G1. I have a big soft spot for Smokescreen. The thought of him hitting up Vegas for a solo mission makes me laugh. Short fic, pretty unserious. I'd say very unserious. ---- Was he a terrible person for prioritising a call to his bookie over reporting in to his commanding officer? Yeah, thought Smokescreen, as he watched a security guard pull a bra from the bottom of the hotel fountain. He probably was. That was a detail he might not want to include in his next report. ‘Arrived in Las Vegas. Achieved primary objective in the city. Lost two thousand in local currency on horse race. Initiated secondary objective by contacting Autobot Commander in Oregon.’ The desert sun beat down on the blue and red Datsun where he sat parked on the street in front of the Silver Rock Hotel. A row of palm trees offered him flimsy shade, a little shelter from the heat. Contrails streaked across the sky, high above the towering apartments and neon signs. Amazing. All those aircraft, those big jet airliners, flying in and out of the city. Every day. Every hour. It never stopped. Vegas never stopped. It was just his kind of town. Smokescreen sighed and shook the dust off his windshield with a flick of his wipers. None of the humans strolling past him on the sidewalk seemed to notice. That was good. It was better not to draw attention. He’d already been carjacked out of the parking lots of two separate casinos. The first time it happened he’d only needed to slip quietly out of a warehouse after night had fallen. Break the lock, nip over the fence. The second time had required… negotiations. He probably shouldn’t mention that in his report either. Whew. The Datsun wearily sank over his tires. It had been a long night. Places to be, people to call. Things to arrange. All on a low tank of gas. What he really wanted to do was return to the hotel’s cool, dark underground parking and lay low for the afternoon, until a red Nevada sunset took the worst of the heat from the air and the Strip’s neon lit up. But first: Fuel. Smokescreen fired up his engine. It sparked to life with a rumbling growl, and he patiently sat against the curb for a moment until his auxiliaries had kicked in. There was just enough juice in his tank to get him where he needed to go. He had a system for this. Unsurprisingly, he found what he was looking for just outside of the Strip. It was staggering down the sidewalk, pausing occasionally to cling to street signs and palm trees. Smokescreen trailed it at a distance, rolling slowly, his tires crunching over the loose grit on the asphalt. When it paused to throw up into a hotel garbage bin he turned smoothly into the parking area in front of the hotel and made his move. “Hey,” he said, lowering his passenger window. “Hey, you! Drunk! Over here.” The man looked around blearily. “What? Who’s talking?” “I am. Over here. Look at me, with my window rolled down. Hi.” “Whoa.” The man rubbed his eyes and staggered over. “The Earth’s magnetic field must have moved. No way am I so hammered that a car is talking to me.” “No, the Earth’s magnetic field has not moved, and yes, you really are that hammered,” said Smokescreen patiently. “Look. You want to make fifty bucks?” The man said nothing. He had bent over and was now drunkenly trying to get a look at the dusty bottom of his undercarriage. “Hey. Hey! Stop that! Do you want fifty bucks or not?” “Yes. Yes! I want fifty bucks.” “Excellent. Look, it’s a very simple deal. We go to a gas station. You stand at the pump and fill my tank, at my expense, and I’ll give you fifty bucks and drive you wherever you want to go. Deal?” “Anywhere?” “Yes, anywhere.” “And you’ve got the cash, right?” “Yes, I’ve got the cash.” The drunk seemed to consider it. “Okay.” He stuck out his hand and, after some muggy deliberation, shook Smokescreen’s side mirror. “Deal.” “Finally.” The driver’s side door of the Datsun swung open. “Climb in. Try not to puke on the seats, please. Aim it out the window if you must.” The drunk staggered around the front of Smokescreen’s hood and crawled inside. He flopped down onto the seat and looked around. “Where’s the money?” “Sit tight, rummy, I’m good for the money. Put your hand on the wheel. I don’t want to get pulled over because it looks like you’re- actually, I don’t think I want to finish that sentence.” The drunk grabbed his wheel. “So, what are you, anyway? One of those military experiments from the airbase? Are you Japanese? You’re Japanese, aren’t you. They’re good with uh wossit. Cars. Robots.” After flicking on his signal and checking for a break