A/N: You all are freakin' awesome. Thank you for the warm reception! This chapter contains liberal allusions to the book/series and movie of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but knowledge of the series is not necessary for the reading of this chapter.
Chapter Two: Megatron Learns to Hate Inanimate Objects
Morning came to the Nemesis—or what passed for morning on the wretched, overly organic planet Megatron meant to plunder. Not that morning made any difference to those living on a sunken space cruiser. Or helped Megatron's mood. Or really had any meaning at all when every single slagging computer in the base could not be touched.
Standing over Soundwave's shoulder, Megatron glared at the main screen in the control room, where the video of hopping human women had been replaced by a clip Megatron recognized as a scene from the bizarre human space opera The Return of the Jedi. Normally the film was a source of dark amusement for Megatron, who found the 'special effects' pathetic, the portrayal of galactic life skewed, and the 'space age' technology either quaint or impossible. At worst, it threw him into a rage to see a powerful being like Darth Vader betray such sentimental weakness and die for his whiny, incompetent offspring. Today, however, he found himself watching the scene of Jabba the Hutt entertained by . . .
. . . a scantily dressed, green, 'alien' woman jiggling in something like a dance.
"As soon as Starscream returns from patrol, I'll incinerate him as promised," Megatron said, barely restraining his temper. The sight of the jiggly flesh creature did turn his tanks—so completely, in fact, he couldn't even drink his breakfast. And Starscream had managed to time his tweaking of "Hey Mickey" to coincide with his departure from the Nemesis, sparing himself the torture. "That bolt-bat," he hissed sotto voce. "The fool never knows when to stop."
The transmission ceased abruptly, and Soundwave glanced over his shoulder. "Exact frequency differentiated from the 1,243 similar harmonics. Audio-visual signals blocked."
"Finally," Megatron replied, not feeling the least bit gracious—if he could ever be said to feel such an emotion. Although he suspected the culprit was Jazz, Megatron couldn't imagine how a prisoner could access their computer network. However, Starscream had clearly been tampering with the footage, so he wasn't above suspicion, either. There was only one way to find out. "Have the computer calculate the most likely source or cause for the interference." He paused. "And you may detach Frenzy from the floor."
Soundwave nodded. "Thank you, Lord Megatron." He turned to the computer controls, feeding in the input. When the answer didn't present itself within a klik, he tilted his head in a mild show of consternation. "Computer is analyzing multiple variables."
"Then contact me when it's finished." Megatron headed for the door, deciding decent recharge was in order. Struck by an idea, he stopped and smirked. Despite the disruption of his base, he had to have someone on patrol. "Also, contact Starscream and tell him to pull double patrol shifts, because he was the seeker least affected by our musical disturbance and therefore has had the most rest."
"As you command," Soundwave replied.
Megatron snickered to himself and walked to the turboshaft door, not pausing since it contained sensors to detect one's presence. The door, however, cycled open slowly and spoke.
"Thank you for making a simple door very happy," the door said, sighing in pleasure.
"What the frag?" Megatron whirled to face Soundwave again.
Soundwave's gaze was riveted to the door as though it had either personally insulted him or committed an obscene act. For someone whose entire face was hidden, he still managed to convey distinct horror through his suddenly rigid posture and his clenched fists. After a moment, he turned back to the computer and hit several buttons. "Source of malfunction unknown."
"Frenzy has to stay welded to the floor." Megatron swept from the room without further ado, ordering the lift to take him to the officer's deck.
When the lift stopped, the door opened with a contented sigh once more. "Thank you for making a simple door very happy."
Feeling his optic ridge twitch, Megatron exited the lift without submitting to his urge to shoot the door. "I'm surrounded by fools," he muttered as he headed to his quarters. "Incompetent, unimaginative, unresourceful fools." He stopped before his quarters and entered the access code to the lock. Gathering his patience, he awaited the inevitable response.
