Broken 90. 100. 110. 120. 130. 140 miles per hour. It didn’t matter how fast Breakdown drove; he couldn’t escape it, any of it. He couldn’t escape the optic sensors and eyes that followed him everywhere he went, even when he told himself that they weren’t there. He couldn’t escape the insanity or the fatalism or the competitiveness of his brothers, no matter how upset it made him, and he couldn’t escape Motormaster, not his fists or his words. Worthless. Useless. Coward. Freak. His leader had pounded those words into his CPU since the moment he had come online, and he was sure of their veracity. He was a useless, worthless coward, and his fear of the eyes certainly qualified him as a freak. But the fact that his leader’s taunts were true didn’t take the sting out of them. 150. 160. 170 miles per hour. He was flying past human structures, but his speed wasn’t enough and his memories caught him with ease. The Stunticons hadn’t performed well on their latest mission, not well at all, and, predictably enough, Motormaster had been furious. And when Motormaster got furious, well, bad things happened. The minute they had made it back to their quarters (after a furious scolding from Megatron, during which Breakdown had thought that he might die of sheer terror), Motormaster had grabbed Breakdown, dragged him into his room, which was substantially larger than Breakdown’s own, and then locked the door. He had blamed Breakdown for the failure of the mission, blame that Breakdown was sure he deserved, and had then proceeded to pound Breakdown so badly that he was currently half-blind and missing his lower left arm (which, in this mode, was his left car door). Business as usual for Motormaster. But this time, he hadn’t stopped there. If you ever fail me again, I’ll put you on display for all those flesh creatures to stare at! Breakdown whimpered, even though the threat had been made several hours ago. It was that horrible. After delivering his awful ultimatum, Motormaster had thrown Breakdown out of his room and thundered off, probably to discipline one of the other Stunticons. Once he had left, Breakdown had fled the undersea headquarters of the Decepticons. Upon reaching land, he had transformed into vehicle mode, and he had been driving nonstop ever since. He had no fuel, no friends, and no plan, but all of those minor details paled before the sheer terror he felt at the thought of Motormaster and the eyes. He had to keep driving. Suddenly, a small form darted out in front of him. Breakdown slammed on his brakes. He had no desire to hit something and then get infected with some disgusting organic disease! Much to his surprise, when he got a closer look, he found that the small form in question was not one of the strange, brown-furred, four-legged creatures that Wildrider hit with such regularity, but instead seemed to be a small, female flesh creature. She must have been sent to spy on him! He was going to die, and he wasn’t even five months old! Once the immediate burst of paranoia subsided, Breakdown realized that the female flesh creature wasn’t staring at him. In fact, she was sobbing and didn’t seem to notice him at all, so maybe she wasn’t a spy. Maybe she was just upset. Much to his surprise, he felt a pang of sympathy, something Decepticons weren’t supposed to feel towards each other, let alone humans. At least, that was what Motormaster had told him. But then, he hated Motormaster and was running away from him, so maybe sympathizing with another living being-even a human-wouldn’t be such a bad thing. With this in mind, he decided that he might as well introduce himself, and he transformed to robot mode. The small, female flesh creature turned around at the noise, but, much to Breakdown’s relief, she didn’t look directly at him. “W-what are you?” “I’m...I’m a Cybertronian, one of those alien robots that turn into vehicles,” he explained. His companion seemed to accept this, probably because she’d seen the Autobots on the news. “I’m Harriet. I’m eight years old,” the small, female flesh creature said. She still sounded very upset, and it occurred to Breakdown that flesh creatures this small usually had their creators with them. Where were hers? Had she lost them, and that was why she was upset? “M-my name is Breakdown. I’m four months old. Are you lost?” Harriet shook her head. “No. Mom isn’t very happy right now, so I decided to get out of the house for awhile,” she replied. Something about the way she said it was hauntingly familiar to Breakdown-but why? Certainly he had nothing in common with the small female flesh creature-Harriet, her designation was Harriet-so what was it reminding him of? Out of curiosity, he took a closer look at Harriet. She had big brown eyes (that thankfully still weren’t looking at him), black hair that hung primarily from two tufts on either side of her head, and darker skin than the humans that he’d seen with the Autobots. He was male, about ten feet taller than her, made of metal, and predominantly blue and white. What about her and what she had said was familiar to him? Just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, he looked at her again, and this time he noticed that the area around her left eye was swollen and puffy-looking, and that her right arm was covered in strange-looking markings that vaguely resembled the dents he got when Motormaster pounded him. Then it hit him. Harriet had an injured arm and an injured eye, and had left her home because her mother (he knew from sitting through endless human children’s shows with Wildrider that that was what humans called their female creators) was angry. He had a missing arm and a broken optic, and he had left Decepticon Headquarters, the only home he had ever known, because Motormaster, his leader, was angry. And Motormaster wasn’t just his leader, he was also his oldest brother. Harriet was familiar to him because they were both running away from someone who was supposed to care about them! But should he tell her that? If he did, she might use it against him somehow! However, despite his paranoia, he couldn’t help but hope that maybe, just maybe, it would be okay to tell her how similar they were. After all, he was bigger and faster than she was. If she tried to hurt him, he could easily get away from her long before she could get any other humans to disassemble him or something. With that in mind, he steadied himself, then said, “I left where I live because someone was angry, too.” At that, Harriet looked at him directly for the first time, and he winced. Why did she have to stare like that? “Really?” she asked. She didn’t sound angry, but you never knew. “Y-y-yes. My l-leader, Motormaster, was upset with me because I messed up, so I ran away,” he explained. He could feel his body convulsing with fear, and he hoped that Harriet wouldn’t notice his cowardice and use it to hurt him. “What did he do?” she asked. Breakdown was surprised that Harriet had to ask. Wasn’t everyone punished for messing up with beatings? “Who, M-Motormaster? N-nothing I d-d-didn’t deserve. I n-never do anything right, and besides, he’s the leader of our team. He can’t make mistakes,” Breakdown replied. “Is he the reason you’re missing an arm and one of