Where Angels Fear to Tread

by Robert A. Jung (rjung@netcom.com)

Copyright 1994, Robert A. Jung
   
All characters depicted or mentioned in this story are the trademarks
and/or copyrights of their respective holders, except for those that
aren't. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or deceased, is
coincidental, etc., etc. Geez, it's just a story, guys. Don't get too
uptight over it...

The place was, to put it politely, a mess.

It would have been more tolerable if there was some reason, some organization
(no matter how obscure) behind the chaos.  Unfortunately, there wasn't.  Half-
broken appliances sat next to tin scraps and rested in pools of grease.  Pipes
and cords mingled with handles and widgets in piles coated with dust and
grunge and Primus-knew-what-else.  One had the impression that, given enough
time, anything known in the universe -- and several things unknown -- could be
found in the litter.

The scary part was that the owners loved it this way.

Perceptor found a seat-level pile and brushed it off, hoping to actually find
a seat underneath.  When it revealed only more garbage, he gave up and sat on
the mound, feeling it shift slightly beneath his weight.  Around him, the
Junkions swarmed in various activities: assembling something, disassembling
something else, sifting for parts to assemble and disassemble, running and
jumping in various games, and watching television.  Especially watching
television.

The truth was that Perceptor was enjoying himself immensely.  After the
cataclysmic battle against Unicron, Rodimus Prime had recognized the Junkions'
aid by formalizing an alliance with them and the Autobots.  As part of that
pact, some of the Junkions had moved to Cybertron, where they helped in
construction, repair, engineering, and assorted cleaning-up.  Given the amount
of damage that the planet suffered in the final battle, they were never short
on work.  Intrigued with their new allies, Perceptor had suggested that he
spend some time studying them as an amateur sociologist.  As none of the
Autobots knew much about the Junkions, Prime readily agreed.

From his chest compartment, Perceptor pulled out a datapadd and an I/O jack,
then connected the two.  He began dictating his notes, using his voice to help
him focus, and each word appeared instantly on the padd's surface:

"Today I convinced two of the Junkions to assemble a simple device for me.  As
I watched, they quickly built a portable radar unit, using nothing but scraps
and refuse.  The most sophisticated components were a blender motor used to
drive the 'dish', and a battered black-and-white television set that served as
the display.  My examination of the device revealed nothing more complex, and
when I tried to disassemble it, it fell apart in my hands.

"Despite their prolific engineering skills, however, it seems the Junkions are
not aware of the details of their endeavors.  All of their skills are on an
intuitive level.  I was not able to get anyone to explain how the radar
functioned, nor the thought processes they used to create it.  To them, things
work simply by being assembled; my inability to repair the device provided
them with some amusement.

"On the planet Earth, there are humans called 'idiot savants', who are
innately brilliant in one field, while mentally challenged in other respects.
It is clear that the Junkions are very similar.  They are also very agile and
dexterous, allowing them to assemble items very quickly.

"Similarly, they appear to have no interest in science or learning whatsoever
-- chemistry, physics, engineering, astronomy, or anything else.  My attempts
to discuss these subjects with them were met with polite dismissal, and
suggestions that I 'chill out' and join in their activities.  Needless to say,
I did not.

"I was not able to make any further progress in their history or origins.  My
only hypothesis is that the first Junkion was an android created for survival,
and therefore programmed with the ability to repair himself with whatever
materials were available.  Somewhere down the line, this programming led to
the creation of others, thereby populating a 'race'.  Whether they originated
on the planet of junk, or were transported there, I cannot say."

Perceptor stopped recording as one of the Junkions approached.  He couldn't
recall his name because he had none; each of the Junkions simply "knew"
himself and his companions.  The only one with a name was Wreck-Gar, the
leader, and he had a name only because he was the one who responded whenever
someone used it.  Even the term "Junkion" was assigned by the Autobots; what
they called themselves was unknown.

"Is something the matter?" Perceptor asked politely, briefly worried about
breaking some unknown taboo.

The Junkion yelled, "Dude!" then squeaked, "It's time for Cowboy Wally!"

"Oh," Perceptor replied, hiding his disappointment.  Like clockwork, the
Junkions gathered together every evening to watch "The Cowboy Wally Show," a
children's program from Earth.  They were captivated by Wally's antics,
cartoons, and slapstick comedy.  And save for participating with the show,
they also refused to move, speak, or do anything else while it aired.
Perceptor had joined them the first night he began his study; when later
asked, he called the experience "entirely unproductive."

