A Transformers Prime Fanfic
A plasma shot ripped through the peaceful, temperate rainforest night, catching a Douglas Fir full in its bore. The pure white light seared a hole into the half-millennia old tree. Steam billowed up from the injury, the water of the sap preventing the wood from igniting. The tree would live. It had survived lightening strikes, fires, and floods. The hole bored by the weapon was of little long term consequence and would one day house a nest of owls.
Not that the warrior who had fired the shot was really thinking about all that. Arcee ran through the dark woods never taking her eyes off of her quarry. The cold fury that drove her after the fleeing Decpticon rarely left any room for much compassion. Keeping other sentients alive was the best she could manage. The plants would have to fend for themselves.
The spider-bot suddenly stopped on a paved road and causally leaned against a sign that declared they were only 75 miles from Mt. St. Hillary. She smirked and waved at the oncoming Autobot. Warning bells rang in the blue bots CPU but she ignored them and kept on. She wasn't quite sure what hit her. A flash of blue suggested Breakdown was involved, but suddenly she was sinking into a sticky quagmire with a crushing pain in her side. Her audio receptors picked up muted voices from somewhere, she thought it must be up but her sense of direction was scraped. She fought toward the noises.
By the time she cleared the bog, the cons were long gone. She tracked them to a clearing where their footprints disappeared suddenly. The warrior cursed softly and began scraping the organic matter off her chassis. She fumed silently as she stalked towards the road. The Autobot started to transform but stopped half way. The crud was seeping into her joints making the process painful. She assumed full robot mode again and tracked back to a quarry she had seen. She jumped into the pool of stagnant water and splashed around until most of the scum had rinsed off. The sleek fembot climbed up out of the pool in the moonlight. Thousands of spent ammunition casings glittered in the gravel at her feet, a militant counterpart to the stars above. This must be some sort of weapons training range for the local humans, she mused. With a final shake Arcee transformed with only mild discomfort and sped down the highway towards her appointed meeting with Bulkhead.
Jack was bent over a mathbook when Arcee rolled into the base. He glanced up at her and nearly dropped his calculator. She was covered in dried green scum. He was pretty sure those were new scratches along her frame. Worst of all, he smelled energon under the swamp stench. The human wasn't sure when he'd developed the ability to detect the Autobot's injuries that way, and cube energon was still undetectable to him. But now he could scent the precious liquid leaking out of his friend from across the base. He put down his work and jogged over to the blue Autobot.
"Where are you hurt Arcee?" He asked as he rested a hand on her saddle.
"Who said I was injured?" demanded his partner, turning her front end toward him sharply.
Jack just cocked his head and raised an eyebrow at the motorcycle. She turned away and slowly, deliberately transformed. It always made the bot uncomfortable when he looked at her like that; like he was looking straight into her spark.
"I'm fine Jack. It's just a scratch. It'll heal on its own." She informed the human firmly, hoping he'd drop it before Ratchet or Optimus got within hearing distance. "I let Breakdown get the drop on me in some spark forsaken swamp by a village called Grand Ronde, and spent some quality time with the invertebrates at the bottom of a bog. Bulkhead is hanging around running recon until we're sure they're gone. "
Jack was listening with one ear while he examined an especially muddy patch on her right thigh. The blue Autobot reached down annoyed, and gave him a gentle shove back towards the human's living area.
"Hey, geometry test tomorrow, remember?" She pointed out.
Jack nodded and returned to the couch where his notes were slowly claiming more and more territory. But the human kept glancing over at his partner worriedly. She gave her report to Optimus Prime and causally refused the decontamination bath Ratchet suggested. Jack finally decided that if the Prime and the medic weren't forcing the issue, he sure didn't need to.
The next day however it was still preying on his mind. On the ride into school his pants had picked up an odd green stain on the inside calf. After the geometry test he found a friend of his who knew of a certain carwash that catered to show cars and got the details. During lunch he checked his bank account balance from the computer lab. He grabbed Miko after history class and got her cooperation. Miko called Ratchet and bridge hopped back to the Darby's house to pick up an extra helmet. When Arcee showed to pick up Jack they were ready for her.
"Hey Arcee!" Miko called out cheerfully, "I totally need your help! With Bulk off in swamp land for now I desperately need a ride somewhere. See? I've even brought a helmet, safety first!"
The headlights on the cycle tilted dangerously. She was sure that helmet had been in the Darby's garage this morning. The bot smelled a setup.
"Miko, can't you host parents drive you there?" Arcee asked quietly, "I'd like to get back to base." The Cycle bot was feeling a little, odd she admitted to herself. But Jack stepped forward and gave his partner that slow, warm smile.
"Please Arcee? It is important."
The Autobot let out the Cybertronian equivalent of a soft sigh. Saying no to Jack when he asked like that was nearly impossible, all the more so because he so rarely asked for much.
"All right, load up," the cycle bot surrendered.