your eyes looks all funny?” Breakdown felt another spurt of panic. She knew he was weak! Why had he thought that this was a good idea? “Y-y-yes.” Motormaster was right, he was a worthless coward. He couldn’t even hide his weakness from a flesh creature! “Wow, you must’ve done something really bad. What’d you do to get him so angry?” “D-d-do? I messed up our mission and made Motormaster l-l-look bad in front of Megatron! He’s my oldest brother. It’s m-m-my job to make sure he looks good!” Harriet looked at him curiously, and he winced. Why, oh why did she have to look at him? “How did you mess up the mission?” Breakdown was momentarily stunned by that question. How had he messed up the mission? Motormaster hadn’t been very clear on the specifics. Motormaster was never very clear on the specifics, but it didn’t matter, because he was Breakdown’s leader and his oldest brother and so he could do whatever he wanted. “I...I d-don’t know. But Motormaster is always right, so I must’ve done something.” “Your brother sounds a lot like my mom,” Harriet remarked, sounding upset again. Breakdown struggled to ignore the fact that she was staring at him, gathered up all his remaining courage, and looked her in the eye for the first time. “D-does your “mom” hit you like Motormaster hits me?” Harriet nodded, and then burst into tears again. Breakdown felt like crying, too, but his memories of Motormaster beating him for daring to show weakness and Drag Strip sneering at him for “crying like a newbuilt Autobot” kept him from doing anything of the sort. Instead, he just said, “I-I’m sorry,” although he wasn’t sure what, exactly, he was sorry for. Adding his problems to hers? The fact that they were both so worthless that even their own family members hurt them? Being witness to her show of weakness? His inability to show his own? “Why? It’s my fault. If I was a better daughter, she wouldn’t be so angry all the time,” Harriet said. Her statement was like an echo of his own, and, for perhaps the first time in his relatively short life, Breakdown felt a spurt of hope. If she was enough of a failure to be punished just like him, maybe she wouldn’t mind being his friend. “Well, since we’re both running away f-from home, m-maybe we could run away t-together,” he suggested. Harriet looked up at him in surprise. “Are you sure you want me to come with you? Mom says I’m not very good company.” “Don’t worry, I won’t mind. I’m not very good company either,” Breakdown replied. It didn’t matter that she was staring at him. It didn’t! “Well, okay, I guess. It’ll be harder for Mom to find me if I’m with you, at least,” Harriet said quietly. With that, Breakdown transformed back into his Lamborghini mode and lifted up his right door to allow her to get inside. Harriet looked at him in confusion, and he winced. “I’m not old enough to drive,” she said, puzzling Breakdown. He drove all the time, and he was much younger than she was. Why couldn’t she drive? “You aren’t?” he asked. “No, and if you really are four months old, neither are you. You have to be at least fifteen years old to drive. But if you’re an alien, maybe age works differently for you. No human four-month-old can walk and talk, and you can, so maybe you’re old enough to drive, too. Even if you can drive, though, I’m a human, and an eight-year-old human is too young to drive. It’ll look weird if I’m in the driver’s seat.” “B-but y-you can’t sit on the other side! I d-don’t have a d-door on that side, and you might fall out!” Breakdown protested. Did Harriet have a death wish? “I guess you’re right about that, and, hey, maybe no one will notice,” she replied. With that, she climbed inside, and he shut the door as she put on his seatbelt. As soon as that happened, he took off again, and she screamed. “What’s wrong?” “You’re going, like, 115 miles above the speed limit! If you hit something at this speed, I’ll probably be killed, and even if you don’t, we’ll definitely attract attention if you drive like a crazy person!” Harriet snapped. “Speed limit?” Breakdown asked, utterly confused. What was a speed limit? “Yeah, the speed limit. You know, that thing that’s posted on road signs so you know how fast you’re supposed to drive?” So that’s what those funny signs with the numbers on them were for! He knew Drag Strip had been wrong when he’d said that they represented points awarded to whatever vehicle reached them first! “H-how fast am I supposed to be driving?” he asked, not having seen one of those signs for a while and unused to paying attention to them. “Fifty-five miles per hour,” Harriet replied. Breakdown winced. That slow? Motormaster would catch up with him easily if he went at that speed! Then again, Motormaster certainly wouldn’t expect him to be driving that slowly, so maybe it would throw him off his track! Harriet had said that obeying the speed limit would make them less noticeable, after all. With that in mind, he slowed down to fifty-five miles an hour and tried to ignore the fact that that was slower than he had ever driven in his (admittedly rather short) life. “That’s better. Thanks,” Harriet said. Breakdown would have smiled had he been in robot mode. He’d never had someone thank him before! “Y-you’re welcome,” he replied. This having a friend thing was kind of nice, even if the friend was a flesh creature. He turned on his radio, tuned into that one station that Dead End liked, the one that played music without words, and tried to relax a little. For a few minutes, it worked, but then Harriet let out another shriek. “W-what is it?” he asked, panicked. Had Motormaster found them? Or Harriet’s mother? Oh, no! They were both going to die a painful death! “You just ran that red light!” “So?” he asked. “So? Do you want to get into a crash?” “N-no, but I’m a lot tougher than a normal car, and I have a built-in forcefield. We’ll be fine,” Breakdown replied. “But the people in the other car won’t be! Besides, running red lights and stop signs will get attention, and then we’ll have to go back home!” Breakdown had to reluctantly concede the point. While he had certainly gotten into his fair share of crashes, he didn’t revel in them the way that Wildrider, Drag Strip, and Motormaster did. They were so loud and messy, and, as Harriet had pointed out, they definitely attracted attention. He didn’t want to do anything that might lead Motormaster to him and his new friend. “Okay, I won’t do that again. Is there anything else that I probably shouldn’t do if I want to avoid attention?” he asked. “Don’t cut people off, stop at crosswalks, and don’t drive past any red signs with the word “stop” on them,” Harriet replied quickly. Breakdown would have frowned had he been in robot mode. Human drivers sure had to follow a lot of rules; rules that he and his brothers were always breaking. No wonder they were always stared at on the highway! “Got it,” Breakdown said, hoping that he could remember not to break any rules that would bring him attention and make the humans stare at him. After driving for a few minutes, he realized that his new friend was being oddly quiet. Had she malfunctioned? Was she carrying a virus that would infect him? Then she yawned, and he realized that she was simply