“An encounter with MECH?!” yelped Alexis.
“We’re beefing up security as we speak,” replied Optimus.
“With Teletraan going nuts?!” argued Alexis. “Optimus, we’re in a tight spot! We have no clue what Shockwave and Eggman are planning! MECH’s got wind of you! Your a.i. is losing it! Worst of all, we’ve got angry bots that turn into dinosaurs!”
“I will admit, it’s precarious,” answered Optimus, “but things WILL get better.” They arrived at his office and he opened the door. “We just need…to……”
“…Where’s your desk?” asked Alexis.
“What about Cralzar?” Cliffjumper asked Bumblebee. “They’ve made a successful one.”
“It proved to be too unstable,” sighed Bumblebee. “It’s a good starting point, but we need more info to make a Spark-Stone.”
“Corporal Bumblebee!” called Optimus’ voice. The two Stinger Brothers saw an irate Optimus standing in the hallway. “My office, now!” ordered Optimus. Bumblebee was worried as he followed Optimus. They entered Optimus’ office and Bumblebee got a good look at his surroundings. Alexis was there as well. “Well?” quizzed Optimus. “Explanations?”
“…Where’s your desk?” asked Bumblebee.
“Don’t play dumb, Corporal!” snapped Optimus. “Computer, who authorized my desk’s removal?” Majel Barrett-Roddenberry’s voice came through.
“Corporal Bumblebee authorized the removal of your desk,” reported the secondary computer.
“Not true!” argued Bumblebee. “Computer, what was the code?”
“1-7-8-8-2-7-E-0-9-4-2-6-3-9-A-5,” the secondary computer relayed. “Code matches that of Corporal Bumblebee’s authorization code.” Bumblebee’s optics went wide.
“Rouge,” he whispered.
“What about her?” asked Alexis. Bumblebee steeled himself. He was going to get in trouble either way, but he’s STILL an Autobot. Better to soften the blow with the truth.
“I…let Rouge use my authorization code to get a solar array for our backup energy stores,” answered Bumblebee.
“…You…let…Rouge…use…your…code?!” snarled Optimus, trying to keep his cool.
“I WILL get your desk back!” assured Bumblebee.
“Yes, I do believe you will,” remarked Optimus. “There are a lot of top secret documents on the hard drive in my desk and I don’t want a security risk! So, you’re going to get my desk back and put it back exactly as it was!”
“I’m coming with you,” supplied Alexis. “I want to know why Rouge took his desk.”
“But, I’m not all that attentive to decoration detail!” yelped Bumblebee. “Just landscapes, numbers, and research!”
“I’m aware of that,” answered Optimus. “That’s why I think you’ll appreciate your partner.” Bumblebee picked up on what Optimus was saying.
“Sir, come on!” he begged. “That’s cruel and unusual punishment!” Optimus activated his comms.
“Prowl, come to my office,” he called.
“I didn’t sell Optimus’ desk,” assured Rouge once Prowl, Bumblebee, and Alexis met with her. “I just loaned it to someone.”
“Who?” asked Prowl.
“Al Lorenzo,” answered Rouge.
“Chief Engineer Al Lorenzo?” quizzed Alexis.
“What does he want with Prime’s desk?” inquired Bumblebee.
“He wants to take a picture of it,” replied Rouge.
“Why?” interrogated Alexis.
“He likes taking pictures of himself sitting behind the desks of great people,” replied Rouge. “Usually, he’d sneak into their offices, but with MECH’s interest with you guys and with Shockwave and Eggman cooking something up, it’s been hard for him to get away.”
“Makes sense,” mused Alexis.
“He’s got quite the collection, too,” continued Rouge. “Commander Tower’s desk, Queen Aleena’s desk…”
“I get the point!” interjected Bumblebee. “So, once he’s got his picture, he’ll give us the solar array?”
“No, he’s giving you a hard-light generator,” corrected Rouge.
“But, we don’t need a hard-light generator,” answered Prowl.
“But, the Mazuri branch for G.U.N. does,” relayed Rouge.
“And they’re giving us the solar array?” asked Prowl.
“No, they’re giving you a plasma coil,” replied Rouge.
“But, we don’t need a plasma coil!” snapped Bumblebee.
“But, the test site does,” assured Rouge, “and THEY have the solar array.”
“They’re willing to give up a solar array for a plasma coil?” quizzed Alexis.
“That’s the rumor,” answered Rouge.
“Rumor?!” repeated Bumblebee as his shoulder armor twitched on its own in worry. “You made all these deals based on a rumor?!”
“From a very reliable source,” assured Rouge.
“What if it turns out to be untrue?!” yelped Bumblebee, fearing for his career.
“You have to have faith,” replied Rouge.
“In a rumor?” muttered Prowl.
“In the Great Equalizer,” answered Rouge. Bumblebee rolled his optics.
“Who is that?” he asked.