Miko let out a hoot and jumped up behind Jack. Jack steered them out of Jasper and down the freeway to a small junction station. There was a general store, gas station, and a long cinderblock building of some sort. There was very little signage to mark the place. A few OSHA signs dotted the dull grey walls, but from the bustling parking lot they were doing good business. Garage doors marched down earthier side of the structure. There was an office at one end and a snack bar at the other. The people, mostly middle aged men, were clustered around trailers carrying covered cars. They cast the two teenagers amused glances. They saw the pretty little Asian and the healthy young man and jumped to the obvious conclusion. Jack and Miko cruised by blissfully ignorant of the speculation and nostalgia they were inspiring.
"Welcome to Red Chief's Classic Car Wash! I'm Big John." A powerful old man stepped out of the office to greet the children. His thick grey hair was pulled back into a ponytail that ran down to his waist. High cheekbones suggested at a Native American heritage, and sparkling hazel eyes glinted with mischief of the Emerald Isle. His worn tee shirt and bib-overalls revealed still strong biceps with 'Semper-Fi 02/19/45' tattooed on his left arm.
"You kids here to meet your dad?"
Jack shook his head as he dismounted.
"Nope, we're customers." He said and gesture to Arcee. The cyclebot sat fuming a little. What did Jack think he was doing? And without consulting her?
"Well you've come to the right place! Just pull around to one of the back stalls and I'll have Marcus bring out our special options sheet."
"No thank you." Jack said firmly. "I'd like one of your privet bays, industrial set, please."
The man looked at Jack curiously, and down at the cycle. "You waiting for someone else kid?"
"No," Jack glanced at the back end of the long building, "They're the ones in the back right?"
The old man shrugged. It was the kid's money, and they weren't busy at the moment. Why not?
"Okay son, I'll put you in bay 24." The man led them to the far end and opened the bay door far enough for Jack to roll Arcee in. Bright halogen lights shone down on a spare concrete room. The floor sloped toward a grate in the center. Various tubes and pumps were set in booms and cranes in the walls. Big John gave them a quick rundown on how everything worked then pulled Jack aside.
"Son," he said seriously looking the teenager straight in the eye, "we serve a lot of show cars here so we offer complete privacy in the bays when someone's detailing a rig. However we are a family values kind of place." The old marine's look hardened a bit. "Now can you give me your word of honor that you two aren't going to abuse the privilege of that privacy in any way?"
It took Jack a second to realize what the old soldier was saying. When it sunk in the boy's face twitched in shock.
"What! You mean Miko? No way, I mean she's like…" Jack sputtered flustered.
"I just need your word of honor kid, man to man." Big John said.
Jack took a deep breath and looked straight into the marine's eyes.
"I give you my word," he said, "we are only here to wash down my bike. Nothing else is going to happen."
Big Jon nodded and walked out, rolling the door shut behind him. Jack shook his head and smiled. Really? Miko?
"Jack! What the scrap is going on here?" Arcee demanded as soon as the door thumped shut.
Jack turned to smile at his friend.
"Well, since you refused the decon bath I figured I'd just bring you here for a nice hot shower."
"Jack for the last time I am fine! Now get on and let's head back to the base."
"If you insist. Just transform once so you can get a proper look at this place before you decide."
Arcee sat immobile in the center of the bay for a moment then glanced her headlights away from Jack's piercing gaze.
"I can see it fine from here, now let's go," she muttered.
Miko approached with an armful of cleaning supplies.
"What's the matter," the girl asked, half worried half challenging, "Can't bot up?"
Arcee let out what sounded an awful lot like a snort of derision and transformed quickly. She staggered to the side and cried out in pain, clutching at her thigh with one hand while catching herself on and overhead girder with the other. Miko dropped the stuff she was carrying and she and Jack rushed up to the bot.
"Arcee!" Jack said frantically, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize how bad it was. I'll call Ratchet for a ground bridge right now."
"No!" The Autobot gasped out. "Don't Jack. Listen, it's not that bad. It just caught me off guard. But hey, that shower? It means cleaning this goop off of me right? Let's do that." She smiled painfully down at the human, hoping to distract him. Jack and Miko glanced at each other and Jack nodded. They explained the options to her and Arcee picked a hot water rinse down first. Jack and Miko stepped into a Plexiglas booth and Jack turned on the heat.
Three shower heads gracefully moved into position over Arcee. She closed her eyes and braced herself. Hot water jetted out of the heads striking her from all angles around her chestplate. It was uncomfortable. Cybertronians weren't really built to work in water. The Earth type reformatting had optimized her plating for it but it was still not a natural sensation for the bot. But she could feel the scum of the swamp coming loose. The bot gestured for Jack to raise the heads and shuttered her sensors. The temperature gauges in her head armor adjusted her mesh temp to match the water then, making the process a bit less uncomfortable. She waved the heads down and hit her radio.
In the booth Jack's cell rang.
"Hey Partner, turn up the pressure and the heat. Let's get rid of this scum."
