It had been nearly an hour since Optimus Prime, Erector, Bumblebee, and Hot Rod had arrived in the Robot District of Chicago. All major cities had a robot district where Autobots and Decepticons could find fuel, repair shops, upgrade parlors, clubs, and anything else a Cybertronian would need to feel at home on earth.|
Erector leaned against the wall outside Club Iacon, the hottest robot nightspot in Chicago. Optimus, Bumblebee, and Hot Rod had been busily signing autographs and taking photos for humans and Cybertronians alike since they arrived. Since the war ended, tens of thousands of Cybertronians had made earth their own, coming from all over the cosmos. Gone were the days when every Autobot and Decepticon knew each other, and as a result, the more famous Autobots were treated like rock stars.
Erector knew Optimus and Bumblebee didnít enjoy the attention, but heíd never really liked Hot Rod. He liked to play up the chosen one angle a little too much.
"Sorry about that, Erector," said Bumblebee, as he and Optimus headed over after finishing with the crowd.
"No problem," said Erector with a shrug.
"Come on, letís go get a table," said Optimus. "Hot Rodís going to be out here for a while."
They headed inside the club, bypassing the long line stretching around the building. The bouncer wasnít going to let Erector in until Optimus told him he was with them. Erector came here a lot, but always stood in line for hours to get in. They were given a table in the VIP section. Erector didnít even know they had one, since he always sat at a table in the back corner.
"What song is that," asked Optimus over the din of music and partying bots and humans.
"Thatís ĎOperation Party Timeí by DJTapeDeck," said Bumblebee. "Got all his music on my iPod- ĎWhoís who, Red or Blue,í ĎMotorcycle Mishap,í ĎCry & Scream,í ĎLater Gator, Iím No Bat,í ĎSteel Jaw Serenade,í ĎBlaster Black & Blues,í ĎBirds & Dinosaurs,í ĎIím Not Your iPod,í ĎRamhorn Boogie,í ĎThe Eject Rewind,í ĎCombination Slamdance,í ĎBeast Boxing,í ĎRat Bat Rap,í and ĎMercedes Ainít So Bad.í Heís even got a few songs you can only get in Japan, really hard to find stuff, like ĎLove Song for Rakshaí. Iím still missing part of that song. Feels like Iíve been lookiní for it forever."
"Yeah, they play him here a lot," said Erector. "I know theyíve asked him to play in person, but he refuses to make any public appearances."
"How do you know that?" asked Optimus.
"Iím friendly with one of the waitresses," said Erector.
"How friendly," asked Bumblebee with a grin.
"Not friendly enough," chuckled Erector. "Not yet anyway. Here she comes now."
"Hey, E," said the pretty robot with a smile, as she set her empty tray down on their table. Her eyes lit up when she realized who his companions were.
"Krystal, this is Bumblebee and Optimus Prime," said Erector.
"Oh, Iíve so wanted to meet you both," said Krystal, gushing over them. "E, you never told me you had such famous heroes for friends."
"It never came up," said Erector.
"You know, Erector is a war hero too," said Optimus.
"Really?" said Krystal sounding very surprised. "Youíve never told me that, E."
"I...um...donít really like to talk about it," said Erector. "Itís sort of a long story."
"Maybe I can hang with you after a shift sometime," said Krystal. "You can tell me all about it."
"Yeah...thatíd be great," said Erector. Heíd been trying to work up the courage to ask her out for months. This was the first time he ever thought he might have a chance with her.
"So, what can I get you all," asked Krystal.
"Iíll have an energon straight up with a thirty-weight chaser," said Optimus.
"An energon on the rocks with a WD-40 twist," said Bumblebee. "Make it a double."
"My usual," said Erector.
"Try to take it easy tonight, E," said Krystal. "Those Kremzeek Overchargers you drink pack a wallop. I hate to keep mode locking you on your way out, but youíre in no condition to drive most nights."
Before Erector could reply, he heard a voice over the music. "Hey, Krys!"
"Roddy!" shrieked Krystal, turning around to see Hot Rod standing there with his arms open. She jumped into his arms. "Why didnít you tell me youíd be in town!?"
"I wanted to surprise you," said Hot Rod, giving her a hug and lifting her right off the ground. He planted a hand firmly on her rear chassis and spun around with her. He put her down and flexed his shoulder.
"Bet that shoulder could use an oil massage," said Krystal. "Iím off in five minutes. Meet you out front?"
"Sure thing, babe," said Hot Rod flashing her a smile.
"Iíll be right back with your drinks," said Krystal, turning back to the table.
"Make mine a double," said Erector, miserably.
Krystal headed away, but not before Hot Rod slapped her rear end. "Well, guys, Iím sure this would have been fun, sitting here in the corner like a bunch of old wrecks and all, but I think this is where we part ways for the evening," said Hot Rod. "Krystalís the hottest little she-bot I know and totally into the Chosen One. Donít wait up for me. As the humans say, Iím gonna rock her world...if you know what I mean." Hot Rod left them and an uncomfortable silence settled over the table.
"Umm...Erector..." began Bumblebee.
"Not a word, Bee," said Erector miserably. "Not a single word."
Optimus put his hand on Erectorís shoulder but said nothing. A moment later, Krystal returned with their drinks and another waitress.
"This is my friend, Gemini," said Krystal, as she put their drinks on the table. "Sheíll take care of you for the rest of the night. It was great meeting both of you." Optimus and Bumblebee each shook her hand. "See you later, E."
"Yeah, see you later," said Erector, as Krystal headed away. He was pretty sure she was in such a hurry that she didnít even hear him.
