Chapter 14: Bittersweet Moments

"Ben Franklin's kite! What is with you people and dams? Do you have a Wolverine complex or something?" said Fowler as he gave Simmons a look before staring back at the distance at a dam in seemingly the middle of nowhere. Well, maybe not the middle of nowhere. There was a town nearby … like down the side of the mountain. It was only a ten mile hike … pass some bears probably and across a ravine. The road was fully paved though and there were really no prying eyes out here. Truthfully, it wasn't a bad site.

Still sucked if you wanted a 7-Eleven Slurpee at 3:00AM. Good luck finding that.

Seymour Simmons, who Bill was talking at, said nothing at first. He was too busy pouting in the passenger seat, arms crossed over his chest like a toddler. Not only was he in the passenger seat, he wasn't even the senior agent. Fowler apparently was in this hierarchy. He just couldn't get over it. Fowler hadn't even met a NBE yet. Simmons all but grew up around one!

Keller had done this just in spite of him!

Fowler, noticing the lack of reaction, gave Seymour a look while asking, "Are you still pouting about not getting to drive here? Your license was expired."

Simmons growled and opened the door, stepping out into the gravel as it ground under his heel, and pointed at the slightly older man, "I was all but a secret agent. I don't need a driver's license. I am not even supposed to exist."

Giving the ex-agent a look, Fowler sighed, "Well, then I hope you like being drove around because I am not dealing with that fallout if you get pulled over." He then added almost mockingly, "I'm sure the Autobots won't mind driving you around. It might even help with human relations."

Honestly, he was referring to Seymour's human relations more than the Autobots. He had only been with the man for a few hours and could already tell he was socially inept. He could see why he was the senior agent now.

Seymour actually twitched at the comment and squared his jaw before barking, "Over my dead twitching corpse of a body. They'd probably just lubricate on me again. I'm not interacting with the NBEs, especially the yellow one, any more than necessary. I'll keep alien robots secret general populace, but you can rub their belly when they feel sick after eating too many Americans!"

Fowler started at the other man's anger, only to frown and use a tone he usually kept for cadets, "You're sarcasm is not appreciated, agent, and unbecoming to a new agent of NEST."

Simmons glared at the tone, part of him wondering if he should just quit, walk past ten miles of bears, move in with his mother and be done with Keller's punishment. But no, no. He would hate that and he was never one to give up easy. He really didn't want to deal with sliced meats and cheeses for the rest of his life either. NBEs and their family had been intertwined for three generations. He wasn't exactly ready to break the trend. Honestly … he was good at it.

So today he would hold his tongue. He was a lone wolf. He was used to working alone. Yes, he worked with the other agents, but had never had a partner. He had never wanted one. In fact, he was sure Fowler or he would be dead at the end of this. Personally, he was betting on himself. Fowler looked soft … though he did have excellent taste in ties just like he did.

"Regardless," said Fowler, taking the other's silence as a small victory where the other man had been stubborn at every other turn. "We should take a look at this dam. We need to see if it is a suitable site for the Theta One base. Mostly Autobot habitation. Apparently, the dam would serve in making energon stock and powering the spacebridge they are talking about. It is an ideal location for them apparently. More so than the other they are looking at in Nevada. Though I like Nevada. Less people. Less eyes to see things … I don't think they have many armadillos to run over either."

Almost laughing at the armadillo comment, Simmon relented somewhat and started to walk towards the building, his tone still sarcastic, "Let's just get this over with. We will chat with the realtor, check for wood rot and then we can get stuck moving giant robot furniture."

Bill Fowler, though no one could prove it, smiled just slightly at the other man's sarcasm. He had broken cadets worse than this man. He accepted the challenge.

= … No.=

=Oh come on. It's not like you have anything better to do than pull humans over.=

=I said no. How did you get this comm link anyway?=

= … Scorponok gave it to me. He said Blackout had it.=

=Dead fragger! Still fragging me over even in death! The answer is still no! Do I look like a pet sitter to you? I am not taking him for a day, a week, a vorn. None!=

=Oh come on, Barricade. Just a few days,= whined Bluestreak having commed the Con out of sheer desperation. He didn't know what else to do. After the whole, lets-laugh-at-Bluestreak-afternoon and Kup throwing him vague warnings about telling the truth, he had finally managed to hide away in a makeshift room next to the medical bay. In all honestly, it was probably Ratchet's room, but he basically lived in his medical bay so it wasn't even touched. It was better than sleeping in alt mode he supposed like some of the mechs were going to do in the central hanger. No one wanted to be deactivated by a rogue drone in recharge apparently. The only reason Bluestreak didn't have recharge like everyone else was because he was basically half-armored and it might be uncomfortable for him to recharge like that. Thus, he was given the room between Optimus and Ratchet's habitats … there were no tunnels under this room yet.

