TRANSFORMERS: CYBERTRON SAGA

CHALLENGE OF THE GOBOTS #6: SAND IN THE HOURGLASS.

byline: Anubis C. Soundwave

Scene: 1

Hans Cuff nods to Scooter and Small Foot as each enters a psychologist's office.

Leader One glares at a lighting fixture, while Turbo twiddles his thumbs.

Hans locks his gold optics onto the senior Guardian officers. "You two may outrank me," he hisses, drawing the other two Guardians' attention, "but your unprofessionalism is inexcusable. Do not antagonize these psychologists, or bully them; otherwise, you will answer to me as a civilian officer of the law."

"Whoa." Turbo's optics widen.

"As you know, I already have a psychologist," Hans continues, "so I obeyed the law. Road Ranger obeyed the law, and came to my doctor's practice. Small Foot was searching for a suitable psychologist, and finally asked me for assistance, so she made a reasonable effort to obey the law. Scooter can be forgiven for his negligence because he's a kid."

Leader One lowers his head bashfully.

"That leaves...you two." Hans scowls at his superiors.

"You were sounding like Jigsaw for a minute there," quips Turbo, noting the young Renegade's counterintuitive fixation on law and order.

"To your psychologists. Now." Hans points to the two open offices, where a gold-and-blue Mold-35 mech and a gray Mold-25 femme with light pink accents wait in each office's doorway.

Slouching his shoulders and pouting, Turbo complies. Annoyed, Leader One follows suit.

Chuckling, Hans' psychologist; a fellow Mold-13, shakes his head. "You don't think that speech of yours worked, do you?" he asks.

"Not a bit. Those two are as stubborn as they come."

"Step into my office."

"Gladly...." Hans and his psychologist enter the remaining office.

Scene: 2

"Really does look just like the movies!" Turbo grins at the patient couch.

The psychologist nods.

"Can I lie down on it?"

"It's your dime and your hour, Shichigorou--*"

Turbo scowls slightly at his native surname. "Turbo. Just call me Turbo."

"Okay, Turbo...." The psychologist smiles. "I'm Dr. Mitarai Kiyoshi. Please, tell me what's on your mind."

The red Mold-7 lies on the couch. "Nothing much."

"You're stationed on Earth right now, correct?"

"Uh-huh."

"I'd...like to start by getting to know you a bit better." Mitarai picks up a datapad and stylus, sitting on his desk. "What do you do in your spare time?"

"Play videogames."

Mitarai winces at Turbo. Is the Guardians' lieutenant senior...an imbecile? "Uh, what kind?"

"All kinds."

"Which ones do you like the most?"

"Mario."

"An Earthian videogame character."

"Yep."

"There are several videogames featuring Mario. Which one is your favorite?"

"Super Mario Brothers."

"Okay. Anything else besides videogames?" asks Mitarai, scanning Turbo dubiously.

"Comic books."

"I see...." Mitarai calmly shuts his optics. This will be the longest hour of my life.

"I'm bored. Can I go now?" Turbo asks.

Scene: 3

"My imouto is beautiful," snarls Road Ranger, "but I'm not attracted to her!"

"Don't get so defensive, Kuwari-san." His psychologist, a gold-and-white Mold-19, folds her arms.

"Then don't ask impertinent questions, Shirogane-san," Ranger spits. "I don't like being rude; it's not the way my parents taught me to behave."

"That's good. However, in order for this to be fruitful, I need you to be honest with me."

"I have not lied to you once during these discussions."

"Except by omission."

"What do you mean?"

"On our first day together, I asked you if you have a girlfriend."

"And I told you then that my duties as a Guardian leave me little time to pursue romance."

"Which did not answer my question one jot."

"What part of the answer I gave you don't you understand?"

"Its relevance to my question. I could give a ketsunoretoronezumi about your duties as a Guardian. When I ask direct questions, Kuwari-san," Shirogane continues, "I expect direct answers."

"What if I simply don't wish to tell you if I have a girlfriend or not?"

"Why would you not wish to tell me?"

"What if it's none of your fragging business whether or not I have a girlfriend?"

"Then say so. That way, we can both move on to another line of inquiry."

"Fine. It's none of your fragging business, kechi-san." Road Ranger smiles thinly.

Shirogane returns the smile. "That's better, bakayarou-san."

Ranger scowls at his psychologist. If I knew I'd have to put up with this antagonistic scrap, I would have just had Roy as my counselor. I could at least hit him.

Scene: 4

"How long are you going to stare at me?" Small Foot asks her psychologist, a green and silver Mold-18.

The psychologist scrunches his lower lip a moment, then rises from his chair. "I've gotta get this off my chest."

"Wait a minute. I thought the whole point of this was for you to help me get my feelings off my chest." Small Foot notes that her psychologist stares at her physical chest. "I think it would help us both if you'd quit staring at it."

