The Endeavor and the High Sky had arrived after everyone had exchanged stories. The landing ramps of both ships lowered, although the ramp for the High Sky led to the cargo hold. Strongarm and Swoop descended with Lardeth while Arsha led Death, Peach, Usagi I, Amy, Topaz, and Charline down the Endeavor’s ramp. Arsha and Lardeth shook hands with the Larkenthas and Enfanti. Swoop and Slash gave a Roman each other handshake before smashing their heads against the other. Hiroki, Death, Charline, and Peach greeted each other warmly. Strongarm gave a report to Ultra Magnus with Topaz helping. Sonic…was tackled by a pink blur. Amy squeezed him tightly. “Oh, Sonic!” she squealed happily. “I was so worried I’d never find you! It’s been too long since I’ve seen you!”
“Amy,” strained Sonic, “it’s only been an hour! Besides, you went to another planet without me!” He then wiggled out of her grasp.
“Good heavens, Ms. Rose,” muttered Strongarm. She then noticed a box and stepped towards it. She peered inside to see a human-sized, bird-like, yellow robot stewing in anger, his arms folded. “Well, well, well,” chuckled Strongarm. She then turned to Ultra Magnus. “Sir, come over here! Look who I found! Or, rather, the Larkenthas found.” Ultra Magnus came to her and peered inside the box.
“Well, if it isn’t Soundwave’s little self-proclaimed artistic spy!” he snorted. “How’s imprisonment, Buzzsaw? Who died before they put you in there?”
“Unfortunately, no one,” snarled Buzzsaw, his Scots accent on full display.
“I don’t know, I’d say your potential victim was rather lucky,” countered Ultra Magnus.
“Laugh all you want,” hissed Buzzsaw. “My bite is worse than my bark! Why don’t you come in here and see if I’m wrong?”
“I think I’ll stay out here and make an attempt to contact my base,” replied Ultra Magnus.
“And yet, Soundwave’s having trouble finding ours,” chuckled Buzzsaw. Ultra Magnus’ eyebrow went up. “Och, aye, Soundwave’s here, just not in Frigandor. Pit, he told me he heard someone say that he was in Largandra.”
“…Can anyone of you tell me,” called Ultra Magnus, “where Largandra is?”
“That’s my home,” replied Arsha, “the Mid-realm’s capital.”
“Better hurry, Foxy,” taunted Buzzsaw. “Soundwave is quite the fighter. He may break cover any second now.”
“For your sake,” warned Ultra Magnus, “he’d better keep a low profile. He won’t react well to one of his Mini-cons being killed, will he?”
“That’s a little dark for you, isn’t it, Laddie?” mused Buzzsaw. “Tell me, would you want to disappoint your little brother, your Prime, like that?”
“I think we’ve heard enough from you,” snarled Delga. “You know, through Buzzsaw, we’ve learned that you can refine mana into that…er…beverage you drink.”
“You mean, Energon?” asked Ultra Magnus.
“That’s it!” replied Delga. “One cube of mana makes one cube of Energon.”
“Then, our energy needs are met,” mused Ultra Magnus, “but what about our allies? They can’t run on Energon.”
“Then I shall take everyone that is organic to my favorite restaurant here in Frigandor!” declared Delga.
“Chez Glacier?!” cheered Larbuu and Enfanti.
“The same!” confirmed Delga.
“I’m afraid we must sit this out,” answered Ultra Magnus. “We don’t have suitable vehicle modes to blend in with the crowd here.”
“Are you sure?” asked Delga.
“I must insist,” urged Ultra Magnus. “Besides, we know how Buzzsaw works. We can advise and help out should he decide to break out.”
“…Very well,” sighed Delga. “Everyone else, let us partake in Frigandor Cuisine!” He led everyone to a large runic circle and chanted a spell once everyone was inside. Larbuu, Lardeth, Enfanti, Death, and Arsha seemed numb to it, but the others were in awe at the raw power he was tapping into. A light surrounded everyone and covered the world until fading to reveal a street of Frigandor. Hiroki, Amy, Sonic, Topaz, Charline, and Peach were stunned at what happened.
“I take it there are no teleportation circles in your respective universes?” asked Lardeth.
“Not the magical kind, no,” admitted Sonic.
“…You can teleport without magic?!” gasped Arsha.
“I think this lunch will be centered around cultural differences,” mused Enfanti. Delga led everyone to a restaurant with a sign advertising Chez Glacier, the Warmest Spot for Cool Kids in Frigandor. They entered the restaurant and Delga spoke to the Greeter, an Elf woman wearing icy colors.
“Table for 11, please,” requested Delga.
“All right,” replied the Greeter. “And what is your party’s name?”