Jack obeyed. Running the near boiling hot water down the warrior's frame. The Autobot gritted her mouth plates as the stream hit her thigh, something was stinging bad.
"Okay suds next Arcee," he informed her.
The bot nodded. Except for the injury this wasn't too bad actually. From directly overhead foam poured down. Arcee raised her arms to let the detergent flow over her. The foam stopped and Jack directed Arcee to a large brush. She vigorously scrubbed down but there was a large patch on her back she couldn't reach. The bot sat cross legged on the floor while the kids came out and scrubbed her back. She leaned into the brushing and closed her eyes in enjoyment. Definitely not too bad. After that came another rinse, Arcee had them turn the water up to its highest temp and pressure and leaned into the flow. The heat stung at her thigh but at least it stopped the itching she had been keeping from Ratchet. Finally Jack and Miko came out with detail brushes. Arcee directed them to the final hiding places the various fungi had found and worked under her armor. She didn't see Miko point out a spot on her right thigh to Jack or the frown that crossed his face when he saw it.
"Okay," she finally said and stretched, "One more rinse and that's it we have to head back to base."
Jack nodded and the children retreated to the control booth. They were both soaked and covered in soap scum. After a long final rinse, Arcee was enjoying herself by now, the boy planted himself firmly in the bots path.
"Arcee. You need to have Ratchet look at that injury on your leg."
"Jack. I said to drop it. Look, I appreciate the wash up, but I'm fine." The Autobot narrowed her optics at the human.
"Fine?" demanded Miko, "you have a scraping growth on your leg!" Arcee frowned and bent to look at the injury. Sure enough, there was a circle of raised bumps surrounding the injury.
"Scrap," muttered the blue warrior. She transformed, and it hurt even worse this time. She could feel the bumps scraping along plates that normally slid smoothly.
"You win Jack. Let's head back." Arcee said.
Jack rolled her out of the bay into the bright Nevada sun. Big John strolled out to examine their work curiously while Jack paid in the office. He nodded admiringly at the work the kids had done. That bike sure gleamed. A small discoloration near the rear wheel caught his eye and he frowned as an old memory swum to the surface of his brain. He knelt and gently ran his fingers over a series of raised bumps around a shallow dent. The bike flinched at his touch, but his only response to the very unbike like movement was to raise an eyebrow.
"Hey son," he called out as Jack approached. "This bike been near the Pacific Northwest recently?" He noted the boy's startled reaction.
"Ah, why do you ask?" Jack glanced at Miko who looked curiously between the two.
"Cuz other than Iwo Jima, it's the only place I know of where you get that metal eating fungus."
"What?" chorused Miko and Jack in horror.
The old marine gestured at the bot's injury. "We ran into that stuff after a few weeks on the island. The tech boys thought it might be some kind 'o bio weapon at first but some historian found references to it as far back as Captain Cook. It's just some mean kind of fungus, genus Geotrichum, I think they called it. Chewed up our gear pretty bad back during the war. That there looks like several week's growth. But I wouldn't worry too much." He said seeing the growing fear in Jack's eyes. "It has a pretty narrow range where it can live. As long as you let her dry out in the sun it should be fine. Like I said it only lives in Oregon on this continent at least."
Jack grabbed Miko and pulled her up behind him on the bike, which tore out of the parking lot.
"Well he was right," Ratchet confirmed back at the base. "This is definitely the work of a corrosive fungus. A fairly aggressive one too. It appears that the energon in your mesh was accelerating the growth rate and allowing it to survive outside of its preferred habitat." The medic scowled at the warrior. "If you had reported this injury immediately I would have caught this sooner. A quick decon bath would have prevented the whole matter."
Arcee looked away and said,
"I didn't want to waste all that energon on such a minor injury."
"Arcee," Ratchet shook his head, "I appreciate the sentiment but you need to take care of yourself. Although," the medibot frowned, "this 'shower' Jack gave you seems to have done the job as well. I can find no traces of the live organism on your mesh, only in your energon system. Perhaps Agent Fowler can procure us such a set up for future use. Bulkhead will need a similar washing when he returns."
"Back up!"Jack demanded, "Some plain old Earth fungus is eating away at Arcee from inside? How is that even possible?"
"I was quite surprised myself," Ratchet admitted as he drew up a syringe of glowing red liquid, "but is seems you planet is full of surprises, and strong forms of life." He injected the serum into Arcee. "There, that contains an activated mixture of colloidal silver particles, and should kill off the fungus. Now I'll just smooth down the protrubances and you'll be fine."
Later Arcee sat filling out the report of her battle with the cons. Jack perched easily on her uninjured leg studying geometry.
"Didn't you already have that test?" She asked curiously.
"Yeah, but I only got an eighty-seven." Jack explained. "If I want to be accepted at West Point I need to do much better."
Arcee smiled down at the human and rested a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey thanks for making me come clean," she said, and was rewarded with a chuckle from the young man at the double meaning.
"Anytime Partner, anytime."