Author's Note: Ok, the essays are over with, so let the typing begin! And just for the record, I get three types of plot bunnies: the type that grows slowly from a seed of an idea (these come complete with leaves and vines; pruning required every other week or so), the type that comes from other people through idea exchange (please make sure they've had their rabies shots before you give them to me), and the type that suddenly pops out of nowhere. The third type is the most annoying; you don't see them coming so there's no way you can fend them off, and they have very sharp fangs. That's where this little story came from. I was jumped by a plot bunny.
This story takes place just a few days after "Past and Future" ends. It's not very long and meant to be somewhat humorous. I think it was spawned by the random thought (and reread of "PaF" chapter 4) that Ultra Rodimus's human form is nowhere near as invulnerable as his robot form, and there seems to be a lack of injured-human-Ultra-Rodimus after "Burning Skies" ends. I don't intend to hurt him (much), but he will have to deal with one of the little annoyances that comes from being human. (grins evilly)
Disclaimer: Ultra Rodimus is my own character, so paws off. If you want to borrow him for any reason then you have to ask nicely first. All other characters belong to really rich people.
Ultra Rodimus was in his office, working on the heaps of paperwork that had collected during his brief absence, when it happened.
He paused, sitting up in his chair, a frown creasing his forehead. His throat felt strange, as if he'd swallowed a feather. He swallowed several times, trying to disperse the sensation, but it didn't work. He spent several minutes puzzling over it when yet another strange sensation, this time in his nasal passages, caught his attention. Before he could figure out what was going on he sneezed several times in rapid succession. A strange fluid began to leak from his olfactory orifice.
Grabbing the Cybertronian version of a paper towel, he wiped it off and stared at the smear, wondering just what in Primus's name was going on. He inhaled through his nose experimentally only to find it blocked. Startled, he snorted explosively and ended up blowing out even more of the stuff. Now very confused, he decided to pay a visit to Medbay.
First Aid looked at the greenish fluid on the rags. None of Ultra Rodimus's internal fluids were that color. Nor did any of his fluids have that jelly-like consistency. The Protectobot medic was baffled. He said as much.
His leader glared at him in frustration, but the reddish tint beginning to show in the metal around his eyes and in the whites of his eyes ruined to look. "So just what the hell is going on here?" he growled.
"I don't know," First Aid confessed.
One of the humans in the complex, overhearing them, walked over in time to witness another sneezing fit. She tilted her head, watching.
"What the hell is wrong with me?" Ultra Rodimus erupted.
First Aid could only shake his head.
"Looks to me like you're coming down with a cold," the human cut in, looking up at the much larger bot.
Ultra Rodimus looked down at her. "A what?"
"A cold. You've caught yourself a virus, big guy. And a damned persistant one."
"A virus? Me?"
"That shouldn't be possible!" First Aid objected.
"Run a few tests and we'll see if I'm right."
The medic looked dubious, but complied. It took only a few minutes to confirm that Ultra Rodimus did, in fact, have a virus. It was running rampant through his system and his immune system didn't seem able to keep up with it.
"It should not be possible for him to catch a virus," Perceptor objected after First Aid explained to him and the other scientists and medics what was going on. "His immune system should have destroyed it the moment it entered his body!"
Medic Alert rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well, we know that after the temporal explosion all of his systems were temporarily scrambled, and not all of them have finished straightening themselves out yet. My guess is that he caught the virus when he was human and when he morphed back to robot it morphed with him, taking advantage of his weakened immune system to grow and spread." He looked at the monitors, which showed the virus crawling through his leader's systems. "The question is, now what do we do about it?"
"That's a good question," the human, Janet Ellison, commented. "I don't have an answer. We've never found a vaccine for the cold virus. It mutates so fast that the instant we come up with a vaccine for one strain it's already useless. I think the reason Ultra Roddy is showing symptoms is because the virus is on the move again. His immune system, though weaker than it normally is, is on the attack, but the virus is mutating so fast that his nanites can't keep up. Once his immune system is back to normal it'll be a whole different story. Still, I'd stay back, if I were you. The human strain of the cold is highly contagious."
