they ended up back at the bar instead...
Okay, so maybe it hadn't been a dream.
Rampage lifted his head again. "Uh...guys?" A couple sleepy mumbles answered him. "Do you, um, remember what I did last night?"
"Sure," Joe slurred, and the transformer cursed mentally. "We went and partied, man. Had a great time. Gotta do it again."
"How's tonight after work sound?" a weak voice said from somewhere on his right leg.
"Sounds great," Joe mumbled before starting to snore, but Rampage gasped as he consulted his internal clock.
"Work!" he yelled in a panic, jumping to his feet and shedding coworkers left and right. Another aspect of last night hit right then, and he swayed dizzily. He vaguely recalled someone telling him this effect was known as a 'hangover'. It made the morning sparkle and his internal computer start sending 'fatal error' messages. "We're late!" he moaned in a much softer voice, bending almost double and clutching his head in both hands. He felt that he deserved the feeble curses the other directed at him for his shout. He certainly didn't envy the fleshlings as a few of them rolled over and retched, apparently feeling the same way he did.
"Aw, who cares?" Joe shook his head, then grimaced in obvious regret for the action. "The Post Master always lets us open whenever we get there, anyway!"
His work ethic was weak, but this time he was determined to listen to it. If he had done that in the first place, none of this would have happened!
Whatever 'this' was...I thought I'd seen it all. Transforming back to his tank mode, he started off towards work. Oh, maybe I should take some of my coworkers with me. I guess they aren't vehicles.
"Anyone who's coming aboard had better get on." He called softly.
"After your driving last night?" Joe asked incredulously, then moaned. A moan was the general consensus.
"I liked the part where the officer demanded you get out of the tank." Someone said. Rampage shriveled at the thought of an encounter with an authority.
"And then you told him you were the tank."
"And then he asked how many you had had..."
"And you said you couldn't remember..."
"And he said he was going to impound your vehicle..."
"And you repeated you were the vehicle..."
"Stop it, please...!" Rampage begged. They just laughed weakly. "I'm leaving now." *Groooaaan* everyone went. Rampage tracked away, deciding to avoid 'tonight after work' at any cost. This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down, his computer announced. Managing to get to the Post Office, he discovered that the machine was almost fixed, but would take another hour at least.
"I just can't figure out why this darn switch won't work." The repair guy said.
"Getting paid by the hour?" Rampage asked, recalling a brief conversation with a janitor at the laboratory.
"Yeah, but I still can't figure it out."
"Let me see." Rampage leaned in close and checked the circuits. "Oh, that's easy. The coil here is frayed and touching power to the casing, which conducts it to the..." He pointed out the whole series of consequences the coil was causing.
"Hey, I didn't even see that!" The guy said. "How'd you get so good? Or is it just natural?"
"I've had a lot of personal experience with broken things." Rampage said, shuddering inwardly. What to do until the machine was fixed? I guess I'll just have to mess up the mail by hand. He dumped a bin on the floor, transformed back into his tank mode, and rolled back and forth over the packages a few times. When they had been adequately flattened, he picked them up and put them into the wrong bins. Hmm, so far so good... The tread marks were a bit blatant though.
By the time the masher was repaired, he had finished a substantial amount of work.
"Good job, but you don't have to work so hard. We were only an hour behind schedule today, you know." The Post Master said.
"Sorry." Rampage apologized. "I just never guessed how fun it is running things over." It was true; he had discovered he loved the feeling of squishing packages under his treads. The favorites were the ones with weird shapes--they made the best crunching noises. Just then the other workers arrived. They went back on the package line, misdirecting, breaking, and sometimes actually sending mail. He ended up standing next to a fleshling who constantly and convulsively crushed a squeezy ball. When a paper ball fight broke out, the guy didn't even look up from his work or stop squeezing.
Joe, passing by, whispered, "Watch out, that guy is near the end of his rope." Rampage had almost forgotten about the job side-effects. He watched the employee nervously out of the corner of his optic. Maybe I should try to start a conversation to distract him.
"Soo, how's work been?"
Half of the guy's face ticked. "Mail! SO LONG! TOO MUCH! AAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEHEEHEEHAHAHAAAHEEHEEHEEHA HEEHAAHAHAHA!!!!" Oops, Rampage thought as the fleshling burst into hysterical, insane laughter and lunged for his throat. Fortunately, it was hard for him to reach as he was too short. Rampage put a finger on the man's chest and flicked him backwards with ease, then reached down and picked him up by the collar.
"Ssshhhhh!!" Rampage tried to quiet him, looking around and thinking, I'm gonna get fired for this. Flecks of foam flew off of the froth that was developing at the guy's mouth. Spotting a large box nearby, he kicked it open and dropped the employee in.
"Is there something going on over there?" one of the other postal workers shouted.
"Uhm...." Rampage processed quickly. "Yeah, we've discovered a new game! You get in a box, then hide yourself in the urgent section and try to get found!" He shoved the box into a pile of urgent, hacking as the dust clogged his airfilters. Maybe some nice quiet solitary confinement would help the employee. On the other hand-unit, perhaps I should have put some holes in there. He started searching around for the right box, trying to triangulate on the spot where the muffled screaming and shouting was coming from.
"Oh cool! I want to play!" The other postal service employee said, appearing around a towering pillar of urgent.
"First could you help me find the guy who's trying it out?"
"Sure! Oh boy, what fun!" The other pulled a box from the bottom of the pillar and watched it crash to the ground. "No one in there!" She giggled, then started making a worse mess. Rampage groaned and began monotonously tossing packages over his head one by one as he searched for the right one. Finally he recognized the box-just as a wall of urgent crumbled over it. This looks like a job for Mr. Tank, he thought, transforming. Treads turning over the shifting packages, he finally made it to the box, transformed back, and opened it. A hole had been gnawed through the bottom. Uh oh. I have to find that guy before he goes berserk! He looked around through a haze of rising dust, and murkily spied a figure darting away. Aha! Changing back into a tank he rammed through an urgent wall which crashed behind him, skidded around another wall, and managed to catch a glimpse of his fleeing job hazard. Punching through several more walls, he overtook the fleshling and skidded to block the escape path.