tired. “Y-you can recharge if you want. I think I’ll remember all the rules,” he told her, and not long after, she was making noises that sounded similar to the noises that Wildrider’s engine made when he was in recharge. After about an hour of driving and listening to Dead End’s wordless music, he felt himself getting tired, and he pulled himself off the road. Although part of him wanted to keep going, he knew from watching Wildrider that falling into recharge while driving resulted in pain, both from driving off cliffs and from Motormaster. Not long after, he too fell into recharge. He was woken up the next day by Harriet honking his horn. After a few brief seconds of utter panic, he remembered what had happened yesterday and calmed down slightly. “I’m awake! I’m awake!” he exclaimed. “Sorry about waking you up like that, but I wasn’t sure how to get your attention. Can you let me out real quick? I need to go to the bathroom, and I don’t want to do that in you,” Harriet said. Breakdown wasn’t entirely sure what humans did in the bathroom, but he definitely did not want to find out. He rapidly opened his door and she climbed out. About five minutes later, she returned, climbed back inside, and strapped herself back in. “Okay, let’s hit the road,” she said as he closed his door. Breakdown winced. Unbeknownst to Harriet, she had accidentally used one of Motormaster’s orders, and it brought back very unpleasant memories. Unless it hadn’t been an accident, and she was actually helping him capture him! Oh, wait. Motormaster hated humans. He would never work with one. That didn’t make any sense. Sometimes, being paranoid was really annoying. He drove back onto the road, making sure to stay under the speed limit, and, soon enough, they came upon another human town. Suddenly, Harriet made a noise that sounded like Drag Strip’s engine. “W-what was that?” he asked. Harriet smiled, looking embarrassed. “That was my stomach. I guess I’m a little hungry. Could we go through a drive-thru?” She explained. Breakdown was relieved. He knew what a drive-thru was, mainly because Wildrider had once tried to get a Happy Meal from one under the mistaken impression that human restaurants sold fuel that Cybertronians could consume, so he didn’t have to ask what it was. “I guess so,” he replied. About a minute later, he pulled into the parking lot of the humans’ fuel restaurant and slid into the drive-thru line. He rolled down his window, and Harriet ordered an “Egg McMuffin” as soon as they made it to the computer that took the meal orders. A few seconds later, before they could drive up to the first window, Harriet gasped. “I forgot I was in the driver’s seat! They’re gonna think it’s weird if we pull up there and a kid’s in the driver’s seat!” Breakdown groaned. He’d forgotten about that, too, mostly because he still didn’t really understand why Harriet couldn’t drive. What were they going to do now? One of the cars behind them honked, and Breakdown would have jumped if he’d been in robot mode. He hated getting honked at, and in sheer panic, he drove up to the window. “That’ll be $3.99,” the flesh creature at the window said. Harriet reached into her pocket and pulled out several green pieces of paper, which she then handed to the cashier. “Okay, you can go on to the-what’s a kid your age doing in the driver’s seat?” “Well, I don’t live that far away, and the car drives itself,” Harriet said quickly. Breakdown was impressed by how quickly she’d come up with that explanation. “Wow. You have a self-driving car? Your parents must be rich. Have a nice day,” the flesh creature said. With that, Breakdown drove up to the next window, relieved that they hadn’t blown their cover (if a bit unnerved by how the flesh creature in the window had stared at him). The flesh creature at the next window gave Harriet a bag. Breakdown closed his window and drove back to the open road, where there were fewer nosy flesh creatures to stare at him and his new friend, while Harriet pulled out what Breakdown assumed must be the “Egg McMuffin” and started to eat it. Breakdown turned the radio back on and tried to forget how close Motormaster probably was to catching up to him and killing him in painful ways. “Does your fuel taste good?” Breakdown asked after a few minutes. “It’s pretty good. I’d offer to let you try it, but you probably don’t eat normal food.” “No. We run on energon, or, if that fails, gasoline,” Breakdown agreed. “When are you gonna need to eat? I’ve got some money, but not enough to pay for gas.” “I can probably go for another day or two, but after that, I won’t be able to drive anymore. It uses up too much fuel,” Breakdown replied. Truth be told, he hadn’t exactly planned ahead for what to do when he ran out of fuel. He certainly couldn’t steal the gas like he and the other Stunticons did when they were together, because that would draw too much attention to himself, but he didn’t have any human money, and apparently Harriet didn’t have enough to buy gas. What were they gonna do? He was going to run out of gas, and then Motormaster would find him, and then he and his friend would die horrible deaths! Why, oh why had he not thought to bring an energon cube or two with him? Motormaster was right, he was an idiot! “Well, I’m sure we can get pretty far from my mom and your brother in two days, and after that maybe we can hide out for awhile until we come up with a way to get you more energy,” Harriet said optimistically. Breakdown wasn’t so sure about that, but he didn’t exactly have a better plan, so he just said, “Okay,” and continued driving. About two hours later, a very familiar-looking trio of vehicles appeared in Breakdown’s rearview mirror. One was a grey Ferrari, one was a maroon Porsche, and one was a yellow race car. Breakdown whimpered. If three of his brothers had found him, Motormaster couldn’t be far behind. He was going to die, and worse, so was his friend! “Gangway! YAHAHAHA!” Wildrider yelled as he flew past Breakdown, with Drag Strip close behind and obviously fuming at not being in the lead. Dead End, for his part, slowed down and matched pace with Breakdown. “What are you doing out here? When Motormaster learns that you tried to run away, he’ll make sure that we will all meet our doom even earlier than we would have otherwise,” he said. “Who’s that?” Harriet asked. “Why do you have a flesh creature in you?” Dead End asked at the same time. “Harriet, t-t-this is Dead End, m-m-my second-oldest brother. Dead End, this is Harriet. I’m h-h-helping her run away from her mom, who beats her up just like Motormaster beats up us,” Breakdown replied nervously. “What’s the point? Even if she does successfully escape her creator, humans have an incredibly short life span. She practically has one foot in the grave already, and that’s assuming that the heat death of the universe doesn’t come and kill us all,” Dead End said. Breakdown didn’t really know how to respond to that, especially since he had no idea what the heat death of the universe was. It sounded frightening, though, and he started whimpering. He didn’t want his friend to die, and he didn’t want to die, either! Suddenly, Wildrider and Drag Strip turned around and drove back toward Breakdown