"Table, party of one?" the Junkion asked.  He glanced at the large-screen TV
set across the room, where other Junkions were either seated or arriving.

"Oh, no," Perceptor rapidly said, "I simply must be going."  He slipped the
datapadd back in his chest compartment and stood up.  Heading for the exit, he
continued, "It is, ah, essential for me to go and, er, update my records.
I'll return tomorrow, though."

The Junkion didn't look disappointed at all.  "Aloooooooooooo-ha!" he cried,
joining his peers.  The others turned, waved, and cried "Aloha!" in chorus.

Perceptor waved back with a faint smile.  "Ah-- er, good-bye.  I hope you
enjoy the show."  He darted out the door and headed for the transit elevator.

The Junkion compound was located in the ruins of the main Autobase from the
Cybertronian War.  When the Decepticons were driven from the planet after
Unicron's assault, the returning Autobots built their new headquarters on top
of the original.  For Perceptor, this meant that the peace and quiet of his
own -- clean -- quarters was only fifteen levels straight up.

                                    * * *

Cyclonus was truly impressed with Galvatron.  The mad Decepticon leader,
normally prone to day-long screaming fits and strategy as subtle as a punch in
the nose, was displaying cunning and stealth for a change.  When an informant
sold him a map for an unguarded secret passage running beneath Autobot
Headquarters, everyone cringed.  A full-frontal assault through a rat's maze
of abandoned corridors was a fool's brigade, and the Decepticons were fearful
that their commander would demand an immediate attack.

No, Galvatron surprised them completely.  His plan was to take the route and
plant a massive electromagnetic pulse bomb beneath the Autobots.  Then, after
assembling the entire Decepticon army, they would detonate the bomb and attack
from above.  The EMP blast would disable most of the Autobots and their
defenses, making conquest so much easier.  Cyclonus admitted that he couldn't
think of a better idea, though he secretly wished Galvatron didn't insist on
leading the bomb-planting mission.

Galvatron was in the lead now, reading the map via a soft light on his helm.
Cyclonus was in the middle, with Scourge behind; the two carried the bomb
between them.  Though deactivated, it was still emitting low-level
"maintenance pulses."  Cyclonus had asked why they were necessary, but five
minutes of technobabble from the Constructicons had left him baffled.  The
result was that the normally effortless load required both of them to carry,
as their systems were taxed on the subatomic level.

"This way," Galvatron whispered.  He wedged his fingers between two sliding
doors, long dead, and pried them open with a grunt.

As Cyclonus followed, Scourge hissed, "He's REALLY changed."  Cyclonus nodded
in agreement.  The "normal" Galvatron would have hollered, kicked down the
door, and leaped in with laser cannon blazing.  The two lieutenants were still
not sure what to do with their cautious, rational leader, but they hoped it
would last for a long time.

The three trudged for several more minutes until Galvatron led them to a
massive chamber.  It was three or four times long as it was wide, with a tall,
arched ceiling.  A few pieces of plaster, assorted debris, and crumbled
supports littered the room, while a thick layer of dust covered everything.
"Right here," he said, pointing to an area against one of the walls.  The bomb
was placed where he indicated.

Galvatron consulted his internal guidance systems and surveyed the area with a
satisfied nod.  "Yes ... directly beneath the Autobots.  Here, in the heart of
their camp, I shall drive a dagger into the heart of my foes."

Scourge waited for Galvatron to finish before speaking.  "Shall we set up the
power tap now, great one?"

"Yes, yes.  And the remote-controlled receiver, also.  Quickly..."

                                    * * *

"Hi, kids!" the roly-poly host shouted.

"Hi, Cowboy Wally!" the boys and girls in the audience shouted back.  Unknown
to them, the Junkions on the far-away planet of Cybertron also shouted back.

The room was completely dark except for the bright flickering glow from the
television screen.  Long shadows danced across the litter-filled floor and
calliope music filled the stale air as Cowboy Wally, idol of boys, girls, and
Junkions everywhere, began to sing:

                    "Won't you come and play on the ranch,
                     Won't you come and play with me?
                     It's time for horse-ridin' Western fun,
                     It's time for Cowboy Wall-l-l-ly!"

