Author's Note: Still not dead! Just very, very distracted. RL is a major pain in the rear end, and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. I had to literally wrestle my plot bunnies to the ground and practically stick my arm down their throats to get this update.

The collaboration I was writing with Gatekat, Kneeling to the Sword, has been completed and posted under Kat's screen name. I love the depth of the relationship between my Titanium and Dai Atlas. They're very close.

The wireless internet glitching has finally been solved with the purchase of 100 feet of ethernet cable, giving me a hardline to the modem. No more dropped connection. Which I am very glad for. Now I can do what I want online without worrying about the connection flaking out on me. Which gives me more time to worry about the fact that my computer's motherboard is starting to go on me.

Has anyone seen the game trailer for Fall of Cybertron? Metroplex is in it. I so can't wait for this game to come out.

Disclaimer: Is repeating myself really necessary?

Awakening

Chapter 6: Adapting

"You wanted to see me?"

Medic Alert looked up from his terminal as Ultra Rodimus walked into his office, the taller mech's green optics fixed on his CMO. "Yes, I did." The red and white mech waved his Prime around the desk, turning his computer screen toward the grey mech. "I've been looking at the scans I took of Ultimus' frame while I was repairing him."

Silver brows met over the bridge of Ultra Rodimus' nose as he took in the data. "I can see what you meant when you said his schematics were on par with mine for complexity. And he really was a mess."

"I truly believe that only sheer force of will was keeping him functional at all, considering the sheer about of shoddily-repaired, half-repaired, or unrepaired damage I found under his armor." Medic Alert frowned at the screen. "Whoever the medics were back then, they weren't worth scrap. No skill at all. I could tell that just from looking at their handiwork. From the look of him, I doubt Ultimus had ever seen a real medic from the day he stepped off the assembly line."

"From what I know of the Quintessons, probably not." Ultra Rodimus shifted, leaning his hip against the edge of the desk. "What can you tell me?"

"His frame is actually younger than yours is, though his spark chamber and laser core are much older. He's been completely rebuilt at least once, perhaps more. From what I can tell, he's actually about twice your age, give or take a few millennia either way. As I said, he is a Transformer, a quad-changer, though he's never transformed. He's never even flown under his own power. He'll have to be taught to transform, how to control his alt modes, and how to fly. For a while it's going to be very much like having a sparkling running around Autobase. If he has any built-in weaponry, it will have to be located and then he'll have to learn to use it. But that's not the most disturbing thing." The triple changer looked up, blue optics meeting green. "His entire sensor system looked like it had been melted not long after he came online and his pain receptors were completely slagged. The mech has no sense of pain."

"Did you repair that?" Ultra Rodimus asked.

Medic Alert shook his head. "He's gone so long being unable to feel pain that suddenly being able to feel it again might send him into shock. It might do more harm that good. I'll need to consult with him and run a great deal of tests before I decide what to do about it."

The grey mech frowned. "He's been a very successful gladiator despite being unable to feel pain. Maybe it won't matter whether he can feel it or not. We'll have to wait and see." He crossed his arms over his chest, contemplating the screen for a long moment. "Is there anything else?"

"Not at the moment. If anything else comes up, you'll be the first to know." Medic Alert inclined his head to the taller mech, watching as Ultra Rodimus left the office. Drawing in a deep breath, the CMO returned his attention to his work.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The next day found Ultimus seated at the computer terminal in his quarters, poring over the historical records in Autobase's system. The older ones were fragmented and incomplete, proving that much had been lost during the interrim, either as a consequence of the war or faulty memories. What information was available Ultimus absorbed as quickly as he could, trying to learn about all that had happened during the time he had been in stasis. It made for some interesting, if disturbing, reading.

Leaning back in his chair, ignoring the shrill squeal of protest, Ultimus turned blank optics to the ceiling, trying to come to grips with what he'd found out. Cybertron had been gripped by cycle after cycle of violence despite the efforts of the ruling classes to prevent it. In some cases it had been the actions of those ruling classes that set off the cycle again. Peace had never lasted for long.

The redhead groaned and finally got to his feet, pacing his quarters a few times. Shaking himself, he headed for the door, feeling confined even though the quarters he'd been given were much larger than any other accommodations he'd ever had. Still, he needed to get out.

Other Autobots gave him curious looks as he wandered the corridors. Some of them offered greetings, which he returned with a grunt. Others just got out of his way. His wanderings took him out of the residential wing, past the science labs and the medical bay and briefly to the rec room. Rather than going inside, Ultimus paused in the doorway and looked in, watching the Autobots interacting over energon for a long moment before turning and choosing another direction, so deep in his thoughts he lost all track of where he was until the sound of gunfire snapped him back into reality.