"You Think You've Beaten Me?!? HeeheeHAHAHAHAAAAHAHAHEHEHEEHEEEEE!!! Well, you're wrong! Because I can stop you! I have the ultimate weapon!"
"He sounds like you." Quickstrike said to Tarantulas.
"My laughter would have been much better. Teeheeheeheheheeh."
"Interruptions, interruptions!" Rampage snapped. "Perhaps you would like to be interrupted?" Quickstrike gulped. Tarantulas edged towards the cliff. "Your fear is delightful." He cackled, continuing.
The employee pulled out- "A pencil? You plan to stop me with a pencil? Come on, you really do need to go to the asylum."
"You're not taking me anywheeeeere!" The employee shrieked, and plunged the pencil into his track drive.
"Hey!" Rampage shouted in outrage. "Leave my tracks alone!" The employee laughed crazily and dashed away. "Slagging little--scientist!" Rampage called him the worst thing he could think of, then went into high gear and pursued. The pencil snapped and sent annoying wooden splinters circulating through his gears. Later he would have to pick those out. He came to a fork in the packages. Which way did he go? Right or left, right or left? I'll compromise and go down the middle. He slammed down the wall, keeping a sensor on both sides as it fell. I'm really lucky to be a tank, he thought. "There you are! Just stop now!" He called as he caught sight of the fleshling. That's it, I've had enough of this chase. Transforming into his robot mode, he picked up a package, aimed, and threw. KA-WHANG!!! The postal employee dropped, stunned. Just then the intercom came on.
"Rampage to the front desk please."
Oh slag! He picked up the unconscious coworker with dismay. "Now you've done it! You've made me lose the only job I'll probably ever get!" He looked around for the way to the front office. He realized suddenly that he had never seen the full extent of the urgent section. I could get lost in here! Luckily, he had his own wake of destruction to follow, so he made it out soon enough. Dreading the words, 'You're Fired!' he trudged slowly towards the front office. He flopped his coworker on the desk and stood to await his doom.
"Weeeelll, now I see where you got your name." The Post Master's secretary said.
"I'm sorry, I was trying to-"
"Now, now, enough with the modesty!" The Post Master himself said, stepping out from his office. "I'd like to give you a bonus for coming up with this new game."
"Really?" Rampage asked, shocked.
"Yes. How does five extra cubes sound?"
Recalling the previous night, Rampage's computer blinked an error message. It'll be fine as long as I use just enough to keep my power level up to normal, he told it. "That would be great!" He said enthusiastically.
"However, I'm going to have to give you a warning about working late. We aren't paying you to sort mail you know." Rampage nodded. The Post Master reentered his office. Rampage breathed a sigh of relief.
"This guy needs to take a trip to the asylum." He indicated the still unconscious coworker.
"I'll see about it." The secretary said, picking up a ringing device. Tiredly, he made his way back to the junkyard. Now where did I put that stress ball...?
"That place jist don't seem right," Quickstrike said in confusion as Rampage paused, apparently caught up in his memories. "How come nobody ever, uh, DID nothin' 'bout it?"
Rampage came back to reality and shrugged. "What could they do? I mean, the Post Master was all-powerful..." He trailed off, seeming to smile wistfully. "He was my hero." Eventually the crab noticed that Tarantulas and Quickstrike were staring at him in speechless shock. "What?"
Tarantulas muttered something about never sending anything by mail again. Quickstrike just continued to gape.
"What?!" Rampage yelled, taking a threatening step forward. Tarantulas immediately edged closer to the cliff while the fuzor gulped in fear.
"I-I never knew ya h-had a hero," Quickstrike stammered out.
Rampage relaxed a little. "Oh. Well, where did you THINK I got my hobbies from?"
"Hobbies?" Tarantulas put in cautiously.
"Feeding off of fear and creating havoc. You know," the crab prompted when the other two just stared at him blankly, "having fun."
"Teehehehahaha. Right." Tarantulas shook his head incredulously. "But were you really like that at first? You tell it like you were more...um..." He thought about how to put it politely enough that Rampage wouldn't try to kill him, then decided that the cliff was close enough that he could be as blunt as he liked. "Sane. Rational. Naive."
To Tarantulas' surprise, Rampage just shrugged. "I was. At first, anyway."
And really, after destroying the stress ball with a particularly hard squeeze, he was feeling a lot less stressed. The rest of the Post Office seemed deserted when he walked out, but that only made him happy. The others must be out partying again, he reasoned to himself as he walked, and am I glad that they didn't stay to drag me along this time! He was looking forward to a long recharge after dealing with that loony coworker. He didn't want to go to any more parties!
Apparently he was to have no choice in the matter, however. As soon as the junkyard he called home came into sight, so did a rowdy group of his coworkers. They saw him as soon as he saw them.
"Rampage, my man! Where ya--*hic!*" Joe hiccuped into his drink and tried again. "Where ya been? We've been lookin' all ova...ove...veor...*hic!*"
"Over?" Rampage suggested, miserably looking at the mess the ongoing party was making. Well, making more of. It's pretty hard to mess up a junkyard, but these were experienced Postal Office employees. They were doing a grand job.
"Yesh! Over! We've been lookin' all over for you, but then Sally 'membered that ya invited us over here last night, so's we just came on over again!" A woman farther into the crowd beamed and bounced over to stand by Joe when he waved at her. This was apparently Sally, and Rampage debated whether or not to glare at her for bringing this hoard of invaders into his home. He decided a moment later that she was so drunk she wouldn't notice if he did, so why bother?
"It's sooooooo cool here!" she chirruped, eyes crossing as Joe hiccuped once more before falling over. "C'mon!" Sally skipped over to hang on Rampage's arm (to his astonishment). "I think som...somebo...sobe..."
"Somebody?" he sighed as she tugged him into the party. "Yah! Somebody's got those weird drinks ya like!"
And yes indeed, somebody did. And yes indeed, Rampage found himself pressured into drinking the night away. And yes indeed, he woke up the next morning with a hangover. Again.