“Larkentha,” replied Delga.
“Splendid!” cheered the Greeter. “It looks like there’s a table for your party. If you would please follow me.” She led the group to a table. They took their seats as she distributed the menus. “Your servers will be with you in a moment,” assured the Greeter as she resumed her post. The party perused the menu and a few dishes caught their eyes.
“Chili dogs? Here?” quizzed Sonic.
“There’s an option for multiple people to have the same meal!” observed Amy.
“It’s been a while since I ate here,” mused Death.
“Stop us if you heard this one,” came a voice.
“So, the Grim Reaper and her posse walk into a restaurant,” called another. “The Reaper then noticed it was quiet.”
“So, she says,” continued the first voice, “I’ve never seen such a dead place!” Everyone turned to see a girl with black, wavy hair adorned with a black flower with a skull in the center and black lipstick over her sheet-white skin accompanied by a small, humanoid creature with a black eye mask set into his skin and two green, clubbed tentacles for hair tied into a ponytail. They were wearing the icy colors of the restaurant’s staff.
“Lacey!” cheered Death.
“Jason!” called Peach.
“Are we glad to see you!” proclaimed Hiroki. “What are you doing here?”
“That would be the Convergence’s doing,” replied the girl. “Jason and I were just hanging around After Academy when we vanished and ended up here in Frigandor.”
“After wandering the area,” continued the humanoid creature, “we got hungry and realized we didn’t have any money, no studs, no turf coins, no dollars, nothing.”
“Not that they would have done any good,” remarked the girl. “No one’s heard of them. So, we found a job as part-time waitstaff here.”
“Well, it’s good to see you again!” declared Hiroki. “Amy, Vector, Mr. and Mrs. Larkentha, Ms. Glarosa, Your Highnesses, Commander Topaz, I’d like you to meet Lacey Thanatos,” the girl waved, “and Jason Ikamesh!” the humanoid creature waved. “Kamen Riders Apocalypse and Turf respectively!”
“The boss gave us a chance to reminisce with you guys after we bring you your meals,” cut in Jason. “Do you need any more time to think it over?” The group looked at each other, then shook their heads.
‘What will everyone’s pleasure be?” asked Lacey.
“I’ll try the House Soup,” replied Death.
“An excellent choice!” praised Jason.
“I’ll just have a steak, as rare as allowed here,” muttered Vector.
“I think Amy and I are gonna have the duo Chili Dogs,” ordered Sonic.
“Lardeth and I,” called Arsha, “will take the duo Chicken Pot Pie.”
“Master, Mistress, and I,” requested Enfanti, “will have the trio Fettucine Alfredo.”
“I’ll just get the club sandwich,” ordered Hiroki.
“I’ll take the beef stir fry,” declared Charline.
“I think I will try the Beef Stew,” mused Topaz.
“Let me have the chicken salad,” finished Peach.
“Will you want dessert?” asked Jason.
“I recommend their Lava Cake,” urged Larbuu. “It is to die for!”
“Then Lava Cakes all around,” declared Death.
“Excellent!” cheered Lacey. “We’ll be right back with your orders!” The two then departed as the group chatted amongst themselves.
Back at the Larkenthas’ castle, Strongarm leaned against Buzzsaw’s box and scrolled through a transfer manifest Optimus had drafted before she was put into her current location. Ultra Magnus approached her. “Something on your mind, Lieutenant?” he asked.
“I was gonna give my opinion of the proposed transfers to Optimus before this craziness went down, Sir,” sighed Strongarm. “Maybe you can give me your thoughts?” She handed the pad over to him. He scrolled through the list and widened his optics. The soldiers Optimus was thinking of transferring were called Drift, Sandstorm, Smokescreen, Whirl, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Tracks, Silverbolt, Air Raid, Skydive, Fireflight, Slingshot, and Wheelie. He went in order as he named his grievances.
“She’s dangerous,” he began. “He’s delusional. He’s a liar. She’s mad, and I do mean INSANE. He was demoted after that incident with the Turbo-fox. I arrested him for impersonating a senior officer. How either of them were under your or Prowl’s command is a mystery to me. He owes me money. I don’t trust him, or him, or him, or him, or him. Pit, I REALLY don’t trust them in their combined form. And, to finish it all off, if that’s who I think it is, never EVER let that rhymer near a crossbow!” He sighed. “And those are the least offensive Autobots. He should have consulted me! I’d have turned away any wayward characters!”
“Magnus,” called Swoop as he and Slash approached them, “your definition of a wayward character is an Autobot wearing their badge at an angle.” He tilted his own to demonstrate his point.