The psychologist shakes his head. "I-I know. It's just that during the early periods, patients are evasive; since my time's valuable, I like to have a patient figure me out. Make this thing mutual."

"It's been twenty minutes, Midorigawa-san, and this is the first time I've heard you speak."

"Yeah...the problem is you threw me off my game. You're hot."

"What...?"

"You are obscenely gorgeous. I want to frag your little tailgate senseless."

"May I ask your age, Midorigawa-san?" says Small Foot.

"Sure; I'm around your brother's age," grins Midorigawa. "Are you seeing anyone?"

"Why is that your business?"

"Because I really think you're hot."

"I gathered that. What does this have to do with counseling me?"

"Like I said before, my time's valuable. This is your first day with me, so you're going to be evasive anyway. And since you're young and moe-moe," Midorigawa adds, "I thought we'd have a change of scenery for our next appointment."

"Where?"

"On Shinkansen 18."

"Why there?"

"I've always had a fantasy about groping cute femmes on the train."

"That's illegal."

"So's energon consumption, to my knowledge." Midorigawa takes out two energon cubes. "I think it's stupid to outlaw a fuel source. Want one?"

"I want both of them, as well as any others you have in storage. Now."

Midorigawa shakes his head as he empties his hidden energon bar. "What a drag."

"Just be grateful that I won't haul your aft off to prison," Small Foot turns away from Midorigawa, unable to suppress a small grin.

Scene: 5

"You've always wanted to visit the Matsuri Carnival?" asks Scooter's psychologist, a gold-and-black Mold-1.

"Yeah." Scooter sniffles. "I never got to go when I was little."

"I'm just glad you're over your initial apprehension of me."

"Well, being a Mold-1, you do look like my delusional mortal enemy."

"But I'm obviously not."

"No way, Ichimori-san," says Scooter.

"I think our time together has been fruitful." Ichimori smiles. "Perhaps we can visit the Carnival for our next session."

"Really?" Scooter's gold optics widen.

"Sure."

"I think that'd be neat."

"Outside the Matsuri gate tomorrow, then."

"Yes, sir!" Beaming, Scooter leaves Ichimori's office.

Once Scooter is outside the office, the door shut behind him, his smile becomes a smirk. "Score! Of course he's not like Cy-Kill. Cy-Kill would never have fallen for that." Scooter stifles a few snickers.

Scene: 6

"And, in conclusion," says Leader One, "I'd like to say--*"

His psychologist places a slender finger to his lip components.

Leader One gently nudges her hand away, glaring at the psychologist. "You're violating my personal space, Karakawa-san."

"Well. Now that I've finally reached the real Leader One," Karakawa smirks triumphantly, "we can get to work resolving your issues."

"Not today, I'm afraid." Leader One stands, a congenial smile on his face.

"And why not?" asks Karakawa.

"Time's up." With that, Leader One exits Karakawa's office.

Karakawa glares at her clock. "Sixty minutes, on the dot. I believe I've developed a new respect for my dad. And the Governor-general as well, for his ability to channel the honorable Senator Karakawa for fifty-nine minutes."

Smiling thinly, Karakawa places Leader One's file into a cabinet. "But if he thinks I'll just give up, he's mistaken."

Scene: 7

"Yes; there are times when Jigsaw reminds me of Prowl." Hans scowls at his psychologist. "Why do you keep bringing up Prowl?"

"My understanding was that he was like a son to you."

"I have three sons and a daughter. If we include Jigsaw--and technically, I should--that makes four sons and a daughter. Said daughter, Hiroko, is excited about her 'baby brother'."

Hans' psychologist studies his patient, watching the Guardian peace officer soften about his kids.

"Crossword will never let Jigsaw live that down," continues Hans. "He's a vindictive little cuss."

"Takes after his old man, I suppose."

Hans shakes his head. "I respectfully decline to answer that question. I don't think it's fair."

"That's reasonable. Same time tomorrow, Yasuragi-san?"

"Of course, Houshin-san." Hans and Houshin bow to each other, then Hans leaves the office.

Scene: 8

"How was the trip to the Carnival, you rat?" smirks Turbo at Scooter.

Scooter grins, smug. "My plan proceeded perfectly. It was magnificent," he says in a lousy Megatron impersonation.

"Please stop, oh mighty Scooter-tron," laughs Small Foot. "The genuine article is ridiculous enough on his own."

"Yes," adds Leader One, adopting his own Megatron cadence. "'I must order my ruthless soldiers to retreat because Optimus Prime showed up on the battlefield--even though we're winning.'"

"Or, my personal favorite," Turbo chortles. "'With the Hope Diamond, I shall generate massive amounts of energy to arm a superweapon of incredible power! Never mind that I can summon black holes at will and wipe out entire continents with my fusion cannon--I have to fight Optimus with Saturday morning supervillain logic! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!'"