in traffic, Smokescreen slowly pulled out onto the street. “I- yes. Yes, I am a Japanese robot.” “That’s awesome. That is awesome, bro. Uhh. Can I listen to the radio?” “You can listen to the radio until the cows come home.” He felt clumsy hands poke at his radio knobs. Thumping bass-beats shook his windows. Smokescreen cringed. Oh holy hell. Strike him down now, lord. Primus, do your stuff. The Nevada sunset turned the sky red, while the jet airliners streaked it with wispy veins of gold. Around the street the neon slowly began to light up, red and purple and orange and yellow, glittering and dazzling like fireworks. Smokescreen wove carefully through the traffic, veering between lines of glowing red tail lights. The drunk beat a tempo on his dashboard with his hands and bobbed his head to the music. It was a little obnoxious, but better than the alternative. Once, one of his drunks had fallen asleep at the wheel, which the Autobot had taken some umbrage to, as had a passing police cruiser. The drunk had been arrested and Smokescreen had been impounded and locked in a yard with a pack of rottweilers that went crazy every time someone walked past the fence. He sighed to himself. Why did he do this again? Because he needed the fuel. And because he had learned that if a human was drunk enough they tended not to remember anything that happened the night before, like being driven around the city by a talking car. He’d picked up that handy tidbit of local lore from a lot of jabbering radio DJs. Apparently this loss of memory was a hilarious thing here on Earth. Ugh. The music was getting on his nerves. He braked as a light turned from green to yellow and heard a car horn scream out behind him. His radio antenna twitched with mounting agitation. Las Vegas. In short time gasoline price signs began to shine on the street ahead, much to Smokescreen’s relief. Ninety-three cents per gallon? That was highway robbery. The gas station looked like a lot of spaceports Smokescreen had travelled through over his career: a big red and white saucer-shaped thing, glitzy, grubby, and not just a little shady. Rows of cars sat parked in front of the store itself, or else waited along its line of fuel pumps. A giant neon dinosaur sign loomed on the roof, its teeth fearsomely bared. For some reason. “All right,” he said as he pulled up to an empty pump. He popped open his glove box. “Money is right there. Fill ‘er up, and take the fifty for yourself. If you go into that store and buy Cheetos I swear I will kill you. That orange stuff is murder to get off my seats.” “Yeah, yeah,” said the drunk. He pushed open the door and fell outside. “Keep your- thingies on. Whoa. Check out that chick in the Sunfire.” “Ugh. Just get the gas!” To his credit, the drunk did a passable job of unscrewing the gas cap and sorting out the pump hose. Got the nozzle figured out without scratching any of Smokescreen’s paint in the process. Picked the cheapest, lowest octane fuel from his list of options too, the Autobot noticed. You bastard. Then he wandered to the next pump over to chat up the pretty girl with the red Sunfire, until Smokescreen had finally had enough and laid down his horn. The drunk spent the next fifteen minutes inside the gas station. What was he doing in there, the frazzled Autobot wanted to shout. Ever so gingerly Smokescreen crept back a little, reversing by inches until he could see through the shop’s big glass windows. His drunk was standing in front of a slushie machine. Now he was going over to the magazine rack. Agh! Eventually the drunk wandered outside again, the gas station door jangling shut behind him. Carried a plastic bag with him, loaded with plastic soda bottles and chips. Slurped on a grape slushie. “Enjoy your shopping?” said Smokescreen acidly when he fumbled back behind the wheel. “Yeah! God! You seen the price of cigarettes these days?” “No! Look! You fulfilled your end of the bargin, and despite my air of quiet infuriation I appreciate that. I said I’d drive you wherever you wanted to go, and I always honour my deals. So where would you like to go?” The drunk squinted his eyes and took a long drag off his straw. “Huh,” he said, and belched. “Liberace Museum.” “I- what?” “You heard me. Liberace. Museum. Let’s go.” Smokescreen was speechless. “Why in god’s name do you want to go there?” he yelled. “Does it matter? I want to drink in some- some culture! So get it in gear! Let’s go, chop-chop! Moshi moshi!” So, Smokescreen drove his drunk to the Liberace Museum. Boy, did he get an education that night.