"YAY!" cried the boys, girls, and Junkions.

Cowboy Wally smiled, teeth glittering softly as his round face suddenly filled
the screen.  Countless parents on Earth (and a certain Autobot scientist on
Cybertron) would have found the sight particularly nauseating, but his eager
viewers everywhere smiled back in mimicry.  "Well, boys and girls, I hope
you've all been good today, because Cowboy Wally has a BIG surprise for you!"

"YAY!" cried the boys, girls, and Junkions.

Cowboy Wally chortled, a friendly, harmless sound.  "Yes, kids, today Cowboy
Wally is going to take you all on a ride in a REAL-LIFE SUBMARINE!"

"YAY!!!" cried the boys, girls, and Junkions, louder than before.  In Spokane,
Washington, a father of three slipped on a pair of headphones and started to
play "Barry Mantilow's Greatest Hits" very loudly.

Cowboy Wally chortled again, then paced briefly before his audience.  "But
first, before we go on our ride, do you know what we're going to do?"

"WHAT?" cried the boys, girls, and Junkions, on the edge of their figurative
seats in excitement.

Wally paused to build up suspense, then shouted, "We're going tokswjtmojel!"

On screen, Cowboy Wally suddenly mutated into a six-armed flat-headed writhing
monstrosity decked out in garishly bright hues (not to say he looked much
better before).  The screen dimmed, then blinked off, then popped on again,
though Wally still looked rather hideous.

"AGHHHHHHHHHH!"  The room was immediately abuzz with the panic of forty-some-
odd Junkions.

Wreck-Gar and three others started swarming over the equipment.  With some
knob-turning, button-pressing, and cabinet-thumping, the situation improved
slightly.  The picture returned in green and mauve, showing a cartoon mouse
clobbering a cartoon cat with an oversized cartoon mallet.  The speaker,
however, emitted only a depressingly monotonic "Wgggggggg."

Wreck-Gar pulled out a small device, pressed a few buttons on its face, then
peered at it in bewilderment.  Facing the assembled audience, he spoke in a
mishmash of voices, "Ooooh!  Like, mondo negatory vibes!  Who ya gonna call?
... to boldly go where no one has gone before!"

A Junkion in the back of the room shot up.  "Hello!" he sang.

The companion on his left was the next to rise.  He sang "Hello!" but in a
higher octave.

A third Junkion stood up next to the other two.  He, too, sang "Hello!" in an
even higher octave.  All three waved, then chorused, "Hello!"

Wreck-Gar nodded, throwing the device to the first.  "May the Force be with
you."

Moe, Larry, and Curly reached up and twiddled nonexistent ears.  "Na-nu, na-
nu!" they replied, then ran out the door.

                                    * * *

A few stray sparks leaped as Scourge tightened the wire bolts.  "Try it this
time," he told Cyclonus.

Cyclonus manipulated a regulator box that he had bolted to the wall.  The bomb
buzzed angrily for a second, then fell silent just as quickly.  "I think
that's it."

"Yes."  Scourge stood up and stepped away from the bomb, staggering a little.
"Bring it up to full power now."

Cyclonus slowly turned the knob on the regulator, listening alertly in case
the bomb buzzed again.  It didn't, and he continued until it would move no
further.  He quickly joined the others.  "It's ready, lord Galvatron."

"Yes ... Lovely.  Now all we need to do is return to our base and assemble our
forces.  Ultra Magnus and that cur Rodimus Prime shall fall beneath my might!
Soon.  Very, very soon..."  Galvatron smiled in the dim light, and the soft
blue glow from the bomb made him even more terrifying.

"Well, pilgrim, what do we have here?"

The Decepticons turned; across the room, three other robots had entered.

"Autobots!" Galvatron shouted.  He fired a blast from his arm-mounted cannon
even as Cyclonus and Scourge drew their firearms.

The Junkions leaped away from the blast.  "It's morphin' time!"  Moe and Curly
doubled over, instantly transforming into motorcycle forms.  As Larry leapt on
Curly, Moe barreled full throttle and rammed a surprised Cyclonus.  "Go go
Power Rangers!"

Larry produced a metal pike and charged Galvatron like a jousting knight.
Galvatron fired at the two, but Curly leaped the blast, and Larry struck him
in the face as they flew overhead.  "Excedrin headache #37!"