"No wonder Starscream wants to replace him. Skywarp needs to cut his wing leader some slack." Small Foot shakes her head.

"I think Earth's screwing up the Cybertronians' logic algorithms." Leader One grins. "So, Turbo; how do you like your psychologist so far?"

"Actually, Mitarai's a pretty nice guy. I think I'm going to get him to explode soon, though. He won't be able to take much more of me." Turbo chuckles. "How about you, Leader One?"

"She's a chip off the old aileron, Karakawa Sakura. She will not give up easily, and I won't give the girl an inch. She will crack sooner or later."

"You guys aren't being fair. Your psychologists are reasonable. Shirogane-san wants to pick a fight with me every hour I'm in there," Ranger scowls.

"At least she doesn't want to go out with you." Small Foot rolls her optics.

"If Midorigawa gives you any trouble, just let me know," says Ranger, "and I'll deal with him. Though I must admit that he'd be a better match for you than Skywarp."

"Don't you dare try to marry me off, Kazuki," says Small Foot, pouting at her older brother. "I have no interest in hanging around yet another Mold-18 mech. You and Dad are more than enough."

"It's nice to know that the Kuwari-gokyoudai aren't giving their psychologists any trouble." Hans turns to Leader One, Turbo and Scooter. "You three, on the other hand...." Hans tenses his fists.

"I figured that I'd enjoy my hour-a-day sessions with Ichimori-san," grins Scooter. "Seriously, though: I don't have any issues about what happened."

"We're under court order to be in those offices," adds Turbo. "What we do while we're there is our choice. I'm gonna have fun."

"They don't value our time," continues Leader One, "so I have no intention of respecting theirs."

"You brought this on all of us with that infantile stunt you pulled, sir," scowls Hans.

"Granted. I have no wish to 'work on resolving' any of my issues with a psychologist young enough to be my daughter."

"Small Foot's young enough to be your daughter."

"Yeah," counters Turbo, defending Leader One, "but she ain't asking dumb questions about my hobbies."

"Nor does Small Foot insist that I answer rude, invasive and impertinent questions," adds Ranger. "And unlike Turbo, I've actually suffered through this for one hour a day--for two cycles straight. Infinite variations of the question 'Do you want to frag your younger sister, Kuwari-san?' gets to you after a while."

"What!?" Small Foot's optics. "That kechi! I'll teach her a lesson!"

"And you say I'm overprotective." Ranger smiles, shaking his head.

Scene: 9

"How are things with your patients, minna-san?" Houshin asks.

Karakawa smiles thinly. "It has been three months of hell, sir," she says.

"I anticipated as much; Leader One is the most difficult regarding his private thoughts. I ask your forgiveness, Karakawa-kun."

"It's not a problem, Houshin-senpai. I consider the Governor-general a satisfying challenge."

"And handsome as well," adds Shirogane.

"Yes, although he's old enough to be my father."

"Midorigawa-kun?" Houshin turns to Midorigawa.

"I want her. Failing that, I want to at least know who's dating her so I can get her out of my mind and focus on my job." Midorigawa grins. "It's such a drag to be alone with a beauty like her, yet unable to act on my urges."

Houshin pinches the bridge of his nose. "Midorigawa-kun, about the health of your patient."

"Oh. She's fine. More or less mature about a lot of things. She loves her family, friends and fellow Guardian colleagues. Admires Leader One, sees Scooter as a kid brother she never asked for but adores. Anything else is between her and me. Anyway, we're talking; she's cooperative, but she won't go out with me."

"Thank you, Midorigawa-kun. Ichimori-san." Houshin turns to face Ichimori.

"I'm having a blast. Feels like a never-ending vacation." Ichimori smirks.

"I don't ever see you or Naotoki-san in the office," notes Shirogane.

"That's because I allowed him to trick me into treating him to various activities he'd never try on his own. He's really a vulnerable kid."

"You knew he was scamming you?" Mitarai's optics widen.

"I don't fight the current; I flow with it. Eventually, I'll reach my destination. I suspect that when dealing with Guardians, the current's simply too strong for us to fight, anyway."

"Advice to the rest of us?" asks Houshin.

"I suppose. Judo would be applicable: we use their own confrontational tendencies against them. Let them think they've 'won'," continues Ichimori, "and their real selves will eventually surface."

"Oh, I'm not having any problems with my patient," says Shirogane, smiling. "I just like to tweak him a bit. He's adorable when he's flustered."

"Are you still asking the poor guy about his girlfriend?" Midorigawa frowns.

"I want to know if he has one."

"Of course he has one, you frigid glitch. She's probably a hot Guardian femme--who's not his hot kid sister. If she's not into me, she sure as hell won't want her own brother. He's not going to tell you, and he's probably doing every meditation trick that they teach at the Academy to keep himself from hitting you."

