Déjà vu

For Science

A Transformers Prime Fanfic

Jack Darby stood in the center of the converted missile silo the Autobots called home and stared determinedly down at a pile of fabric and tent poles. The nice cube shaped cardboard box it had come in swore it was a three man tent. The box sat cheerfully beside the pile, adorned with colorful pictures of happy children frolicking around an orange tent while relaxed parents looked on with Botox smiles. The young man shot an annoyed glare at the fictional people and tried for the fourth time to thread the proper poles through the web of braces on the tent.

He heard Raf over at the table where he was preparing the scientific equipment for their joint project. Jack took a break to look over at the smaller boy. Instead of his usual jeans and sweater he was wearing baggy kaki cargo pants and a loose white long-sleeved shirt, Jack was similarly attired. His thatch of wild brown hair was bent eagerly over the microscope he was calibrating. Bumblebee hunched over the table shining his headlights down on the scene, occasionally moving this way or that in obedience to small hand gestures form his human friend. Jack still wasn't quite sure why the already accurate device needed calibrating, it had worked just fine when they tested it back at the school lab, but Raf insisted it could be better. The older boy was beginning to suspect his contribution to the project was going to be mainly muscle and reputation, rather than any real intellectual support. He smiled at the other boy and turned his attention back to the tent.

The sound of heavy foot falls soon pulled his attention away again as a sleek blue robot with pink trim strolled up to him.

"Hey partner," Arcee greeted him with a smile, "How goes the great wilderness expedition?" Jack snorted and gave a random thrust with a segmented pole at the pile of water proof fabric.

"Could be better. I'm beginning to suspect this tent was designed by a Decpticon spy, in order to demoralize the human population," the young man replied ruefully.

"Can I help?" offered the bot.

"Give it a go. You certainly couldn't do any worse than I am." Arcee knelt down, carefully picked up the fabric, and shook it out. A rain of candy wrappers, pine needles, and dead moths fell on Jack's upturned face. The bot tried to suppress a chuckle as her partner hacked and sneezed. She picked up the box in her other hand and read the instructions. Carefully selecting the longest pole she threaded it through one of the brackets. Jack held his breath and watched hopefully. Just as he thought he saw a vague tent shape starting to emerge a wave of roaring green chaos erupted into the base. Arcee jerked and lunged out of the way as a green hummer squealed to a stop in the base, heavy metal thundering out of its speakers. A small Asian girl bounded out of the driver's door waving a guitar and shouting.

"Free at last! Five day weekend! Let the fun begin!" She stopped as she sensed the glares directed her way.

"What? Why is everyone so stiff? Common this weekend will be EPIC!" The girl gave her instrument a powerful strum on the last word.

"Miko! Please stop I have to get this scope calibrated. Jack and I have to leave in just a few hours," Raf pleaded from the table. Arcee handed a shredded pile of water proof fabric and fiberglass splinters to Jack with an apologetic look. He stared glumly at what used to be a tent then shrugged.

"Oh well, I guess we can just use mosquito netting. Not like it's going to rain there over the weekend." From the medibay a gruff voice shouted for somebot to turn that noise off before he came out there and permanently deactivated that bot's speakers. Blukhead transformed, shutting off the music as he did so.

"Sheesh, what's with everyone?" Miko demanded, "this was supposed to be a fun weekend." Jack stared at the slim Asian girl in exasperation.

"Miko! We told you about this days ago. My grades have been slipping, so Raf and I are doing an extra credit project over the long weekend. We'll be camping out in the desert for four nights and running photosynthesis experiments on algae. Remember?" the young man demanded.

"Oh, yeah," the girl said slowly, "you're going out in the desert; no beds, no baths, no TV, no internet. You're going to play with pond scum and sleep with spiders, ugghh!" Miko shuddered dramatically. "I'll just stay here with Bulk and live like a civilized human being, thank you very much." She jumped up onto the massive green Autobot's hand and scampered up to his shoulder.

"Common Bulk, let's get the chores over with so we can watch that Monster Truck Mash Up at seven." Bulkhead walked off into the depths of the base with the girl bouncing to some internal theme. Jack just shook his head and started organizing things into the two waiting backpacks. Raf shrugged and reached for the next instrument.

A few hours later they were ready to go. Arcee transformed and the loaded most of the gear on herself. Jack put on his camping backpack and looked back at Raf. The boy was trying to extract himself from Bee's grasp. The bot was carefully adjusting the backpack and whistling worriedly.

"Bee! We'll be fine. Jack is with me. We've already been over this. The science teacher will be coming out on Sunday to check on our project, if she sees your tracks she'll be suspicious. What? Yes, she'll notice. She's creepy that way. Don't be like that. I'll be back every day for my daily exam, and Ratchet has modified our phones so we can call back on a secure line. Yes, I'll be safe."

"Bee! Let him go!" Arcee finally snapped. "You don't see me smothering Jack do you?" Bumblebee shot the blue motorcycle a hurt look and gently carried the boy over to the ground bridge. Ratchet was at the controls and June stood by on the platform. Jack helped jumped up onto Arcee and Bee set Raf carefully behind him. Ratchet activated the groundbridge and a swirling emerald portal opened in the wall. June waved cheerfully goodbye as Arcee carried the boys out into the Nevada desert.

