Warning: Boring personal note. The real story starts below. Feel free to skip
Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. You have encouraged me to finally get in gear and start on my scifi novel. Unfortunately I am now gainfully employed so my updated and new fics will be slower in coming from this point on. I'm posting this one early because tomorrow we are invaded by a horde of smelly boys, one bachelor uncle and one teenage cousin counts as a horde right?
This is not the last of Sal and Zech. There is still much I have to discover about them. Their part in the Autobots' lives is far from over. They will continue to ply the trade routes between Alaska and Mexico. So if you are ever on I-5 keep your eyes open for a gunmetal grey semi and remember, he likes jerky.
Blood and Energon 15
A Transformers Prime FanFiction
Outside Jasper Nevada
Jack Darby felt the wave of wellbeing wash over him as they pulled onto the home stretch; that long arrow of cracked blacktop that led straight into the butte. It never failed to invigorate him. He wondered idly if Optimus felt the same way as he leaned forward eagerly, hands lightly resting on the steering wheel. Suddenly the semi jerked to the side. Jack sensed the Autobot release control. He felt a brief moment of panic but managed to bring the big rig back in line before they went off the road.
"So I guess that means I shouldn't relax until we're safely in the base?" Jack asked with a grin, "because we're still exposed out here."
"In a time of war such as this, a leader rarely has the luxury of letting his guard down completely Jack," the Prime said simply. "You must always be prepared to react." The words might have sounded like a reprimand, but the human could sense the quiet approval of the mech. He had passed the test.
They rolled off the asphalt and the cliff face opened to admit them into the cool darkness of the caves. Jack spotted his mom's car parked in the usual place. The rest of the Autobots were standing around the main computer consol waiting for them with nervous expressions. Raf and Miko stood on the platform in front of the Optimus eased around and backed up to the storage area.
"Arcee, Bumblebee. Please unload the equipment so Ratchet may begin integrating it immediately. Bulkhead please begin rearranging storage bay B to accommodate the ore that will be arriving via the groundbridge later."
The sleek blue fembot smiled at Jack and turned to her assigned task. The human
"Ah ah! First you are going to have a decontamination bath and a through exam," Ratchet said firmly. "Fowler briefed us on your little encounter with the Decpticon."
Optimus transformed and gently set Jack down beside the other humans on the walk way.
"And that means both of you," the medibot continued with a nod at the human. "Nurse Darby is preparing the lab for you as we speak Jack."
"Actually Ratchet, I was rather looking forward to a, hot shower, I believe Arcee called it. If our human friends don't mind assisting, I'll take it after Jack is properly rested."
Ratchet hesitated. The thought of replacing the very effective decontamination method of an energon bath with this aquatic alternative didn't sit well with him. But it did appear to be adequate, and saved a great deal of the precious fuel.
"Hey! Can we help? I'll go get my swimsuit," Miko called out gleefully, sprinting towards the human's living area.
Optimus turned to look at the woman who cam hurrying out of Ratchet's lab. She was smiling eagerly as she took Jack in her arms, but the prime could see the shadow of fear in her eyes.
"We heard there was an attack and we couldn't contact you," she said holding the young man out at arm's length t examine him. "I was so worried."
"Everything was fine Mom," Jack assured her, squeezing her hands gently. "As soon as it came to fighting Optimus hid me off in the woods while he trashed the cons. They never stood a chance."
The Prime smiled slightly at this version of events, but did nothing to correct the human. He was all too familiar with the art of tailoring the truth to soothe the fears of loved ones left behind. June Darby smiled up at Optimus.
"Well thank you for taking care of my son," she said, "but now it's time for you to shower and get some rest," she continued.
"Sure Mom as soon as we get Optimus washed down," Jack said, "He's had one hard trip."
Under most circumstances the Prime would have insisted Jack tend first to his own needs. But he saw within this young human the potential to be a great leader, potential that needed to be nurtured. One of the most difficult lessons Optimus had had to learn over his millennia of leadership was that it was only through the hardship of personal sacrifice, that one would grow. Sometimes, for the sake of the future he had to step aside and let another make that sacrifice however small it might seem.
June seemed about to protest as Jack headed for the wash bay but stopped. She looked searchingly at his retreating back then up at the leader of the Autobots. Something passed between them in that moment; a sense of shared responsibility for this budding life. The woman nodded slightly and followed after her son.