“It’s not a ‘who’, it’s a ‘what’,” corrected Alexis. “All Mobian Bat species believe in it, a great, unifying force binding us together.”
“I must have missed that when I was a cadet,” sighed Bumblebee.
“We learn about the Equalizer when we’re able to speak,” revealed Rouge.
“Rouge, this is no time for our combined culture’s fairytales,” snapped Alexis.
“You and I both know that the Equalizer is real!” snarled Rouge, her ears flattening in irritation. She then calmed down before she spoke again. “The universe is filled with trillions upon trillions upon trillions of civilizations, each one having too much of one thing and not enough of another. The Great Equalizer goes over them all like mighty winds from have to want and back again. Now, if we, as mortals, navigate those winds with skill and grace, then, when we die, we will have everything our heart desires, no lack of anything, just peace and wealth.”
“Right now,” mumbled Bumblebee, “I’d settle for a solar array and Prime’s desk.”
“The winds will provide,” assured Rouge.
“If we don’t get caught in an updraft first,” snarked Bumblebee.
“So, let me see if I got this,” sighed Optimus as he rubbed his temples, “on top of my desk coming back, we’re getting a hard-light generator, which we give to the Mazuri branch, and they give us a plasma coil, which we give to the test site we delivered the Dy.N.Ge.S to, and they give us the solar array. Even then, that’s just a rumor that Rouge heard, and she asked you to have faith in a religious force that all Mobian Bat cultures believe in that the rumor is true. Did I miss any of that?”
“No, Sir,” replied Bumblebee. “As an aside, I have a request form to change my authorization code.”
“Which I will approve,” remarked Optimus, “as soon as you explain THIS.” What he was referring to was a white, wooden mock-up of his desk.
“I don’t know,” mused Prowl. “Aside from the fact that it’s the wrong height, wrong width, wrong color, and wrong material, I’m sure you’ll never know it was a mock-up.”
“The point is,” snapped Optimus, “it’s not my desk!”
“…I’m gonna paint it…” gulped Bumblebee.
“Get it out of here!” ordered Optimus. At that moment, Trema stomped in. “May I help you, Trema?”
“No, but Prowl can!” snarled Trema.
“Rock-rum?” quizzed Prowl as he looked at the open containers that would hold Nebulan alcohol. Amy was sitting on a lid to one of the containers as Optimus, Bumblebee, Prowl, Alexis, and Trema stood in the Nebulan’s quarters in the base.
“25 bottles of the stuff, sent to me by my two husbands and wife!” growled Trema. “Prowl, where are they?!”
“How should I know?!” protested Prowl.
“You authorized their removal,” replied Amy as she pointed to the pad on Trema’s desk.
“Did not! I don’t drink!” snapped Prowl as he took the pad. He then saw the authorization code and his face went a lighter shade of grey. “…Rouge…” he whispered feebly.
“Is there some code-swapping epidemic here?!” shouted Optimus.
“Prowl,” Trema was dangerously near him with an animalistic look on her face, “I want my rock-rum here by tomorrow morning. Understand?”
The rock-rum was easier to locate as Rouge didn’t get very far with it. Turns out, she had a buyer who was interested in exotic liquors, but she had to cancel the deal once she was caught. The rumor about the chain of organizations needing something, on the other hand, WAS true, so Al Lorenzo got his picture, the Mazuri branch of G.U.N got their hard-light generator, the test site got their plasma coil, the Autobots got their solar array, and Optimus got his desk back. He assembled all those that were involved with Grimlock watching from the sidelines. Commander Tower was with them. “All right, this kind of slag has gone on long enough, so Commander Tower and I will make ourselves clear!” snapped Optimus. “Bumblebee, you do NOT give your authorization code to anyone! I don’t care if it’s for your research, you do NOT do it! Am I clear?”
“Yes, Sir!” confirmed Bumblebee.
“Prowl,” hissed Optimus, “you may be my best strategist, but I’m about to become the Chief Cause of Your Very Bad Day! You do NOT do what Bumblebee did and you do NOT keep me in the dark about this kind of thing! Am I clear?”
“Yes, Sir!” answered Prowl.
“Agent Rouge,” rumbled Commander Tower, “my most trusted spy, I am a tolerant man, except when it comes to security and trust with our allies! You do NOT make deals based on rumors! I don’t care how reliable the source is, you do NOT do it! You especially don’t use our allies’ furniture as a bargaining chip! I expect you to use more stable reasons to make these kinds of deals! Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” replied Rouge.
“Now, if Commander Tower or I hear a peep out of you three relating to these matters, I’ll be feeding you all to Grimlock on toast! Dismissed!” commanded Optimus. He then left them to ponder what happened. Commander Tower left the base for the same reason. Grimlock gave a dark smirk.
“Never tried you guys before,” he chuckled. He then requested a beam-out and vanished in shimmering light.
“…Anyone else creeped out?!” gulped Bumblebee.