"Why would it be a problem for him to talk about having a girlfriend, Guardian or otherwise?"

"If she were an ordinary Gobot, or an alien female," Mitarai offers, "she'd be a target for Renegade reprisals."

"As for Guardians dating each other, that's against regulations--he and his girlfriend could lose their jobs."

"That doesn't make sense." Mitarai scrunches his lip components. "Turbo's parents were both active Guardians. I managed to eke that much out of him at least. He hates talking about his parents."

"This is pretty freaky. A lot of stupid regulations came down after Turbo's parents were fragged." Midorigawa shakes his head.

Mitarai sighs. "Turbo barely says anything. I usually get three syllables out of him; sometimes four when he feels generous. I caught on a week in that he was clearly toying with me, but I honestly don't know if I can take it anymore."

"Turbo's another hard person, I admit, Mitarai-kun; I ask your forgiveness," says Houshin.

"He should ask for that, senpai, not you."

"Give them time," says Ichimori. "Scooter's taught me quite a bit about both Leader One and Turbo."

"That they're arrogant, stubborn, and tend to try to cheat their way out of trouble?" scowls Karakawa.

"Not quite. Guardians usually have battle computers running in the back of their minds. The more you try to push them into revealing themselves, the longer they will think they're under attack."

"More to the point, Leader One and Turbo--as senior Guardian officers--think that we're wasting valuable time that they could spend fighting the Renegades. In their minds," continues Houshin, "it's a twenty-four hour job; each minute they spend here with us--*"

"Let me guess: '--is a minute that Cy-Kill draws closer to his goal.' Did I mimic him properly?" grins Karakawa.

"You and Mitarai-kun are probably closer to your patients than either you or they realize, Karakawa-kun." Houshin smiles.

"Then we'll continue to do our best for our patients. Right, minna-san?" asks Karakawa.

"Sure." Midorigawa shrugs.

"Of course," adds Mitarai. "That guy I have needs help."

"Mine's cooperating," grins Shirogane.

"And mine without even realizing it," notes Ichimori slyly.

"Then the meeting's adjourned." Houshin rises from behind his desk. All six psychologists leave Houshin's office.

Scene: 10

Log - Karakawa Sakura:

It took me eight months of digging, but I found the primary nerve center of the Renegades' entire operation: Rogue Star. Within this den of thieves and vagabonds is the one person who can give me what I need to do my job.

Cy-Kill may be the most dangerous threat to Gobotron, but he's also the only one who can navigate the multi-level series of labyrinths within Leader One's mind.

If I could only find a way inside--what's this?

"A red button?" Karakawa notes the text on the button. "'Please ring doorbell for entry. Thanks, Jigsaw.' He's such a considerate little man."

Karakawa duly rings the doorbell. Please don't be an alarm, please don't be an alarm, please don't be an alarm....

Scene: 11

DING...DONG.... DING...DONG....

"What is that noise?" hisses Cy-Kill.

DING...DONG.... DING...DONG....

"Where is that infernal noise coming from!? This is a strategy meeting!" continues the Renegade leader.

DING...DONG....

"Somebody's using my doorbell!" Jigsaw grins. "I'll get it!" The small white Renegade tin pet rushes out of the war room within Rogue Star.

"'Doorbell...?'" Cy-Kill winces. "Who in hell is enough of an imbecile to install a doorbell at a secret base of operations!?"

"Apparently, Jigsaw...is stupid enough," mutters Crossword. "I'm going to kick him."

"Crasher," Cy-Kill grins crudely, "stop your child, or I will terminate him."

"If he answers that door, I'll be the one to strike him down. I brought him into this world, and I'll take him out!" Crasher rushes out of the war room.

Scene: 12

"Just a moment!" Jigsaw rubs his hands. "I can't wait to see who rung the doorbell."

The tin pet starts to open the door, but a black hand grips his arm.

Jigsaw looks up, noting Crasher's scowling face. "Did I do something wrong?" he asks.

"Yes. I'll punish you later. Now go away before Mommy decides to kill you."

"Yes, Mom." Glum, Jigsaw leaves.

"Honestly," Crasher hisses, "a doorbell. Where does Jigsaw think he is--Decepticon Headquarters?" She turns on the external camera.

"Lucky for us all that it's just some civilian Gobot. Though she is a Mold-25 like Leader One."

Crasher contacts Cy-Kill. "It's just an ordinary Gobot outside. Femme, Mold-25. She's not Leader One in disguise, thankfully."

"Find out what she wants," orders Cy-Kill over the comm link.

"Very well." Signing off from Cy-Kill, Crasher turns on the intercom. "Who are you, and what do you want here, missy?

Outside Rogue Star, Karakawa stares at the intercom box. I'm...talking to Crasher.

Karakawa degausses her vocoder. "I...need to speak to Cy-Kill. My name is Karakawa Sakura."