and Dead End, apparently having realized that something out of the ordinary was going on. “What you got there, Breakdown?” Drag Strip asked. “I think it’s a pineapple,” Wildrider said authoritatively. “It don’t look like a pineapple to me,” Drag Strip replied. “That’s ‘cause you don’t watch enough TV. If you did, you’d know that Breakdown has a pineapple. Or possibly a unicorn,” Wildrider said. “Unicorns aren’t real, you moron.” “How do you know?” “Because, unlike you, I’m not a nutjob,” Drag Strip sneered. Harriet gave Breakdown a curious look, and he shuddered slightly. Why did she have to look at him? “Who are they?” she asked. “The y-y-yellow race car is my y-y-younger brother, Drag Strip, and the g-g-grey and red Ferrari is my youngest brother, W-W-Wildrider,” Breakdown replied. “I would advise you not to introduce the flesh creature to them. They would undoubtedly corrupt her,” Dead End said dryly. Breakdown figured that he was probably right about that, but what could he do? If they wanted to talk to Harriet, he didn’t think he could stop them. Suddenly, Drag Strip darted out in front of them and cut both Breakdown and Dead End off. “I knew it! Breakdown doesn’t have a pineapple, he’s got a flesh creature!” he triumphantly announced after studying Breakdown’s interior for a few seconds. “Well, flesh creatures look a little like pineapples,” Wildrider replied defensively. “No, they don’t!” “Yes, they do! They both have tufts on the top!” “Do not!” “Do too!” “Do not!” “Do too!” “Do not!” “Do too!” “SHUT UP!” Breakdown yelled, surprising both himself and his brothers. His anxiety had been building during their argument, but he hadn’t expected it to explode like that, and clearly, neither had they, as they all stopped in their tracks. “Do not,” Drag Strip muttered quietly. “I’m n-n-not going back to Motormaster, and I’m not abandoning my friend! You c-c-can’t make me!” Breakdown exclaimed. “Breakdown, really. You’re being unreasonable. If Motormaster has to drag you back to base, it will end badly for all of us, and, even if you somehow manage to stay out of his reach, Megatron will brand you a deserter and order your execution. Either way, you’re doomed. I loathe living under Motormaster’s heel just as much as you do, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We were created to suffer and eventually die a painful death. Why fight it? It will only result in more pain,” Dead End replied mournfully. “Yeah, we all hate Motormaster, but running away like a wuss ain’t gonna save you from him,” Drag Strip added. Breakdown whimpered. He didn’t want to leave Harriet alone, but his brothers did have a point about how Motormaster would probably hunt him down and make him wish he was dead if he didn’t return of his own accord. He didn’t want to be put on display for the flesh creatures to stare at or be reminded of how he deserved to be beaten to within an inch of his worthless life again, and if Motormaster learned that he’d run away, that’s what would happen! “Can I hold your flesh creature, Breakdown? Can I? Can I? Please?” Wildrider asked. “NO!” Harriet yelled, sounding terrified at the prospect. Breakdown couldn’t blame her for that, as Wildrider had a tendency to hug and squeeze and shake things that he found “cute”, and that tendency had ended badly for the tiny, bouncy, furry thing he had picked up three days ago. He winced as Wildrider transformed to robot mode and knelt down to look in his window. “Come on out, fleshy. I’m not gonna hurt you. I just wanna play,” Wildrider said, in a tone that suggested that he was trying-unsuccessfully-to coo. Instead, it made him sound a bit like the chainsaw-wielding serial killer from the first and last human horror film Breakdown had ever seen. “Get away from me, you psycho!” Harriet yelled. Breakdown whimpered. He didn’t want Wildrider to hurt his new friend, but he wasn’t strong enough to fight Wildrider. He was about to panic when an idea hit him. “Wildrider, look! It’s a p-p-pegasus!” Breakdown announced. “Where?” Wildrider asked. As soon as he looked away, Breakdown transformed into his robot mode, knocking his younger brother to the ground in the process. Harriet was now sitting in his hand, and she looked slightly uncomfortable in her new position. Breakdown understood why. He wasn’t fond of heights, either, though he much preferred them to being stared at. Wildrider, for his part, stood up and started looking around, probably in an attempt to find the pegasus. “Good job, Breakdown! Now, how do we lose them?” Harriet asked. “I-I’m not sure we c-c-can. Dead End’s good at t-t-tracking, Drag Strip’s f-f-faster than I am, and W-W-Wildrider d-d-drives like c-c-crazy,” Breakdown replied defeatedly. “But if we don’t try, you’ll go back to being beat up by Motormaster, and I’ll either have to go back to my mom or your creepy brothers will kill me!” Harriet exclaimed. Suddenly, Drag Strip transformed into his robot mode and started preening. “Did you hear that? Breakdown’s flesh creature thinks I’m scary!” he boasted. Dead End transformed a few seconds later and let out a long, weary sigh. “A tiny flesh creature finds you, a giant robot, to be frightening. Truly, that will matter when our sparks fade out painfully as the great conveyor belt of life carries us all to a mass grave,” he replied, sounding utterly disinterested with the whole situation. “Aww, shut it,” Drag Strip snapped angrily. Breakdown frantically looked around for a potential exit, but he saw none. His brothers surrounded him on three sides, and the fourth side was a rather sharp cliff edge. What was he going to do? Why couldn’t he be smart, like Dead End, or crazy, like Wildrider, or fast, like Drag Strip, or terrifying, like Motormaster? Maybe if he was, he would be able to save himself and his friend. But no, he was the useless, worthless coward. All he was good for was running away, and now he couldn’t even do that! “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Wildrider sing-songed, evidently still looking for the nonexistent pegasus. “Breakdown, I can tell that you have become fond of that flesh creature, but if she stays with you, she is doomed to an even earlier demise than other members of her species. Do you really think Motormaster will show her any mercy if she’s with you when he finds you?” Dead End said. Breakdown frowned. He hadn’t really thought about that, but Dead End was right. If Motormaster saw Harriet, he’d probably squish her! He didn’t want her to get squished! “For once, End is right. You need to ditch the flesh creature and come back with us before Motormaster starts pounding on us all,” Drag Strip added. Breakdown whined. He didn’t want to leave Harriet, but he didn’t want Motormaster to hurt her or him or his brothers, either. What was he supposed to do? “I looked, but I couldn’t find the pegasus. So can I hold the flesh creature now? I promise I’ll take good care of it!” Wildrider asked. “NO!” Breakdown and Harriet exclaimed, more or less in unison. Wildrider frowned. “Please please please please please? Pretty please with a cherry on top? I’ll be your best friend!” Wildrider asked. “Like bein’ friends with you is some kind of reward,” Drag Strip said. “Hey! I’m a