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Title: Crash Course, Chapter 24 – Hit andRun
Author: [personal profile] anon_decepticon & [profile] mdperera, with input from [profile] kookaburra1701
Rating: PG-13 (this chapter)
Pairing or Character(s): The Stunticons, implied (one-sided?) Breakdown/Dead End.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Transformers.
Warning(s): Humanized TFs (entire story), a hint of violence.
Summary: An accident turns the Stunticons into humans. Now the Decepticons think they're traitors, and other humans think they're eccentric, dangerous...and occasionally, dead sexy. From here, things can only get worse.
Chapter summary: Breakdown works on contacting the Nemesis, and takes out a rival.
Author's Note: Decided to post in full this time due to our return from hiatus. For those unaware, “Crash Course” is a collaborative effort jointly written by myself and [profile] mdperera. The full story can be found here on FFN. Also posted to [community profile] gestalt_love. Future updates will be posted bi-weekly every other Thursday. Thanks to Kookaburra 1701 for her support and input, and to all our readers!

Chapter 24 – Hit and Run

Breakdown blinked up at the ceiling, trying to figure out what had woken him. He sat up carefully, disentangling himself from the offline forms of his recharging gestaltmates. Drag Strip, curled up at his side, twitched and whimpered in his sleep.

Dead End was on his other side, and Breakdown was pleased to note that his face looked almost normal again. Over the past few days, Dead End’s bruises had gone through a startling spectrum of colors ranging from angry red and blackish-purple to various sickly shades of green and yellow, but they appeared to be fading.

Breakdown smiled a little at that. When Motormaster announced that they were all confined to the base until further notice, Dead End had replied that he had no intention of going anywhere looking so hideous anyway, but Breakdown suspected the damage to his appearance bothered Dead End more than he was willing to admit. I’ll have to tell him he looks better when he wakes up.

Drag Strip, on the other hand, was an absolute mess, his features swollen and discolored almost beyond recognition. Somehow the damage seemed worse for being so human, disturbing in a way that scuffs and dents had never been.

A sick feeling rose up in the pit of his stomach as Breakdown examined Drag Strip’s injuries. They’d all suffered their share of beatings at Motormaster’s hands – Drag Strip more than most – but last night had been different.

Primus, I thought he’d killed him. Breakdown squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to remember Drag Strip’s screams, or the awful, broken sounds he’d made as he clung to Breakdown like he was the only solid thing left in the universe.

Breakdown had never been so afraid, not even that time he’d been set on fire. And he hadn’t been the only one. Last night terror had filled the room like a living presence, so palpable Breakdown had wondered if the gestalt link might still be active in spite of their human forms.

He tried to remind himself that Drag Strip had earned his punishment, that he’d let humans with a camera into their apartment, but looking at his damaged face, Breakdown couldn’t bring himself to feel angry at him. How could Drag Strip have known those two humans were spies?

Being human was scary enough all on its own, but until now the only danger had lain in being discovered. As long as they kept their helms down and passed for normal humans, the threat their condition presented was minimal. Breakdown was good at lying low, but he knew hiding wouldn’t save them from an enemy that knew where they lived, one who’d even been inside their base. Sooner or later an attack would come, and with two of them injured, Breakdown wasn’t sure they’d survive it.

I have to get through to the Nemesis, he thought. I have to. He’d finished the program yesterday, but there hadn’t been time to test it. He hadn’t told any of the others it was ready; he wouldn’t until he was sure that it worked.

I’ll do it now, while everyone’s still asleep. Extricating himself from the bed without waking the others was tricky, but he managed it. Once he was separated from the warmth of their bodies, the apartment seemed colder than usual, so he dressed quickly before slipping out into the hallway.

On his way to the living room, he noticed the door to Motormaster’s room was open. He frowned and headed for the kitchen, switching on the computer along the way.

