By Princess Artemis
© S.D.Green, 2002, except for all the Hasbro stuff...
"Guys, I really think we should do this. I just got this feeling," Wheeljack said to his two colleagues, his ears flashing an earnest orange.
"We did stuff like this before, Wheeljack. We don't have a reason to now!" Ratchet argued, his arms crossed over his windshield.
"I tend to agree with Ratchet. I see no circumstance at the moment that would necessitate such an extreme measure," Perceptor said.
Wheeljack sat on the desk in his office, the one in Autobot City, sizing up the other two. These were two of his best friends; they had worked together so many times over the millennia that they would often anticipate the other's moves. Granted Perceptor and Ratchet really only knew each other through Wheeljack, but he had seen them work together just as well as they worked with him. And it wasn't as if what he was proposing was totally alien to them; Ratchet was right, they had done this before, just not to the extent that Wheeljack wanted now. "What do I have to do to convince you? We have done this, when we needed to, to understand each other better on a really thorny problem. And...well, I don't know quite how to explain it, but I have this strong feeling that we are going to be facing one hell of a thorny problem soon, and I'd like us to be all on the same page to face it."
Ratchet drummed his fingers on his arm. "So you want us to go all the way on a gut feeling."
The white medic snorted. Wheeljack understood why; Ratchet wasn't exactly what anyone would call a 'people person'. Certainly an all-out spark bond between the three of them wouldn't go over well with him; he liked his privacy too much. That's just the way he was. Everything they had done up to that point was more akin to reading surface thoughts about what they each needed to know from the other.
Wheeljack turned to Perceptor. "I can't give you any empirical evidence you know." Wheeljack briefly wondered which of the two would be easier to convince. Perceptor was private in his own way, more out of necessity than choice, although getting his attention when he was wrapped up in something interesting was about as easy as getting a brick wall to answer questions.
"I know. However, I am not unfamiliar with less than purely scientific means of accomplishing a goal."
Wheeljack laughed, his ears flickering blue. That was true enough. Somewhere along the line Perceptor had learned that 'if at first you don't succeed, try a bigger hammer' and it always gave Wheeljack a chuckle to see him put the maxim into practice. Maybe he picked it up from Wheeljack during one of their other 'mind reading' sessions. "So will you do it?"
"I have my reservations."
Wheeljack rubbed his forehead. "I might as well try to get Sunstreaker to go a week without a detail."
Ratchet and Perceptor both frowned and huffed about that, which was exactly what Wheeljack was aiming for. Wheeljack couldn't smile, but the two saw the subtle shift in his optics. Ratchet growled, "You did that on purpose."
"Of course I did. I'm not above a little psychological warfare to get what I want...especially when it's this important. So are you two going to be stubborn about it or do I have to get out the big guns?"
Ratchet tilted his head. "I'm tempted to see how far you would go."
"What ever you have, Wheeljack, my gun is bigger," Perceptor said.
Wheeljack's ears flashed silently in his version of working his jaw. "You two are impossible. And where did you pick up such dirty minded human sayings, Perceptor?"
"I have read human psychology books."
"Several hundred, I'm sure," Ratchet commented. "But if it's really that important to you, Wheeljack, I trust ya." He offered up his hand to Wheeljack, and Wheeljack took it.
After a beat, Perceptor put his hand out and Wheeljack accepted it as well. After another moment, Wheeljack said, "Now you two be good and hold hands."
Something small sailed by Wheeljack's head and imbedded itself into the orange wall behind him. He looked around, knowing full well Ratchet had chucked something at him, but he couldn't find anything missing. Ratchet must have kept small objects in subspace for the express purpose of throwing them. "Well it won't work with just me in the middle and you know it," he said.
"Fine," Ratchet said. First he reached over, pressed the lock on the office door, and then put his hand out for Perceptor. "Wouldn't want anyone walking in on a three-way you know."
"Ratchet!" Wheeljack's ears flashed orange.
"Some gutter-cored scoundrel would think that's exactly what was going on."
"Well, yeah...," Wheeljack conceded. "Anyway, Perceptor, hand up, we shouldn't be here all day with this."
Silently Perceptor took Ratchet's hand.