great friend!” “Are not!” “Are too!” “Are not!” “Are too!” “Are not!” “Are too!” “QUIET! I… I’ve got an idea!” Breakdown yelled, surprising himself again. “Are not,” Drag Strip muttered. “Is your idea for us to shoot rainbows out of our mouths?” Wildrider asked. Harriet let out a laugh that she covered with a cough. “N-no. I t-think we should run away t-t-together,” Breakdown said. “Whaddaya mean?” Drag Strip asked. “I m-m-mean that we should leave M-M-Motormaster and the Decepticons and s-s-strike out on our own. That way, we won’t g-g-get beat up anymore, not by Megatron or Motormaster or the Autobots, and we won’t have to do what Motormaster t-t-tells us anymore,” Breakdown said. Drag Strip frowned thoughtfully. “What’s the point? Even if we tried, we couldn’t possibly defeat Motormaster, let alone the entire Decepticon army,” Dead End said. “How do you know that? Have you tried?” Harriet asked. “Well, no, but-” Dead End began. “You know, End, they have a point. I’m faster than Motormaster-heck, we’re ALL faster than him! Why can’t we just keep outrunnin’ him?” Drag Strip interrupted. “Because if we try, we will run out of energy and die a horrid death,” Dead End replied. “So, why don’t you hide from him?” Harriet asked. “Attempting that would be an exercise in futility. We are too large to hide in human structures,” Dead End replied, and Breakdown had another idea. “Well, if we c-c-can’t hide that way, why not change our car modes? Motormaster will be l-l-looking for a Ferrari, a race car, a Porsche, and Lamborghini. If w-w-we aren’t those c-c-cars, he won’t be able to f-f-find us!” he exclaimed. “But I like my alt mode!” Drag Strip exclaimed. “Is staying a race car w-w-worth being beaten up and called a worthless loser by Motormaster?” Breakdown asked. Spending time with Harriet was giving him lots of good ideas! “Well, no, but-” “Then let’s d-do it!” “Ooh, can I be an ice cream truck?” Wildrider asked. “Of c-c-course,” Breakdown replied. As long as it wasn’t covered in optic sensors, Wildrider could scan whatever he wanted. “Before you start making plans, I feel it important to point out that I never agreed to this idea. It will prove futile, just like all our endeavors to improve our wretched lives,” Dead End protested. Drag Strip rolled his optics. “Don’t start with that “woe is me” junk again, End. I think that this can work. After all, I’m involved in it, and I never lose!” he exclaimed. “Besides, you don’t really want your brothers to leave you by yourself, do you?” Harriet asked. Breakdown smiled at her, proud that she had come up with a way to convince Dead End to join them after only a few minutes with him. Dead End sighed. “Very well. I will join you in this hopeless endeavor, if only so I do not have to perish alone. But when we meet our inexorable demises, don’t say that I did not warn you.” “What’s inexorable mean?” Wildrider asked. “I don’t think it means anything. He just made it up to sound smarter than us,” Drag Strip replied. Breakdown wasn’t sure what inexorable meant, either, but he was pretty sure Drag Strip was wrong about it not being a real word. Dead End didn’t care enough about what anybody else thought to try to look smarter than them by making up a word. “Think whatever you want. It will matter nothing in the end, when we are all cut down by the great equalizer,” Dead End said mournfully. Harriet shot Breakdown a quizzical look. “Is he always this gloomy?” she whispered. “P-p-pretty much, yeah.” Harriet sighed. “Oh, boy. Hanging out with your brothers is going to be a pain, isn’t it?” “P-p-probably. But I’ll keep you s-s-safe from them.” Breakdown had no idea how he was going to do that-he’d never won a fight in his life-but he wasn’t going to let his only friend get hurt by anyone, not even his brothers. “Hey, Breakdown! Are we gonna scan our new alt modes or what?” Wildrider asked. “I g-g-guess so,” Breakdown replied. Wildrider whooped with glee, and he and Drag Strip transformed into vehicle mode and took off like a shot. “Hey Wildrider, I bet I can scan a new vehicle mode faster than you!” That was the last thing Breakdown heard from either of them before they moved out of his range of hearing. “A-a-are you r-r-ready to move on, Harriet?” “As I’ll ever be,” Harriet replied. Breakdown gently set her on the ground and transformed into vehicle mode, then opened his door to let her inside. She climbed in and fastened her seat belt, and then Breakdown shut and locked the one door he still had. Dead End transformed as well soon after, and they took to the road together at a much more sedate (and, as he had recently learned, more legal) pace. When they arrived at the nearest human settlement, he and Dead End scanned their new alt modes: a Honda Sedan and an Audi, respectively. Then a yellow Dodge Challenger drove up to them. “What took ya so long?” Drag Strip asked. “A knowledge of the pointlessness of racing to my destination as though it will vanish if I do not arrive as quickly as possible,” Dead End replied. “Whatever. Check out my new set of wheels! It ain’t as fast as my old alt mode, but it still looks good,” Drag Strip said. “G-g-good. You picked a new alt mode and it d-d-doesn’t look like you attracted too much attention. W-w-where’s Wildrider?” Breakdown replied. “Uh, about that-” Drag Strip muttered. Suddenly, Breakdown heard loud screams, and he groaned. How had he forgotten that Wildrider couldn’t be sneaky if his life depended on it? Now Motormaster was going to find them and step on Harriet and chop him and his brothers up into little tiny bits and they were going to die and- “Breakdown, you’ve gotta calm down!” Harriet yelled. “Your flesh creature is right, Breakdown. Stop being such a wuss,” Drag Strip added. “What’s the point? We’re doomed,” Dead End asked. “Shut up! You ain’t helping,” Drag Strip replied. Breakdown just whimpered. He knew that they had to do something, but what? “H-h-harriet, what should w-w-we do?” he asked helplessly. “I don’t know, but we’d better do it fast before he gets on the news or something,” Harriet replied. The news? Breakdown didn’t want to be on the news! If he got on the news, millions of flesh creatures, plus the Autobots and Megatron and Motormaster, would be able to stare at him! They had to find Wildrider and get out of here right now! In a panicked haze, Breakdown drove towards the direction of the screams-and found Wildrider, in robot mode, happily splashing around in a weird giant bowl that had water spraying out of the top. The bowl seemed to be located in the center of the square, although Breakdown wasn’t sure why. “Ow,” Harriet said. Breakdown felt a pang of guilt. He’d been so panicked that he’d totally forgotten that she was inside him. He hoped she wasn’t hurt. “A-a-are you all right?” Breakdown asked. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. If I could survive mom, I can survive a little whiplash. But don’t do it again, okay?” “Okay.” “Oh, hi, Breakdown! Look! The fleshies here have a water park right in the middle of town!” Wildrider exclaimed gleefully. Breakdown sighed. “W-w-wildrider, stop that! You’ll attract the attention of the flesh creatures, and then M-m-motormaster will find us!” he exclaimed. “But I wanna play!” Wildrider whined as Drag Strip and Dead End rolled up next to the weird bowl of water. Drag Strip snorted. “Get out of there, scrap-for-CPUs! You’re gonna get us caught!” he snapped. Wildrider just cackled. “Not gonna. You can’t make me!” Obviously taking that as a challenge, Drag Strip also transformed into robot mode and dragged the struggling Wildrider out of the weird bowl of water, scaring off the remaining flesh creatures in the process and undoubtedly attracting still more attention. Breakdown whimpered. Why did everything go wrong for him? “And now Motormaster will definitely find us,” Dead End said mournfully as Drag Strip and Wildrider transformed into their alternate modes. Surprisingly, Wildrider turned into a BMW rather than an ice cream truck. “I didn’t see YOU getting him out of there,” Drag Strip snapped, as Breakdown desperately tried to come up with a solution for what to do next. Before he could, however, a police interceptor, a police motorcycle, a fire truck, an ambulance, and a rescue helicopter arrived in the square. The motorcycle clearly had no driver. “P-p-protectobots!” Breakdown shrieked as the vehicles converted to their robot forms. In response, Drag Strip and Wildrider quickly reverted to their robot modes and drew their guns. “Where’s the child, Stunticons?” Hot Spot, the leader of the Protectobots, demanded. “Wait, you’re here because of Breakdown’s flesh creature? I thought you showed up because Wildrider was causing the fleshies that live here to panic,” Drag Strip said. Breakdown was just as confused. How did the Protectobots know about Harriet? “We got a call from the mother of a Harriet Taylor about seven hours ago, telling us that Breakdown had kidnapped her daughter, and we’ve been tracking him ever since. The chaos you caused in this town just helped us find him faster,” Streetwise, the police interceptor, explained. “Just give us the little girl, and no one has to get hurt. All we want to do is take her back to her mother,” Groove, the motorcycle, added. Breakdown gasped in horror. Harriet’s mom hurt her! He couldn’t let the Protectobots take her back! He transformed to robot mode, sat Harriet down on the ground, and then pulled out his gun. “N-n-no! I won’t let you take her!” In response, the helicopter-Blades, right?-drew a big gun and walked towards Breakdown menacingly. Breakdown winced, and his hands shook, but he didn’t lower his gun. He couldn’t let his friend get hurt! “All right, ‘Con. No more Mr. Nice Autobot. If you don’t want me to kill you, you’re gonna give me that brat right now,” he growled. “Blades, stand down! We can’t risk the child’s life!” Hot Spot said. Blades scowled, but he lowered his gun and stepped back from Breakdown and Harriet. “Fine. If the Stunticon kills that brat before we can save her, her blood’s on your head, commander,” he said. Much to Breakdown’s surprise, Dead End actually transformed to robot mode at this point and walked towards the Autobots, with a lack of fear that Breakdown envied. Why couldn’t he be that cool under pressure? “I personally couldn't care less about what happens to the flesh creature, but since she is apparently important to Breakdown and to you, you may as well know that she is doomed if you return her to her female progenitor. Granted, as a member of a remarkably short-lived species, she will soon die regardless, but from my understanding of the situation, taking her to her place of origin will only expedite her demise,” he said emotionlessly. First Aid, the ambulance, reacted in alarm to Dead End’s statement, and Breakdown wondered if perhaps Dead End had won one of the Protectobots over to their side. “What do you mean?” the ambulance asked gently. “I didn’t get kidnapped, I ran away!” Harriet exclaimed. The Protectobots started exchanging glances with each other, which thankfully meant they couldn’t stare at him, and then First Aid asked, “Why are you running away?” Harriet started sniffling. “B-b-because my mom d-d-doesn’t like me! She’s always telling me that I ruined her life and that I never do anything right, and sometimes she hits me and I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I ruined her life, b-b-but it’s still scary because I never know when she’ll punish me and so I ran away. I figured that if I left, she would be happy and I wouldn’t get hit anymore. I don’t wanna go back home!” she said, sounding like she was trying not to cry. Breakdown winced, trying not to remember his own punishments at Motormaster’s hand and failing miserably. Much to his surprise, the Protectobots, except the helicopter, seemed just as horrified. Why? Motormaster had told him that the Autobots were weak and didn’t punish failures like they should, so they certainly couldn’t know what it was like to be beaten. “Are you saying that your mother abuses you?” Streetwise asked. “Uh, when are we gonna start shooting the Autobots?” Drag Strip demanded at the same time. Wildrider, for his part, seemed to have forgotten about the Autobots entirely and had returned to playing in the strange bowl of water. “We aren’t. They outnumber and outgun us, and so it is in our best interests to avoid antagonizing them further, especially since Breakdown’s flesh creature seems to have pacified them to some degree. We may be doomed, but I am not about to deliberately expedite the process,” Dead End replied. Drag Strip scowled, but he lowered his gun anyway, and the Protectobots turned their attention back to Harriet. “My mom doesn’t abuse me. She only hurts me because I’m bad,” she said. “Harriet, it doesn’t matter what you did. No one deserves to be abused,” First Aid replied. Breakdown stared at him in confusion. Failures had to be punished, didn’t they? Why were the Autobots so adamantly against the idea of punishing bad subordinates? Motormaster had told him that he deserved all the pain he got, and Motormaster was always right, so why did the Autobots seem to disagree? He didn’t like being hurt-he wouldn’t have run away if he had-but that was only because he was such a pathetic failure that he couldn’t even accept his punishments like he was supposed to. But then again, after spending time with Harriet, he didn’t think she deserved punishment, and yet she’d been receiving it anyways, so maybe it was different for flesh creatures. Yeah, that made sense. Humans had weird rules, and that must be one of them. “H-H-Harriet, h-h-he might be right. You’re not l-l-like me. You’re smart and nice and y-y-you don’t deserve to be hurt,” he said to his friend. “Do you really think so?” “I d-d-do,” Breakdown replied. Motormaster would kill him if he found out that he respected a flesh creature, but he couldn’t help himself. She had been nice to him, so he would be nice to her. He wasn’t going to be like Motormaster! Suddenly, he felt an uncomfortable prickling sensation, and he quickly realized that all of the Protectobots, as well as Drag Strip and Dead End, were staring at him! He whimpered in fear and offlined his optics. “A Decepticon with affection for a human?” one of the Protectobots (he couldn’t tell which one from the voices alone) asked. “Don’t look at us. We’re just as surprised as you,” Drag Strip replied. “Breakdown, how