"Sakura. What a pretty name," Crasher hisses over the intercom.

"T-thank you, ma'am...."

"Ma'am!?" spits Crasher. "You're not calling me old, are you?"

"N-no! Of-of course not!" Karakawa stammers.

"Wise girl. I'm only 7.3M-cycles old, thank you."

That makes her four M-cycles older than me in age. "Is it...possible for me to see Cy-Kill?" Karakawa asks. "Because if he's busy or away, I'll scram."

Scene: 13

At the door to Rogue Star, Crasher transmits the external video to Cy-Kill.

Within the war room, Cy-Kill studies the young, fidgeting psychologist.

Definitely a very lovely little civilian, the Renegade leader muses, especially as she's Senator Karakawa's only daughter.

Coptur licks his lip components, having removed his false beak mask. "Maybe we could show the little Twenty-Five a good time."

"Let's not be crude, Coptur." Cy-Kill contacts Crasher. "Let our young guest in to see me. We'll give her a grand welcome to Rogue Star."

Scene: 14

"You're rather bold, young lady, to come this far," Cy-Kill purrs. "What brings you to my inner sanctum?"

In retrospect, this was a stupid-as-hell thing to do, Karakawa observes silently as she stares at Cy-Kill, but what choice do I have?"Greetings, Cy-Kill. I...have a few questions for you," she says aloud.

"Really? In regards to?"

"About Leader One." Karakawa tenses her fists. "What was he like during the old days? Before you...changed career paths."

"Are you a reporter?" says Cy-Kill.

"No."

"A Guardian spy?" hisses Fitor.

"N-no...?" Karakawa trembles.

"Fitor," admonishes Cy-Kill, "she's no spy. You're terrifying the poor dear."

"I'm merely exercising proper caution. The Guardians can be cunning."

"It's possible, but I'll indulge her for the moment." Cy-Kill smiles, lost in happier memories. "Once, Leader One and I were virtually inseparable. The two of us were loyal, faithful, hardworking and dedicated Guardians...."

On the catwalk above the war room, Leader One lurks in stealth mode, observing Cy-Kill's conversation with Karakawa.

Cy-Kill laughs. "...although I have to say, my dear," the Renegade leader continues, "that Leader One had a bit of a wild streak back in the day."

"Really...?" Karakawa's optics widen, even as she strokes her chin; a catlike smile curls her lip components.

"Oh, yes. A handsome, dashing young rogue. Always found ways to get around the energon ban."

Leader One glares at Cy-Kill. "That half-truth spitting frag-pile of spare parts!" he hisses in a low frequency. There wasn't a full energon ban until Cybertron's civil war started 9M-cycles ago.

After listening to Cy-Kill relate a few of their adventures as Guardian officers--and muttering about some of his ex-friend's...embellishments, Leader One opts to end the discussion.

The Guardian leader leaps down onto the table, grabs Karakawa, and deactivates his stealth mode.

"What the--where'd you come from!?" balks Karakawa, struggling in Leader One's grip.

"Don't listen to his lies!" scowls Leader One. "If you have questions about my past, then talk to me."

Karakawa breaks free from Leader One's grasp. "I'd be delighted," she spits, flashing Leader One a crude snarl of a grin.

Leader One stares at the younger Mold-25, shocked.

"After all, it's far safer for me to be in my office---with you, my client, on time for his appointments. I'd even settle for your usual tactics of sauntering in thirty minutes late, as long as I got to chat with you. Even your tired technique of boring me to tears with rambling banalities has its charm, Governor-general, compared to what I've had to endure because as of late, you've opted to blow me off entirely."

"Karakawa-san, I have--*"

"I'm not done. I spent eight lunar cycles of my life--time I'll never get back--wandering through the seediest hellholes our solar system has to offer. I had no desire whatsoever to risk life and limb--nearly sold into sex slavery four times--because one of my psych clients was too damn...what's the Earthian term...? Ah, yes--chickenshit!--to deal with his issues."

Leader One scowls at Karakawa.

"Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm well aware of how dangerous this delusional, self-aggrandizing maniac really is," Karakawa continues, stabbing her finger toward a seething Cy-Kill.

With one swift move, Leader One snatches up Karakawa, hoisting the psychologist over his shoulder.

"Put me down!" Karakawa demands.

"I'm going to get you out of here alive whether you like it or not, you idiot!" snarls Leader One.

Coptur's already large gold optics widen further. He points toward the exit. "Front exit's that way."

"Thank you." Leader One smiles thinly. "One more thing before I leave...." Leader One activates his internal comm link. "Attention: all available Guardian personnel. This is Leader One. Lock on to my frequency; two to astrobeam. Once we're safely aboard a shuttle," Leader One continues, smirking at Cy-Kill, "shut this place down hard. Leader One out."

