Welcome to the Autonet! [smiley_autobrand.gif]
This is a free service to give our human allies access to the entire Internet, as well as to the public sectors of Teletraan-1’s database, provided in good faith to the free people of Earth. We don’t monitor your activity or place cookies on your device, and we encourage the use of a VPN. (More information on VPNs and other security and privacy measures, including a tutorial for the tech-unsavvy, can be found here.)
Please note: use of the Autonet is, for now at least, borderline illegal. We’ll do what we can to help you if you get in trouble, but please be risk-aware when using this service.
If you’d like to donate to help with upkeep of our network, click here. (It’ll direct you to a mock Patreon site claiming to be funding the development of an 8-bit game about a tiny 8-bit Starscream. That’s just our security director’s sense of humor.) Alternatively, if you’d like to join our resistance, click here.
Okay, we’ll get out of your face now. Happy browsing! #Resist
The park was quieter these days. The park was smaller these days, for one thing; the part where the playground had been was in the process of being paved over. Gone to feed the new Walmart, or some such thing. The patchy green that remained had been given over almost entirely to the dog-walkers and the afterschool crowd huddling in small knots for warmth and privacy. Food trucks could still make a little money here and there, though; Blaster liked to hang out with the hot chocolate guy, for his popularity with The Youth and for the soothing chemosensor variety of his flavored syrups. As long as he stayed in altmode and didn’t too obviously switch radio stations on his own, no one was any the wiser. Not even the occasional Decepticon, stomping through the park on this or that nefarious errand.
(DM to Jazz: poorly rendered .gif of a cartoon Starscream laden with shopping bags, all of which have the logo “EVIL (TM)” over a cartoon villain mustache. “wtf,” Jazz sends back.)
Humans could get used to anything. The entirely reasonable “run away screaming” reflex the people of this city used to have to anything with a Decepticon brand in their midst had been replaced with a mixture of resignation and amused hatred. ‘Subtly sarcastic to their faces, raised middle fingers to their backs’ had become the accepted method of communication. For their part, the Decepticons seemed to enjoy the banter. Sometimes Blaster suspected them of going out among their conquered people just to see what new insults the humans would be brave enough to slip into conversation. Well, why shouldn’t they enjoy it? They’d won.
For now, Blaster thought, and kept watching.
The Autobots meant it when they said they didn’t track activity on the Autonet, but they did keep a tally as to how many were accessing it at once, and Blaster felt sure the handful of new-access pings were coming from the huddled knot of middle-schoolers looking at their phones. You didn’t see that often in public anymore, not since PokemonGO had been blocked by most of the humans’ ISPs, and Blaster wanted to warn them to break it up, but the hot chocolate vendor was having a smoke break in the back of his truck so he couldn’t blast For What It’s Worth at them without looking like a possessed radio. Or worse, looking (accurately) like an Autobot spy. Not all the humans hated their new overlords.
He could keep watch, though. If Ramjet, striding down the middle of the street like all the traffic he was blocking behind him were his own personal parade, made one wrong move toward those younglings-
One of the kids jerked back as if to bolt as the Decepticon stumped up to the group; his friend grabbed his arm as a girl with bushy red frizz popping out from under her ear warmers squeaked, “Yes? Uh, Officer?”
Ramjet leaned down at the waist, hands on his hips - an aggressive posture but not an overtly threatening one, and Blaster paused his transform bootup at 98% completion. The balance between “undercover operations means sometimes you have to let some horrible things happen right in front of you” and “screw cover, save those kids!” was a painful one, one he teetered back and forth on as Ramjet spoke again. “I see you on your little communication devices. Are you up to no good?”
“I solemnly swear-” someone started to mutter, and was quickly elbowed into shutting up. The corner of Ramjet’s mouth twitched, and Blaster was almost tempted to relax at that. You slag-stirrer.
“Oh, we were researching for a project for school, Officer Sir,” the frizzy girl explained breathlessly, her eyes wide and innocent. “Health’s my worst subject, and this unit’s on reproduction-“
“Reproduction?” Ramjet interrupted, the beginnings of that classic ‘ew, organics’ scowl showing on his face. Come on, Blaster prayed silently. Buy what she's sellin' and go away!
“Oh, yes. Well, you know, it’s really complicated. Fertilizing eggs and all that.” Ramjet looked outright baffled at that, and Frizzy Girl pounced on his weakness with a swiftness that would’ve made Jazz proud. “Oh, you didn’t know humans laid eggs? Well, we do. Hundreds of them! Plus this sticky slime - well, it’s mucus, really, but it protects the eggs…”
All of that was spilled out with a cheerful, airheaded innocence, while meanwhile Ramjet was straightening up away from the group of kids with hands twitching into claws as if he was clutching his skirts. “Uh - no wonder there’s so many of you fleshbags,” he forced out on a laugh, trying to take back control of the situation.
The girl delivered the final blow beautifully. “Oh, well - you’d think.” She lowered her gaze, mock-solemn. “They eat each other when they hatch, you see - the human larvae. Survival of the fittest, you know?”
“Glk,” said Ramjet, and stammered something that ended in a “-glory to the Decepticons!” before throwing himself skyward in a boom of thrusters, briefly deafening every human in the park. As the echoes faded away, a new sound replaced it - the middle school group, exchanging high-fives and laughing until they nearly collapsed.
“That was a hell of a thing, wasn’t it?” Blaster nearly jumped out of his altmode - he’d been so focused on Ramjet he hadn’t noticed the hot chocolate man coming back from his break. He sent a checkmark to his ally’s phone; the man glanced at it and grinned. “Hey!” he called over the laughter. “C’mere. Hot chocolate on me.”
The kids were quick to accept - well, as quick as they could be, half-paralyzed with laughter as they were. “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever” warred with “holy what I can’t believe we’re still alive,” and the lot of them could barely stutter out their orders to the vendor. As Blaster’s friend got started doling out paper cups full of chocolately goodness, Blaster pinged Frizzy Girl’s cell phone. [you got bearings of chrome steel, youngblood.]
Frizzy’s eyes darted back and forth from her phone’s screen, settled on the perfectly normal radio, determinedly looked away again. [thanks,] she casually texted back, holding her hazelnut white chocolate awkwardly in the crook of her arm. [and thanks for the autonet. My parents use it all the time to organize bail for protestors.]
[Welcome.] And wouldn’t Jazz be delighted to hear that. [What’s your name?]
The girl smiled around her hot chocolate, her eyes darting to the perfectly normal radio again. [Marissa. Marissa Faireborn.]