did you meet Harriet?” a different Protectobot asked. “I m-m-met her w-w-when I was running away from Motormaster,” Breakdown replied, hoping that the Autobots wouldn’t think he was lying and destroy him for it. “Why were you running away from him?” It was the same voice as the one that had asked him about how he’d met Harriet, and he was now pretty sure that it belonged to First Aid. “Have you seen how ugly Motormaster is? If I had to live with a face like that, I’d run away too,” a third Protectobot said. Drag Strip snickered. “I didn’t run away because Motormaster’s ugly. I r-r-ran away because I’m a coward. I’m so scared of everything that I can’t even accept my punishments from him,” Breakdown explained. “No, you ran away because he hurts you! You told me that he broke your eye and ripped off your arm, and you think he’ll kill you when he finds you!” Harriet said. “That’s because he will kill us when he finds us,” Dead End replied. Breakdown whimpered, knowing that Dead End was right. “You mean if he finds us. Isn’t that right, Wildrider?” Drag Strip asked, clearly unwilling to admit defeat. “Sure!” Wildrider said cheerfully, clearly neither knowing nor caring what his brothers were talking about. “Why would Motormaster want to kill his own troops?” another Protectobot voice asked. “B-b-because we ran away. If he c-c-can’t command us, nobody can,” Breakdown replied weakly, trying not to think about the horrible punishments Motormaster probably had in mind for them. “Indeed. He thrashes us quite soundly when we follow his orders, so it only stands to reason that he will respond to our insubordination by slaughtering us,” Dead End added. “So you’re running away from him because you’re afraid of him?” probably-First Aid asked, sounding shocked. “I’m not afraid of anything! I just don’t like being beaten up and called a loser day in and day out,” Drag Strip replied. “Which is why you beg for his mercy just as often as Breakdown and Wildrider do, I suppose?” Dead End asked him pointedly. “Shut up, End.” “Okay, I’m a little lost here. What exactly did Motormaster do to you that makes you all so eager to get away from him?” the first Protectobot voice-Hot Spot, maybe?-asked. “No matter what we do, h-h-he’s never happy, and when he isn’t happy with us, he tells us that we’re worthless and useless and that he wishes that none of us had been created, and then he beats us so badly that we sometimes have to take each other to the medbay just to stay somewhat functional, and h-h-he’s just mean to us. But I don’t know why you’re concerned about it. Motormaster t-t-told us that we deserve it, and he’s always right,” Breakdown replied. “But you’re his brothers!” probably-Hot Spot exclaimed. “Sadly, kinship is no guarantee of decent treatment. The female progenitor of Breakdown’s flesh creature is proof enough of that,” Dead End said. “And if you need a Cybertronian example, Vortex, Brawl, and Onslaught are Swindle’s brothers, but that didn’t stop him from selling them for spare parts,” Drag Strip added. At this point, enough time had passed for Breakdown to hope that the others weren’t still staring at him, and he onlined his optics again. “Okay, point taken. But if you really are being chased by Motormaster, you certainly can’t keep Harriet. Even if Breakdown means her no harm, Motormaster is probably going to try to kill her, especially if he figures out that she’s Breakdown’s friend. We can’t let you put a human in that kind of danger. I don’t even want to think about you four being in that kind of danger, and you have highly maneuverable vehicle modes and guns!” Hot Spot said. “I promise we’ll keep her safe, though, and we won’t take her back to her mother-not with human hand-shaped bruises on her arms,” First Aid added. “Indeed. We take allegations of child abuse, by humans or otherwise, very seriously, and we will not let this go uninvestigated,” Streetwise said. Breakdown sighed. He didn’t want to have Harriet taken away from him, especially by those whom he had been taught to hate all his life, but as much as he hated to admit it, they had a point. Hadn’t he been worried about what Motormaster might do to Harriet if he found her from the beginning? And what about his brothers? They had very little regard for her safety, and he couldn’t trust them around her. It was probably best that she left with the Protectobots….but she was his only friend! He would miss her! “H-H-Harriet, I t-t-think they’re right. You’d better go with them. If Motormaster shows up, I d-d-don’t think I’ll be able to keep you safe.” “But I don’t want to leave you! You’re the only person who’s ever cared about me!” “I don’t w-w-want you to leave, either, but they-they’re right. Y-y-you’re not safe with me, and I don’t want you to g-g-get hurt by one of my brothers. The Autobots like flesh creatu-er, humans, so you’ll be s-s-safe with them now t-t-that they know not to take you back to your female creato-er, mother.” “Are you sure?” “Y-y-yes. Good-bye, Harriet.” “Good-bye, Breakdown.” Harriet sounded like she was on the verge of tears. Breakdown lowered his gun and stepped away from her, and then she walked to the Protectobots. First Aid knelt and extended his hand. “Hello, Harriet. My name is First Aid, and I’ll be taking care of you. I know I’m not Breakdown, but I’ll do everything in my power to keep you safe and happy.” “Hi.” Harriet replied quietly. Then First Aid transformed and opened one of his doors, and Harriet entered him-on the passengers’ side-and he drove away with her. As soon as they had gone, Hot Spot looked back at Breakdown and his brothers, and Breakdown whimpered. Again with the staring! He hated that! “When you say that you’re running away, does that mean that you’re leaving the Decepticons?” he asked. “Y-y-yes,” Breakdown replied, trying not to start crying. He missed Harriet already! “In that case, I suppose you’re free to go for now. Just make sure that you refrain from breaking traffic laws and causing chaos from now on,” Hot Spot replied. “I can assure you that Breakdown and I will be on our best behavior for the remainder of our probably short lives, and we will endeavor to do our best to keep Drag Strip and Wildrider in line as well, as futile as that attempt will probably prove to be. It is, I suppose, a small price to pay for peace,” Dead End said. “Hey, I can keep myself in line better than anybody!” Drag Strip exclaimed. “No, you can’t!” Wildrider replied, evidently having tuned into the conversation once more. “Yes, I can!” “Can not!” “Can too! “Can not! “Can too!” “Can not!” “QUIET!” Dead End and Breakdown exclaimed in unison. “Can too,” Drag Strip muttered. “Well, in that case, we’ll be leaving. Protectobots, roll out!” With that, the remaining four Protectobots reverted to vehicle mode. “Good luck avoiding Motormaster, dudes,” the motorcycle-Groove-said. Then the four took off and quickly disappeared from view. “Okay, so now what?” Drag Strip asked. “Group hug?” Wildrider suggested. “No way. We may not be Decepticons anymore, but we ain’t Autobots, either,” Drag Strip replied, and Dead End looked relieved at the knowledge that they would not, in fact, have a group hug. Breakdown was about to suggest that they