Blood and Energon 1
A Transformers Prime Fanfiction
A sky blue semi pulled off the Richardson Highway into a remote gas station. A young man lightly hopped down from the cab onto the cracked and patched asphalt and stood glancing around the station. A WWII era leather flight jacket, much patched and mended covered a flannel shirt and faded blue jeans. His jet black hair was tied back in a pony tail. Dark brown eyes and high cheekbones suggested a Native American heritage. Under the dull October sky he stared down at a nearly empty parking lot. The tourists had for the most part fled back to warmer southern regions. At the moment the only other vehicles were a battered old camouflage painted ambulance, and another semi hauling a trailer.
Zechariah Franklin stared in open admiration at the other rig. In sharp contrast to his own truck, the primary red and cobalt blue semi gleamed even under the thick clouds. Every detail of the rough parking lot was reflected in the chrome bumper. The silver tractor trailer positively glowed. It sat low on its shocks, carrying a heavy load.
"Definitely a Peterbilt," Zech murmured and reached back to stroke his own rig, "A younger relative of yours." A sound that might have been a snort emitted from the engine compartment of the 1971 Peterbilt 281. The young man tilted his head and frowned at the logo on the side of the truck. It seemed to be a bold red stylized face. Sad and strong, it stared out across the tundra landscape. A similar face in silver adorned the front grill. Nothing too odd about it, except the young man had never seen it before. It sure didn't herald any of the local trucking companies. It wasn't one of the big national companies. Franklin Trucking had been in the business for four generations. He had grown up knowing every major company, but this was new.
"Where's the Peterbilt logo?" He asked of the surrounding air. The usual red oval was nowhere to be seen on the rig. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Ah well, that just meant it was something to bring up with the driver inside. Truckers loved talking about their custom jobs. He gave the sky blue rig one more quick pat and headed into the grey station store.
The inside of the store, grandiosely if accurately labeled "The Hub of Alaska", was spacious and crowded at the same time. Deliberate chaos probably best described the scene. The ceiling was higher than most gas stations and shelves stocked with every snack food you could imagine, and a few you didn't want to, filled the space. Knick-knack's glittered on worn shelves. A series of decorative wooded planks declared that an old fisherman lived here with the catch of a life time, and other amusing messages. Someone was in the restrooms so Zech wandered the isles looking for something to buy. His family had made sure they were well stocked with snacks before he left on his first solo trip, but a sign on the restrooms declared them for customers only.
After he selected a bag of chips and a hot tea he eyed the only two other customers trying to figure out if either of them drove the gleaming Peterbilt outside. They were both middle-aged Caucasians, probably brothers, Zech speculated as he watched them. Red hair peppered with grey was cropped into crew cuts. They didn't have the look of truckers though. Construction workers, judging from their powerful wrists and shoulders, weather worn faces, and battered hands. The young man caught the scent of the sea drifting off of them. Just up from a fishing trip to Valdez then.
He paid for his things just as a third man came out of one restroom to join the other two. After he had used the restroom he was about to head out to his rig when the other door opened and a young man in cameos stepped out. His blue/grey eyes darted around a little nervously. His dark hair peeked out from under his cap, longer than was strictly regulation. His uniform declared him Private K. Smith, mechanic. Zech frowned again as Private Smith headed for the door, that kid looked way too young to be active duty, but he certainly wasn't one to be casting stones about apparent age. One of the other men, a redhead, intercepted the soldier before he could leave.
"Smith, is it?" The man smiled at the soldier, "I just wanted to thank you for your service to your country," he said sincerely, reaching out to shake the young man's hand. Zech caught a guilty look flash across the soldier's face as he muttered a reply and returned the hand shake. Odd. Zech studied the soldier. Despite his youth his skin had the worn look of the southwest. The uniform he stood so uncomfortably in still held the scent of sand and heat. After the brothers were done with him the young ARMY mechanic slipped out the door and headed directly for the semi. Curiouser and curiouser. Zech trotted out after him and caught up at the tricked out Peterbilt. The other young man turned to face him with a wary look on his face.
"Hey, nice rig," Zech said nodding at the gleaming truck, "specialty job?"
"Oh he's, it's, special all right," replied Smith, immediately warming up and smiling at Zech.
"Yeah, I've never seen a Peterbilt roll off the lot without the company logo. And who owns the truck? That logo doesn't look like any civilian company that usually hauls for the ARMY."
Smith nervously adjusted his Bluetooth earpiece before he replied.
"It's not exactly a civilian rig. It was reformatted later for hauling. The logo is…" his voice faded and Zech could see the gears turning in the other young man's head.
"So I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that if I asked what cargo your hauling I'd either get told it's classified or get a "creative" answer," Zech said divining the source of the soldier's nervousness. A relived look flashed across Smith's face.
"Redundant medical equipment to be donated to charities," he explained creatively.
"Right, so how'd a buck private get stuck hauling 'donations', if you don't mind me asking?"
"Oh, I was there and didn't hide quick enough when the sergeant asked for 'volunteers'", Smith replied with a grin.
"Ha! Well I'm hauling a load of local arts and crafts stuff down to some specialty stores in Cali. If we're going the same way, want to buddy up?"
"Buddy up?" Smith repeated in confusion.