"You rat-fink," grins Karakawa.

Leader One gives his psychologist an amused, albeit annoyed, grin. "Shut up."

The two Mold-25s escape via astrobeam just as the Renegades wake from their stupor and fire.

Scene: 15

An hour later, Leader One brings Karakawa to her office. "Safe and sound," he smiles, relieved.

"We agree on something," smiles Karakawa.

"Probably more than you think, Karakawa-san."

A black Mold-25 with red accents stands outside the office, pacing anxiously.

Leader One recognizes the mech. "Senator Kara--*"

"Dad...?" Karakawa's optics widen.

The mech turns, facing Karakawa and Leader One. "Sakura!" Senator Karakawa rushes to his daughter, drawing her in a tight paternal embrace.

"Dad, I'm okay; I'm fine." Karakawa smiles gently, "Cy-Kill didn't get the chance to blackmail--*"

"Don't even joke, Sakura." The senator's optics shine with gratitude as he faces Leader One. "Thank you, Governor-general. If anything had happened to my daughter, I...."

"It is my duty, and an honor, Senator," says Leader One.

Senator Karakawa collects himself. "Our differences remain, but again: thank you." He releases Karakawa and bows.

Leader One returns the bow, then watches as the senator leaves.

Karakawa enters her office, then turns to Leader One. "Aren't you coming in, Governor-general?"

"No."

"Why not?"

Leader One grins, smug. "Time's up." He shuts the door.

Karakawa is livid. "What!?"

Scene: 16

"I need you to bring the goods to these coordinates. Can you do that?" Midorigawa asks an Autobot Class Three.

"You're asking me to drop at Gobotron," notes the Class Three. "I've been out of circulation for a few M-cycles."

"Don't hand me that. You're so slick that your operation ran on autopilot while you were in stasis lock. Offline, and making money. Tux would envy you. So I figure you'll do me this favor, and you and your friends get to hang out at the party if everything goes well."

"You seem to think it's all under control. But you expect me to hustle all of my connections, gather the goods, and drop ship in two days--as a favor?" balks the Autobot.

"Unless you want your bosses at your day job to know about your moonlighting gig. I was under the impression that Ironhide and Prowl were tough customers; they wouldn't put up with--*"

"Fuck. You've got me by the lugs, Gobot, okay?" The Autobot Class Three jetwarrior chuckles. "This had better be a hell of a party before the Guardians crash it and arrest all of us."

"Actually, the Guardians are the guests of honor. Kay expects them to drop in, and that's when the party will pop."

The Autobot widens an optic.

"Bring your friends. Hell, bring your enemies--especially that Skywarp chump. I want to see what my patient sees in him."

"A long, hard input cable."

Midorigawa scoffs at the Autobot's comment. "Look: I may not be a Seeker of Vilnacron or other members of Megatron's 'elite' forces, but my input cable's been plenty hard from the moment she stepped into my office."

"You need to see a specialist for that. I can refer you," smirks the Autobot, "but that will cost you."

"I though you only dealt in intoxicants."

"There are many kinds of intoxicants, pal. Some guys like spicy fuel; others want clean input cables. The key to success in business is diversification."

"Whoa. You're awesome, Silverbolt."

Scene: 17

Scooter meets Ichimori outside the psychology practice building. "What's going on?" the young engineer asks.

"Nothing. Why don't we skip the stuffy office today? We can hang out on the roof across from here."

"Why?"

Ichimori sighs, shaking his head. "It's a mood I'm in today. Besides, I want to show you something interesting."

Scooter scrunches his lip components. "I'm trusting you, buddy."

Scene: 18

"What is this?" Mitarai studies the fluorescent purple cubes. "Liquid superfuel? It's so concentrated."

"It's party fuel," grins Skywarp.

"You'll like it, Kiyoshi," adds Silverbolt.

"Bolt," warns Slingshot, "it's illegal to have en--*"

"Shut the fuck up," Silverbolt hisses. "We'll be fine."

"Leader One's going to tear us a new aft port if--what the hell is this clown doing here!?" Slingshot notes Smokescreen and Autobot bounty hunter Defcon, the latter pair carrying a large crate.

"I'm bring a special gift for the chief guest of honor," says Smokescreen, levelling a pointed smirk.

"Your aft should still be in the brig after that stunt you pulled with Swindle two months back," scoffs Silverbolt.

"Oh? If you shaft me," grins Smokescreen crudely, "you go down with me."

"You think Prowl will believe you over me? I cover my tracks, old-timer; they'll never pin this on me."

Smokescreen snickers. "I have to say, Silverbolt, this is a whole other side of you."

"The DJ is in!" Jazz struts inside the office. "Smokey, my man!"

"And now, my aft is covered, son," says Smokescreen. "Respect your elders."

"Fuck you. Why have Jazz instead of Blaster?" Silverbolt spits.