The door sighed happily. "Thank you for making a simple door so ecstatic. I shall reward you!"
Megatron braced himself, but it was too late. The door emitted a song: "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony! I'd like to hold it in my arms and keep it comp—"
Without hesitation, Megatron fired his fusion cannon at the door controls, blasting them from the wall. His door wouldn't lock now, but no one was powerful enough to kill him anyway. And anything, even death, was better than listening to cheery humans sing of peace and joy.
Snarling, Megatron retreated into his quarters, and that was the moment the mighty leader of the Decepticons realized nothing might be quite right in his base ever again. His berth was swaying faintly on its hinges, and the movement was causing the hydraulic system to emit odd sounds:
Flooooooo……loooooooop. The berth rocked to one side. Flooooooo……loooooooop. It rocked back.
Megatron rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. //Soundwave, do you copy?//
//Yes, Lord Megatron. Proceed.//
Pausing, Megatron struggled with how odd his words would sound. //I've discovered a new glitch. My berth is . . . "flolloping."//
Silence. //Please repeat.//
It was hopeless, Megatron decided. //I think you'd have to see it to understand. It's rocking back and forth. Take a look.//
//Accessing security camera 152.//
Megatron heard the buzz as his cabin's personal security system alerted him that the camera was on. No one could access the camera without his direct permission, and if they hacked it, it set off an alarm. He waited, watching the swaying berth and imagining he could smell Soundwave's logic circuits melting.
//I . . . see.// Soundwave's tone gave the impression he had just witnessed something pornographic. //I will begin analysis of the . . . "flolloping" . . . berth.//
//Be quick about it.// Megatron smirked to himself. //I suspect your berth is doing the same. Megatron out.//
Leaving Soundwave to ponder the horror of his own possibly flolloping berth, Megatron sneaked up on his, like a turbofox stalking a turbohare. Then he grabbed it, jerking it still. "Stop, slaggit! I'm going to get some recharge even if I have to blow up half this miserable planet."
The berth exhaled an hydraulic, bubbling hiss that sounded almost sympathetic: Globber.
Now my berth is "globbering" at me? Megatron clenched his right fist, fighting the urge to blast the berth into scrap metal. "Primus!" He exhaled heavily and then climbed on the berth, which had the sense to stay still. I'm going to double my schedule for draining this planet dry. Mechanical devices never did such strange things on Cybertron, even when glitched.
Distracting himself with lovely daydreams of killing Optimus Prime, Megatron finally fell into recharge.
After flying across the entire U.S. and back twice, an exhausted Starscream returned to base. Soundwave answered his request to raise the tower, and Starscream rested against the lift's wall on his ride down to the command center. He smirked to himself, wondering if Megatron had enjoyed the endless replays of the Return of the Jedi clip. "What a fool to pretend he wouldn't be as disgusted as I!" he muttered to himself. He had to wonder, though, if Megatron wouldn't attack him the instant he saw him.
Reaching the main deck, the lift door opened with a sigh. "Thank you for making a simple door very happy."
"What in Primus's name is that about?" Starscream asked, exiting the lift.
Megatron turned from his position behind Soundwave's chair. Fortunately, he looked rested, so Starscream knew he could count on keeping his body intact . . . for the time being.
"It would seem every door in the base has been reprogrammed to feel happiness," Megatron replied, "as well as express it. Constantly."
Starscream grimaced, his tanks turning at the mere concept. "Programmed to be always joyful? That's disgusting and perverted." He snorted. "This definitely has to be the work of one of us, but who could it be? I've already grilled Skywarp about it, and you know how poor he is at hiding his giddiness over a good prank."
"I'm thinking it's you." Megatron's upper lip curled in a sneer. "You're both twisted and stupid enough to do something like this, and if your own boasts are to be believed, you have the technical knowledge as well. Plus you obviously inserted that footage of the green, jiggling flesh creature into the video loop."