Motormaster was right where he’d been the last time Breakdown had seen him, sitting on the steps outside their apartment building. Breakdown scowled at that, turning away from the window to put on a pot of coffee. Probably thinks he’s standing guard, he thought resentfully. That hadn’t helped Drag Strip last night.

Once he’d gotten the coffee brewing, he went back to the computer. It had finished booting up, so he logged into one of his fake accounts and hacked into a human communications satellite, initiating a transmission to the Nemesis using the satellite’s equipment. That was the easy part. The hard part would be getting the Nemesis’ far superior communications array to respond.

Breakdown had written his program to get through the Nemesis’ security protocols, a series of passcode encryptions normally entered automatically by the connecting Decepticon’s CPU. Without a designated comm frequency or a computer with comparable speed and processing power, Breakdown knew it would take far longer to reach the Decepticon base.

But when he finally established a connection, the first screen he encountered was one Breakdown had never seen before. Instead of the usual login prompt, he found himself presented with a series of options.

1. Private transmission. 2. Reroute signal to alternate node. 3. Upload status report.

Which one is right? Breakdown hesitated, uncertain. Should he attempt to send a private transmission to Megatron, or upload a report on their status? Why wasn’t there an option to transmit an emergency distress beacon?

Because it’s a trap, he realized. After a moment’s deliberation, he typed “0” – an option not displayed on the screen – and held his breath.

The screen flickered and presented him with a prompt to enter his access code. I did it, he thought, activating his program. I got through! The access codes would have all been changed by now – they were updated frequently – but he’d designed his program to generate random codes until it found the right one. The screen scrolled upward rapidly as his program set to work, trying a new access code roughly once a second.

So far, so good. The program was working, albeit slowly. Breakdown wished there was a way to speed things along, but the passcodes required to connect with the Nemesis were staggeringly complex, with countless possible variations. Numerous login attempts would be required before his program finally found the right one.

He was glad he hadn’t told the others what he was doing. The last thing he needed was someone riding his tailpipe, demanding to know what was taking so long. Stunticons weren’t known for their patience. After about twenty minutes, even Breakdown started to get a little bored. At first he’d been glued to the screen, but once he was sure his program was working, his attention began to drift.

It could take hours or even days to get through to the Nemesis, assuming he got through at all. How quickly his program succeeded in finding the right access code depended largely on luck, and there was nothing Breakdown could do to make it happen any faster. But maybe there was something else he could do while he waited?

They had a computer now, after all, and Breakdown was a skilled hacker. Maybe he could find something on the internet that would help them to eliminate the loan shark as a threat? He was about to begin an internet search for the human when Dead End came into the living room.

“Morning,” Breakdown greeted him.

Dead End paused on his way to the kitchen. “Is there coffee?”

He nodded. “I made some.”

Dead End continued into the kitchen, and after a few minutes returned with a cup of coffee for himself and another for Breakdown. “Thanks,” Breakdown said as he handed it to him.

Dead End opened his mouth to reply, but closed it abruptly when the door to the apartment swung open and Motormaster walked in. Breakdown hunched his shoulders at the sound of that familiar heavy tread, keeping his optics welded to the computer screen. A lengthy silence ensued.

“Breakdown, status report,” Motormaster said.

“The program is working,” he replied. “But I don’t know how long it will take to get through.”

Motormaster grunted in acknowledgement and started down the hall to his room. On the way there he bumped into Wildrider, but Motormaster ignored him, shouldering past him and slamming the door behind him.

Wildrider sneered, holding up a fist with his middle finger sticking out of it, then came down the hall to join them.

“How is he?” Dead End asked.

Wildrider shrugged. “Watching TV.” He turned back toward the hallway. “Hey, sunshine! What do you want for breakfast?”

“Scrambled tofu, goat's milk yogurt with blueberries and a decaf cappuccino,” Drag Strip called back. “And could you bring it to me in bed?”

The three of them exchanged a look that hovered somewhere between exasperation and amusement. “We don’t have any of that slag,” Wildrider shouted.

