casusfere: (Burny)
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Title: Controversy by Design, part 1
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Vague mentions of violence
Universe: G1
Characters: Spinister/Needlenose, Jazz, Blaster
Summary: In which Needlenose designs a video game. Not everyone is happy.



"A controversial video has taken the internet by storm, becoming one of the top five most shared videos-"

"I lost the number three spot to a video of a kitten stuck in a box," Needlenose commented, leaning back against Spinister's leg. "Humans do like their kittens. Which makes me wonder-"

"If your next suggestion involves Megatron and small hairy organics, this conversation will not end well for you."

Needlenose laughed, letting his fingertips trail down the edges of Spinister's cockpit glass.

"The video claims to show a clip from a new game-"

"I'm going to let it run a couple days more, then have Gant confirm the authenticity." Needlenose tilted his head back to look up at Spinister. "The human 'running' my company," he added, in the very small chance Spinister - or Banzaitron - hadn't been tapping his communications. "He's got enough video clips to keep the humans interested for months between that and a press release or two. Should be plenty of time for us to get back, even if we're delayed."

"And the Autobots?" Spinister reminded him.

"Let them try to put it down," Needlenose said dismissively. "That's why I set up in a capitalist market. The more they speak against it, the more the humans'll want it." He titled his head back to look up at Spinister smugly. "Prime can try try to shut this one down."

x-x-x


"Mr. Gant, you have a call on line two," the secretary said as he stepped out of the conference room. She handed over the stack of files waiting for him.

"Take a message," Gant said absently, flipping open the first. Good, projections still well within range-

"It's the designer," she said.

Gant shut the folder with a snap. "Put him through to my office."

He let the door close behind him before he picked up the phone. "Hey, boss! Where have you been?"

"Out," Needlenose grumbled on the other end. He sounded less than enthused about it- wherever he'd been, it wasn't hard to guess that it'd been unpleasant. Damn, Gant had hoped for a boring trip; the mech tended to come back from those with a plethora of material and pent-up enthusiasm.

"I'm glad you're back," Gant said. "We're keeping ahead of the media, but only just. I've released all the footage you left with me except the longest clip."

"Good. How's the online community been responding?"

They must have just gotten back in communications range, Gant thought, surprised. Needlenose haunted the message boards; he was usually better informed about the audience response than Gant was. "Online's been mostly positive. I had a few plants out there pushing it, but frankly, I haven't needed any since the mainstream media noticed it. There's a lot of negative press there, over subject matter, but nothing we weren't expecting."

"Let them complain. They're just hyping it for us. What about the Autobots?"

Gant cringed. "There was a press release yesterday- about some unrelated stuff, but one of the reporters asked for a comment on the game," he said, cradling the phone against his shoulder as he typed rapidly into his computer. "I'm sending you the file now."

There was the barest of pauses as Needlenose accessed the file. "..'Undoubtedly the product of a rebellious teenager's imagination,'" he repeated, "blah blah blah... 'Should not romanticize or glorify warfare in such a manner- No one told them about Call of Duty, did they?" Needlenose sounded more amused than upset, thankfully.

"Do you want me to release the last clip, or hold it?"

Needlenose made a thoughtful humming noise. "Release it, and set up a press conference. I wanna see the Autobots ignore this
."

x-x-x


"Everything set?" Gant demanded, adjusting his tie.

His PA gave him a thumbs up. "Press is outside, got 'em set up with plenty of clearance between them and the building. Podium and mic are to one side of the cleared area, with the projection screen behind it. Should look pretty natural and still give him enough room. Um-"

Gant made an impatient gesture. "Out with it."

"Um, there's an Autobot outside. Two of them, actually."

"Are they here for the press conference?" Gant asked, much too calmly for his PA's comfort.

"It looks that way," she said. "Should I ask them to leave, or call security, or... or what?"

"No," Gant said. "I think he'll be thrilled."

x-x-x


"Hey, Brian, my man, long time no see," Jazz grinned down at the human reporter, offering a hand for a warm, if tiny, handslap. It'd actually been only a few orns, since the reporter had stumbled into the crossfire of a raid on one of Swindle's black market partners, but human lifespans being so short, any time more than a handful of local days could be a 'long time'.

"Jazz! Blaster!" Brian smiled back. "If you're trying to gather info on this quietly, you might have a little trouble blending in." He offered a fist bump to Blaster.

"Woah, this much style don't blend in!" Jazz struck a pose. "Nah, man, we're just curious, same as you."

The reporter gestured with his voice recorder. "I'm being professionally curious over here."

"Us, too." Jazz crouched down to be a bit more on the level with the human. "What's the scoop, anyway?"

"Hey, that's my line," Brian laughed. "I'm sure you guys know more about this than me, anyway. Want to make a comment before we get started? Like how you guys feel about the use of your millennia-old conflict for human entertainment?"

