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Troublesome Tapes

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Soundwave served as the spymaster of the Decepticon cause. His surveillance network was vast, complex, and vastly complex. Nothing occurred aboard the Nemesis without his knowledge, and surprisingly little occurred aboard the Ark without his knowledge.

Soundwave possessed phenomenal amounts of phenomenally detailed information.

He could tell you the exact price of the illegally obtained grenade launcher that Swindle had sold on the black market to an Autobot sympathizer three orns ago.

He could tell you the current commlink frequencies and passphrases of the Autobot SIC, TIC, and Security Director, as well as the schedule on which they would be changed.

He could even tell you the exact moment at which Starscream had contracted the bitflu last decaorn through servo to servo contact with Dirge, who at the time had displayed no symptoms of illness.

But he couldn't tell you which of his six unruly cassettes had been the first to introduce their siblings to the concept of organic fuels.

Naturally, all six had declared such fuels to be "the best thing ever," and were now completely obsessed.

Say what you will about the Cassetticons, but the truth could not be denied - they were horribly spoilt and entitled creatures. Soundwave practically doted on them, rarely refusing to fulfill even the most bizarre of their requests.

When the tape deck had discovered just how much his cassettes enjoyed these fuels, and how incredibly happy the consumption of these fuels made them, he had no qualms about allowing them access to as much as they could possibly want. His cassettes were happier now than they had been in millennia.

There came a point, however, at which Soundwave realized that he may have been spoiling his cassettes just a little bit too much.

It was a rare evening of togetherness, an evening when all six cassettes and their tape deck would be able to spend time together without the typical interruptions caused by overlapping patrol schedules and work cycles.

Rumble and Frenzy were already relaxing comfortably in Soundwave's quarters. The tape deck was in the process of reviewing one final data pad, and only a fraction of his attention was currently dedicated to his twin cassettes.

His incredibly chubby twin cassettes, who were currently stuffing their softened faceplates with freshly baked chocolate brownies. Thus far, they had greedily devoured two-thirds of the pan. Factor in the two dozen sugar cookies and the entire tub of strawberry ice cream that the twins had already consumed, and it quickly became apparent that their tanks were being filled well past capacity.

"Shouldn't we leave some for Beaky?" Frenzy inquired, not bothering to so much as slow the pace of his consumption, never mind to stop entirely.

"Nah." Rumble scoffed, his mouth currently full of half-chewed fuel. "The early bird gets the brownies. Beaky's late."

A clattering sound rang out from the far corner of the room as the grating of a floor-level air vent was forcibly dislodged. It seemed that Ravage had arrived.

The feline cassette neatly extricated himself from the vent - or rather, he tried to. His broad haunches caught against the sides of the narrow opening, halting his movement. The twins weren't the only cassettes to have been indulging heavily in organic fuels over the past several decaorns.

Catching sight of their sibling's uncomfortable predicament, Frenzy snickered, nudging Rumble's shoulder. Within moments, both cassettes were smirking, their shoulder struts trembling with barely-restrained mirth as they watched Ravage wiggle to and fro in a vain attempt to free himself.

The feline's heavy chassis had barely managed to squeeze through the vent, the plush plating now painfully constricted by the sharp edges of the narrow opening. Another desperate wiggle, and then another. No, Ravage's aft and haunches were simply too large to fit through, no matter how valiantly he struggled.

The feline cassette could have sworn that only last decaorn, he'd been able to fit through this very same opening with relative ease. Venting with exertion, Ravage motioned towards the twins with an impatient forepaw.

"Is the squishy kitty stuck?" Rumble inquired sarcastically, his tone amused and vaguely mocking.

"What does it look like?" Ravage retorted. As if either of the twins had any right whatsoever to poke fun at the weight that he'd gained.

Rumble and Frenzy had become positively huge as a result of their near-constant overindulgence, neither twin possessing anything remotely resembling self-control. By this point, there wasn't an inch of their frames that wasn't thickly padded with fat. The twin cassettes had quite literally gone soft - save, that is, for their stomachs. At present said stomachs were incredibly firm, stuffed and stretched almost painfully by massive quantities of fuel.

"Want help?" Frenzy asked flippantly. It wasn't actually an offer.

Ravage merely scoffed at the suggestion of aid, knowing his sibling far too well to believe that such an offer was genuine. "Just pass me that pie." The feline gestured to a cherry confection perched atop the towering heap of foodstuffs that Soundwave had prepared for them.

With a grin, Frenzy obliged, sliding the treat across the floor towards their eldest sibling. It came to a stop within mere nanometers of his pedes.

As the feline messily buried his muzzle in the dessert, Rumble groaned with pain. Ravage ignored him. Frenzy did not.

"You okay?" His twin inquired, seeming genuinely concerned for a change.

"Cramp." Rumble grit out the word, clutching at his swollen chassis in a futile attempt to ease his suffering.

Rolling his optics, Frenzy tugged his twin comfortably into his ample lap, massaging the other cassette's stomach with his free servo as they both continued to fuel. Pain was no obstacle to the two greediest cassettes to ever function.