He made a conscious decision not to think about last night as he tried to get to his feet. The disturbing images that immediately came to mind were NOT something he wanted to be memories. Many drinks, screams, laughter, and police came to mind. Please let them be dreams...really, really, really STRANGE dreams!
No such luck, he discovered as he cautiously turned on his optics. He whimpered.
The glowing bars at the front of the cell didn't go away. They triggered too many memories of similar bars in front of similar cells. In fact, they triggered the memories so strongly that he sank back down the floor and sat there numbly staring at them.
Not again. He couldn't go back to the scientists! No no no! Not the scientists! No more tests!!
A dark figure stepped in front of the bars.
Rampage yelled in panic.
"Silence!" the Post Master thundered. Stunned, Rampage obeyed, and the man's glower softened. "Ah, Rampage. How did you get in here? Arrested by the police last night after running over three of their vehicles." He shook his head sadly as the robot nodded guiltily, his memory supplying the answer despite him wishing otherwise. "Whatever will I do with you?"
Rampage flinched and stared at the ground. "I-I'm r-really sorry..." He peeked back up at the man. "What's going to happen?" he asked quietly, half-afraid of the answer.
The Post Master frowned. "What do you mean?"
"H-how will I be punished?" the robot forced himself to ask.
The frown deepened. "Punished? Rampage, you're a POSTAL EMPLOYEE." He sighed at Rampage's uncomprehending look. "Everyone expects you to lose it every once and a while," he explained kindly, but then he laughed. "The police department's already expressed it's gratitude that at least you're less violent than the last one!"
All Rampage could say was, "Oh."
Thinking it all over, he stayed quiet as the Post Master opened the bars and let him out and during the walk back to the Postal Office. He finally found the courage to ask a question when the Post Master started to go into his office. "Post Master, sir?"
The man turned back, raising an eyebrow. "Yes?"
He shifted his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably, his curiosity eating him alive. "Um...what did the last one do?"
The Post Master shrugged. "Oh, nothing much," he said casually as he turned away again. "She just shot everything in sight and held the space port hostage for a week, then set it all on fire." The door closed with a click, leaving the robot staring after him. Eventually, he started for the back rooms.
The door opened again. "Rampage? By the way, you're now assigned to the Front Desk." *click!*
Rampage wondered absently why his internal computer was playing ominous music.
When he arrived at the front desk, he realized his training was not yet complete. There was a little thing called customer service they hadn't trained him about yet. Sally sat down behind the counter and folded her arms in front of her.
"Just watch and learn." She said, as a customer came through the door.
"Excuse me, I was just called up and told my house was about to be foreclosed on. I sent that bill last month. It hasn't arrived yet. Where is it." The customer demanded.
"How am I supposed to know? Where did you put it?" Sally said in a tone of exasperation.
"I put it in your stupid box you--!" The customer choked herself off and took a deep breath. "I gave it to be mailed. What happened."
"All right! I've had your whining up to HERE!!" Sally roared angrily, then slammed open a drawer and began to rifle through it. "Where did I put the 45?" She muttered loudly, tossing papers up in a storm. The customer tapped her foot either defiantly or ignorantly. Sally finally gave up and bellowed at him,
"Nevermind! Rampage! Go get the Thompson!"
"Alright, alright, I'll just send it again!" The customer said weakly, and hurried out the door again. Sally grinned up at him.
"And that, is customer service."
"Ah. Can I just transform and go to the big barrel? I bet it would have about the same effect."
"Only if the first two options fail. Otherwise it's rather hard to deny when they bring suits against us."
"People do that?"
"Yeah, but usually the court orders get lost in the mail or something." Sally stifled hysterical chuckling at that, and opened a drawer of the desk FULL of court notices. Rampage shook his head in amazement at the power of the post office. "Oh yeah, and be sure to change the phone's recording from 'not open' to 'lunch break' to 'we're closed now'. As the day goes by." She added, then hurried off to attend the masher.
Rampage settled back into the chair. There was an ominous creak and a bolt flew off into space. The next thing he knew he was sitting two inches off the ground. Which put him level with the desk. Which was a good thing. Bored, he began to fold airplanes out of the court notices and sail them off into a shredding apparatus attached to the crammer. When they ran out, he opened the other drawers of the desk. Hmm... A drawer full of notices. Lost children. Missing pet notices. Wanted... Notices... Uh oh. With trembling fingers he folded the notice with its eighty billion dollar reward for him into a badly folded paper airplane. He threw. The airplane went sailing, true to its course, as though in slow motion towards the shredder. Rampage jumped up in horror as it slowed further and began to stall just a foot in front of its intended destination. Slowly it wallowed to the floor.
He began walking towards it, trying to remain in a semblance of calmness, when all of a sudden a hand snatched up the airplane and threw it. It took all of his willpower not to scream, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" He gave up the facade and rushed in, looking around desperately for where the notice had been thrown. Sally looked at him quizzically.
"I lost a paper airplane that had some realllly important stuff on it."
"Not mail then I guess, huh?" She laughed at her own joke. "Hey guys! Rampage's looking for a paper airplane he just threw in here somewhere!" Immediately everyone gave up working to search. "What did it have on it?" She asked.
"Don't go to all that trouble, please." Rampage tried to insist nervously. "I'll just sort through them on my own..."
"Is this it?" Someone shouted across the room, holding up a court order he had missed.
"No! Really, don't bother, I mean--"
"Hey, we don't have anything better to do! You're giving everyone a break." Sally reassured him, picking up a paper airplane by his feet. She began to open it. "This it?"
He gave a quavery, relieved, "No.."
"Is this it?" Someone else shouted, holding up a letter. Any second they would find the airplane with his picture and the size 72 bold print reward of $80,000,000,000.
"Uh, y-yeah! That's it!" He shouted quickly. The employee walked over and handed it to him.
"What's so great about this?"
"I thought it had one of those rare stamps, but I guess not..." He breathed a sigh of relief as the search was called off. But somewhere out there was a folded paper airplane snickering insidiously, waiting for someone to open it... As everyone slowly got back to work, he knew he'd had it. Someone, sometime, would find it, and then--Deciding to get it over with before someone did, he headed to the Post Master's door and after a second of hesitation, knocked.