“In direct contravention of the Military Regalia Act!” hissed Ultra Magnus as he readjusted Swoop’s badge.
“Sometimes I wonder how you see the world, buddy,” chuckled Swoop.
Back at Chez Glacier, the party was served and Jason and Lacey were granted the right to interact with them. Sonic was regaling them with a tale of when he was roboticized and escaping the Decepticons once he discovered his mind was tampered with. “So, Bokkun transmitted a speech declaring that he and the rest of the disposed Badniks were fighting against Eggman and the ‘Cons and revealed that there was a chip with my memories intact,” he recalled.
“How could Eggman do that?” asked Hiroki.
“So, in my currently roboticized state,” continued Sonic, “I was booking it, and I do mean BOOKING it, to find the Autobots and I was feeling someone coming after me! I couldn’t see the guy, so I only assumed it was Ravage! He then pounced on me and raked his claws across my back saying either I would kill Optimus or Optimus would kill me! I then flung mud into his eyes and stole his gun!”
“You’re lying!” laughed Hiroki. “You’re lying through your teeth!”
“Of course, I don’t like fighting with guns,” Sonic went on, “so I fired at the tunnel’s ceiling and then REALLY ran for it until I made it outside. I then ran alongside the mountain base and found another cave where my friends were meeting with Bokkun and was ready to let them reinstall my memories. Suddenly, Megatron and his cronies come out of their Ground Bridge and attacked us. I tell you; it was a HUGE fight! Amy managed to get on Megatron’s shoulders and slammed her hammer onto his helmet repeatedly!”
“It’s true!” replied Amy.
“Bokkun had to quickly install my memories,” continued Sonic. “Just when Eggman was about to flatten me, BOOM! I fell back on old tactics and old memories! I was back! Then Megatron tried using the Chaos Emeralds, but didn’t bank on me using them in my roboticized state, so I became Super, then scattered them and made Megatron collapse since he wasn’t used to them. Then, just as things were winding down, Megatron fired at me. Of course, he was too slow, so his shot hit the floor…and the subsequent hidden Energon vein under our feet, so both sides got their Ground Bridges on and we all got back to base where there was a Deroboticizer waiting for me!”
“Now that’s a fresh story!” praised Jason.
“That’s all it is, a story,” grumbled Larbuu.
“Mistress!” protested Enfanti.
“There is no way a machine can convert flesh into steel,” insisted Larbuu.
“But it’s all true!” argued Amy.
“Apparently, she needs proof,” mused Sonic. He took out a watch and fastened it to his wrist before pressing a button. A ring of light travelled up his arm and across his body, replacing skin with steel, fur with chrome, and eyes with optical sensors. Amy gasped in horror. “Easy,” assured Sonic in a robotic undertone. “This Roboticizer is one that Tails, Swoop, Ratchet, and Perceptor made. No memory-wipe and no overriding desire to serve Eggbreath. They figured it might help with stealth missions. The best thing about this one? It comes with a built-in Deroboticizer.” He pressed the button on his currently metallic wrist and the ring of light passed over him again, returning him to his organic state. “Well?” he asked Larbuu.
“Evidently,” mused Larbuu, conceding she was in the wrong at that point, “you people have tapped into science we have not yet achieved. I must apologize for doubting you.”
“Hey, no worries,” assured Sonic. “No harm, no foul.” Just then, Delga tapped a button on the table. A small screen popped up in front of him with the bill on it.
“I can pay,” offered Death.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to impose,” countered Delga. “Besides, you lot are my guests. It’s my treat.”
“What the?” muttered Charline as she looked at the bill. “Is that bill right? 520 golds?”
“What?!” yelped Delga.
“What’s that like in our currency?” asked Hiroki.
“One gold is one American penny,” explained Lacey.
“…520 pennies?” realized Hiroki. “$5.20?! That’s how much this meal cost us?!”
“About 520 rings, if I got the math right,” mused Amy.
“Sounds like the drinks were added by mistake,” guessed Jason. “It should have been 494 golds.”
“$4.94?!” yelped Hiroki
“Delga, do you require money?” asked Lardeth.
“I thought you said this was a high-end restaurant!” quizzed Hiroki.
“It is,” confirmed Delga. He then turned to Lardeth. “That won’t be necessary, Your Highness, but thank you.”
“Apparently, nobody needs money!” yelped Hiroki.
“What do you mean?” asked Larbuu.
“Take this restaurant,” began Hiroki. “My sister’s entire house could fit in here! Look, forgive me if this is a little too personal, but where are the poor people?!”
“…You’re looking at someone who’s poor,” replied Enfanti. “I don’t get a salary as a harem girl. All of my money comes from my detective gig. Even then, I’m only called in when police organizations across the Under-realm have a really hard case to work on, so they rent me out for my skills.”