The idea was so preposterous Starscream skipped the fear stage and went straight to rage. "What? I would never lower myself to such baseness. I have far better things to do with my time!" He paused. "Although you're right about the substituted video clip." He crossed his arms. "I was just testing to see if your constitution was as great as you claimed, mighty Megatron."
Megatron growled, leveled his fusion cannon, and fired at Starscream, who dived to the side. The blast clipped his left wing and left it smoking, but the damage was minor. A warning shot, he thought, biting back the next words that came to mind.
"Obviously yours wasn't," Megatron said, turning back to face Soundwave's monitor, "or you wouldn't have timed the switch to take place after you left on patrol."
Starscream smirked, but his curiosity overcame his desire to argue back. "What is Soundwave working on?" He joined Megatron and glanced at the monitor.
"The computer is lagging," Soundwave replied. "Attempting to determine cause."
Megatron frowned. "We asked it to calculate the most likely source or cause of all this interference—five cycles ago."
"Five?" Starscream stared at the computer. "It shouldn't even have taken a breem."
"I know." Megatron leaned over Soundwave. "Well?"
"Computer processor speed unchanged," Soundwave replied, typing a few commands into the console. "System memory clearing. Answer display on screen." He hit a final button.
In large Cybertronian glyphs that filled the screen, the computer reported a simple number: 42.
Megatron clenched his fists. "That's the answer? 42 what? Sector 42? 42 lines of code? 42 as on some frequency? What does it mean, 42?"
Soundwave leaned away from the computer as though it carried a viral contagion, and Starscream felt his own confusion turn into amusement. "Oh, that's priceless," he said, laughing. "It's cheeky, in fact. Whoever is doing this really wants us to turn him into slag."
Megatron and Soundwave both turned to glare at him.
"What?" he asked. "It is devious. Brilliant, even. Might as well give the fragger that." He smirked. "Maybe you should, or you may end up like the doors—reprogrammed to be happy about everything." Megatron raised his cannon again, and Starscream threw up his hands in surrender.
Before either of them could say anything, however, the PA system flared on, playing a laugh track with applause from some human TV show. Then that cut out, and a deep rich voice spoke over the clicking of glassware: "Yeah, that's right, you handsome devil."
All three mechs stared at the security cameras which dotted the room.
"Perfect," Megatron hissed. "Now whoever it is has hacked the security network and is using TV clips to tailor-make the interference."
A male voice with a British accent blasted through the speakers. "By George, I think he's got it!"
Frenzy, who was still welded to the floor and had been silent during the entire exchange, finally spoke up. "We are so slagged now."
"It said I was handsome," Starscream said, both amused and complimented.
"Oh, yeah, that's right. Yer sexy, baby!
Starscream grinned and flicked his wings subtly. "At least it's got taste."
"Starscream!" Megatron was suddenly towering over him.
The speakers crackled faintly, then a female voice came through. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such a naughty temper!"
Megatron howled and whirled toward the computer, firing at the console. Starscream threw up his arms, shielding his face and spark chamber as metallic shards flew through the room. "Are you insane?" he asked when the smoke cleared.
"Not at all." Megatron glowered at him. "Now get your 'handsome,' 'sexy' aft in gear and fix this mess, or I'll rip off your wings and melt you down in a smelting pit." He stalked away, heading for the turboshaft.
The door parted with a contended sigh. "Thank you for making a simple door so happy."
Megatron paused, then stepped into the lift without another word. The door hissed shut behind him.
"Wow," Starscream said, glancing at Soundwave. "He really doesn't have a sense of humor."
Soundwave didn't reply.
Shrugging, Starscream set to work, helping Soundwave fix the computer. He knew who the culprit had to be: Jazz. It fit his style, and he knew enough human cultural references to make it work. Starscream didn't know how the spy was pulling it off, but Jazz was the head of the Autobot's Special Ops. Then again, Starscream also didn't care. Anything that irritated Megatron so much was worth it, so he'd just pretend he didn't know.
