Today, he'd get that stupid machine to work.

The energon compressor - A.K.A. 'The Espresso Machine' had blown up in his face 37 times, 25 of those almost annihilating those around him, had been kicked, thrown, stepped on, derided, revamped, evolved, and even acquired a computer virus but THIS TIME...this would work.

This time was different. So what if the regulator hadn't worked on the last go-round? So what if the washer hadn't fit the time before that? So what if the time before it the machine had successfully compressed energon for four days before a complete nuclear meltdown?

Ratchet glanced at him hunched over the converter mechanism and shook his head. "Stick to cubes, buddy," he teased, tweaking Wheeljack's wing in passing.

"It's the reactor container, I just know it," Wheeljack replied, voice betraying his joy in being called 'buddy' again, after a looooong drought. Ratchet was an affection camel, and sometimes it was just irritating. Once in an eon was not enough. "There's always a leak."

"Quit going on about your reactor container, it's fine." Ratchet was grabbing several tools and tossing them into his toolbox. Looked like it was time for a Random Twin Maintenence Check. Wheeljack was staying OUT of that, thank you very much.

"You're supposed to say that," he retorted instead, reaching for the soldering gun. "You love me. I'm guessing it's in spite of my reactor container."

A perfect work bondmate would have replied 'beCAUSE of it,' but Ratchet cheerfully slammed his toolbox shut and told him he'd see him later.

There were still wiring issues. The energon compressor hated the Ark's current, for some reason. Wattage issues, maybe?

Sunstreaker dashed in and hid behind the table on the other side of the lab, the points of his helmet the only thing giving away his position. "I'm not here!" he hissed.

The lab's intercom did not beep for a good five minutes, and no one came by, so after ten minutes Sunstreaker took that as a sign that he could be a little more apparant. He stood directly overhead as he snorted "Primus, you're STILL tooling around with that thing?"

"You're in my light."

Sunstreaker walked away, more than likely to the nearest reflective surface. "Why don't you just work on something else? Try an energon EXPANDER?"

"I'm not into expanders," Wheeljack replied, slamming the casing door shut and reaching for the plug that had been dragging on the floor. "They don't do it for me."

"Your loss," the yellow annoyance replied, shrugging.


Speaking of yellow annoyances...

He should be more charitable, maybe, but Bumblebee was unpopular with a lot of them for getting to be in charge of the mini-bot squad. Hierarchical upsets were never morale improvers, and EVERYONE knew how he got THAT job. Prime claimed he'd quit using Bumblebee as a Snugglebug, but the damage had been done.

"Ratchet wanted to know if Sun-nevermind." He grinned wryly at the dashing figure dashing down the hallway. At least he hadn't shoved Bumblebee to the ground on his exit.

Wheeljack plugged in the machine and flipped the switch. Nothing.

"Try hitting it, that works for Perceptor."

Of course it did. Everything always worked for Perceptor the first time. Slag, even Grapple got it right the first time when he tried. Everybody else seemed to know some kind of secret method that got them success, and Wheeljack was still unable to make simple machine that would concentrate their energon reserves for better refueling and cleaner living.

"This model looks a whole lot better!" Tracks had walked by and meandered in to see what Bumblebee was hovering over - and to comment, since he never could resist. "The last one was kind of bulky and dull."

True. A few tries ago the internal compressor had been so badly burned it had destroyed the intake manifolds; Wheeljack had been forced to rebuild the entire thing. He used fewer parts and recased it, and now it was pretty.

Powerglide eased in and put his hands over Bumblebee's optics. Bumblebee screeched. "I told you to quit doing that!"

Tracks snicked with Powerglide. "Check it out, Wheeljack's trying to make the Espresso Machine work again."

"Hehehe. You know what they say, the millionth time's the charm." He had his arm around Bumblebee and squeezed the mech's shoulder lovingly.

There was the issue: a circuit loop was misaligned. He recased the machine and noticed that the cord had become disconnected. There was ALWAYS something wrong with this thing!

"Is that what I think it is? Where's Trailbreaker, I want a forcefield!" Jazz cracked them up, even causing Prowl to smile a little. They took up the last of the free space on the worktable. The lab was getting crowded.

Huffer piped up from the hallway. "That thing again? You know what your problem is, Wheeljack? You're too damn optimistic! Work on something else!"

"Don't you have a parade to rain on?" Grapple retorted, coming in for his shift.

"Cube and a half on a wiring issue!" Smokescreen called to Huffer.

"Meltdown!" Huffer replied. "Sideswipe, are you in?" Sideswipe nodded.

Sunstreaker dashed in, Ratchet hot on his heels. "FINE! You can do it AFTER Wheeljack blows up the lab! I wanna see if this works! And two cubes on the reactor container!"

How did he know Wheeljack's largest insecurity?

"Who called this meeting?" Optimus demanded, looking in and seeing half of his army all leaning forward slightly around a contraption that never operated correctly. "And three cubes on it working this time."

"REALLY?" More than a few heads snapped back on that.

"Affirmative. I believe in Wheeljack's work, and his attempts. Someone once told me that if you're not trying, you're dying." Jazz smiled.

Wheeljack tightened the last screw and grabbed the plug. "It's ready." Was he? The Autobot army gave him various encouraging signs, which touched him more than he could say. It was always easier to try again when there were other people who cared about what you were doing. He plugged it in and turned it on.