It was at this point that the door to Soundwave's quarters slid open, admitting Lazerbeak and Buzzsaw. The two avian cassettes immediately landed beside the pile of fuel, clearly eager to indulge themselves. Lazerbeak stumbled as she landed, her cooling fans whining as they struggled to reduce the temperature of her stressed frame.

"These halls are getting longer." The avian panted, impatiently nudging the twins' grasping servos away from the mostly-empty pan of brownies. She promptly buried her beak in what remained of the chocolate dessert, beginning to fuel with alarming enthusiasm.

"These vents are getting smaller," Ravage concurred wryly, pausing in his own consumption to lick away some of the cherry syrup that had smeared across his faceplates.

"Nothing that an upgrade won't fix." Buzzsaw reassured the female cassette, snagging a loaf of banana bread from the pile.

Even the slightest amount of excess weight could be detrimental to a flight frame, and Lazerbeak's gain was far from slight. Some species of organic birds underwent a process known as hibernation, gorging themselves throughout the fall in order to survive the winter months. Suffice to say that Lazerbeak's plump frame was ready for a very long winter indeed.

"Difficult to believe that I'm outdated already," the female cassette sighed. An abrupt hum of pleasure escaped her vocalizer as she savoured another bite of rich chocolate brownie - unlike the undisciplined twins, she rarely rushed her consumption of fuel.

Buzzsaw was of roughly equal size to herself, but chronologically much younger. As a recently forged cassette, his flight systems were far more modern and powerful than Lazerbeak's own - hence why said systems were better able to cope with his steadily increasing weight.

"Believe it, Beaky," Rumble smirked, groaning happily as Frenzy's servos found a particularly sensitive spot on the strained plating of his chassis.

Before Lazerbeak could snap an irate and likely vulgar response, Ravage hastily interjected. He had no desire for this thoroughly enjoyable fuelling session to devolve into an argumentative brawl.

"Has anymech seen Ratbat?" The feline inquired.

The twins shook their helms, temporarily distracted from their teasing. Buzzsaw offered Ravage a grateful nod. Through their combined efforts, the two comparatively rational cassettes could usually manage to maintain peace during mealtimes.

The feline cassette's question was abruptly answered when the door to Soundwave's quarters slid open for a second time, admitting Ratbat, the youngest of the six cassettes.

It was immediately evident why his arrival had been delayed. Rather than flying, the batlike cassette was quite literally rolling along the floor, his limbs and helm tucked inward around his chassis to form a chubby mechanoid sphere.

The cassette rolled to a halt near the pile of fuel, slowly uncurling to reveal a frame that was quite nearly spherical in and of itself. Ratbat's stomach had become a truly massive orb of pure fat, easily comprising an entire third of his mass.

"Having trouble flying?" Lazerbeak inquired, her tone gentle.

"Mmhmm." Ratbat nodded morosely, mumbling the response around a large bite of the raspberry tart that he'd immediately stuffed into his mouth. The young cassette's appetite was truly voracious.

Rumble and Frenzy offered sympathetic chuckles, while Buzzsaw gently nudged the batlike cassette's shoulder in a gesture of reassurance.

Watching this charmingly domestic scene unfold, Ravage nodded with approval. Ratbat was receiving the care and affection that befitted his status as the youngest and most vulnerable of the cassettes - all was as it should be.

It was then that Soundwave concluded his review of that final datapad, finally able to focus his full attention on his odd little family of cassettes. Hidden behind his crimson visor, the tape deck's optics widened with shock.

Ravage, his premiere spy, was stuck fast in an open vent, his faceplates buried in a cherry pie as he actively exacerbated the problem. Rumble and Frenzy were collapsed on the floor in a groaning heap, rubbing one-another's swollen chassis as they stubbornly continued to eat.

Lazerbeak was venting heavily between beakfuls of chocolate fuel - scans of both hers and Buzzsaw's systems indicated that they had been subject to considerable stress. And Ratbat was munching contentedly on a tart quite nearly as large as his helm, clearly intent on consuming the entire thing.

Soundwave was speechless. Well, more so than usual.

When exactly had his cassettes transitioned from finely tuned war machines into strutless blobs of fat? When had their weight begun to interfere with their functions? And perhaps most importantly, how on Cybertron had he, the spymaster of the Decepticon cause, failed to notice?

Clearly, he had been spoiling his cassettes far, far too much.

Immediate action was necessary to resolve the situation before it escalated any further. Soundwave primed his vocalizer. In an instant, six pairs of trusting optics met his own, six contented cassettes momentarily pausing in their single-minded enjoyment of such delicious fuel in order to pay full attention to their tape deck.

Six pairs of incredibly trusting optics, gazing out from the pleasantly plump, indulgently fuel-smeared faceplates of six lazily contented cassettes.

It was enough to melt even the sternest of sparks - and as far as his cassettes were concerned, Soundwave was far from stern. The spymaster hastily reconsidered his next words.

He settled on a simple question. "Query: fuel acceptable?"

A chorus of contented groans, mumbles, and purrs immediately replied in the affirmative. Behind his mask, a wry smile crossed the tape deck's lipplates. His cassettes had every right to enjoy their fuel.

He'd put them all on a diet tomorrow. Or the orn after that. Or perhaps a decaorn from now, once they'd finished what remained of this current batch of fuel. Or never.

Probably never.