At least there weren't at the time.

Currently though, Bluestreak had his arms full of a squirming drone that just wanted to run around the new and interesting room he had drilled into, getting dirt and proof everywhere like a curious subterranean puppy. It might have been adorable if Bluestreak wasn't so irritated about the drone disobeying him.

He said not only came back to the base and what does the drone do first? Digs a few more dozen tunnels!

Finally flopping on the floor with his arms full of a drone, Bluestreak hid behind the berth in case someone walked in without binging first (why didn't this room have a lock to begin with he would never know). He wrestled the bot into his lap a few nano-klicks later, trying to get him to stay still so he could argue with Barricade. After much squirming and irritated little pings through the bond, Scorponok finally situated himself on the gunner's leg. He was laying on his back, metallic tummy up while many legs twitched in anticipation. He let it be known through the bond: he would be still for a tummy rub.

Rolling his optics, Bluestreak gave in and started scratching at the rough armor though he was silently just glad the glitch was still. Bluestreak continued, =Come on. He won't listen to me. I told him to stay away from the base, they found his burrow, but the first thing he does is dig right back into the base. They are going on high alert until we move. I need him to stay and be good until then.=

Barricade, strangely comfortable talking to the Autobot, laughed over the line. =Decepticons and good don't really go in the same sentence youngling. Plus, you just need to show him who's boss. Like me and Frenzy. I stepped on him once … and well … nothing really change honestly.=

Bluestreak smiled despite himself though he was silently worried about the Decepticon's are not good comment. He really wanted to save Cade as stupid as that sounded. It had to be frightening to be alone, especially with more Autobots coming to Earth. The thought of someone shooting Barricade kind of bothered the youngling. He felt the trooper was the only one he could share his secrets with.

Shaking off his worry, still uncertain how to broach the subject on how to make Barricade an Autobot, he whined =Please. Just kind of watch him until they put up the new base. Then I can make sure his burrow is much more covert and that he doesn't dig … everywhere.=

Barricade laughed like that was a joke. =I'd like to see that. That's like Frenzy not hacking into anything with a circuit board. He once tried to hack one of those talking human keyboards, Speak and Spell or Speak O' Demon or whatever the frag they are. Something evil, that's what. He ended up spelling everything for like an orn. Some words should never be spelled. I'm just saying.=

Bluestreak laughed, rubbing Scorponok's belly a little harder when the drone started squirming. =Okay, okay. I'll send him with some energon. Deal?=

There was a moment of silence. Bluestreak couldn't help but taunt. =I know you want it.=

=Fine, frag. Manipulative little slagger,= said Barricade. One could almost hear the sneer. =And don't forget to feed him before you send him off. I don't want to listen to him whine about being hungry a week in.=

Wings wilting, his reserve shivering a little, the Autobot looked down at those half closed optics, the drone almost snoring from the comfort. Nodding, more to himself than anyone else, he nervously replied =Yeah sure … It'll be fine.=

=Good. Send him to where we met last time. I'm bored of bothering fleshies anyway= said Cade, the line going dead without even a proper goodbye.

Swallowing, looking down at his purring drone that was two klicks away from falling into recharge on his lap, Bluestreak said, "Come on buddy. Help me raid the room for Ratchet's stash. Everyone keeps one. Then … then … you can feed."

Legs all twitching at once, excitable like a puppy about to get a treat, Scorponok did a power-flip with his tail and was suddenly running around the room. It was a miracle that nothing was getting knocked over with the way the drone was suddenly about the room. Then, before Bluestreak could even get to his peds, there was a box dropped before him, a few medical tools falling out.

The youngling immediately cringed away from said tools acting like they might come to life and cut off a limb off. Scorponok, as if impatient with his master's medical phobia, quickly dug in with his own claws. A moment later four cubes were presented to the youngling. Then, like a dog that had done well, he sat before his young master almost so excite that he was vibrating. This would be their first voluntary link up. They could share memories or thoughts or just bask in each other's company. He missed that more than he could ever say.

The young mech before him didn't seem to realize or care about that. He was too busy cringing away from the cubes, making childish gagging noises, "Eww. Medical grade. Really? This is Ratchet's stash? Come on, open your subspace buddy. These are for old Cade. I'm sure he'll love them."

