"Rodimus Prime!" Ultra Magnus shouted up the stairwell of his brother's house. He heard a heavy thump above his head, and sighed deeply picturing the tangle of bed sheets and blankets on the dirty floor. He loved his nephew, he did, but this was getting absurd. He'd already done the laundry this week! Ultra Magnus shouted once more, "Get up this instant! You are going to be late for school!"
"Oh, relax. He's got a good ten minutes before his ride gets here," Kup laughed from the living room couch. The old man covered in wrinkles, and dull green hair sprinkled in grey, chewed on the edge of his unlit cigar as his co-worker fretted in the kitchen. "Kid'll make it. Just like he made it yesterday, and the day before that."
"'Make it' isn't good enough, Kup. If he really wants to join the force after he graduates, he must learn to be punctual," Magnus said, smoothing out his clean and pressed dark blue hair. He walked into the kitchen and picked up a wrapped turkey sandwich from the counter. Magnus put it in the paper back alongside the freshly sliced apple in its air-tight container and bottle of juice. "Self-reliance is a good thing."
"Which is why you re-packed the lunch he made last night all on his own," Kup said, raising an eyebrow. He pointed his cigar at Ultra Magnus. "You spoil that kid, and he's not even yours."
"He got points for effort, but I refuse to call what he packed 'lunch.'" Ultra Magnus said. A package of sugary cookies and a plain peanut butter sandwich wasn't enough for a growing teenager. What on earth were his brother and sister-in-law teaching him? "Making sure he doesn't expire due to poor nutrition isn't 'spoiling.'"
"Whatever you say," Kup laughed. He flipped through the channels on the old set in the living room, and settled on a fishing network. "But, I suppose you should spoil him while you can, Mags."
Magnus regretted asking immediately as the words left his mouth, "And why is that?"
"Because that kid is never going to end up in your division with those stuck up prats Prowl and Chromedome." Kup tapped his cigar on the edge of the couch. "Enjoy seeing him while you can."
Magnus closed the top of the lunch bag, and creased the folded top with his finger. "Excuse me?"
"Coming through!" Hot Rod said, skipping down the stairs three at a time. He zipped through the kitchen and grabbed the lunch bag from his Uncle, at the same time that he snatched up his backpack from the floor. His sneakers pounded on the linoleum tile as he burst out the kitchen back door in a flash of red hair and an orange and yellow button shirt. "See you later, Uncle Magnus!"
"Be home on time!" Magnus called out the door, to no avail. The kid was long gone, but at least it looked like his shirt was tucked in. Magnus shook his head. "That boy has too much energy. He must get it from Elita."
"Which is why I was saying," Kup said, standing up from the couch. He brushed imaginary dirt off his sleeves and walked over to his ride to the station. "He's never going to be in your snooty little division. That boy's gonna' be one of my Wreckers. I guarantee it."
"We'll see," Ultra Magnus said. 'Hot Rod' would probably prefer being in Kup's group with Springer and Arcee. He certainly fit in better, but Magnus could hold out. He had plenty of time to see how that boy would surprise them all. "He is Optimus Prime's boy after all. He'll grow into that name of his before you know it."
"I'll take that bet," Kup said, popping his cigar back in his mouth. "Now, are we going or not? I appreciate the ride since my truck broke down, but you keep dawdling in the kitchen and we're the ones going to be late."
Magnus considered leaving the old man to his broken truck for a half-second.
"You're an idiot, you know that?" Turmoil said, smashing the edge of the chair leg. The limb shattered, spilling both the chair and it's restrained occupant to the floor. The whimpering druggie curled in on himself. The gag stuffed in his mouth and tied behind his head was soaked in drool, and wrapped tight. Turmoil propped his foot up on the seat of the overturned chair. "You had the nerve to attack one of my guys and try and steal the product you couldn't afford!"
