Fun and Games

"You fool, Starscream." Breakdown's lip curled in a sneer. "Did you really believe your little mutation stood any chance of success?"

"Mutiny, not mutation," Dead End murmured, but as usual everyone ignored him.

Drag Strip sneered back – and, having more practice at that, did it better. He was less accomplished at imitating Starscream's rasping voice, but he'd claimed that if he tried that too long, it fried his vocalizer.

"Once again, leader, you overestimate yourself." He glanced down at the floor plan of Starscream's secret base, which was unfortunately secret no longer, since there were silver and indigo counters just within the main entrance. "Activate the trap!"

"Whoosh!" Wildrider made some sort of windmilling movements with his arms.

How droll, Dead End thought, a whoosh trap. There had been a boom trap and a whee trap as well, to the point where he had almost compared Wildrider to that annoying Autobot tank.

Almost, because he had just applied fresh coats of polish and wax that morning.

"The floor gives way below you and you fall into a pit full of spikes," Drag Strip explained.

Breakdown shook his head. "Uh-uh. I might not be a Seeker, but I have thrusters and antigrav. I fly out before I can hit the bottom."

Drag Strip grabbed the thin metal straw from Wildrider's cube of energon and pointed it at Breakdown. "Null ray."

Breakdown brought up his right arm, which sported a wide-bore drainpipe tied on with lengths of tow cable. "Fusion cannon."

Drag Strip glanced at the dart-shaped planes Wildrider had made from heavy-duty tinfoil and dipped in the appropriate colors. All sported purple smiley faces on their wings.

"You couldn't transform in time." Breakdown grinned, never lowering the drainpipe.

"I don't have to. Skywarp!"

"Great. I was tired of playing Thrust." Wildrider pulled off the tall pointed tinfoil cone that was secured to his spikes with wires. He still wore the pair of strap-on wings he'd found somewhere, and Dead End automatically gave him plenty of room as he bounced over to the gaming table.

"What's up, Screamer?" he said, giving Drag Strip a companionable slap on the back.

Drag Strip jolted forward and glared at him, but seemed to be biting his glossa. "Teleport into Megatron and knock him off balance. Then I'll get him."

"Would Skywarp really interfere in such a dispute?" Dead End said. He had lost interest in the game a long time ago – what was the point of simulating such a conflict when they could just leave their quarters and watch the real thing? Not that that would be any improvement. Perhaps if he could point out enough problems in the game, it would come to a merciful end.

"Yeah." Breakdown frowned. "That's kind of ook."

Drag Strip stared at him. "Ook?" he said blankly.

Wildrider burst out laughing. "You sound like something I saw on the Discovery Channel once--"

"Shut up. What the frag is ook?" He looked at Dead End for clarification.

Dead End was usually able to translate Breakdownisms, but not that time. "Could you elaborate on that, Breakdown?" he said. Anything to distract from the tedium. "What exactly is ook?"

"You know," Breakdown said. "It's what people say when you play online and you do something your character wouldn't do."

Drag Strip groaned. "Out of character! Breakdown, you moron, it's OOC!"

Breakdown bristled. "Don't call me a moron. And say what you're going to do with Skywarp before I shoot him instead."

"Fine." Drag Strip studied Wildrider for a moment and seemed to come to a decision. "Okay, now you're Thundercracker. Explain to our fearless and Seekerless leader over there why you decided to follow me instead, and that'll give me enough time to--"

"Slag, this is confusing." Wildrider rubbed his helm. "Having to be all the Seekers, I mean. Can't we get anyone else to play with us? I think Swindle's off duty now."

Drag Strip's mouth twisted. "He cheats."

"So do you. You moved Soundwave's counter when Breakdown wasn't looking."

"Whose fragging side are you on?" Drag Strip demanded, but Breakdown was already examining the floor plan and making that discovery for himself. His engine made an ominous rumbling sound that would have been better suited to Motormaster and his optics narrowed to slivers.

"Just for that, I call in all my army!" he said. "Soundwave!"

Dead End gave his shoulder a listless slap, as though trying to swat a turbo-flea. "Ravage, Laserbeak, etcetera. Eject." He produced a handful of cassettes – which, being made by humans, looked even tinier in his hand – and dropped them on to the floor plan.

"Don't you have to tell them what their operation is?" Breakdown said expectantly.

"Operation: avoid deactivation."

Breakdown sighed, shook his head and reached down to a crate on the floor. "I'm also summering the shock troops," he said with a triumphant look. Four intact cars were deposited on the table, followed by one that had been neatly bisected so that a long rectangular box could be attached to its front half.

"Those are all Ferraris." Drag Strip chuckled. "I'd like to see how far you get with an army of Wildriders."

"Hey!" Wildrider cuffed him across the back of the helm. "You try sorting through a toy store with the 'bots on your bumper!"

"Don't worry, I'll label them." Breakdown produced a stylus, scribbled "Porch" across one car's hood and handed it to Dead End.

This just gets better and better, Dead End thought dourly, but he decided to stay in the game for a few moments longer. At least to see what Breakdown made of "Lamborghini".