There was suddenly a wide clearing around the Autobot leader. The medics exchanged looks, then headed for the decontamination units. Once they were certain anything that might have gotten on them was gone, First Aid cast a suspicious look at the samples of the fluids Ultra Rodimus had coughed up.
"Those are very likely harmless," Janet assured him. "His immune system might be slow to respond, but it's not completely down. Taking into account the way his immune system works, it's safe to say that anything he coughs up is very dead. I think the fluid base is coolant from his air filtration systems, where the virus has taken up residence, and the pale green color comes from the masses of dead, chewed up viruses."
"Sounds reasonable," First Aid mused, recalling that the fluid Ultra Rodimus used for coolant was a deep green in color and coming to the conclusion that the dead viruses came out white. That would also explain the expectorant looked so much like a lump of jelly. The medic smiled to himself. Judging from the amount of coughed-up goop, Ultra Rodimus's immune system had gone to war with a vengeance.
The best way to describe Ultra Rodimus's immune system was "aggressive and predatory". Its base assault force was an army of nanites, tiny machines so small it took a microscope to see them, about the same size as a human white blood cell and functioning roughly the same way. He also had a few of his own virus and worm programs, which hunted down foreign virus and worm programs, wiping them out. The hunter programs couldn't leave the circuitry they ran along, but the nanites could, and they were the most dangerous part of his internal defense system.
The nanites were usually found in his circulatory fluids, but could leave through the walls of the fuel lines and crawl through every part of his body. First Aid had first seen them swarming across Ultra Rodimus's outer armor to repair a damaged optic and had been utterly fascinated by them. He'd collected a sample for study, but had underestimated the ferocity of the nanites. He'd just been lucky that they couldn't replicate once out of Ultra Rodimus's body. The collected nanites had eaten through the sample container and deep into the guts of the scanner before Perceptor managed to neutralize them. The medics and scientists had concluded that the nanites would attack anything that didn't have Ultra Rodimus's energy signature and atomic structure, period.
It had been Sandstorm who noticed the exception. Normally, Ultra Rodimus's nanite-infested circulatory fluid, when it got onto another bot or anything else, would immediately begin to eat into it like acid, making him hazardous to be around those rare times when he was injured badly enough to bleed. They were also present, although to a much, much smaller extent, in the lubricant fluids serving as saliva and tears. Coming into contact with those fluids would burn, but nowhere near as much as the nanite load in his blood would. That had been accepted as the consequence of any unwary bot who got too close when he was in a dismal mood. Then Sandstorm had noticed something interesting.
It was no secret that Ultra Rodimus and Magnus were mates. Everybody knew, be they Transformer or organic. There was no way to hide their relationship. It was also known, though to fewer people, that Magnus served as a shoulder to cry on when the young Prime was upset. Sandstorm had noticed that, despite the number of times Magnus had let Ultra Rodimus cry on his shoulder, he never showed any burns from the nanites. The pacifist had brought that to the attention of the medics and scientists, who theorized that the lifebond, which basically made two individuals into one being, had done more than simply bind the two heart, mind, and soul. It extended even to the physical, subtlely shifting Ultra Magnus's energy signature so that it became similar to his mate's, and altering the nanites so that they "saw" Magnus as just another part of their host body.
Medic Alert looked at the scanner, which was currently analyzing a sample of the coughed-up fluids and displaying the results on the screen. "I think you're right, Janet. The scanner recognizes the base fluid as filter coolant, mixed up with a mess of other alloys and substances. But there's nothing here that even remotely resembles a virus."
Janet pointed at the other scanner, which First Aid had used to analyze the virus. "According to that scanner, the virus is composed of all of those alloys and substances, just in different forms, with many others added in. I think we just discovered something new about those nanites. It looks to me like those viruses were... digested."
The medics looked from one screen to the other. Then First Aid snapped his fingers. "The nanites are killing the viruses, digesting them, leeching out anything that could possibly be useful, and discarding the rest. What he's coughing up is whatever couldn't be used."
"Great," Ultra Rodimus grumbled, sounding a bit slurred. "I'm spitting out leftovers."
First Aid looked at the scanner analyzing the live virus, then back at the young Prime. "I don't know if this version of the virus is contagious, but just to be safe I'm going to have to put you in quarantine until your immune system recovers and destroys the virus."