“Well, what do we have?”

Wildrider went into the kitchen. “We got Captain Crunch. Regular, or with crunch berries.”

There was a pause. “Crunch berries.”

A series of rustling and clattering sounds came from the kitchen, and a few minutes later Wildrider emerged with a pair of bowls, the empty cereal box tucked under his arm. “Milk’s almost done,” he murmured in an undertone as he passed them. “Better finish it off before he does.”

Breakdown looked at Dead End, who shrugged. “Breakfast it is, then.”

Wildrider went into his room. “Look what I found in the cereal box!” Breakdown heard him say. “A little toy car! I think it’s a Mazda 323.”

“Where’s my car?” Drag Strip said.

After breakfast, Breakdown returned to the computer, and Dead End went into the washrack. Wildrider and Drag Strip remained in their room, probably watching daytime TV with the volume down low. Breakdown had just begun to think about taking a break for lunch when Motormaster reappeared.

He looked haggard, his eyes sunk deep in their sockets, his face shadowed with razor stubble. To Breakdown’s relief, Motormaster didn’t demand to know if he’d gotten through to the base yet; he strode past him without so much as a word.

“That human you borrowed the money from…” Breakdown asked as he went by. “What’s his dessication?”

Motormaster paused, eyeing him with undisguised suspicion. “What? Oh. Ominsky,” he said, and then continued on into the kitchen.

Breakdown frowned. A full name would have made his search easier, but he didn’t want to risk further arousing Motormaster’s suspicion by asking again. He set to work with what he had, the name “Ominsky” and their location, San Francisco.

He’d barely gotten started when Motormaster came back out. “Where’s the milk?” he said.

“We’re out,” Dead End replied from behind him. He’d just come out of the washrack, and was blotting his wet hair with a towel. “I would have gone out to buy more, but my face has seen enough damage already.”

Motormaster’s eyes narrowed. “And breakfast?”

“We’re out of that, too,” Dead End replied. There was no change in his expression, but Breakdown had the distinct impression that he was enjoying himself.

From the look on his face, Motormaster shared his suspicions. “Fine,” he said tightly. “I’ll get more.” He turned on his heel, heading for the door.

“We’re also out of soap,” Dead End said as Motormaster reached for the knob. Motormaster froze, his hand on the door, a line of tension vibrating up his backstrut.

The fuel pump in Breakdown’s chest was pounding faster, but the bright smear on the wall where Drag Strip’s face had struck it made him throw caution to the winds. “You should bring us something for lunch, too,” he said.

“Sandwiches would be nice,” Dead End agreed. “Perhaps some coffee as well.”

“Anything else?” Motormaster replied through clenched denta. When there was no reply, he went out, slamming the door behind him.

Dead End turned back to him, his face a mask of calm indifference, as if baiting Motormaster was something they did every day. “And how are your efforts progressing?”

“I’ve made a connection, but I haven’t found the right access code yet. It’ll probably take a while; there are a lot of combinations to go through.”

Dead End’s eyebrows rose. “Well done, Breakdown. Perhaps our inevitable doom isn’t quite as imminent as I thought.”

It wasn’t often that Breakdown got anything resembling praise from one of his teammates, and he felt his cheeks grow warm in response. “Thanks,” he said quietly. He turned back to the computer to check on the program, feeling a renewed sense of determination. He would get through to the Nemesis, and he’d find the loan shark, too. No human was going to break apart their team.

That reminded him of something else. “That human… the one who brought you home after those other humans assorted you?” he began cautiously, keeping his eyes locked on the computer screen.

“Assaulted,” Dead End corrected him automatically. “Yes?”

“What was his name?”

There was a pause. “Trevor,” Dead End replied.

“Last name?”

“…I don’t know. Why?”

Breakdown shrugged. “Just furious. I mean, curious.”