"Ouch, you go straight for the processor, don't you?" Jazz didn't let his smile falter. "I can't comment on something I haven't seen."

"But you have seen the teaser videos, right?" the reporter persisted, nodding to large screen set up against the building, where clips had been playing since they'd arrived. "And there's rumors floating around that the title refers to an actual Decepticon unit..."

Jazz and Blaster exchanged looks. "They're not classified, not at our end, at least; they're called the Mayhem Attack Squad," Jazz said finally. "Yeah, they're a real unit, but I doubt someone who ain't ever had direct contact is going to portray them like they really are, y'know? These guys are probably just usin' a name someone overheard, or maybe it's complete coincidence."

Whatever else Brian was going to ask was cut off when a human in a dark suit stepped up to the podium and gestured for silence.

"I want to thank you all for coming," the man said. "I'm Phillip Gant, CEO here at Gant Industries. I promised a few weeks ago that we would be releasing more information about our lead title, Mayhem, and in the interests of doing that, I'm going to keep what I have to say short, and instead introduce the game's lead designer and programmer, who will be answering your questions. But first, I would like to announce that we at Gant Industries care about our future, and that is why we will be donating one hundred percent of the profits for this game to charities promoting art and technology for youth-"

Blaster frowned, lifting his head.

"What's up?" Jazz asked quietly.

"Got somethin' comin' in on radar," Blaster said just as quietly. "Fast, from thataway." He motioned in the direction of the building. "Usin' the structure for visual cover, maybe. We might got trouble."

"Frag," Jazz muttered, scanning the courtyard for tactical positions. "Got an ID on 'em?"

"Nah, not yet. Give you a list of who it ain't."

"Please put your hands together for the lead designer on this project-" Gant was continuing. "But most of all, please stay where you are and remain calm."

"What kind of introduction is that-" Brian started.

The jet flipped as it crested the building, landing neatly on his feet next to the podium. Jazz caught Blaster's arm as he started to bring up his weapon.

"Hang on a tic," Jazz said in a low voice.

The small crowd of reporters didn't seem to know whether or not to run.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Gant said, in the same pleasant tone as before. "The designer behind Mayhem, the Cybertronian artist Needlenose!"

The clapping seemed more automatic than sincere.

"Frag," Jazz muttered.

Needlenose dropped to one knee, looming a little less over the shocked humans. "Hey, everyone! Sorry, I never could resist an entrance," he said cheerfully, seemingly ignoring the Autobot presence at the back. "I'm sure you have a few questions about the game."

"And some other things, too," Brian said, next to Jazz.

One of Needlenose's antenna swiveled in his direction. "Ask away, and I'll answer whatever isn't classified." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Just don't get me in trouble with my boss, alright?"

"What's Megatron up to these days?" Jazz called.

"Well, mostly he's - wait a minute!" Needlenose pointed a finger in mock outrage. "Not cool, Autobot!"

Jazz angled a look at Blaster and shrugged. "Worth a shot," he muttered, as a few in the crowd laughed nervously. "Keep a scanner going," he added. "I doubt he's alone."

"Already on it," Blaster confirmed.

"That's a member of the Mayhem Attack Squad?" Brian asked doubtfully, as Needlenose cracked another joke in response to a tentative question.

"Yeah," Jazz said, frowning. "Makes a mech wonder what the frag they're up to."

x-x-x


"-Revealed the game's inventor to be an actual Decepticon-"

"-Should consider the legal ramifications-

"-Announced that all profits would go to charity-

"-Should Mayhem be banned? We go in depth-"

"-Joking with reporters and even Autobots-"

"Number one video," Needlenose said smugly from the floor as Spinister ghosted into his quarters. "Take that, kittens!" He muted the feeds. "Let me guess, someone isn't happy about it."

Spinister gave him a bland look. "Indeed."

"How unhappy?" His tone was casual, but his antenna flicked back, betraying his anxiety.

Spinister shrugged and settled onto the berth. "Starscream."

Needlenose winced. "Megatron?"

"Taking the opposite side as Starscream," Spinister said dryly. "Your project is safe. For now. Stranglehold has another opinion entirely, but I'm sure he'll express it in person. Something about ruining the image of the Mayhems by being friendly."

Needlenose slumped against the berth. "I just can't win."

"Think of it as an opportunity to exercise tactical skills," Spinister advised

Needlenose made a face. "I have a tactic for this situation. It goes: stick with someone who outranks the slagger."

"And how are you going to convince this theoretical superior officer to allow this course of action?" Spinister asked blandly.

Grinning behind his battlemask, Needlenose pulled himself up onto the berth beside Spinister. "I'm sure I can think of something," he said loftily, running fingertips down the length of a rotor.
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