“Then, how can anyone in your profession afford to eat?!” yelped Hiroki.
“Why are you so panicked?” asked Enfanti. “Those that aren’t in harems only spend about 30 tins.”
“And it’s 50 tins to 1 copper, 50 coppers to 1 bronze, 50 bronzes to 1 silver, and 50 silvers to 1 gold,” explained Lacey.
“Are you telling me,” realized Charline, “that, if one gold equals one penny and a single tin, your smallest form of currency, is 0.00000016 of a gold, a rent-a-detective can survive on 0.0000048 of a penny?!”
“Yes,” confirmed Enfanti. “And that’s when the ‘rent-a-detective’ is homeless.”
“Your homeless can afford to eat?!” squeaked Hiroki.
“That holds true within all civilizations in all the Realms,” Arsha cut in. “The Under-realm is, and I say this with great reluctance, the poorest of all the Realms.”
“And Frigandor’s the poorest area in the Under-realm,” supplied Delga.
“And there’s a reason why even the poorest of us can afford food,” continued Larbuu. “Your Highnesses, could you take over?”
“We’d be glad to,” replied Lardeth. “The best way for people to afford anything is for rulers like us to just leave people alone.”
“To die in the streets?!” protested Amy. “I’m not one for a lot of government interference, but people need government to…”
“Wrong way around, Ms. Rose,” interjected Arsha. “Government needs misery, and it can create that in abundance. It’s a disease acting like its own cure.”
“We’re doing SOMETHING right!” argued Hiroki. “I mean, the poorest American is rich compared to the rest of the world.”
“I’m willing to bet,” countered Enfanti, “that the poorest person in Frigandor would be considered rich compared to these ‘Americans’. Hiroki, it sounds like your government taxes its people.”
“It does,” replied Hiroki. “All governments do in my world. How else can we pay for the roads, or schools, or…?”
“In the Realms,” Arsha cut in, “the people just donate one tin, the richer families organize work crews, and BOOM! A new road, a better school, all that good stuff within a week. Us royals NEVER need to tax people. We’re rich enough to not need taxes. Tell me, how long does it take to pay off personal transport?”
“That’s considered a lifetime loan,” remarked Hiroki.
“The homeless, if they’re frugal with food,” compared Arsha, “can pay theirs off in three weeks. How long for a house?”
“More people are renting houses,” answered Hiroki.
“I paid my small, private house off about half a year ago over a ten month period, getting me out of homeless status,” answered Enfanti, “and paid off my loan to Delga about a week after that. This meal, believe it or not, is an expensive one.”
“The owner has overhead,” continued Delga. “We could have eaten the same down the street in copper.”
“So how come everything’s so cheap?!” protested Hiroki.
“Because the governments of all the Realms,” explained Arsha, “have enough people that refuse to allow themselves to become parasites that tax you on half your income, trick you into donating ¾ of that to them, and leave you to squabble over the rest. That’s the defining principle of the Combined Realm Constitution.” At that moment, Arsha and Lardeth’s communicators went off. They pulled them out. “Go ahead,” directed Arsha.
“We’re receiving a distress call from the Sailing Patch,” came Relper’s voice. “Audio only.”
“Let’s hear it,” ordered Arsha. The distress call came through, albeit with static.
“This is Captain Patrica Looden of the Sailing Patch!” came the call. “We’re under heavy fire from an unknown assailant over Largandra! We have…!” the transmission was cut off with another voice.
“DUUUDES!” cheered the voice. “The Sailing Patch’s most bodacious cargo is mine! Just know that the crew’s sacrifice won’t be in vain. It’s all for the greater glory of the RADICAL Decepticon Empire!”
“Soundwave!” yelped Sonic and Amy.
“We gotta stop him!” declared Sonic.
“Lord Larkentha, thank you for the meal,” bid Arsha as she got up.
“The High Sky will assist you,” offered Lardeth. “We can beam survivors aboard if necessary.”
“And if Davros is involved with a Decepticon,” supplied Hiroki, “you’ll need our help.”
“Davros is here?!” yelped Lacey.
“I’ll take you up on that offer,” answered Arsha.
“Lacey and I have long paid our tab off,” supplied Jason. “We’re coming with you.”
“Let’s get going, then,” declared Lardeth. They headed off to the Larkenthas’ castle, informed the Autobots watching Buzzsaw about the situation, then they all boarded the ships and shoved Buzzsaw’s box into the Endeavor’s cargo hold. The Larkenthas and Enfanti stayed behind, wishing them luck as the ships took off and sped towards a Realmgate.