Scorponok merely chirred. Oh yes, he knew the mech would love them. That was why he'd chosen the medical grade over say … the high-grade hidden in the desk. Mmmm, apparently it goes down slimy. Barricade was probably malnutritioned anyway. It would be good for him. Plus, he would hate it. That would be the best part. Slagger could be nicer to Bluestreak. It was what he deserved.

Then, his master motioned for him to open his subspace. Scorponok suddenly winced. Oh, yeah. He had almost forgotten. The young master would not be happy. Regardless, the plate on his back to his small subspace slid to the side and immediately doggy balls, squeaky toys, and surprisingly a large number of only left shoes spilled out onto the floor.

For a moment, there was complete silence … except for dozens of squeaky toys or balls rolling around.

Bluestreak sighed and rubbed a servo down his face, shaking his head, "I've made a monster. A monster. Well, whatever. Barricade can deal with it."

Stuffing the energon into the subspace, ignoring what looked like dirty digi-pads that were probably from Blackout, he piled all the balls he could reach over the top of said cubes and slapped the plate shut. Still, a dozen balls rolled around in almost a mocking manner.

Vents huffing, Bluestreak relented and giggled, stating softly, "I promise we'll play fetch or something when the heat dies down. So please stop … collecting these things."

Scorponok merely nodded and then ran around in a circle before crawling up into his master's lap, the youth yipping in surprise. Then, purring against the grey mech's chassis, he basically asked for admittance. It wasn't that he was very hungry per say, he had eaten recently, he just wanted more time with his master if only to strengthen their bond.

Door wings twitching, the youth swallowed. He could do this. He could. It had to be easier than letting Barricade manhandle him again. The thought of Scorponok nearly starving bothered him more than he would ever admit. The drone was his responsibility now and he wasn't going to frag that up!

With that thought in mind, Blue searched for the command to open the feeding port in his back. He found it easily enough and then … snapped the plate open. He expected for it be just as unpleasant as when Barricade had forced an uplink, but there was none of that jarring mess. The scrorpion-bot merely snaked his tail under Bluestreak's arm and plugged in, a sudden warmth blossoming in the back of his mind.

His drone was happy … to finally be accepted.

Then, the petting commencing as Bluestreak fell into a calm haze as the drone's systems surprisingly brought relief to his own raw CPU, helping medical codes settle and organize with cool relief. Then, seemingly happy with that, the drone decided to share a memory. Bluestreak accepted a soft memory like a calming salve for his CPU. It was of a desert, flower cacti all about like little wandering bodies searching for a home. He could almost feel the perfect heat right before the sun set, the wind creating a song over the moving sands. It was wonderful. In turn, Bluestreak offered up a memory as well. It was about a long silent drive down a highway, not a soul around. There was yellow grass as far as the optic could see, a soft dry wind beating against his form.

And for a moment … there was peace.

"All right, meal time scraplets," grumbled Blades as he ducked into the room, Crosshairs not far behind.

For such a large mech he surprisingly didn't seem bothered that he had to duck for every doorway. Then again, one just gets used to it he supposed. Springer personally hoped that his last upgrade didn't make him as big as Blades, but the way things were heading with his last upgrade. It seemed more and more likely. Well, at least that wouldn't be for a few more vorns. Hopefully. Upgrades were a pain in the aft and he couldn't wait to be done with them.

The large mech coming before him, Blades was more than happy to accept the glowing cube through the bars though, his engine purring in appeasement. Caged he may be, but well fed he was.

Hot Rod didn't even look at his cube though as Blades placed it right next to his partially filled one. It was easy to say … Hot Rod hadn't been taking his imprisonment very well. He was currently a balled up tangle of limbs on top of a berth, his optics over-bright as he scratched at his paint and chewed on his fingers absentmindedly. He especially kept clawing at his helm too close to his horrible secret. Blades had wanted to talk to him about it, but what was there to say?

'Yeah, it's okay to be walking in the footsteps of a deranged mech that killed most of our population and our world. You'll be fine.'

Yeah, he doubted that would go over well.

Springer, it seemed, wasn't the only one to have noticed though. It seemed that Blades was troubled as well as he looked at the half-finished cube. The two adults both looked at each other for a moment, both staring at Hot Rod as he paid them no mind. It was easy to see the concerned look that passed between the two older mechs, Crosshairs leaning in the doorway as he tried to be nonchalant.

Sighing out of his vents, Crosshairs likely giving Blades a quick comm link that said he wasn't going to broach the subject, Blades asked careful, "Youngling … you didn't finish your cube from yesterday. You feeling okay?"

Hot Rod just continued to stare at the wall, picking at his helm idly.

The two older mechs shared another look and Blades cleared his throat tubing, asking in a louder tone, "Hot Rod, you listenin?"