"Enter!" The Post Master called. Rampage slowly opened the door and began in a timid voice,
"I-I know you've been really good to me, letting me keep this job..." He began, "But I have to-I have to... *Gulp* quit."
"And WHY might that be?" The Post Master boomed. Rampage winced.
"It's a personal reason. I just can't--"
"Might it be, THIS?" The Post Master reaching under his desk and with a flourish, revealed a copy of his wanted notice. The Post Master smiled. "I'm enjoying your expression." He commented. "Feel free to continue making incoherent noises." After a few seconds, he wadded up the notice and made a perfect trash basket shot.
"But-but-" Rampage stuttered in shock.
"You see, Rampage, this post office is my life. It's not just a business, it's my home. This is the important thing to me, not money. Well sure, but only to protect the post office." Reaching down, he pulled up a huge stack of papers. "These are all the notices I've gotten about you." He reached down again and pulled out more papers. "Perhaps you recognize these people?" He held up a sheet. The names were too hard to read, but about three hundred million was being offered for a duo who resembled Joe and Sally quite a bit.
"Joe? Sally?" The Post Master nodded.
"The infamous Cluster Bandits. I don't care about turning anyone in, I simply want the best employees at my office. You see?" Rampage nodded, astounded. "Well, run along and attend the front desk. I'll interdict whatever notices need interdicting. Don't even worry about it." With a smile, the Post Master waved him off. "Oh! The janitor will get rid of that airplane tonight."
"Thank you!" Rampage exclaimed. "I won't forget this!"
He realized that Tarantulas and Quickstrike were staring at him in total disbelief. "Do you REALIZE how much money that is?" the spider asked in a breathless voice.
"80...billion..." Quickstrike's mind was stuck. "80 slagging billion dollars..."
The crab shrugged. "Yeah. I'm not sure what it is in Cybertronian credits, but I think it ends up being more. Something about the exchange rate."
He glared at Quickstrike as the fuzor kept stared at him blankly. "WHAT?!"
Tarantulas coughed, self-preservation overcoming his amazement when the crab snarled and took a step forward. "Tehehahehe, that's a lot of money!"
Rampage shrugged again. "If you say so."
Quickstrike shook his head, visions of money still dancing through his mind. "Don't ya think so?" he demanded. "How coulda this Post Master NOT turn ya in?! That's a LOTTA money!"
"Not really." Rampage watched the two smaller Predacons sputter incredulously. "I mean, I thought so originally, but then they doubled the reward the next week..." He noticed that both 'bots had simultaneously stopped breathing, the attention and energy having been rerouted into calculating the size of the reward. "...and again the week after that..." More systems shut down to fuel calculations, and Rampage watched curiously as Quickstrike's legs gave out.
"For the sake of my health," Tarantulas wheezed, "don't tell me they raised it any more than that." His visor was flickering rapidly, and his internal computer kept telling him that the number he had ended up with was completely impossible for a monetary amount.
Rampage looked between the spider and fuzor, suddenly enjoying himself. "Okay," he said agreeably. "I won't say it, then. Anyway..."
By closing time that day, Rampage could do efficient customer service. That is to say, he didn't do any at all. In fact, he even had a couple ideas of things to do tomorrow to keep himself from being so bored while he neglected customers. The Post Master had obviously approved of how he was doing his job so his work ethic was quiet, but he wanted to repay his boss for giving him shelter here.
He currently had his feet up on the front desk and was staring up at the ceiling while he blatantly ignored the little old lady hobbling towards him. She set a tidy package marked "Fragile" on the desk and smiled politely. After about a minute of him studying the watermarks on the ceiling tiles, she cleared her throat timidly. He shifted to staring at his feet where they were propped up on the desk. A couple minutes later the little old lady cleared her throat AND tapped the bell on the counter pointedly. Nothing, of course, happened. Rampage smirked to himself. Other customers had been finding out throughout the day that some intelligent post office employee had removed the actual noisemaker long ago, making the bell merely a pretty paperweight.
"Excuse me," a quavering little-old-lady voice said. Rampage considered the tone of her voice and judged that his feet were more important. There was a scrap of a shredded letter still clinging to his left foot, and he reached out to grab it and put it in the trash. "Excuse me?" Louder, but still not worth looking up for. He began rummaging around in the nearest drawer, mumbling things like "where's that gun," "gotta kill them all," and "I'll bet the police can't save three customers in a row."
A hand smacked his feet, and this time he looked up, putting a puzzled expression on his face. "Do I know you?" he asked the now-indignant lady.
She drew in a breath angrily, and he wondered privately if he should be nicer to her. She WAS a customer; he still felt guilty treating people like this. He felt so guilty, in fact, that he was opening his mouth to apologize when the old lady cut loose: "Young man, you are the rudest, most disrespectful excuse for a-"
"I'm ssorry, ma'am, but you'll have to excuse Rampage," said a sincerely apologetic voice from the door to the back rooms, and Joe stepped through. He sighed as the little old lady gave an offended huff and Rampage wilted where he sat. "He'ss rather new here, and he doesn't quite understand how thingss work yet," the lizardman continued, coming around the front desk to speak with the lady. He took her arm and drew her away from the desk, and Rampage felt about an inch tall.
He had blown it. He just KNEW he had screwed up big time, and this time the Post Master really would fire him, or worse...he'd get turned in!
"What he MEANT to say, ma'am," Joe was telling the little old lady as he escorted her courteously away from the despairing 'bot sitting behind the front desk, "is that we're closed now. Please come back tomorrow." He gave her a push through the doors and smiled as they locked behind her automatically.
"But-but--!" The lady pounded on the glass. "Tomorrow's the WEEKEND!"
He smacked his forehead in exaggerated surprise. "Whaddya know, you're right! We won't be open, then."
"It's has to GET there by tomorrow!" she wailed.
Joe made a show of checking his wristwatch. "Tough luck, ma'am."
"Give me back my package!" she yelled angrily.