"The Autobot that outranks you also has better taste in music."

"Okay, we got the music, we got the fuel: let's get this fraggin' party started!"

"Don't forget the femmes," adds Skydive sedately, cradling a gynoid in each arm.

"I hate him," says Silverbolt, cursing Skydive's way with the ladies.

"So do I, kid; so do I," adds Smokescreen.

"Where's the energon!?" demands Wildrider, as he and Breakdown invite themselves to the gathering.

"E-energon?" whimpers Mitarai. "We have energon here?"

"As you predicted, Karakawa," laughs Shirogane, "Mitarai's about to panic."

Scene: 19

"No one invited you Stunti-fucks!" spits Silverbolt.

"W-where's the energon!?" stammers Mitarai.

"Right here!" grins Wildrider, picking up a cube. "Breakfast of champions!"

Mitarai smacks the cube out of Wildrider's hand. "Are you all nuts!?" he shrieks. "We're gonna be slagged when the Guardians storm this office!"

"Really!?" Wildrider's red-violet optics widen with glee. "Now that's what I call a party!"

"We...." Mitarai trembles. "Karakawa, Midorigawa, Shirogane: we've got to hide this stuff! It's hot!"

"Calm down, Mitarai," giggles Karakawa. "Think about it: this is the fastest way to get Leader One and Turbo's afts in here."

"Yeah; and you'll see a whole new side of Turbo today," adds Midorigawa, snickering.

"You!" spits Mitarai, pointing at Slingshot. "Help me pick up this tarp. If we hurry, we'll have it all hidden before they get here."

"He didn't hear a word you said," notes Shirogane.

"All going according to plan." Karakawa stands. "Everyone, get into position. Midorigawa, hit the lights."

Scene: 20

Outside, the Guardians surround the office building.

"This has to be the stupidest, most flagrant attempt to defy the energon ban since it was enacted," scoffs Leader One.

"Then we nail their lugs to the wall, sir--hard." Turbo slams his fist into his hand for emphasis.

Houshin nudges himself through the crowd of Guardians to enter his office.

He notes Hans talking with Night Ranger. "What's going on?" the psychologist asks Hans. "Why are you all surrounding my office?"

"Apparently, someone's using it as a base to distribute energon contraband," Hans answers. "This should only take a moment. The ringleaders are incompetent."

"Okay, minna-san: we should expect an ambush," says Leader One. "Be prepared for anything."

Flip contacts Leader One over the comm link. "We've secured the perimeter. No way in or out except through the front door."

"All right." Leader One disconnects the comm link. "Let's move!"

The Guardians burst into the darkened office lobby. Houshin follows behind the column of Guardians, wincing at the busted door.

"Whoever you are: come out with your hands u--*"

The lights abruptly pop on. "Surprise!"

Drag Strip blows on a party noisemaker for effect, while Air Raid, heavily overenergized, bearhugs Leader One.

"Now we can get this party started!" crows Skywarp.

Standing in front of the ill-concealed energon, Mitarai trembles; he grins stupidly as an angry Turbo approaches him.

Scene: 21

Two days later, Midorigawa finishes applying the last of the office lobby's wallpaper. "What a drag."

"It's the only way we'll be able to keep our jobs," says Karakawa.

"I'm still rather upset with you both," scowls Houshin, keeping a wary optic on the two young psychologists.

"Now you know why I didn't show up to work that day," Ichimori grins. "It's more fun to watch chaos unfold at a safe distance."

"Let's leave these four to clean up the mess they've made." Houshin smiles thinly, locking his optics onto Karakawa. "The next time you want to throw an office party, please get my authorization first." Houshin enters his office with Ichimori.

"I didn't even do anything wrong," groans Mitarai.

"Aw, Mitarai's first energon hangover," Midorigawa teases.

"Serves you right for panicking. I had everything under control," continues Karakawa, scowling. "At least until the Stunticons showed up."

"No one expects the Stunticon Inquisition!" Shirogane laughs.

"You know what's funny?" smiles Midorigawa.

"That the saibatoran will fall right back into killing each other as soon as they return to Earth?" Karakawa shakes her head.

"If not before. War can be stupid sometimes."

Shirogane nods. "Where did Leader One end up taking Crasher?" she asks.

"He said he was taking her to Holding at the jail a few blocks over," says Mitarai.

"What's the over-under that Leader One took her home to the Governor's mansion?" asks Karakawa. "He's very much a male."

"Would the Governor-general take advantage of a vulnerable femme?" asks Mitarai. "Crasher's an enemy of the state, but such behavior doesn't suit Leader One."

"You'd be surprised what he's capable of," says Karakawa wryly.

"Come on, Mitarai: when Smokescreen unpacked her," continues Midorigawa, "she was stripped down to her chrome body and trussed-up red-light district style."

"With a ball gag in her mouth," adds Shirogane.