The larger man walked around the incapacitated loser. He was bulk, and built like an ox. Little guys could be intimidating, but Turmoil liked to think he held his own towering over everyone. "Now, I like my loyal customers, but you caused a scene. You almost drew attention from those fine men in blue. I can't let that go, friend. Not even for every single last bit of your credits."
Turmoil turned around, and spotted his companion. He crooked a smile and shook his finger at the bored underling. "Now you, on the other hand, have been making me proud lately."
Deadlock straightened up from his slouch against the back wall at the compliment. Turmoil left the whimpering sap and headed toward his faithful second. He ruffled Deadlock's hair like a father would a kid, despite Deadlock being at least twenty-two.
Turmoil said, "You've really been pulling your weight lately. I think you deserve a treat for that, don't you?"
Deadlock shrugged, clearly fighting the smile tugging on his lips. His eyes had zeroed in and glued to the chair in the center of the room. "Yeah?"
"Two birds with one stone then," Turmoil put an arm around Deadlock's shoulder and motioned at the wide-eyed, gagged ex-customer. Turmoil leaned down the couple feet to whisper in Deadlock's ear.
"He's all yours. Have some fun."
"Thanks," Deadlock said, pulling his favorite pistol from his side holster. He pulled away from Turmoil's hulking form, his lithe form stepping into the floodlight. Deadlock shoved his foot into the gut of the bound man, and twisted his heel. "Don't mind if I do."
"Knew you'd like that," Turmoil said. He saluted Deadlock, left the warehouse room knowing the kid could take care of his own cleanup.
Efficiency was the best. Turmoil shook out his shoulders, and adjusted his heavy black coat. The midday sun beat down on his back, but Turmoil shrugged it off. He not only got rid of a troublesome client, but he made sure Deadlock had something to keep himself occupied. That guy got twitchy when he was low on work, and killing things was all he was good at. Leave Deadlock alone too much and he turned to the damn Boosters for his kick.
A shot rang out behind him, followed by blood-curdling screams and Turmoil sighed happily. Music to his ears.
Hot Rod-for the record, the only one who got away with calling him by his given name was Uncle Magnus-yawned as he hopped out of Blurr's car. His own maroon two-door was grounded until further notice due to an unfortunate incident with a speeding ticket and Springer. "Thanks for the ride, Blurr."
"No problem. See you later, later, later!" Blurr answered, pedal to the floor and the blue roadster around the end of the block before the third tick was spoken.
Now there was a guy who deserved a speeding ticket or two.
Hot Rod hefted his bag up on his shoulders and looked down Main Street. His home was about a mile away from downtown, but he needed a quick stop at the Sports and Tackle for a new lure. Kup was taking the "Wreckers" fishing this weekend, and he promised Hot Rod he could join in. Hot Rod grinned as he tapped down the sidewalk. Arcee would be there! Uncle Magnus wouldn't mind if Hot Rod was a few minutes late.
The tell-tale shake of an aerosol can stopped him in his tracks. Hot Rod backed up a few feet to look down the alley between the Shoe Store and the Jewelry Store. Down toward the back wall was a man about Hot Rod's height with white hair stripped wildly in black and red. It was dim, but Hot Rod could make out tan skin, jeans, and a black jacket with red and yellow accents. The stranger was spraying the brick wall.
Uncle Magnus hated graffiti.
Hot Rod looked around for an officer, but didn't see any around. Using the phone in the jewelry store to call Springer or Kup was an option, but it was just one guy and they had their hands full lately with that Decepticon group. Hot Rod could handle a little vandalism. The guy didn't look that tough. If worse came to worse, Hot Rod was second on the track team.
Hot Rod pulled his backpack strap tight as he entered the alley, shouting: "Hey!"
Deadlock paused mid-spray, and looked down to the opening of the alley. A kid an inch or two taller than himself with fiery red hair and-damn if those eyes weren't blue. A fierce one, like they should have been red and on fire. Handsome face, young though-high school maybe with the backpack-and an orange and yellow shirt. Deadlock almost laughed at the yellow and orange flames painted on the cuffs of the kid's blue jeans, but he was too busy appreciating the high cheekbones.