“Ah,” Dead End said, sounding puzzled. When Breakdown didn’t say anything more, he went back to their room to get dressed.

Breakdown scowled at the computer screen, recalling the voice he’d heard on the phone yesterday tentatively asking for Dead End. He’d known immediately who was calling, and the threat he represented.

It was obvious what the human wanted, and Breakdown knew if he succeeded in getting Dead End alone long enough, he’d probably get it. Dead End wouldn’t say no; he never did. Breakdown had always sort of liked that about him – it was the only time he ever really got to be on top – but it also made Dead End vulnerable in a way none of the other Stunticons were.

He shot a resentful glare at their bedroom door, wishing that just once Dead End could have shaken off his usual apathy and told that human to go find someone else to frag. You don’t actually like him, do you?

That thought hurt more than Breakdown cared to admit. Maybe Trevor – dumb name for a human – never used the wrong words, or worried that people were staring at him. Don’t be an idiot, he told himself. Dead End hates being human; why would he want to frag one?

You can’t have him, he thought fiercely. I’m gonna get through to the base, and get our bodies back. Then we can all go home, and you’ll never see him again.

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully. Motormaster returned with sandwiches and enough food to last them several days, and after consuming his own, went back to his room. Breakdown ate his sandwich in front of the computer, barely glancing up from the screen when the others came out to claim theirs. The sunlight slanting in through the windows shifted and waned.

By dinnertime, Breakdown’s program still hadn’t found the right access code, and he’d made little progress in his search for the loan shark. Dinner itself was awkward; both Drag Strip and Motormaster came out of their rooms at the same time, and apart from an argument about whether they were eating chicken or mermaid – which Dead End settled by pointing out that the small print on the label said “tuna” – they’d eaten in silence.

That silence was broken when the phone rang.

Everyone looked at Motormaster. He glared back at them for a moment, then got up to answer it. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said again, glancing at Dead End, his face set into grim lines. “I got ‘em.”

“Sure,” Motormaster said after a brief pause. “But only in person.” He listened for a moment, then smirked. “You made sure I got your message, I want to make sure you get your money.”

“All right,” Motormaster said after another pause. “Where?” He snapped his fingers and pointed to the pen and paper Breakdown had left lying on the table next to the computer, and Breakdown jumped up to retrieve them. Motormaster took them from him and scribbled down what looked like an address.

“You’ll get what I owe you,” Motormaster said. “I promise you that.” He hung up.

“Was that the loan shark?” Wildrider asked.

“Yeah,” Motormaster said. “He’s agreed to a meeting. Dead End, you’re with me. The rest of you stay put. This ends tonight.”

Even though Motormaster and Dead End were the most laconic members of the team, the apartment seemed quieter without them. Breakdown felt a little better about his lack of success in finding Ominsky, though – now that the elusive human had revealed himself, Breakdown’s efforts to locate him were no longer necessary.

Of course, it could be a trap. It was possible Ominsky had simply underestimated how dangerous Motormaster was, but the loan shark had outmaneuvered them at least twice already, and Motormaster wasn’t about to let that happen again. That was half the reason he’d taken Dead End with him. The other half was obvious.

Since they’d been ordered to stay behind, Wildrider and Drag Strip went back to their room. Breakdown checked the computer, but it was still trying different passcode combinations. Feeling restless and uneasy, he cleared the table and then went into the kitchen to clean up the mess Wildrider’s attempts at cooking always left behind.

That kept him occupied for all of fifteen minutes – not nearly long enough. After consulting the map, Dead End had informed them that the meeting place Ominsky had chosen was several miles away, which meant they wouldn’t be back for at least an hour, but Breakdown still found himself looking out the window anyway, hoping to spot some sign of their return.

What he saw there instead filled him with a quiet rage.

The human who’d brought Dead End home was outside, sitting on the front steps of their apartment building. As Breakdown watched, the human sat up a little straighter and twisted around, his hopeful expression clearly visible in the light that spilled from the recently-opened front door.