"Oh yeah, you're not a regular civilian driver. I mean travel together like a two truck convoy so we could help each other out and talk to each other. That sort of thing. This is my first long haul out of state and I haven't found a buddy yet," Zech admitted.
"Ah, I don't think," Smith began regretfully. Suddenly he stiffened and glanced at the rig behind him. His finger lightly touched his Bluetooth and his eyes got that unfocused look that signified someone listening to something. Surprise flashed across his face.
"Actually, I could use a buddy. It is going to be a long drive back and this is my first long haul too."
"Great! The names Zech Franklin by the way. Of Franklin Trucking out of North Pole."
"Private Smith out of Fort Wainwright. Nice to meet you Mr. Franklin."
"Please, call me Zech. On the CB I'm Blue Sky. What's your rig's handle?"
"Um," Smith glanced back at the truck at a loss.
Zech frowned to himself. Why would the ARMY send out such an eye catching rig with a driver so inexperienced on a classified mission? He would normally chalk it up to typical government efficiency, but there was something about that truck. It wasn't just eye catching.
Zech glanced back at Smith, who continued.
"Yeah, his call sign is Red Warrior."
"Okay, Sal and I will lead out if that's all right with you. I know this next section pretty well."
"Sal?" Smith asked.
"My rig," Zech explained.
"I thought its name was Blue Sky?" the young soldier said looking in confusion at the old rig.
"No, together Blue Sky is our call sign. Salcha is his name," Zech explained, "The old guy's been in the family business longer than I have."
"Okay then, lead out Blue Sky," Smith leapt up onto the running board and climbed into his cab. Zech jogged over to Salcha and jumped up. He settled into the driver's seat, began the start up process, and felt the engine rev beneath his feet.
In the other rig the young man calling himself Private Smith leaned back in the seat and causally rested his hands on the steering wheel.
"Hey Optimus?" he asked looking at the blinking display's on the dash board as they pulled out to follow Blue Sky.
"Yes Smith?" the Autobot responded, using the cover name even in the privacy of the cab.
"Why exactly are we allowing a civilian to shadow us on our way back to the base?" The young human asked.
"While I have studied the laws of your roads in theory, I have had yet in my time on Earth to have a chance to closely observe a vehicle of similar make to my own over an extended time. This will provide an excellent opportunity for me to hone my ability to blend in on this world. I will be able to learn much of human interactions as well by observing your conversations. Something I have had little time for thus far." The Prime explained. "Also, I thought you would enjoy having a human of similar age to communicate with. It will be at least three days before the journey is done. Our paths will diverge at the city of Eugene, Oregon, but until then the two of you can amuse each other," he continued.
"Oh, thank you," the human said, feeling a little annoyed. The trip up from Nevada had been fun. Optimus had told him stories about old Cybertron and the human had responded with stories about growing up on Earth. Their conversations had run deeper at the drive wore on, science philosophy. Somewhat to his surprise he had truly enjoyed spending time alone with Optimus Prime. Now that would be interrupted by this Zech guy. The need to stop for the humans to sleep would slow them down too, adding time to the trip. The human shrugged his shoulders and was careful not to show his annoyance. Optimus was getting a little too good at reading human emotion.
A crackle and buzz filled the cab, followed by,
"Red Warrior! This is Blue Sky, rolling down the Ol' Ricahard free and clear. How you hanging on?"
"Smith" glanced at the display and raised his eyebrows.
"Simply touch the blue section of the screen when you wish to communicate with Mr. Franklin," explained Optimus.
The human nodded and reached out.
"Blue Sky. This is Red Warrior. We're rolling along just fine."
"Wonderful! Eighteen is usually reserved for Franklin Trucking around these parts. Switch on five."
"Come again Blue Sky?" Smith asked in confusion.
"Switch your radio to frequency eighteen so we're not hogging the common signal," explained Zech.
In Optimus's cab the there was a slight change in the flickering displays.
"It is done." The Cybertronian stated.
"Blue Sky. This is red Warrior now on eighteen."
"Great! We'll make an honest trucker out of you yet Smith," declared Zech with a laugh. "So I'm gonna guess the usual 'where are you from' conversation starters are off the table. Sports or girls?"
Jackson Darby couldn't help but give a small sigh as he squirmed in too tight ARMY boots. The type of deep conversations he'd been enjoying with leader of the Autobots were likely not on the table either. Ah well, might as well enjoy it.
"How about motorcycles?"
Their conversation drifted like these things do as the miles rolled by under the wheels of the trucks. During one lull the young man in the sky blue rig leaned back and stretched his limbs. Despite this lack of contact the truck rolled on uninterrupted, gears shifting and steering wheel turning steadily.
"So Sal what do you think?"
A deep voice filled the battered interior of the cab. Not from any of the radios, but seemingly from within the engine itself.
"They seem like an odd team. Why they would entrust a body that nice to such an obviously inexperienced soldier is beyond me. I say we watch this Red Warrior closely. There is more here than we see. "
The human nodded absently mindedly as he studied the red and blue rig in the mirror.
"The kid is obviously hiding something, classified assignment and all that, but did you notice anything, I don't know, odd, about the rig itself?" Zech asked.
"No, but I don't like it for some reason," replied Salcha with annoyance tainting his voice.