"Rampage..?" The lizardman glanced over his shoulder and displayed too many sharp pointy teeth, and Rampage tossed him the tidy package that was sitting on the desk. "Thank you." He eyed the Fragile sticker on the top, then showed the little old lady on the other side of the door his nicest, most dangerously crazy smile. Her face drained of all color, but there was no time to protest.
Joe had already crammed the package through the tiny slot between the top of the door and the ceiling, rendering it into flattened, broken pieces. "There you go, ma'am!" he said cheerfully. "The post office is alwayss happy to be of sservice."
The Post Master, who had just been drawn out of his office by the commotion, turned around and went back in quickly. A moment later his laughter could be heard throughout the building, and Rampage relaxed.
"Hey, thanks," he said as Joe trotted back around the front desk merrily. The lizardman saluted him jauntily, then paused as he caught sight of the mechanical parts scattered around in front of him.
"What are you doing?" he asked curiously. "I mean, without the answering machine we'll have to actually answer the phone!"
Oh, THAT'S what the ringing thing was called..."I'm recording a new message," Rampage said, reassembling the machine rapidly (he had disassembled it when he'd gotten really bored earlier). "Want to help?"
"Sure!" Sally said from the back rooms' door. "Um...what are we doing?"
Rampage smiled somewhat evilly. He had discovered the delights of frustrating customers earlier, and this would further the post office cause, which was along the same line. "Can you be annoyingly cheerful while saying this?" He handed Joe and Sally a sheet of paper.
They read it and smiled. Three minutes later the duo were happily making a recording: "Your call is important, please hold while we ignore you...your call is important, please hold while we ignore you..."
"Heeheeheehee! Heeheeheehee!! Heeheeheeheehahaheehee!!!" Tarantulas wheezed out, unable to intake air due to his hysterical laughter. Rampage, by now in a relatively good mood, permitted a grimly humorous smirk.
"Yes, it was funny at the time..."
"At the time?" Quickstrike caught the ominous note in the remark.
"I do fear one thing." Rampage admitted. "Beware of little old ladies with grudges." Tarantulas could only choke incoherently in glee.
The next Monday Rampage was skeet-shooting the envelopes that went flying overhead with the upgraded, more powerful laser mouse. (He had already absent-mindedly put it down once and burned a hole through the desk--luckily he hadn't been directly under the device.) His optics were already beginning to glaze over at the stifling boredom of his job. In imitation of the other postal employees, he had developed a fine facial tic that was an excellent customer deterrent. Then a creaking voice intruded into the realm of his desk.
"Pardon me, sonny..." Rampage wondered if it was worth taking his arm off his face to see the customer. (Skeet shooting tended to be more fun if he didn't look) She didn't sound intimidating or the impatient sort. Thus it was three hours later when at last he jolted awake because a paper airplane hit him in the head.
"Sorry, Rampage!" Someone called. Nodding and yawning impatiently, he noticed to his surprise that the customer was still there.
"What are you still doing here?!" He demanded. "Do you dare to expect your package to be mailed?"
"I-I was hoping if I gave you this 50 dollar bill, you would mail my package right away." Rampage gave this some consideration. The postal service did approve of incentives... He could do a little customer service for a fifty. Taking the package, he accidentally disturbed the large, plastic-fruit covered hat on her head and got a glimpse of her face.
"You look awfully familiar." He glared into the shriveled face.
"Oh. Do I?" She said innocently, a little smile appearing in the wrinkles. Mildly disquieted, Rampage took the package, gave an evil smirk, and flipped it over his shoulder into the masher. Seconds later there was an explosion. Smoke poured out of the masher's jaws, and a fragment of shrapnel smashed him in the cranial unit. Momentarily stunned, he watched as an umbrella came smashing down on him repeatedly, then with an equally evil smirk, the old lady--whom he now recognized as the one whose package Joe had crushed--laughed evilly and hobbled out the door. Rampage shook his head to clear the static and reeled off toward the masher.
"What happened?!?" Someone shouted, coughing on the billowing smoke.
"I threw a package in from a disgruntled customer. It looks like deliveries are gonna be stalled for awhile." Rampage shrugged casually. "No big deal." The other employees nodded and began dispersing towards home.
"ParTy ParTy!" Joe chanted, pulling him towards the door.
"Headache! Headache!" Rampage moaned, rubbing the umbrella dents on his forehead.
"She was probably a relative of Blackarachnia," He said disgustedly. "Luckily I had my WHOLE spark at the time..." Nervously the fuzor and transmetal backed up as Rampage touched on a veeery sensitive topic.
"You never got rid of that facial tic, did you?" Tarantulas observed.
"Only when I'm in a 'postal mood'." Rampage said, grinning nastily. The two listeners glanced at each other, exchanging the silent message, 'he can't get both of us.' 'Hopefully...'
"I managed to escape the party by going on a stamp-finding expedition." Rampage continued, quelling the tic habit.
With his three-day supply of energon, Rampage traveled down the musty corridor of urgent, looking for collectable vintage stamps which were sold to collectors, mainly for the purposes of paying the Post Office's lawyers. Finally he came to a packet of letters which was so covered with dust as to render the stamp indiscernible. Brushing it off, he was delighted to note it was the #32 Cybertron Dominion, a very rare find. Tearing it off, he took notice of the sender as well: Decepticon Headquarters, Supreme Commander Megatron, addressed to Shockwave, Cybertron. Out of curiosity, he opened it.
'Shockwave! Where are the emergency components for the spacebridge you said you mailed?! The energon cubes were mailed to you three solar weeks ago, express, and they must have arrived by now! There is danger of being overrun by the Autobots if we do not receive the components. I have sent Starscream to motivate you-hopefully this will provide all the incentive you need. --Megatron.'
"-And that's half the reason Great War 3 was lost." Rampage concluded.
"Weall that's-" Quickstrike began in disgust, while Tarantulas grinned in delight.
"From then on I was more cautious when I did customer service." Rampage reflected. "But my job was beginning to take over my life. I started becoming a bit, uh, heh, jumpy, and went through three packs of squeezy balls a day..."
Tarantulas shook his head, confusion breaking through his amusement. "I don't get it. Squeezy ball PACKS? Where were you getting them all?"