"Can I get you anything cutie?" asked Gemini, winking at Bumblebee.
Erector picked up his drink and downed it in one gulp, shuttering violently for a moment, before slamming the glass onto the table. "Yeah...Iíll have another," he said, as his optic sensors went slightly out of focus for a moment. "Make it a double."
"Um...that would be a quadruple," said Gemini. "You sure you can handle that?"
"Yeah, thatís what I said," said Erector. "And keepíem cominí."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar, at a table in a dark corner, two Decepticons sat, talking quietly and sipping their drinks.
"He better be here, Swindle," said Starscream, taking a sip of his drink. "You told me he was reliable."
"He is, he is," Swindle reassured him. "Believe me, ever since the world went all peaceful he takes any job he can get. Heíll be here." He crossed his arms and looked at Starscream, curiously. "So...what exactly is this job you need done? You arenít thinking of breaking the treaty, are you?"
"I may be stupid, but Iím not that stupid," said Starscream putting his elbow on the table and resting his head on his hand. "Iím just trying to have some fun to break up the monotony of life."
"You should get a hobby," said Swindle. "I took up needlepoint. Itís quiet relaxing. Only problem is my apartment is fully of doilies."
"I tried getting a hobby," said Starscream. "I tried golf, but I nearly lost my mind trying to get that damn ball in that stupid little hole. I started doing research with Jetfire, but I just donít have the patience for that anymore. All those years of frustrating failures have left me restless. I actually miss Megatron trying to kill after each time I tried to stab him in the back. Can you believe that?"
"No, actually I canít," said Swindle shaking his head. "What do you think that means?"
"My therapist says I have a low self esteem problem," says Starscream. "She says it stems from all those years of complete and total failure to accomplish any of my goals in even the most minute way."
"Do you think sheís right?" asked Swindle.
"Well, I nominated myself as Decepticon leader and then didnít even vote for myself," said Starscream. "What does that tell you?"
"Thatís pretty messed up," said Swindle.
"How do you handle it all?" asked Starscream. "What is there for a swindler like yourself to do with the war over? I canít imagine you just sit at home making doilies all the time."
"Iíve also taken up bird watching and salsa dancing," said Swindle. He shrugged. "Hey, itís a life, I guess. I mean, maybe some day the war will start again and we can get back to business, but I doubt it."
"Good evening, gentlemen," said a human walking up to the table. He wore a gray coat with red trim. His collar was pulled up high and the wide brimmed hat on his head concealed his face. "Iím ssssorry Iím late. My lasssst meeting ran late." He looked up at them, revealing the polished metal plate he wore over his face.
"Starscream, may I introduce, Really Old Snake," said Swindle. "Heís a legend in the terrorism, arms dealing, and unusual technology business."
"Itíssss a pleassssure to meet you, Sssstarsssscream," said Really Old Snake.
"The pleasure is all mine," said Starscream. "Iíve heard of you. You are truly a legend."
"Thank you," said Really Old Snake. "Your reputation prosssseeds you assss well."
"Swindle, you can go," said Starscream.
"Wait, you mean you really wonít tell me what youíre planning?" asked Swindle.
"No," said Starscream. "Youíve been paid, your involvement is over."
"Wait," said Really Old Snake. "Sssswindle, you ssssaid I had to pay you to get the job!"
"Swindle!" exclaimed Starscream. "You...you...swindler."
"Hey, what can I say," said Swindle, standing up. "Old habits die hard. Hmmm...that reminds me. I think Iíll go see the new Die Hard movie." He left before either Starscream or Really Old Snake could say anything else.
"Can you believe hissss nerve," said Really Old Snake. "He charged both of ussss. I feel completely taken advantage of."
"Well, thatís Swindle for you," said Starscream. He handed Really Old Snake a data pad. "Here is what I require. I hope you can deliver on such short notice. I need it tomorrow morning."
Really Old Snake looked over the pad. "Yessss, yessss, thissss sssshould not be a problem," he said. "I assssume Sssswindle informed you of my prisssse. It issss nonnegotiable."
"Yes," said Starscream. "Ten thousand mice and a thousand bottles of ketchup, upon delivery. Just donít tell me what youíre going to do with them." He shuddered in revulsion.
"Believe me, being a terrorisssst holding a virtual Ďwill work for foodí ssssign issssnít how I exssspected to sssspend my golden yearssss."
"No...I imagine not," said Starscream.
"Well, I think we have a deal, Sssstarscream," said Really Old Snake. "You know, thissss issss likely to get under Megatronssss sssskin...I mean...if he had sssskin."
"I certainly hope so," said Starscream. "Iím doing this to amuse myself, but getting under Megatronís skin will make it all the more ssssweet...um...sorry...I mean sweet."
"No worriessss," said Really Old Snake. "It issss very contagioussss. That happenssss all the time."
"You know...has anyone ever told you that you have a really wonderful voice," said Starscream. "Itís really quite lovely...and somehow very familiar."
"I rather like your voicssse assss well," said Really Old Snake. "Yourssss is familiar to me alsssso. Have you ever done any voicssse work for televissssion?"
"No, I havenít," said Starscream. "Funny, I was going to ask you the same thing. I visit a lot of comedy clubs...you donít do standup, do you?"
"No," said Really Old Snake. "Did you ever guesssst sssstar on Sssstar Trek the Nexssst Generation or Deep Sssspace Nine?"
Starscream shook his head. "I did make a guest appearance on Mr. Belvedere once, though."
"Funny," said Really Old Snake. "Sssso did I."