After they were gone she walked to the edge of the platform and called out.

"Autobots! We need to talk." Ratchet turned to her in surprise and Bumblebee came over from where he was moping over Raf's leftover equipment. The human woman turned to Ratchet and said, "Would you please call Optimus and Bulkhead? You all need to hear this. It's about Rafael." Bumblebee let out a frantic chirp and leaned over Mrs. Darby blue optics whirling. She guessed at his concern,

"No Bumblebee, nothing is wrong with him. I just need to talk to all of you." Nevertheless the yellow bot fidgeted worriedly until Optimus Prime strode into the room, with Bulkhead and Miko not far behind.

"Mrs. Darby," the red and blue Autobot leader said, "you wanted to see us." June nodded. Even as she opened her mouth to speak a small part of her mind took the time to be amazed that here she was about to give a common lecture, one she had given a hundred times to worried families, to a war unit of two story tall alien robots.

"It's about Rafael," a worried look swept across the faces of the waiting Autobots, "I've been speaking to his mother and she is worried about him, she's noticed a change. You see after his injury we have all been treating him with extra care. Which is good and right," she said. "In addition to diet and medicine a recovering human needs lots of affection from family and friends to heal properly. Epically important is what we call the 'human touch'." She smiled around at the intent looks of the faces around her. "In this case the giant cybernetic organism touch works as well." Miko let out a laugh at that. "You have all been going out of your way to touch and hold Raphael, and I am very glad of that. That personal contact is so important to human recovery. I can't stress it enough." Ratchet nodded and interjected,

"That is another similarity between Autobots and humans. We too, only truly thrive with physical contact from those close to us." June smiled at him.

"Yes. But now I believe that it would be in Rafael's best interests for us all to tone it back a little." A surprised ripple ran through the gathered friends. Miko interjected,

"But you just said, like, hugs and punches were a good thing!" June arched and eyebrow and inquired, "Punches?"

Bee let out a little chirp and gave Miko a dirty look.

"Kisses, I mean kisses. Hugs and kisses, you know buddies on the cheek kisses?" Miko hurriedly corrected herself shooting her best 'I'm utterly innocent' face at the yellow bot. June smiled and shook her head.

"Yes I did. But, as I've been telling Ratchet, one of the most important factors in human health is balance. Water is essential to life, but you can still have too much. Rafael is physically well now but is still traumatized from the event. He is struggling with feelings of helplessness and fear. You have all gone out of your way to make him feel safe. Now we need to let him feel that he isn't helpless."

"And how are we gonna' do that?" demanded Bulked.

"First of all, you need to stop carrying him everywhere. Humans have legs for a reason. Let him use them." The Autobots nodded slowly. Optimus gave a smile and said,

"I must confess my own guilt there. It is simply very reassuring to hold him and know he is alive."

"I know exactly what you mean," the nurse replied as she thought back to when Jack was a baby, "and I'm not saying to stop. Just hold back some, and try to limit asking how he feels to once a day."

"Have you spoken to Arcee about this?" Optimus asked.

"Yes, and Jack as well. That is what this trip is partially about, Mrs. Esquivel and I planned it out. Going into the wilderness with other males is an ancient traditional way of building confidence. I had Jack suggest the location to Rafael with that in mind. In addition to just the science project they are going to do some traditional male bonding rites. Meanwhile Raf's father has been doing similar things at his home."

"Whoa! What kind of traditional rites? Hunting wolves with their bare hands and eating the beating hearts? Hiking barefoot across the desert in one night?" asked Miko eagerly.

"Actually; fire building, ghost stories, and roasting hotdogs over the campfire," June replied with a smile.

"Oh," Miko slumped disappointed back against Bulkhead.

"That's all I had to say, thank you for listening, but now I have to go to work" said Mrs. Darby.

"I'll bridge you to your garage," Ratchet offered as the other Autobots dispersed. June shook her head and waved toward the exit. "I'll drive. It's a lovely day out."

"Very well, have a nice shift," the medibot said. The woman climbed into her car and drove away.

A bit later Arcee radioed in for a bridge back. Ratchet dialed in the coordinates and the green portal appeared obediently. Arcee came through and was immediately accosted by Bumblebee.

"Didn't June have that talk with you?" She asked in reply to his eager inquiry. Bee narrowed his optics at her. She relented and answered,

"They are just FINE Bee. For Primus's sake Jack blew up Ariachnid's ship with a multi-tool. I think he can handle a camping trip." Arcee immediately regretted her words, the last thing Bee needed was to be reminded of was the psychotic, human hunting spider bot out there somewhere. The blue and pink bot shook her head and said,

"Common Bee, we have scouting to do. Let's go get our orders from Prime. Ratchet, where's Optimus?"

"Energon storage," the old bot grunted and waved without looking up from his displays. Arcee tried to pull Bumblebee after her down the hallway but he whistled out a question to Ratchet.

"Oh, probably nothing," the old bot replied, "Just an odd energy spike when Arcee bridged in. It happens all the time." Bee nodded and followed Arcee down the hallway. Ratchet frowned at the screen. It was an odd reading, he would run some diagnostics before the boys bridged back the next morning.