"They were given out as complimentary gifts by the police. They liked to keep us as harmlessly occupied..." Rampage paused and thought about that, "...or at least as contained as possible. But I could support my habit with my salary, so that was okay."
"So how'd ya...er, get ta Omicron?" Quickstrike asked, curiosity making him break into the conversation. He had heard Depth Charge and Megatron both refer to Rampage destroying a colony called Omicron, but he couldn't figure out how Rampage's job as a postal employee could have led to that!
The crab gave him a strange look. "Get to it? I was already there! I crash-landed in Omicron's junkyard."
"Tehehehahehetehaheh, it sounds like you were already destroying the colony from inside the post office." Rampage whipped his head around to glare at him, and the spider took a cautious step backwards. He wouldn't put it past the psychopathic immortal to decide to shoot a missile at him for nothing, especially after the story he'd been telling. "What?"
"I would have been fine if I had stayed IN the post office," Rampage grumbled, "but then Joe and Sally got arrested, and things were never the same..."
The robot who came through the Post Office door looked like any other customer. At least, he WOULD have looked like any other customer if Rampage had bothered looking up from playing Decadence (the much harder, Post Office patented version of Tetris played with 10 different little shape-pieces that shifted shapes constantly). Sally had given it to him last night. Even with a mind that could process the pattern of the game in a blink of an eye, this game was tough because Sally had tampered with the game's controls. Some of the game's buttons were programmed to give out randomly, and speed had increased to the point that if he missed one click with a button, he'd lose the game. It was nearly impossible to win. He'd thanked Sally profusely. He loved it almost as much as the Solitaire game Joe had showed him on the computer, except that he was encountering one small problem: Sally had originally given him Decadence to break his addiction to Solitaire, and now he was becoming addicted to Decadence...
All of which explained why he didn't notice the 'bot until he slapped the game out of his hands. "HEY!" he yelped as it went flying off into a pile of letters from last week. He had been using them to soak up a coffee spill someone had left on the floor.
The 'bot didn't seem to care that a disgruntled postal employee was now glaring at him hard enough to blister his paintjob. "I need this delivered to the Zilla Quadrant by tomorrow night," he said arrogantly, apparently ignorant of the way the post office really worked.
"That's too bad," Rampage said blandly, turning to rummage around in the pile of letters. Now where was it...
"I SAID," the 'bot said a little more forcefully, "that I need this-"
"I heard you the first time," he sighed, interrupting the 'bot. "I just don't CARE." Well, usually he'd care if there was a chance that the customer would offer him a bribe (he'd acquired a tidy little sum so far), but this guy had ticked him off. He switched from looking through the letters to digging through the desk drawers. "Where's that gun..."
The 'bot stiffened indignantly. "Do you know who I am?!"
"Nope. Why? Should I?" He reached as far back in the bottom drawer as he could and grinned when his hand closed around a familiar handle. "Found it!" He drew it out and admired the nice little semi-automatic. "Now, I know I left a silencer around here somewhere..."
It didn't even seem to register in the 'bot's mind that the disgruntled postal employee was now holding a gun. He obviously had not had any previous experience with the post office. "I'm the head of security for the Cybertronians of the colony," he said instead of running away as quickly as possible. He gave the 'bot behind the desk checking the safety on the gun a suspicious look. "What's your name?"
The 'head of security' part still rang faint alarm bells, but he had faith in the Post Master. And the fact that as soon as he found that slagging silencer, he wouldn't have to worry about this guy at all anymore. "Rampage. Who're you?"
The suspicious look deepened. "Depth Charge. And I don't believe that you're in my records at all, RAMPAGE."
"Um." Probably not, since he hadn't even known that he was supposed to be in ANY records! "I was brought in from off-planet to work here," he improvised, then scowled as he opened the last drawer of the desk without finding the silencer. "Joe!" he yelled. "Do you know where the silencer is?!"
"Yeah!" Joe yelled from somewhere in the back. "Ssomebody used it on the .45 when the pizza delivery guy wass late! Gimme a ssecond, and I'll bring it up front!" A moment later Joe poked his head into sight and waved a silencer at Rampage. "Iss thiss what you were looking for?"
"Hey, thanks." Rampage grabbed it and began screwing it onto the barrel of his semi-automatic. "So will the guy survive?"
Joe shrugged. "If he'ss lucky."
If either of them had been watching, they would have seen Depth Charge staring at the lizard-man in shock. By the time Rampage had turned back to the bothersome customer, though, he was already out the door.
"Slag," Rampage grumbled.
The sting came three hours later. The customer showed up with a phalanx of guards and slapped a warrant in front of the Decadence game. Immediately programmed gloating laughter emanated from the speakers as he lost. After a brief freeze as he scanned the paper for his name, Rampage's relief turned to horror.
"Don't interfere." The customer advised brusquely. "I'm Depth Charge, head of Omicron security, here to arrest, uh..." He pulled up the warrant and squinted at the names, which occupied eight lines of space apiece. "Uh, Jee-ooowowcwa----rrrr, that is, the Cluster bandits!"
"Never heard of them." Rampage said innocently.
"Well I have." Depth Charge and his companions stormed by into the Masher room before Rampage could unfreeze enough to stop him. Rampage instantly heard the distinctly familiar noises of cocking weapons.
"You'll never take us aliiive!" He heard Sally scream.
"If it's alright with you." Depth Charge replied. *Chu-Klk!* Rampage leapt out of his chair and rushed into the room, pulling out his own weapon.
"Don't you even think about it!" He blurted, coming up on Depth Charge from behind and aiming his weapon at the security chief's back. Some of the security guards whipped around and trained their weapons on him. For once, Rampage saw the advantage in having an invincible spark--so what if they shot him? He would heal.
"Everyone Hold It!" A familiar authoritative voice bellowed. The imposing figure of the Post Master planted both feet in front of his office doorway and glared chillingly about the room. Rampage smiled in relief. Now let them try to arrest Joe and Sally!
"I have a warrant!" Depth Charge snapped.
"So you do." The Post Master replied. "But how long will you have a job, I wonder." Rampage smirked a bit at this veiled suggestion, but security chief Depth Charge was just too naïve about the true nature of the Post Office to get it.