leave this town behind them when he heard a very familiar engine noise and froze in utter terror. A gigantic black Kenworth semi truck barreled into the center of the town, its smokestacks spewing dark smoke, then transformed into a towering robot mode. Motormaster. “Hey, boss!” Wildrider said cheerily, as though he had completely forgotten that Motormaster was undoubtedly furious at them for running away-which, knowing Wildrider, was actually quite plausible. Breakdown let out a frightened squeak. As Dead End liked to say, he and his brothers were doomed. Motormaster backhanded Wildrider, sending him flying out of the strange bowl of water, and Breakdown flinched. Why had he thought running away was a good idea, again? He was nothing but a worthless coward. How had he fooled himself into thinking, even for a minute, that he might be able to escape someone as strong and powerful as Motormaster? “Did you worthless idiots really think that you could run away from me?” “I didn’t. I knew from the beginning that it was futile. Please, just kill me and be done with it,” Dead End replied. Breakdown let out a whine. He and his brothers would die, and it would be all his fault! “Not until you answer a question for me. I ordered you to track Breakdown down and bring him back to me so I could punish him. Instead, you useless excuses for scrap metal decided to join him. Why?” “Because we had no desire to expedite the painful death that you were undoubtedly planning for him,” Dead End replied. Then he tensed, waiting for a blow. “Y-yeah, and we’re sick of you treating us like trash!” Drag Strip added. He was the furthest away from Motormaster, so he could afford to be brave, at least for now. “You are trash: a paranoid, cowardly wreck, a sullen, mopey drag, a blowhard braggart, and a lunatic! Nobody else would want you, so don’t you dare complain about how I treat you! It’s better than you deserve,” Motormaster snarled. Breakdown had been told that all his life, but somehow, this time, it rang false. “T-t-that’s not true!” Breakdown exclaimed, shocking and horrifying himself. In response, Motormaster punched him in the abdomen, causing him to double over in pain. “What did you say, you cowardly little zapmouse?” “I...I said that you’re lying! You said that nobody wants us, but you’re wrong. I made a friend yesterday who likes me so much I had to convince her to leave me, even after she met Wildrider and Dead End and Drag Strip, and even a-a-after she knew that you might find us both! We aren’t w-w-worthless!” Breakdown said, unable to believe that he, cowardly, pathetic Breakdown, had just told Motormaster that he was a liar. “Oh, you mean the Earth germ that you kidnapped? You’re so pathetic you took THAT as a friend?” Motormaster sneered. He let out a harsh guffaw. Breakdown didn’t think that this was the best time to inform him that he hadn’t, in fact, kidnapped Harriet. He was already probably going to be killed by Motormaster; no need to make his death even more painful. “She’s better than you. At least she didn’t insult us,” Drag Strip muttered. “And she looks like a pineapple!” Wildrider added. “Well, since you’re all so attached to the worthless Earth germ, I think I’ll have to pay her a visit,” Motormaster said. An ugly sneer spread across his faceplates. “NO!” In desperation, Breakdown pulled out his gun and shot his oldest brother square in the chest. Motormaster and Breakdown both stared in utter shock at the jagged hole that his shot had punched in Motormaster’s chest armor, exposing the much more delicate circuitry underneath. He hadn’t known his gun could do that! Of course, he’d never scored a direct hit on an opponent before, but still! Then he looked down at the gun in his hand and realized that, instead of pulling out his concussion cannon, he had somehow managed to remove his plasma cannon, which he usually used in vehicle mode, from his subspace compartment instead. Motormaster was tough, but a point-blank shot from the plasma cannon could injure just about anyone. He had actually injured Motormaster! “You’re right about one thing, Motormaster. I am paranoid, and because of that, I’m always afraid. But I’m n-n-not a coward. Not anymore. I stood up to you, and I’m more afraid of you than anything except being stared at. You’re still big and m-m-mean and scary, but y-y-you can’t use that to control my life anymore! Even if I d-d-die right now, I’ll do it knowing that I died standing up to you,” Breakdown said, hardly believing that it was him talking. “You aren’t allowed to control your life! Only I get to control you! You’re mine! ” Motormaster snarled, obviously in pain but evidently electing to ignore it. “Not anymore we aren’t. If Breakdown isn’t afraid of you, then I’m not gonna be afraid of you, either. I won’t go out by losing to you. So do your worst,” Drag Strip said. “This won’t matter in the end, since we’re all doomed, but they’re right. The worst that you can do to us is kill us, and we’re doomed to die regardless. I suppose, given the choice, that I prefer not to die cowering in front of you,” Dead End added. “A pegasus just told me that we don’t have to be hurt by you anymore, boss, so I’m not gonna let you take me back, either,” Wildrider said. Motormaster actually looked a bit afraid; like he wasn’t sure what to do now that his brothers weren’t cowering in front of him. “Fine! I don’t need you losers anyway! But when your attempt to strike out on your own fails, don’t come crawling back to me!” he bellowed. With that, he transformed back into a semi truck and barreled away. “W-we did it! We actually drove off M-M-Motormaster!” Breakdown exclaimed disbelievingly. “Of course we did! You guys had me!” Drag Strip replied. “Funny. I was under the impression that Breakdown did most of the work,” Dead End said. “He did not!” “Did too!” Wildrider exclaimed. “Did not!” “Did too!” “Did not!” “Did too!” “Did-oh, all right. You helped me, Breakdown. Thanks,” Drag Strip said. Breakdown smiled. “Y-y-you’re welcome,” he replied. “GROUP HUG TIME!” Wildrider yelled, and, over the protests of Dead End and Drag Strip, he pulled the whole group into a hug. For the first time in his relatively short life, Breakdown felt truly at peace. True, he still didn’t know exactly what he and his irritating brothers would do next, but he knew that he had a friend that would help him get through it. One week and a stop at an auto repair shop later, Breakdown drove into the driveway of Harriet’s new house (having received the address from First Aid) and honked his horn. Not long after, she came outside, ran down the stairs to him, and climbed into his passenger seat. “Hi, Breakdown! How are you? I heard you managed to get rid of Motormaster,” she said. “You heard right, and it was all thanks to you. If he hadn’t threatened you, I never would’ve found the courage to stand up to him. I never want to have to do it again, though. I’ve been doing well since then. How are you?” “I’m okay. My foster family is pretty nice, and First Aid is great, even if he isn’t as exciting as you. I’m glad I helped you, and I’m thankful you helped me,” she replied. “W-w-what else are friends for? Now, are you ready to go for a drive?” “Yeah!” THE END!