* * *

Scavenger came back online laid out on a table in the Medical Ward, Scrapper glowering down at him. Uh-oh.

"What have I told you about eating Hook's crisis candy?"

Scavenger curled his shovel under so that all his weight wasn't resting on the blade. Scrapper could be really mean when he wanted to be; he knew Scavenger found that painful. "Not to eat it..."

"And why was that?"

"Because Mixmaster specially formulated it to provide Hook with nutrients he often misses when he's in the middle of a crisis and to have enough tranquilizers that he can calmly face his toolkit after it's been run over a few times by Motormaster," Scavenger said by rote.

"So why do you keep eating them?" Scrapper snapped.

Scavenger unconsciously drew his knees closer to his chest, curling up to present a smaller and better defended target. "They taste really good..."

Scrapper threw up his hands. "Scavenger, if you like the candies so much, why don't you just get Mixmaster to make you a batch for yourself?"

Scavenger squirmed uncomfortably. "He says he's a chemist and not a confectioner when I ask, and that the only reason he makes the crisis candies and your Stunticon lollis is because it makes his life easier."

Scrapper covered his optics with the palm of one hand. "Next time we're on Cybertron, go buy some confectionaries, all right? Just stop raiding Hook's stash."

Well, at least Scrapper hadn't yelled at him. "All right!" He sat up cheerfully, his shovel already beginning to wag at the thought of finding some high-quality chemical candies.

* * *

Decepticon chemists did not do confection-making and tended to look suspiciously at people who inquired after them. Just as well that after living with Mixmaster for eons, Scavenger wouldn't trust a Decepticon chemist to hand him water without putting something nasty in it.

Instead, he reassured himself that his gun was in perfect condition and went down to the neutral quarter of Polyhex. Literally, in fact, as the neutral quarter began three levels below the surface and continued down until the dwellers started getting eaten by Things. Almost all businesses a Decepticon might want to visit were on the upper two levels of the neutral quarter.

The shop Scavenger sought was on the first level of the neutral quarter, set only a street back from the main thoroughfare. A bronze sign hung over the door, "Esoterica's Confectionary" written in a flowing script. Windows set up on either side of door allowed him to inside the shop, the glow from carefully arranged energon goodies revealing other chemical confections.

Scavenger's tail wagged.

A chime sounded as he pushed open the door, and a small Autobot-styled femme clattered to the floor behind the counter as she tried to look alert and forgot that she'd balanced her stool on two legs.

Scavenger stood uncertainly just inside the door. His shovel quivered and curled against his back as the scent of the place bombarded him. It snuck into his conscious mind a few moments after his shovel picked it up, layers of chemical additives mixed with the sharp smell of oil and the charged non-smell of energon.

He wibbled and took a stumbling step towards the nearest display. A vase of swirled blue energon illuminated a carefully arranged tray of clotted oil spheres. Some of them had their enticing sheen broken up by dribbles of colored plastic. A small sign mentioned that they had ninety-eight-proof energon centers. Discreetly, it stated the price for individual pieces.

Scavenger picked up his feet like they were made of neutronium and moved on to the next display. And the next and the next. Energon-dipped fingers, thin steel truffles with their oil-and-electrum centers, bronze thin-shelled biscuits filled with avgas and rocket fuel, little batteries wrapped in plastic and drizzled with gallium, high-grade plastics cast in interesting little shapes (some of them even as transforming Transformers), sticks of arsenic-cored rubber, small Decepticon and Autobot symbols made of silver and copper, gold wafers with swirls of petroleum jelly dabbed onto them, even a tray of radionuclide wafers!

If Scavenger had a mouth, he was sure he'd be drooling. As it was, he had to keep his shovel firmly in one hand to keep from knocking over any of the displays.

He picked out a dark green payloader and dump truck from the transforming plastics, a truffle assortment, and a gallium assortment. He looked longingly at the energon assortments and the cannisters of multi-hueled and chemical-laced energon but knew Hook and Mixmaster both would lecture him for taking anything but one-hundred percent pure.

The soft peach femme flicked her headlights at him in a smile when he approached the counter. "I hope you found everything to your satisfaction!"

"Yeah..." He set his selections on the counter and looked up. Then he leaned to the side to look past her at the three trays set up in locked display cases against the back wall. The tray on the right held a stack of silvery pyramids, which he identified as plutonium from the alpha emissions and the little sign set to the side. The tray on the left held solid electrum faction symbols.

The central tray held small squares of electrum. They had to be a shell around something, as the sign near the tray just said the confections were called 'sky-booms'.

"What're those?" Scavenger jabbed a finger at the sky-booms.

The hexagon design on the femme's mask glittered as she shook her head. "Store policy not to reveal ingredients in the candies."

"But how am I supposed to know if I want to buy them?"

"If you want to buy them, you'll know it."

Scavenger tilted his head slightly, shovel twitching a little bit. "What's that mean? How much are they?"

She put her hands firmly on the counter. "I'm afraid it's Esoterica's policy that if you have to ask the price on the sky-booms, then you aren't allowed to buy any. Let me ring up your current selections."

"Okay..." Scavenger nodded and waited impatiently for her to ring them up before passing her Long Haul's charge card. Scrapper wouldn't let him have his own card, for fear of what weird things he might buy, so he always had to beg one off one of the others when he wanted to go shopping. Long Haul would probably yell about how much this cost, but first Long Haul would have a plastic payloader to nibble on.

The femme bagged up his purchases in a stiff golden bag embossed with the logo for Esoterica's Confectionary and passed it over to him. He left, tail vibrating up and down.

* * *

Scrapper peered at the plastic dump truck on his desk, raised his mug of energon to his mask, and decided not to comment. Or look for Scavenger's hiding place for the rest of the treats. He'd probably get piteous looks if he stole any, and then Scavenger would run out quicker and go back to stealing Hook's candies. No, better not to bother about it.

Odd, there seemed to be little joints in the dump truck...