"How should I know?" Depth Charge growled. "Now if you don't surrender immediately, I'm calling you ALL in for resisting arrest!" The various unrecognized employees fidgeted and whistled, grinning nervously, reaching inconspicuously for their weapons.
"What we have here is a failure to communicate." The Post Master said, deadly quiet.
"Maybe for you." Depth Charge said, taking out a pair of handcuffs and advancing on the lizard duo, who bluntly extended their guns in threat, quite ready to go through with their threat. But with a gesture from the Post Master, they dropped them, staring pleadingly as Depth Charge clapped the handcuffs on.
"By the authority of the Interstellar-" Depth Charge began.
"I knoooow." Joe said sarcastically.
"Been there, heard that." Sally sighed. Depth Charge continued reading, so Joe began saying it with him, then Sally joined in. Finally Depth Charge finished with a glare.
"Somehow I think the papers the for their removal to trial will not appear." The Post Master said aloud. Or Security's budget, Rampage added mentally. "We'll see how long before you release them."
"Yeah, never." Depth Charge laughed a bit. "Because as soon as I notify my superiors, they're due for execution!" Rampage started to protest but a glance from the Post Master instantly silenced him.
"We shall see." The Post Master said simply.
"Yeah. We will." Depth Charge responded. "That way." He pointed Joe and Sally toward the door and marched them out. As soon as he was gone, a chorus of protest and worried chatter came from the assembled workers.
"SILENCE!!!" The Post Master roared, and immediately there was dead silence. "It is only a matter of time before our dear security chief releases them. It is only a matter of time." The last part was so ominous that Rampage actually pitied the security chief for a second. A second. From that moment on Security was under siege.
But Rampage found his job, already rather tedious, was beginning to wear him down. Joe and Sally had taken much of the tedium out of the time he had spent sitting at the computer, but now... Even the Decadence game was getting boring. It was simply reduced to an equation in his head, and if he won he won, and if he lost he lost. Sometimes as he was staring off into space at his desk, he would look down at the computer screen absently to check the time and notice that he was holding the .45 and his hands were engaged in loading and unloading it. Another thing he noticed was that he hummed a tune he had picked up from another employee a lot, the one that went 'oh, I sit behind the door with my loaded .44, nooo they ain't gonna bother me no more, no more.' As he recalled, the employee he had picked it up from had gone off to the asylum a few weeks earlier. Too bad about that one.
As he sat at his desk, he increasingly began to notice things that annoyed him. The constant crunch of the masher got on his neurocircuits after awhile, and he sometimes sat for hours listening and listening to the noise of 'sheeeuuww... CRKK! Sheeeuuww... CRKK!' every 3.492 seconds on second. Another annoying thing was the hum of the computer--did it constantly have to make that slagging hum all the time?!? There was the incessant ticking of the clock, and the drawers of his desk always seemed to stick so he had to yank them out with brute strength when he was trying to get a new carton of ammunition. And the stupid wall! Did it have to have that stinking little dot on it?! Where did that thing come from?! Who left it? Why didn't they get rid of it?! And why do I have to stare at it day after day after stinking, slagging DAY?!?
Then one day it came.
"The shipment of squeezy balls was lost at the Del Yares Post Office." A new employee announced. "The next one should arrive the day after tomorrow. Until then work will be cancelled. So PAAAAAAAARTTTYYYYY!" Rampage didn't have anyone really to party with, and besides, Security's mail had to be stopped from coming and going--they were nearly starved out, he was told. So instead he stayed at the computer, reviewing the mail that came and went there. His hand clenched abruptly with the craving for a squeezy ball and there was a loud crunch as the mouse died. He stared at his trembling hand on the mangled clicker, aching for a squeezy ball. On automatic, the masher went, sheeeuuww... CRKK! He noticed he was humming that song again. The computer hummed with him. Finally he could stand it no longer.
"SHUT! UP!!!" He screamed, and suddenly the computer monitor crumpled under his fist. Silence. He felt better. Abruptly he yanked open a desk drawer and pulled out the convenient Thompson. It was always relaxing to pull back the action and load and unload the clip. Yes, it would relax him, yes, yes... He was humming again. Hmm, not a .44, a Thompson. He pressed the lever that changed it from semi-automatic to fully automatic. Load, unload. Load, unload. Fully automatic, semi-automatic. He swayed back and forth as he repeated it over and over as the clock ticked on and the masher went sheeeuuww... CRKK! Squeezy ball, squeezy ball... Oh, just two days... Just two days. His hand spasmed uncontrollably as he passed the cartridges in and out, arching into a claw. Two days, two days! He NEEDED a squeezy ball now! Tick, tick, tick! Sheeeuuww... CRKK!
He noticed he was shouting at the top of his lungs, "No, they ain't gonna bother me no more, no more!!!" It was last thing he remembered that day.
"When I came to, Omicron was *kkccht*." Rampage sighed, hand spasming in recollection. He noticed he was fingering his gun. "Hey!" He said abruptly, noticing next that his audience was missing. Looking around, he couldn't find any signs of weapons fire, so evidently he hadn't killed them--too bad.
Back at his secret lair, Tarantulas worked feverishly. "I have to get off this planet! I have to get off!" He muttered loudly as he worked.
Quickstrike followed Dinobot about his chores at the base. "Eh, heh... Hey, Dinobot! How 'bout a playin' a round of cards, huh? Uh, yeah, ya want me to do that for ya?"
"Go away!" Dinobot snarled.
"No offense, no offense." Quickstrike said hurriedly. "Can I uh, just hang out with ya? Maybe we could be pals, whad'ya say? C'mon!"
Things got a little stranger in the Beast Wars from then on. Megatron was increasingly frustrated with Quickstrike's new habit of disappearing if he wasn't in the company of Dinobot. Threats, usually so effective when used on Predacons, seemed to not be heard by the fuzor whenever he was called to the command platform so Megatron could yell at him. That was probably because Rampage was generally called in to be yelled at, too, and Quickstrike kept staring at him...