"Swell," was the muttered response. Ultra Rodimus slid off the table and stalked toward the isolation wing, breaking into a fit of coughing halfway there. By the time First Aid caught up with him Ultra Rodimus was already in one of the quarantine chambers. The medic brought in a few boxes of rags and a small incinerator to deposit the used ones in, set up the monitoring equipment, and shut the door. Ultra Rodimus lay down on his side, curling up into a miserable ball.
Kup walked into Iacon's command center, spotting Magnus but seeing no sign of Ultra Rodimus. A quick check of the Prime's office came up empty. Puzzled, he approached Magnus.
"Where's Ultra Rodimus?" he asked. "I have some reports for him to look at."
Magnus looked up from his own pile of paperwork. "He's holed up in quarantine at the moment, and I don't think he'll be coming out for a while yet."
"Quarantine?" the old warrior echoed.
The city commander nodded. "It seems our fearless leader picked up a virus while he was human, on the other side of the time window. The temporal explosion disabled his immune system, and it's still not working properly yet. The virus took the opportunity to attack his systems, so he's down with a nasty cold. Apparently the virus can mutate very quickly, so it'll take some time for his immune system to rebound and destroy it. First Aid isn't sure if the virus is contagious or not, but he isn't taking any chances. Ultra Roddy is going to stay in quarantine until F.A. is sure the virus has been purged completely."
Kup nodded. "So Roddy is..."
"...stuck in a quarantine cell, utterly miserable, and hating every minute of it," Magnus finished.
The old Autobot was about to say something else when a whimper caught his attention and dragged his gaze over to the corner of the office. Curled up into a ball was a heap of black and white metal, a heap with four feet and a tail.
"I see that Lightfoot finally got tired of hanging around with Sandstorm."
Magnus looked over at the miserable cyber-wolf, one Ultra Rodimus had caught some time ago. A combination of minor reprogramming (or so Ultra Rodimus claimed; Magnus didn't know for sure) and kind treatment had tamed the creature into a very devoted pet. The 'wolf had also been given a new paint job, making him black with four white feet, a white tail tip, and white from his chin all along his underbelly. Lightfoot, named for his light, silent steps, could usually be found curled up at his master's feet or following him like a second shadow, and he tended to become very listless and/or depressed when Ultra Rodimus was away for any real length of time.
"Actually, I think Sandy got tired of being followed and chased him off," the city commander responded. "He stuck himself to me instead."
Kup walked over to the miserable mech animal and bent down to scratch Lightfoot's ears. "Ultra Roddy will be fine."
The 'wolf whined softly, looking up at him. Kup gave him one last pat and left.
When news of Ultra Rodimus's illness got out, every Autobot in or around the city dropped by Medbay to check on him. Ultra Rodimus didn't move much, except when hacking coughs wracked his entire body. A day after being diagnosed with a virus, more symptoms began to pop up, beginning with chills and fever, followed by dehydration. Sandstorm brought in a quilt he'd found in one of the storage bays. Ultra Rodimus promptly cocooned himself in it, only his long braid sticking out. First Aid had to hook him up to a fluid drip to keep his fluid levels from crashing. Fluids full of dead, chewed-up virus bits were almost constantly coughed up or sneezed out. They even trickled from the corners of his eyes, filming them and making it hard for him to see. Sometimes the coughing was so bad it sounded as if he were trying to cough up a lung equivalent. So far the virus still had the upper hand.
About two days later Lightfoot managed to get in. No one knew how. First Aid had gone to check on the sick Autobot and discovered the cyber-wolf curled up at the foot of the table, pressed against his master's legs. All attempts to remove the creature resulted in nasty bites, and the Autobots finally gave up. Janet pointed out that the Earth cold could be spread from person to person, but not from person to animal, and mech animals were so different from Transformers that she didn't think Lightfoot could catch the virus even if it had been contagious, which, thankfully, it wasn't.
"He's been separated from Roddy long enough," Sandstorm pointed out. "Let him be."
"Since I think he'll bite my hand off if I try to evict him again, I'll let him stay."