* * *
Wheeljack could feel full force how reticent the other two were about his idea, but it was too late to stop now. It amazed him that they were willing in the first place, just on a hunch. He smiled inside his mind, and they felt it too. It was nice to be so trusted by his friends.
Now Ratchet knew why Wheeljack was so adamant, and after that, he held nothing back. Wheeljack's feeling was a strong one, and even if he didn't knew where it came from, it was strong enough to justify what he'd asked of them. So Ratchet and Wheeljack both felt strongly that something nasty was coming just over the horizon, where they couldn't quite glimpse it, and they would need this strong a bond to face it.
However, in trying to reach Perceptor on a more intimate level, they both found that the deeper they went, the more nothing they found. After what felt like a very long time, Wheeljack and Ratchet paused.
What gives, Perceptor? Where are you?
Like hell. Always thought you had a weak spark, but Primus on a pogo stick, it's like you don't have one at all.
Wait a minute...we're in the wrong place.
Look, if I gotta have Wheeljack's doom and gloom bug up my tailpipe, you're gettin' it too. Cough up. Where are you, and don't say a word about not having a tailpipe or I'll make one for you.
I was wrong...we never have done this before, have we?
Force of habit. It was never necessary on my part before.
It is this time.
He's right, and if you don't come out of hiding right now, I'm gonna go lookin', and it ain't gonna be pretty. Force of habit my ball bearings.
Come on, we understand you. It really is important.
Just a moment.
Something changed, and now there were three, fully.
You sneaky devil...
'Doom and gloom'...you were right, you were right...you were right...
Perceptor was panicking, and Wheeljack and Ratchet knew why. And there was nothing they could do, now all three in one as they were, to help it. It had been Wheeljack's feeling, some premonition of trouble, but Perceptor saw it with a greater clarity...it was what he was, after all, the seeing one. Ratchet sighed, and they all sighed with him, feeling his weariness.
So it'll be done soon.
You were right...you were right...I can't do this...
Call it a blessing in disguise. At least we knew. At least we knew...
Let's get it done with then.
So I was right. So the next few weeks are gonna be rough. But we'll be here, we'll face it, and we'll make it through. Let's finish this.
And it was finished.
* * *
Ratchet sat down heavily, wiping his face. He didn't speak for a long time.
Wheeljack stood where he was, his head bowed. "It was the right thing to do. And maybe I'm wrong. You never know." He didn't sound convinced though, and his ears flashed dully.
Perceptor stood shivering. He also said nothing.
Then a call came, a page for Ratchet. He answered it. Optimus Prime wanted him to come up with Cliffjumper and Brawn to Moon Base 1.
After Ratchet finished the call, he turned to leave the office. Then he paused, did an about face, and saluted Wheeljack and Perceptor after the manner of the Americans, his palm down to indicate that they...or he...had never been conquered. He didn't have to say anything and they saluted back in the same manner. Silence stretched out in front of the three into near infinity.
It has been an honor and a pleasure.
Ratchet walked out the door.
* * *
Only two weeks later and the problem Wheeljack had sensed on the horizon hit. Both Perceptor and Wheeljack knew it when Ratchet fell. And it didn't take long after for Wheeljack to fall as well, both taken by Decepticon fire.
It didn't take long for the Decepticons to sack Autobot City.
It didn't take long for Wheeljack to be proven right.
They needed Ratchet...but they didn't have him, just Perceptor, and it hit him hard. Examining Optimus Prime's wounds... They needed Ratchet...
Nothing can be done... We can't fix this.
"I fear his wounds are fatal."
Wheeljack...why did you have to be right...?
* * *
Sometime later, after Unicron had been destroyed, after the Decepticons had been driven off, and it seemed that for a while the Autobots could rest, several of them went back to Earth. Not to fix Autobot City, but to make remembrance. The Dinobots, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Jazz, Blaster, and Perceptor went to the Ark.
The Ark. None of them had been there long, not as an Autobot counts long...but it was an important place to them. Somehow the time there meant more to them than had many a millennia on Cybertron. Blaster went to his old quarters. Jazz sat in front of Teletran-1 and did nothing. Cliffjumper and Bumblebee wandered the halls. Something precious had passed, and nothing would be the same again.