And then, for all appearances just to give Megatron a nervous twitch, Tarantulas started doing the same thing. Well, the tyrant was used to the spider not listening to him, but hanging around Dinobot constantly? What made it worse was that Quickstrike and Tarantulas seemed to understand each other completely. Megatron began jumping at shadows, thinking that there was some sinister plot in the making while Dinobot got sick and tired of both card games and chuckling.
To make Depth Charge's life on par with ol' Megs, Rampage started having mood swings...in the middle of battles. He'd switch from nostalgia to murderous rage, then back to nostalgia and then to singing something about "no more, no more" while laughing hysterically. Quickstrike and Tarantulas vanished in an instant whenever that happened. Depth Charge went berserk trying to shut the crab up, screaming "We'll never give up! We'll never surrender!" every time Rampage asked if Security had gotten that package yet. The Maximals weren't quite sure WHAT to make of that.
That's about when the ship appeared out of nowhere. If there had been any equipment set up to alert any of the Maximals or Predacons about activity in the time warp they had originally come here through, it failed. The ship screamed down through the atmosphere aimed directly at the battle currently going on, and 'bots dove for cover hopelessly, knowing that a ship that size crashing onto their location was going to kill them all-
--and it stopped. Just...stopped. There it hovered, about six feet off the ground, steaming gently.
Various scattered Maximals and Predacons looked at each other in bewilderment as they climbed back up off the ground. Most of them had to hunch over when they stood up.
"What da slag..?" Rattrap said for all of them. The 'bot closest to him was Rampage, but even the crab seemed shaken by the space ship looming right above him where he still sat on the ground.
"Wazzpinator zzee inzzignia on zzhip!" The wasp immediately regretted saying that as a hunched-over, mixed-faction stampede ran him over. "Ooooowww...Wazzpinator have headache in whole body..."
The others ignored him and studied the insignia etched into the hull of the ship. "Not Predacon, noooo," Megatron said slowly.
"Or Maximal," Optimus agreed.
"Could it be..?" Tarantulas pushed to the front eagerly. "Teheheahahe, have they come for me?! I can finally get off this dirtball of a planet!" He finally got a good look at the insignia and wilted. "Slag." It wasn't any symbol HE knew of.
But Depth Charge was close enough to see it now. "Aw, SLAG," he said clearly in a despairing voice. "Isn't there any sort of justice in this universe?!"
"No," Rampage said automatically as he shoved the ray aside. The ray stumbled numbly, still looking at the symbol. "Outta my way, Fish F--HEY!" He stared, completely stunned. "It can't be..."
"You...know whose ship this is?" Megatron asked suspiciously.
The crab nodded mutely, optics still locked on the symbol. "But I killed him. I killed them all!...I thought. It's impossible!" He had destroyed everything on Omicron, hadn't he? But he couldn't really remember anything...
Suddenly, a large piece of the hull opened downward--*Bang!* "Owwwww..."--right onto Waspinator. That didn't seem to disturb the man standing in the now-open hatch any. He looked around himself in lordly disdain for...well, everything, really. His eyes settled on the gaping bunch of Maximals and Predacons that had turned around in surprise, and he smiled slightly as he found the one he was looking for.
Megatron recovered first. "Who are you, yesss?"
The man flicked a disinterested glance at him, then looked back to the crab staring at him in complete shock. "Ah. Rampage."
"Y-you?!" Rampage shook his head, disbelief mixing with wild hope. "It can't be! You're dead!"
The man frowned. "Dead? Oh, I think not."
Depth Charge snapped back to reality at that, and he pointed an accusing finger at the man. "I was the only survivor of Omicron!" he shouted. "There's no way you could have-"
"No way we could have done ssomething?" a male voice hissed, and a lizard-man's face poked into sight. "Ssounds familiar, don't you think, Ssally?"
Sally popped into sight on the other side. "Been there, heard that, did it anyway!" She grinned toothily at Depth Charge, who was making weird sounds vaguely reminiscent of a monkey being strangled underwater. "Well, whaddya know. If it isn't our old 'friend,' Depth Charge!"
"Gotten thosse execution orderss yet?" Joe teased. He watched with interest as the ray's hands spasmed, closing convulsively around an imaginary throat. The nearest Maximals and Predacons backed away warily.
"We were off planet in the appeal's court at the time of your...ah, rampage, Rampage," the Post Master said soothingly when Rampage continued to stare at them all. "It seems that the Cluster Bandits' appeal to a higher authority got through the mail before their execution orders did." He smiled widely while Joe and Sally chortled. "We won the case. The court judge is an old friend of mine, after all...And because of your demonstration of, hmmm, how shall I put it...oh, I know: because of your demonstration of widespread destruction, I personally received a promotion to Postal Headquarters. And you?" Joe and Sally chuckled again and gave each other a high-five behind the man's back as his smile widened even further. "Well, how does Employee of the Week sound for starters? And a job at the Headquarters?" Speechless, Rampage just nodded, and the Post Master beckoned him forward. "Then let's leave."
"You can't...I won't let you..." Depth Charge twitched as Rampage started forward.
"This is not acceptable, nooo," Megatron said. "Dinobot!"
The raptor snarled as he compressed Rampage's spark, and the crab flinched. Joe and Sally didn't even stop laughing as they jumped down from the ship (landing on Waspinator) and revealed that they had been holding very large guns out of sight all this time. Dinobot became shrapnel. Megatron became silent. Having one very large gun pointed at his head by a smiling Cluster Bandit did that to him. Depth Charge was glaring down the barrel of another gun, but he was smart enough to not attack despite how enraged he was. It helped that Optimus, Cheetor, and Rhinox were restraining him.
"If you have any complaints, please mail them to me," the Post Master said with an innocent expression while Joe and Sally backed into the ship behind Rampage. The hatch shut with a *clang* (and another pathetic moan from Waspinator, if anyone cared). The Predacons and Maximals watched in helpless silence as the ship lifted off, and that was the last ever heard from any of them.
Apparently their request for rescue got 'misplaced' in transit.
And just for the record...years later, somewhere between the paper fight and taking sadistic joy in crushing First Class mail together into an unrecognizable mass, Rampage found himself missing the Beast Wars. He got another squeezy ball, and the feeling passed.