Keeping secrets was one of his specialties, after all.
Megatron stared at his cabin ceiling. He'd had to tame the flolloping berth again, but with that settled, he'd decided to send himself back into recharge until Soundwave and Starscream reported. Unfortunately, as it was now nighttime on the disgustingly organic planet he was temporarily calling home, the prankster had set about annoying all the mechs currently ready for recharge.
"Insomnia is a serious condition that disrupts the sleep of millions of Americans," droned a deep, male voice with that broadcast-standard, U.S. Mid-Western accent. No music or background noise accompanied this clip. "The old folk remedies of counting sheep or counting backwards from a hundred don't work for many, and for the few it does, it's simply a Band-Aid solution for a larger problem.
Although he didn't know what a "Band-Aid" was, Megatron suspected the same could be said for his current prankster problem.
"Some research has suggested that drinking warm milk can induce sleepiness, but a growing number of Americans are turning to medication. Unfortunately, sleeping pills can be highly addictive and are not without side effects."
Megatron decided that the human condition of insomnia could be cured just by listening to this male drone on and on. Forcing himself to tune out the voice, Megatron gave up on recharging and turned to the only activity he had left that could possibly bring him any pleasure: imagining countless ways to kill Starscream.
"Glitch," Megatron snarled, just thinking of that ready smirk and mocking voice. It was useful to have a nearby punching bag, but Starscream sometimes made that convenience not worthwhile. What was more, the slagger seemed impossible to kill! Granted, Megatron had never fired at his spark chamber, but any other 'bot would have been permanently deactivated from taking half the damage Megatron had aimed Starscream's way. Then again, perhaps death was too benevolent.
"I could weld him to the Nemesis's hull and let the sea water slowly eat him," Megatron mused. "It would take vorns to damage our alloys enough to kill him, after all." He laughed at the beauty of the torture. "Or I could have the Constructicons reformat him into a car. Unable to fly and looking like an Autobot . . . that would serve him! Then we could all use him for target practice." He began laughing again at the sheer brilliance and cruelty of the idea—the Evil Laugh of Doom, as he knew his troops called it.
"I could just paint him solid grey and then scratch him up." Megatron relaxed as he imagined Starscream's horror. "He thinks he's so terribly handsome, after all. Or maybe I should get him a pet human. A little girl, perhaps, who would cover him in glitter and garishly 'cute' stickers of various mythical animals. Or a young male who thinks he's a hot shot at flying jets. Humans are so pathetic, I'm sure the fleshling would crash Starscream dozens of times if I gave him the correct override controls."
Placated by the Siren's song of revenge, Megatron fell into recharge . . . only to have a nightmare that he'd finally killed Starscream, but the brat returned as a ghost to haunt him for all eternity.
Megatron awakened and bolted into a sitting position, unable to clear the static from his processor in his dismay. That arrogant glitch and his screechy voice hounding him forever? Megatron shivered in spite of himself. "Enough," he whispered, bringing his emotions sternly under control. "Ghosts are a silly human belief, anyway. That is beyond plausible."
Still, the dream was troubling enough to cause Megatron to leave his cabin in search of his resident traitor. His warning diodes told him Starscream was up to no good. Sure enough, he found him in the computer archival room, looking through files.
Megatron towered in the doorway, letting his shadow fall over the seated Starscream. "What are you doing?"
"Searching for references to flolloping berths—er, beds—and the number 42," Starscream replied. "It seems our prankster has a liking for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
Megatron narrowed his optics. "Is that so? Well, I think you are the prankster, and you're researching your next song or movie clip."
Jumping to his feet, Starscream pointed his finger at him in clear rage. "You still think I'd be that petty? Besides, we both know it's Jazz. Or has the mighty Megatron been duped by something so small and insignificant?"