The youth just continued to stare, picking at his helm as if he wanted to pull up the armor plating. It was troubling to watch. Ones paint wasn't just for looks, it also signified the health of the mech. Peeling it way could give way to rust infections and only bots with armor diseases, malnutrition or the mental instability actively picked at it. It was like trying to pick away a top layer of skin.

The two older mechs looked at each other once more, Crosshair whispering loud enough for everyone to hear, "Maybe its turbo-fleas. They cause that kind of stuff."

This seemed to get Hot Rod's attention, the young mech snapping out of it, "Huh, what? I wasn't paying attention."

Springer snorted into his drink and gave the two adults a look of disbelief. Both of them in turn looked horrified, Blades was even absentmindedly scratching his arm's plating.

"Oh, you can't be serious. There's no such things as turbo-flees and Hot Rod certainly doesn't have them," said Springer, not the least bit amused.

Hot Rod just seemed confused.

The two older mechs nodded their heads in disagreement, still staring at Hot Rod in disgusted-horror before Blades answered, "Oh, there are youngling. Not in the Autobot population too much, more of a drone and insecticon thing, but when it happens … you'll know. You'll know. Makes you want to pick off all your own plating so you can scratch wherever those little slaggers have been nipping you. Pit hard to get rid of once you have them too. And it always starts out with someone just scratching themselves."

Hot Rod, hand stalling from its earlier picking, squeaked, "I-I don't have turbo fleas. You are just fragging with me!"

"No I'm not, kid. Stop scratching at yourself or we are going to quarantine you two. You'd have to suffer for an orn before we got to a medic if you do have them. Won't kill you, but you'd wish they would," said the green mech as he twitch, armor prickling and then pulling close.

Hot Rot tried not to pout, looking at his worn fingers as he admitted, "I just … I just keep forgetting I'm doing it. I don't have turbo-fleas. I just … I just … I don't want to be here," he snapped at the end, kicking one of the bars in rage.

Not the least but phased by the sudden outburst, Crosshairs came forward, picked up the partially drank cube. He then offered it through the bars at the pouting youngling. "Well, none of us want to be here, but you had to run like a scared turbo fox. Now, accept the consequences."

Hot Rod glared at the paratrooper, part of him wanting to knock the cube out of the older mech's hand. He hated that mech and his cool demure. Then, deciding he was too tired for this, the youngling finally relented and snatched the cube. He sipped it almost angrily ignoring the stale after-taste. He had drank much, much worse … sometimes nothing at all though Kup always seemed to make sure he had something. Overall, mechs just didn't waste energon anymore.

"Good bot," said the elder mech, one of his fingers coming forward and tapping on Hot Rod's helm near a grey patch he had clawed off. "We'll have that looked at when we get there. Your armor shouldn't be irritating you to the point that you are clawing at it. Might have some kind of infection or viral code. They have a medic I hear, old Hatchet. So, stop scratching at it kid or I'll make old Blades put you into stasis until we get there. Here me?"

Finger's twitching, not wanting anyone near his helm, Hot Rod choked, "T-that shouldn't be necessary. I'm fine."

Shrugging, Crosshairs stated, "Well, we'll see. Old Hatchet's probably going to be giving everyone a physical when we get there. Medics get antsy when they don't have bots coming to them half mauled. Then they start picking at the last time you had your coolant system flushed and so on and so on."

Springer, in the cell over, moaned at the thought and cover his face with his servos, "Uggh or viral updates. My helm is going to ache for an orn."

"Don't you know it," agreed Blades, part of him not looking forward to having his blades prodded and poked either; fliers always had it off worst. "Now, Hot Rod, finish both of those cubes. Oh, and since you don't have anything but time … I think its best that you think of a good apology."

"Apology?" questioned the young mech, ready to pick up the second cube. Frag, he was hungrier than he thought.

"Yeah," said the copter. "Apparently, Kup is in site, and you better have a pit-good excuse for why you ran off without talking to him. He'll think he did something wrong as a caretaker."

The two older mechs leaving a klick later, Hot Rod found he no longer was hungry, the second cube untouched. In fact, he just wanted to scratch and scratch and scratch like there was something squirming away under his plating, eating away at him. He didn't want to be here. He didn't want to he here!

He wanted to be anyone but himself right now.


Paw07: I felt like the chapter kind of jumped around, but I won't lie, I am more focused on finishing this story in a timely manner than dragging it out. Plus, there are just certain scenes I want to get to. Regardless, I felt like it was a bittersweet chapter and thus the chapter name. There was a mix of bad and good things for everyone. Well, except for Hot Rod. The whole situation just kind of sucks for him. XD