The last time he'd heard that sound, the rebelling slaves had been firing on him and his comrades, hunting them across the face of Cybertron. Instinct flattened him to the wall, ready to fight or bolt, until his processor caught up with the rest of him. Ruffling and resettling blue and gold armor, Ultimus peeled himself away from the wall, taking stock of where he'd ended up. Across the corridor from him was a door marked as the shooting range, which was where the sounds of gunfire was coming from. The big mech eased over and looked inside, finding a slightly-built grey mech with doorwings holding a large rifle, firing on the targets at the far end of the room.

It took a moment for the little mech to realize he was being watched. Lowering the rifle, he turned to fix bright blue optics on the watcher, blinking up at him.

"Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!" the little mech chirped. "You must be that new mech found in the old ruins. I've never seen you before, so you must be... I've never even heard of a mech like you before. There aren't many mechs of that size, aside from Ultra Rodimus and the gestalts and Omega Supreme, and I know all of them, but I've never seen you before so you must be new. And the only new mech I've heard of was found in the ruins of that facility in the Badlands. That was you, right?"

The torrent of words caught Ultimus off-guard, and for a moment he could only stare at the small mech, trying to think of a reply. None of the mecha he'd ever known had talked that much. "Yes, that was me," he replied after a brief silence. "My name is Ultimus."

"I'm Bluestreak," the little grey mech replied, grinning cheerfully up at him. "I'm the best sniper in the Autobot ranks, so I come down here often to practice so I don't lose my accuracy. Did you come down here to practice, too?"

"I was just wandering around and ended up down here," Ultimus answered. "I'm promarily a swordsmech and hand-to-hand fighter. Guns were forbidden to gladiators and slaves back when I was built. The Quints figured it would give us ideas of rebellion." Acid dripped from the words.

Bluestreak blinked up at him. "You've never fired a gun before? Really? I've never met any mech who didn't even know how to fire a gun before. You'll have to learn, then, since most of the Decepticons prefer to shoot at us from a distance as opposed to getting close enough for bladed weapons or bare fists to come into play, and every warrior has to be able to shoot at an enemy since the enemy will be shooting at him and not want a warrior to get anywhere near him. With your size you'll be able to use some big guns and cannons, maybe the big weapons that can take down a gestalt in one shot!"

Ultimus shrugged, most of that going right over his head. "I already have a lot to learn. What's one more new thing to add on top of that?"

The little mech reached out to pat the closest part of Ultimus's armor he could reach, the kilt-like armor plates covering his thigh, in a reassuring manner. "We all have new things to learn. You'll get used to it, and you'll adapt, I know it. If you've lasted this long you're a real survivor, and I highly doubt you have any intention of laying down and giving up now!" He shifted his grip on his rifle. "If you're not here to work on your marksmanship, maybe you're here to keep your other skills in practice? The sparring arenas are farther down the hall, on the left." Bluestreak pointed.

Yellow optics brightened slightly. "That sounds like a better idea... Maybe it'll also give me a chance to digest what I've been learning." Nodding to the small mech, Ultimus turned and left the shooting range, hearing the gunfire resuming behind him as he walked down the corridor to the door marked "training room". Stepping up to the door to activate the sensors, Ultimus looked inside.

The room was vast, broken up into several sections. Several large circles, sparring rings, had been marked out on the floors. Training drones were lined up along one wall. A few other Autobots were in the room, testing their skills against each other. Ultimus eyed them, evaluating their skills with the critical optic of a veteran warrior, specialized in the field of taking other mechs apart. It took him only a few moments to reach the conclusion that their technique could use work. Snorting to himself, he made his way to one of the other sparring circles, drawing his massive sword out of subspace and beginning his warmup.

The former was so absorbed in his swordwork that when his blade collided with another weapon, he actually jumped, startled. His head came up, sulfur-yellow optics wide with surprise, to find a crowd surrounding the sparring ring at a respectful distance and Ultra Rodimus right in front of him, a long-shafted, double-bladed battleax in the Prime's hands. It was that battleax with which Ultimus' sword had collided, startling him out of his concentration.

"Your swordwork is most impressive," Ultra Rodimus told him, his emerald optics gleaming. "Would you be willing to test your skill against mine?"

"I'm not an easy opponent, and I don't hold back," Ultimus warned. "Pulling hits was... greatly discouraged back when I was built."