"Smokescreen's going to die."

"Maybe, but at least the Autobot gave the gossip sheets grist for their rumor generator modules."

"How's this headline? 'Leader One and Renegade Crasher: An Item?'" grins Karakawa.

"Or: 'Guardian Leader's Strange Love: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Enemy'," adds Mitarai helpfully.

"Too obscure."

"You know, in spite of everything...I'd do it all over again." Midorigawa chuckles.

"It was worth it," Karakawa smirks, "just to see the looks on their faces!" She laughs.

"We survived a whole year of that lot," adds Shirogane, "with our sanity largely intact."

"I slugged Turbo...and I'm still alive." Mitarai trembles, a stupid smile plastered on his face.

"That's because you panicked," notes Karakawa.

"He had it coming...." Mitarai snickers, then laughs hysterically, collapsing to his knees. The other psychologists in the lobby laugh with him.

Houshin and Ichimori step into the lobby. "That's it," smiles Houshin. "Get it all out of your system. They're coming back tomorrow."

Karakawa chuckles. "We'll be ready."

END ISSUE 6

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Let me see if I can answer any questions today.

1. What's with all the "Mold-#" designations? Are they classifying bread fungi on Gobotron? No...Machine Robo numbers. For example, Midorigawa's a green-and-silver Road Ranger-type; while Karakawa and her father (Senator Karakawa)are variants of Leader One himself.

2. And what's with these names, anyway?

I was actually very careful with the names. They translate into something regarding their color or nature, relating to their function, or--in the case of poor, poor Mitarai--a chance to make an obscure reference to Yu Yu Hakusho. Ichimori just sounded like a normal, everyday sort of surname. This would include certain Guardian surnames.

And before you ask: it's JPN VOCABULARY TIME!

kechi: one of several JPN words for "glitch"; in a cybernetic (Transformer and Gobot) context, "glitch" has the same meaning as jajauma or baita.

ketsunoretoronezumi : ketsu - buttocks ("ass", "aft") + no - of + retoro - romanized katakana (JPN characters giving the phonetic sounds of foreign words) of "retro" + nezumi - rat. IOW:

"Its relevance to my question. I could give a retro-rat's aft about your duties as a Guardian. When I ask direct questions, Kuwari-san," Shirogane continues, "I expect direct answers."(Shirogane's very direct.)

imouto: little or kid sister. Shirogane apparently thinks Ranger wants to reenact Cream Lemon (google or Wiki it, people) with Small Foot.

senpai: senior, superior. Houshin's their senior in the psychology practice; Ichimori is Houshin's partner, so he doesn't get the "-kun" (junior, subordinate) honorific. That's also why he avoided the younger four psychologists' mad office party at the end.

gokyoudai: "brothers", in this context (as Small Foot's a femme), "siblings".

moe-moe: moe, or "cute girl", repeated twice for emphasie. Midorigawa thinks Small Foot's a hottie. He also has Midnight Sleazy Train fantasies. (google it, but for God's sakes, don't click the links.)

3. Shouldn't the Guardians take uneasy glances at their own audience when making cracks about "mighty Megatron"?

No; they know their audience (Trix-addled 6-10 year-old American kids during the 1980s). Seriously, though: while we could bag on the CotG TV show until Ragnarok hits, the fact is that G1 Transformers had its bouts of Idiot Plot Syndrome. When objectively compared to say, Beast Wars Megatron or Animated Megatron, G1 Megatron doesn't hold up well.

But that's only one layer. The other, obvious layer is the Voice Actor Shoutout. Mad props to Frank Welker: not only did he voice a sizable chunk of the Decepticons as well as several Autobots, he even had time to voice a number of Gobots; the most memorable (if unfairly hated, IMO), is the Glomer-ific(Punky Brewster) voice of Scooter. Welker was the Mel Blanc of the 1980s, people. He got around. (And Bay chose Hugo Weaving....)

Yet, there's a third layer! Welker's longest-running voice role is as a blond human co-star on a show with a cartoon Great Dane he now voices; another (sadly-late)co-star was B. J. Ward. She voiced the original Velma Dinkley, and somehow wandered into the Challenge of the Gobots VA booth as Small Foot.

Just imagine two actors familiar with each other on one show voicing that Megatron segment, with Lou Richards and Arthur DEVASTATOR Burghardt adding their two bits. (Burghardt should know SUPERVILLAIN LOGIC: in addition to Devastator, his main claim to cartoon fame was as the voice of James MacCullen D. XXIV.) Much, much humor.

In short, whatever you may think of former President Reagan, TV was simply all kinds of awesome--if merchandise-driven--during the 1980s. (Except for the flugged-up JUST SAY NO PSAs: looking back on them now, most of them were just scary (and likely drug-induced).)

That's all I've got. Questions, comments? Please click the review button below.