"If you are so convinced of the source of the problem," Megatron countered, raising his fusion cannon, "then why have you not tortured Jazz for information or punished him? Why are you wasting your time searching for the Earth cultural references?"
"Because you already tortured him." Starscream crossed his arms and smirked. "I assumed that you, being so powerful, had already retrieved any relevant information."
Slagging glitch, Megatron thought, preparing to fire.
A boom echoed through the ship, rattling all objects not bolted to the deck. The red alert klaxon roared to life, followed shortly by Soundwave over the PA:
//Autobot attack. Autobot attack. Decepticons to battle stations.//
The droning human voice that had been filtering through the PA was abruptly cut off.
Starscream snorted. "Told you it was Jazz."
With a sigh born from putting up with Starscream for millions of years, Megatron hoped the entire Autobot force had come to rescue Jazz. He needed a good slaughter.
Jazz was trying to decide what his next strategy would be when he heard the explosion. The Nemesis shuddered faintly under the impact, and Jazz laughed, knowing his tenure in the 'con's brig was over. Sure enough, after a few kliks, a sizzling sound told Jazz his fellow Autobots were cutting through the cell's blast door. He sat up, crossing his legs and arms, and waited patiently as the glowing red outline of a makeshift exit appeared in the metal.
"I'll take it from here, ya'll." Ironhide's voice, still muffled by the door.
With a resounding thud, the cut-out piece of metal flew across the room, revealing Ironhide, Prowl, Sunstreaker, and Sideswipe.
Prowl ducked into the cell. "I suppose you would like to leave now."
"What took ya so long?" Jazz asked, smiling at his best friend.
Prowl shook his head. "When Mirage determined what you were doing to the 'cons, I couldn't get anyone to stop laughing long enough to listen to my rescue plan."
Sunstreaker and Sideswipe began snickering, and Ironhide chuckled as well.
"It was priceless!" Sideswipe, apparently unable to stop himself, burst into peals of laughter.
"You totally outstripped every prank we've ever come up with," Sunstreaker said, sounding half-awed and half-jealous. "You really raised the bar."
"Primus spare me," Prowl muttered.
Jazz hopped to his feet and grinned at them all. "Hey, what canna 'bot do? I's stuck here coolin' my heels, anyway. Thought I should have a bit o' fun."
"You are completely incorrigible." Prowl took his elbow and pulled him from the cell, but Jazz caught the faint amusement in his voice.
"I thought that was why ya like me!" Jazz feigned being hurt, but he knew he failed miserably. Tormenting the 'cons had just been too much fun.
Prowl gave him the small, wry smile that he reserved just for him. "Jazz. Let's go home. The 'cons will arrive any moment."
Jazz laughed and ran with his friends to the Nemesis's new "door," wondering just how successful he'd ultimately been at driving Megatron insane.
A/N: Megatron's Evil Laugh of Doom © '80s Villains United (and Frank Welker). Skeletor,King Zarkon, Cobra Commander, Megatron/Galvatron, and Mumm-Ra, how we miss you. LOL
Let me just say that writing humor during a depressive episode is especially hard, although therapeutic. Anyway, a big thanks to Darkhelmetj for betareading—as well as helping me brainstorm—this story, especially since you've been so busy. I guess I really paid you back for converting me to Naruto by converting you to TF, huh? What goes around comes around, so you were totally doomed. :P
Thanks for all the faves and alerts! Normally, I send PMs to thank people for their reviews, but work's been so busy for the last year I had to stop doing that. Therefore, I'd like to call out to (let me take a huge breath here) Amanda Saitou, Lynxie, Dark Maria, NybCR, StarKin, Siv the Fish, allycat18, meteor prime, PrancingTiger86, Shadir, TheSpittingAlpaca, Hiezen, Wol Lo, 13sTalktheakatuskuki13, Skeleton Toes, Hot Rod's Girl, VampireArgonian92, Ri2, darkhelmetj, Mirage Shinkiro, Starfire201, and shimmershadow30.