Scourge grabbed Moe and flung him away from Cyclonus.  Curly and Larry
separated now, and Curly turned back to robot mode.  He pulled Scourge away
and bounced him off the wall.  "Live from Cybertron, it's the WWF Saturday
Night Slam-Masters!"

Larry, meanwhile, was facing off against Galvatron, smoothly swinging his pike
in wide arcs as he spun and twirled.  "You are skilled, young Skywalker ...
But you are not a Jedi yet!"

Galvatron tried to parry with his cannon, but was forced back from the more
dangerous swings.  "Shut up!"  He leaped back and fired, blowing away Larry's
left arm and sending it clattering across the floor.

By now, Cyclonus had recovered.  He fired his oxidating laser at Curly, and
the blast sent him and Scourge apart.  Moe ran and grabbed Larry's arm, then
started bludgeoning Cyclonus with it.  "Hey, folks!  Let's give him a hand!"
Curly cried.

Scourge charged at Curly with finger-claws extended and cried, "I'll rip out
your prattling tongue!"  Curly sidestepped and grabbed Scourge's arm as he
exclaimed, "Oooh!  Lee Press-On Nails!"  Finishing the twist, he threw the
Decepticon across the room.

Unfazed by the loss of his arm, Larry kept swinging at Galvatron, periodically
inflicting another ding and dent.  "Can't touch this!"

"SHUT UP!" Galvatron yelled and fired again.  Larry easily dodged it, then
countered with a thrust that sent the pike deep into Galvatron's side.  "Two
points!"

Cyclonus kicked Moe violently and sent him crashing into Larry.  As Galvatron
yanked the pike out, the Junkions scrambled to their feet and Moe reattached
his comrade's wayward arm.  "Excellent!" they high-fived, then leaped back
into battle, with Moe charging at Galvatron as Larry took on Cyclonus.

Scourge was climbing to his feet when Curly-as-motorcycle ran over him.
"That's a pain that's gonna linger!"  The Junkion skidded to a stop and
transformed back to robot form, a battle axe in hand.

Galvatron fired at the rampaging Moe and blasted the right leg loose.  Without
stopping, Moe fell to the ground, tumbled, flipped into the air, and kicked
the awe-struck commander in the face.  "Boot to the head!"  Adroitly landing
on one leg, he then pulled out a longsword.  "Ah, it's only a flesh wound,"
he dismissed, hopping after Galvatron with sword swinging wildly.

Larry charged and missed; Cyclonus seized the opportunity by stepping behind,
then hitting him in the back and drove him tumbling away.  Grabbing Larry by
the cuff of the neck, Cyclonus began smashing him against the wall.  "No more
smart remarks, eh, Autobot?" he sneered.

Scourge neatly rolled aside as Curly's axe came smashing down.  "Lord
Galvatron!--" he rolled to avoid another blow, "--we must escape!"  Scourge
pulled out his blaster, only to have Curly neatly shear it in two with a wild
swing.  "It slices!  It dices!  You can cut a tin can with it!" the Junkion
cried in glee.

"NEVER!" Galvatron shouted maniacally as he dodged another swing from Moe.
"Galvatron doesn't run, he DESTROYS!"  With that, he fell to the ground,
turning into his laser cannon form.  A deep red bolt lashed out and struck
Moe, and the Junkion fell in a shower of limbs and pieces.

As Larry bounced off the wall once again, he reached out and plucked the power
lines feeding into the regulator nearby.  In one smooth motion, he spun and
slammed the cables into his opponent, laughing.  "Now you're playing with
power!"  Cyclonus shook and smoked as internal components suddenly overloaded.

Galvatron fired again, and the regulator exploded in a shower of neon sparks.
Cyclonus toppled backward and laid twitching on the ground while Larry leaped
away.  Galvatron transformed back to his humanoid form and ran over to his
lieutenant, while the Junkion headed towards Scourge and Curly.  "Here I come
to save the day!"

Curly didn't need saving, however; he was back in motorcycle mode and was
chasing a panicky, dented Scourge.  Since he didn't watch where he was going
and Larry was oblivious to where he was heading, the three crashed in a comic
tangle of arms and legs.  Curly admonished Larry, "Buckle your safety belt!"
even as he cudgeled Scourge with the hilt of his axe.