Breakdown turned away from the window with a scowl, yanking open the drawer that housed the small collection of eating utensils they’d accumulated. Among the plastic spoons and forks was the retractable knife he’d taken from the gang leader who had attacked them for invading his territory. Snatching it out of the drawer, Breakdown turned on his heel and stalked over to the front door.

He hesitated for a moment when he reached it, recalling Motormaster’s orders for them to stay put. But Motormaster wouldn’t be back for almost an hour, and a quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that Drag Strip and Wildrider were still in their room.

Opening the door as quietly as he was able, Breakdown slipped outside.

The human Trevor was still sitting on the steps when Breakdown reached the lobby, which only made him angrier. Why doesn’t he go away? He’d hoped to take the human by surprise, but as he approached the entrance, Trevor turned around, looking through the glass of the outer door.

Looking at him. Breakdown’s stride faltered, but his anger kept him moving. Slipping a hand into his pocket to curl his fingers around the knife, he opened the door and went outside.

Hurrying down the steps, he started up the sidewalk without so much as a backward glance, his shoulders hunched. He knew the human was probably staring at him, but he did his best to ignore the prickling sensation between his shoulder blades and quickened his pace. I’m just another human in a hurry. I don’t even care about some moron sitting on the steps.

Once he’d gotten about halfway down the block, Breakdown ducked into an alley and circled back around the building, peering out around the corner to see if the human was still there.

He was, but now Trevor was on his feet and had turned to face the building, staring up at the windows. Spying on us, Breakdown thought. If I was up there looking out right now, he’d see me. His fingers tightened so hard around the knife’s hilt he was surprised they didn’t dent it. He was behind the human before he even realized he was moving, the knife in hand, the tip of its blade pressed against Trevor’s spine.

“Don’t move,” he hissed as Trevor stiffened. “Don’t turn around, don’t look at me.”

The human raised his hands slowly. “Chill, man,” he said. “What do you want, my wallet? It’s in my back pocket.”

“I don’t want your fragging wallet.” Breakdown kept his voice soft, but intense. “I want you to go away.

“Take it easy,” Trevor replied. “I don’t know what your deal is, but I’m just waiting for a friend –”

“He’s not your friend,” Breakdown snapped, shoving the blade forward just enough to prick the human through his clothes. “He doesn’t want anything to do with you!”

Trevor flinched. “Whoa, take it easy! I’m just – wait a minute, you – you’re the guy on the phone, aren’t you?”

Breakdown ignored the question. “You’re going to leave,” he said. “Don’t come here. Don’t call. He doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“Who the hell are you?” Trevor demanded.

“I’m the one who’s telling you to go away,” Breakdown said, his voice cold and hard. “Stop trying to see him. He doesn’t want to see you. If you come here again, I’ll find out. And if you ever touch him again, I’ll kill you. Understand?”

“S-sure, I understand,” Trevor said, suddenly sounding a lot more nervous. “Dan’s off limits.”

His name is Dead End, Breakdown thought contemptuously, his lips twisting into a sneer. But you don’t even know that much, do you? Because you’re nobody. Just a stupid human.

Grabbing Trevor’s arm, Breakdown forced the human to shuffle around until he was facing the street, being careful to remain out of sight behind him. “Now get out of here, and don’t come back. If you do, you’re dead.”

Shoving him away as forcefully as he could, Breakdown gave him a kick that sent the human sprawling. He was back inside the building before Trevor could pick himself up off the sidewalk, hastily pocketing the knife as he shot up the stairs. I was only gone a few minutes, he thought frantically, hoping Wildrider and Drag Strip hadn’t come out of their room to find him missing.

He fumbled for the knob, but then forced himself to stop and take several slow, deep breaths. Feeling marginally calmer, he opened the door as quietly as he able, just wide enough to slip inside and ease it shut behind him.

He’d made it.

*more to come*
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