"Yeah?" Deadlock asked, flipping the can upside down in his hand. He still had a few meeting markers to finish up for Gasket's dealers-the favors you did for friends, but he could spare some time to play with a good looking kid like that. Even better if he was looking for one of Gasket's boys. Deadlock would be more than happy to send him in the right direction. "What can I do for you?"
"You can stop vandalizing the side of Mirage's jewelry store, for one thing," Hot Rod said, crossing his arms across his chest. The fresh purple paint glistened on the brick wall. He didn't recognize the symbol, but it was a face made up of triangles. Like a pointed version of the Police Badge Logo. "He's a big fan of artwork, but I don't think that's quite up his alley."
Deadlock whistled, flipping the can again. Not a customer, just a little police officer wanna be. That was shame. "Well someone's got a backbone. How old are you?"
"I should ask you that," Hot Rod said, bracing his feet apart. The stranger was relaxed, but he was giving Hot Rod a nasty feeling in his stomach. The stranger was oozing confidence, and his clothes were loose enough that Hot Rod got the impression he was carrying. This guy was dangerous, but Hot Rod's mouth had never listened to those instincts before. It wasn't going to start now. "Aren't you a little old to be vandalizing buildings? Thought that was middle school stuff."
"Everyone's got to embrace their inner child once in a while," Deadlock said. He finished off the Con Symbol with one last spritz, smirking at the frowning teenager glaring openly at the can. Tense, fingers twitching. Attractive. This was a fun one. Turmoil'd have Deadlock's head if he killed a civilian, but he almost couldn't help himself. "Just like little kids like to pretend to be adults."
Hot Rod stood his ground when the man threw his can in a duffle bag and slung it around his shoulder and over his back. Hot Rod looked away for a second, and the man was standing about an inch from him. Hot Rod jerked back, away from what was looking like a big mistake. The stranger was the one looking up to meet his eyes, but it was Hot Rod who felt tiny.
"So, got a name, Mr. Hero?" Deadlock asked. His stomach tightened deliciously at the kid's narrowed eyes. Hit a soft spot. Anger looked good on him. Deadlock shifted from foot to foot and slammed his hands in his pockets. Playing, not touching.
Hot Rod put his shoulders back and straightened up to give himself another inch. "You first."
"Deadlock," said man answered.
"Hot Rod," the teenager replied in kind. It was only fair, but Deadlock's wild red eyes lit up. Hot Rod should have kept walking when he saw the spray can. Gone to a phone and called Prowl or Uncle Magnus. Hot Rod swallowed. "And I think you need to back up a step."
"Why?" Deadlock asked. He saw the kid's-Hot Rod's-tremble down his thigh, and the clenched fist. Kid was nervous. He was wound tight like a wire. Deadlock bit his lip, licking the chapped surface. It'd be fine if he got Hot Rod to throw the first punch. Then it'd be okay. Deadlock leaned forward, his mouth within biting distance. "I think I like being right where I am."
"There a problem here?"
"Springer!" Hot Rod said, jumping back about a foot from Deadlock. He grabbed his backpack strap and put his back against the alley wall.
Deadlock looked between the two and cursed. The kid knew an officer by name? Well, that wasn't good. No wonder Hot Rod was the confrontational type. Probably mimicking a misguided hero. What a pain! Deadlock shrugged, looking as casual as possible. "No, no problem here, Officer. Just a friendly conversation."
"That's over," Springer said. He threw his thumb over his shoulder and puffed out his chest. "Beat it."
"Yes, sir," Deadlock said. He walked backwards out of the alleyway, keeping eye contact with a pair of lovely blue eyes. That one deserved more exploration. "See you later, Hot Rod."
"Yeah," Hot Rod grunted. Springer grabbed him by the arm, and Hot Rod decided that being a good samaritan was overrated. "Just perfect."