It took almost three weeks for Ultra Rodimus's immune system to claw its way back to normal. Once it did, it went after the virus with a vengeance. Slowly, slowly, it began gaining the upper hand on the stubborn, persistant virus. The vicious fight drained so much of Ultra Rodimus's energy reserves that he dropped into a coma and First Aid was forced to hook up a power feed to supply the needed energy.
"His power levels have dropped so low," Jazz commented softly, looking at the monitors. "But why has his body temperature risen so high?"
"His body is reacting to the virus in roughly the same way a human body does," Janet told him. "That includes running a fever."
"His internal temperature is three times higher than normal."
Janet looked at the monitor. The temperature inside Ultra Rodimus's body was high enough to melt titanium; if combined with pressure it would be high enough to create diamonds. The young Prime's outer armor was pretty much heat resistant, but his internals weren't, and that was dangerous. "First Aid!"
The medic came running. "What is it?"
She pointed at the monitor. "You have to find some way to bring his fever down or he'll boil in his own armor! His internal structure can't withstand that much heat!"
The Protectobot took one look at the readout and bolted into the chamber, peeling back to quilt to expose the young robot. Ultra Rodimus was curled up into a tight ball, leaking fluids from every crevice and seam, panting heavily between coughs in an attempt to let the heat out. It wasn't working. First Aid produced a tool kit and began prying off armor plates. He was met with a blast of heat so great his paint ignited and his own armor glowed a dull red.
"Perceptor! Lower the room temperature!"
The scientist ran over to the room's environmental controls and began dropping the room temperature. Heat began to bleed out into the cooling air. After a few hours, Ultra Rodimus's internal temperature had dropped back into its normal range. Before leaving the room, First Aid checked the power pack hooked up to the young Autobot, grumbled, and changed the empty pack for a fresh one.
"He sure is using up a lot of energy," Silverbolt commented.
"He needs it to produce enough nanites to destroy the virus. Without the powerpacks the power drain might have killed him."
It took more than a month for Ultra Rodimus's immune system to completely destroy the tenacious virus. Unfortunately for Ultra Rodimus, it left him so drained that he was too weak to even sit up, and he was still suffering from chills as his systems struggled to realign themselves.
Lightfoot's tail was wagging a mile a minute as Magnus and First Aid entered the room. Ultra Rodimus, once again completely wrapped up in the quilt, peeked out at the sound of their footsteps. First Aid appeared to smile at him.
"The virus is gone," the medic reported. "You'll still be suffering the aftereffects for a while, though. Since there is nothing more I can do, I'm releasing you. You will have to rest quietly until you're back to normal, understand?"
"Perfectly," Ultra Rodimus rasped.
Magnus grinned and picked up the younger bot, quilt and all. Lightfoot trotted along beside him as he carried his mate back to their quarters, settling him on the bed. The young Prime burrowed under the covers and stayed there, visible only as a lump with a braid. His pet cyber-wolf lay down at his feet, a goofy canine grin on his face. His tail beat a muffled tattoo against the bedcovers.
"How's the boss feeling?" Kup asked as Magnus stepped out into the corridor.
"Weak as a newborn kitten," Magnus replied, glancing back at the door. "Too weak to support even his own weight. It'll take a while for him to recover fully."
"He's gotta be irritated."
Magnus snorted. "That's putting it mildly. He's completely pissed, and the fact that he can't do a damn thing about it isn't helping."
Kup laughed. "I'd hate to be the virus that crosses his path in the future!"
"That makes two of us."
Still laughing, the two Autobots made their way toward Iacon's command center, both of them amused by the mental image of Ultra Rodimus trying to shoot a teeny-tiny virus. But one creature didn't think it was so amusing.
(Magnus! This isn't funny!)
And that's another fic down. Next up, "Boiling Point". Keep an optic out for that one and any other fics in this series.
If you're wondering where the cyber-wolf came from, in chapter 5 of "Cyber Stargate" there is a scene mentioning the Autobots confronting a pack of hungry cyber-wolves and Ultra Rodimus capturing the leader. With my fics you've gotta take note of even the smallest details; eventually they'll come back to bite you if you don't. Sorry it took so long to get this fic out, but I have to rewrite my essay and now I have exams coming up. So it may be a few days before the first part of "Boiling Point" makes its appearance. Please bear with me. Now send me reviews and tell me what you think!