"I can handle whatever you can dish out," the Prime replied. He gestured to the ring with his ax. "Shall we?"

Ultimus stared at him for a long moment, then showed his fangs in a nearly feral grin, getting a mutter of unease from the surrounding crowd. Ignoring the watchers, the big redhead took up a position in the ring, settling into a battle stance. Ultra Rodimus settled into place across from him, holding his ax in a manner that very clearly stated he knew very well how to use it. For a long moment the pair merely held their stances, regarding each other.

Then the Prime's lean frame uncoiled with lightning swiftness, and the match was on.

Despite Ultimus' initial misgivings about fighting the faction leader, he quickly discovered that Ultra Rodimus was better than he appeared. The Prime was fast, actually faster than Ultimus was, though Ultimus had the advantage in mass, and experience. Under other circumstances he'd have the advantage of greater reach, but Ultra Rodimus' weapon easily negated that. After a while Ultimus had to admit that his opponent also had an advantage in sheer flexibility. He'd never seen any mech bend and twist that way to avoid hits, and the winces from the onlookers whenever Ultra Rodimus twisted in an odd or awkward direction was a clear indication that the Prime was alone in having such a flexible frame.

The match lasted the better part of a joor, drawing in a crowd. Almost the entire population of Autobase had gathered to watch when Ultimus succeeded in disarming the Prime and pinning him, blade pressed against the cables of the grey mech's throat. Ultra Rodimus yielded gracefully, allowing Ultimus to pull him to his feet.

"That was a most enjoyable experience," the Autobot commander commented over the awed murmuring from the crowd, grinning up at the former gladiator. "It's very rare that I have the opportunity to spar against a warrior of your caliber. There's a lot I could learn from you, I think."

"I've never faced an opponent quite like you before," Ultimus admitted, securing his sword across his back. "I look forward to sparring against you in the future."

Ultra Rodimus' grin widened. He was about to reply when a stir at the entrance caught his attention, a scowl crossing his features. Ultimus turned to look, watching a pair of mechs, one red and one yellow, came bolting in.

"When those two are moving that fast, it's never a good thing," the young Prime muttered before raising his voice. "Sideswipe! Sunstreaker! Just what are you up to this time?"

"Why do you always assume we're up to something?" the red one almost whined.

"Because I know you, Sideswipe. And I've been the target of too many of your pranks. I know you're up to something." Turning a laser-intense glare on the mech he'd identified as Sideswipe, he was about to say something else when the doors opened again and another mech stormed in.

The newcomer was a big flier, easily in the same height class as Ultimus and Ultra Rodimus, maybe even bigger. Long wings spread out behind his shoulders. His expression was reminiscent of a stormcloud about to unleash unholy fury, and it was easy to see why. His frame dripped with yellow paint, the fuselage on his back patterned in black and white checks. A word had been boldly painted just behind his wings, on the sides of the fuselage. After a moment of blinking, Ultimus made out the word "TAXI" painted in neat letters. Behind the angry mech came another, also a flier, colored in silver, red, and yellow.

Ultra Rodimus just stared for a moment, then shook his head, looking back at Sideswipe. "I swear you two have a death wish."

"It wasn't our fault!" Sideswipe protested.

"I can see the paint smears on your hands from here," the Prime informed him bluntly. Drawing himself up to his full height, he glared at the red and yellow mechs. "Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, you are going to strip that yellow paint off Skyfire and repaint him in his proper colors. And you are going to be doing it properly. Silverbolt-" he motioned to the mech who had followed Skyfire into the arena, "-will be watching, and if he catches you slacking, he has my permission to shock you in the aft until you do it right."

That got a whine from the two miscreants and a grin from the mech indicated as Silverbolt. A glare from Ultra Rodimus that could have stopped a rampaging Menasor in his tracks got a flinch and finally a reluctant acceptance from both. The two slunk out, Skyfire and Silverbolt following them, a black cloud still hovering almost visibly over his head.

"Does that happen often?" Ultimus asked after a moment of silence, looking at the Prime curiously.

Ultra Rodimus groaned, rolling his optics. "Let me put it this way... There are times when I'm not sure if I'm running an army or a daycare."

That said, the grey mech stalked out of the arena, muttering to himself while the big former gladiator proceeded to laugh his skidplate off behind him.

Tbc...

Another chapter down! No idea when the next one might be out, though... RL isn't slowing down and my plot bunnies are driving me insane.

Darth Krande: Sorry for the wait!

Icy: XD It's inevitable that he's going to be exposed to that particular annoyance. Roddy can't avoid it, and by extension neither can Ulti