Breaking free, Larry transformed to a motorcycle and Curly climbed aboard
while Scourge ran away.  Galvatron kneeled by Cyclonus' side and fired at the
two Junkions, barely missing.  They leaped over a second blast, then skidded
next to Moe's fallen body.  Scourge reached Galvatron's side just as the
Decepticons were pelted by Moe's arms, legs, hands, feet, casings, and torso.
"Death from above!" the quadriplegic Junkion cried.

"Don't these fools EVER shut up?" Galvatron hissed as he ducked a flying arm.
Scourge wisely said nothing; he felt foolish already, and would have fled long
ago if he didn't have to contend with Galvatron's wrath.  Instead he asked,
"What shall we do, my liege?"

"We shall OBLITERATE these Autobots to ATOMS!" Galvatron bellowed, firing
again.  The ground beneath Curly and Larry buckled and ruptured, tossing the
Junkions apart.  Scourge pried Cyclonus' rifle out of his hand and took aim,
praying that it still functioned--

"Dizzy love party!"

The two turned in time to see a dozen Junkions pour into the room from behind
them.  The newcomers immediately overwhelmed the Decepticons, blindly striking
with fists, weapons, and assorted blunt objects while jabbering cryptically:

"Yo, Joe!"
"Be all that you can be!"
"Sonic boom!"
"Punch his ticket!"
"To the Moon, Alice!"
"Fire photons!"
"Do ya want a Hawaiian punch?"
"Daily double!"

"AGGGH!" Galvatron cried, shoving one Junkion away from him only to have two
more take his place.  "How many of you ARE there?"

"Do the math!"
"More than meets the eye!"
"You got the right one, baby!"

Galvatron shook free one Junkion and scattered two more with an ion blast,
then dashed to the opposite door.  "We must escape!"

"But wait, there's more!"
"To be continued!"
"Don't wait, call now!"

Scourge was right on Galvatron's heels, the smoldering and unconscious form of
Cyclonus slung over his shoulder.  The Junkions pursued them on foot and on
wheels, pelting them with more garbage and phrases.

"But I have so much love to give!"
"Bwak buk buk buk bwak buk buk bwah, bwak buk buk buk buk bwah buk buk bwah!"
"Our operators are ready to serve you!"
"I feel like chicken tonight!"
"Yo!  MTV raps!"

Oblivious to the sensitivities of his leader, Scourge dashed ahead of
Galvatron and squeezed through an open archway.  As Galvatron passed, he
stopped and spun, firing at the ceiling and collapsing it instantly.

The Junkions skidded to a halt to avoid being crushed by the debris.  When the
dust cleared, it was obvious that they were separated from their newfound
playmates.  "Show over!" someone shouted dejectedly.

They returned to the main chamber, where Larry and Curly had already finished
reassembling Moe.  One of the Junkions approached and asked, "Do you have the
item?"  Moe, Larry, and Curly pointed to the bomb.

As one, the Junkions sprang into action.  Five of them mobbed the shattered
regulator box and patched the power lines.  The rest descended on the bomb
like a swarm of locusts, quickly dismantling it to its basic components.  In
under a minute, they were heading home, each with a handful of shiny new
parts.

The television's picture and sound were in perfect order by the time they
returned.  Cowboy Wally beamed to the camera, speaking suspensefully.  "Okay,
kids.  It's the moment you've all been waiting for!  Do you know what's next?"

"SUBMARINE RIDE!" cried the boys and girls in the audience.

"That's right!" Wally smiled, "It's time to go ride on a gen-u-ine submarine!"

"YAY!" cried the boys, girls, and Junkions.  The room thundered with their
delight.

                                    * * *

Back at Decepticon Headquarters, Galvatron continued to fume.  "...rip out
their throats!  All of them, yes!  I'll dip them in acid -- no, I shall rend
them through a metal press -- no, no!  I shall dip them in acid AND rend them
through a metal press!  YES!  I will smash each of them into bite-sized
scraplets, stomp them beneath my heel, and they will never utter another
phrase ever again!  I'll smash them and bash them and crush them and break
them and..."

Scourge turned to Cyclonus, who was lying on a repair gurney, and shrugged.
"Well, it was nice while it lasted."

"...lock them in shackles, brand them with hot irons, and..."


                                   THE END
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