The Dinobots, quiet, sullen, walked to their room and went in, closing the door behind them.
Perceptor stood in the entrance, unsure what to do with himself. He didn't want to go to the lab, or the repair bay...ghosts walked there. Ghosts of laughter when something harmless looking blew up in Wheeljack's face, ghosts of stern warnings directed at Ironhide if he didn't shut up. He felt half a ghost himself here.
And in a way, he was. Wheeljack and Ratchet looked out through his optics and they both sighed.
It's over now...
Not quite. Not quite Ratchet... I have an idea.
"They won't accept me," Perceptor said to the air, or seemed to. No one was there to hear him. But he walked to the Dinobots' room anyway, entering without knocking.
Only Grimlock looked up. "Me Grimlock not want see anyone right now. Go away."
Perceptor paused, turned slightly, but then decided to stay. "I have something to offer you, if you want it."
"What you have? Me Grimlock not see anything."
"I have...Wheeljack and Ratchet."
Grimlock stood up to his full height, and the other Dinobots turned to look at him. Anger flashed in all their optics. "Wheeljack and Ratchet dead! Me Grimlock not stupid! Go away before me Grimlock hurt you!"
Perceptor took a step back. "I would, but...they want to leave you with something, as much as they can. Have any of you heard of spark bonding?"
"Me Swoop heard it once. It special, right?" Swoop stood up and took a few steps toward Perceptor.
"Yes, it is. Not that long ago, Wheeljack, Ratchet, and I committed to such a bond. Somehow, Wheeljack knew...knew he wouldn't be with us much longer. They are with me now. I can share a little of them with you, if you want."
Swoop looked over at the other four Dinobots, then back at Perceptor. "Me Swoop want. Me Swoop miss Wheeljack and Ratchet. How me do this though?"
Perceptor held out his hand. "Just take my hand. I will handle the rest."
Swoop did so, and so that Swoop would only receive as much of Wheeljack and Ratchet as Perceptor could impart without his intruding on Swoop, he brought their memory up into his mind, and directed Swoop's spark to that. Wheeljack had called him a sneaky devil for this little 'trick'. Most Autobots couldn't separate their minds from their sparks in this way; most had their whole essence in the same place. But Perceptor could, and today this unusual situation allowed both Swoop and Perceptor their privacy in what should have been a very intimate exchange.
After a moment, Swoop pulled his hand away, and he drooped. But there was a light in his optics that had been missing since the raid on Autobot City. The Dinobot turned back to the others and said, "Wheeljack and Ratchet want say stuff to Dinobots. Him Perceptor not lie."
The other Dinobots exchanged looks, some distrustful. Swoop stamped a foot. "Me Swoop not lie either!"
Grimlock gave both Swoop and Perceptor a hard look. "If me Grimlock find out you lying, me get mad." He walked over to Perceptor, stepping hard on the ground. He thrust out his hand angrily, and Perceptor took it.
Not long after, Grimlock let go. His whole posture had changed. "It OK. It OK. Me miss you too." His voice was soft, uncharacteristically so. Then Grimlock turned around and shouted, "Slag! Sludge! Snarl! Come here and hold Perceptor's hand! Now!"
Slag growled angrily, but he was apparently in no mood to get in a fight today. So he did as he was told, and so did Sludge and Snarl.
All of it only took a few minutes, but Perceptor found it exhausting. Once Snarl let go of his hand, he sat down and returned his mind and spark to their normal conditions. He felt like he might pass out.
Grimlock came back over and picked Perceptor up. "Me Grimlock let you stay in Dinobots' room. Wheeljack and Ratchet stay in Dinobots' room too." Perceptor didn't argue.
Grimlock set Perceptor down on a bunk, apparently Grimlock's own sleeping area. "You sleep now," he commanded, then left to go talk to the other Dinobots. They somehow managed to be both subdued and excited at the same time, and Perceptor could hear them talking about Wheeljack and Ratchet.
Before he shut down, he smiled.
Heh...I was right. Didn't expect to be right this way though.
Don't get an ego over it, Wheeljack.