Optimus strode into the tall bay and activated the high pressure shower heads. Arcee had been very accurate in her description. After a few minutes the odd sensation was quite enjoyable, and the detergent was very effective at cleansing his plating of the road dust. The best part however came when the humans came out with the detail brushes. The Prime knelt down as the three children and Mrs. Darby scrubbed away at his back and shoulders. Miko threw herself into the task, her strokes fast and hard. Raf was more timid, gently stroking the sensitive joints. Jack and his mother shared a similar technique. Steady firm strokes that left his armor feeling clean and refreshed.
After the final rinse June shooed all three children towards the bathroom setup Ratchet had had installed in his lab. Jack made sure Miko and Raf got cleaned up first then indulged himself in a long hot shower. He had decided to ignore all the odd things he was seeing; the little animals that darted across the floor of the base, the eyes that stared out of the dark corners. They were all slowly fading as time passed. He figured if he told Fowler the fed would just tell him to keep quiet about it anyway, and the ability to sense living energon might come in useful. Besides both his mom and Optimus had enough to worry about, no need to burden them with one more issue.
The phrase, 'I feel human again!' rather confused Optimus, but as he had heard June use it on more than one occasion he only smiled slightly when Jack made the declaration on exiting the shower. What species exactly had he felt like before?
Ratchet had fussed over his injuries as expected and was none too pleased when Optimus refused to explain them in any but the vaguest terms. June was equally disturbed over their silence about the trip but determining that Jack was completely uninjured appeared to soothe her greatly. She called Optimus aside and quietly thanked him again for protecting her son. The Prime humbly accepted the mother's gratitude.
"Jack is a very capable young man Mrs. Darby. It was a pleasure to have him along and his presence was ultimately essential to the successful outcome of our mission. He will make an excellent soldier in time," the Prime said.
June Darby nodded glowing at the compliment and shivering at the implications. She had had time now to grow used to the idea that Jack planned on joining the military to continue working with the Autobots, but seeing him in that uniform had made it all too real.
"It is frightening to send the young one out," Optimus murmured. June glanced up at him in surprise. The mech was gazing down at her gently. She nodded in response. It amazed her how often this alien creature could understand what she was going through.
"But we have to let them leave the nest and try their wings," she responded softly.
They stood in companionable silence. The Prime and the mother pondering the future, and how one human might shape it.
Two Weeks Later
Eielson Air Force Base Alaska
"But why can't I have a rocket launcher?" a deep voice somehow managed to whine despite being several octaves lower than any human could produce. "I'd be careful and never use it on civilian populations."
On a wide flat tarmac under a cloudy sky a gunmetal grey semi rolled along after Chief Master Sergeant Larry D. Meier, III. like a giant puppy. The rig bore the red oval logo and general shape of a Peterbilt 381 but an experienced eye would notice several subtle modifications. The tall broad shouldered man it was following stopped and rubbed his gleaming brown scalp in frustration.
"For the last time, you are a civilian, we don't trust high level ordinance to most of our military personal. There is no way I am going to give you that kind of firepower. You already have enough modifications to take out anything on the ground today at close range, and that is more than what you need for self defense," the sergeant glared at him.
"Yeah, but I'm not worried about what might hit me on the ground I'm more concerned with,"
"Sal, stop talking now," the usually friendly soldier was deadly calm now. "THEY are none of your concern. You did good in B.C., better than good. But we need to take care of this ourselves. You know that. If you are attacked again nobody will fault you for defending yourself. But you know what the cost will be if it even looks like we can't handle them ourselves. You know how many people will die."
The semi fell silent.
" The military has agreed to fund your upgrades because the geeks in R&D say they can learn enough from analyzing you to push medical science ahead a good three decades. That means better prosthetic integration, maybe even a way to regenerate limbs for our injured boys. That is why you are here, not so they can turn you into the next super weapon."
"I understand," Sal said quietly.
"Good," the man nodded, "now get over to the test range. Mr. Franklin is waiting for you. Fitting for your new straps begins in at seventeen-hundred hours."
"Not even an unarmed drone?" Sal said sadly as he pulled away.
The human only glared at him. But once the truck was out of sight Meier felt a wide grin creep over his face. He knew what it was like to want the good toys.
Four weeks later
Megatron's Personal Lab, the Nemesis
Megatron stood quietly in his lab, hands lightly clasped behind his back, purple eyes flicking over the two mechs before him. A bulky blue robot was restrained on one table trembling. A sleek red bot occupied the next tearing blankly into space from vacuous eyes. Both bots had a strange dull look about them, as if neither had seen polish or wax for decacycles. Just behind the towering Decpticon Lord a rangy purple fembot stood attentively with a slight smirk on her face.
"This procedure has what, a one in twenty chance of succeeding?" she asked of the tall mech.
"Roughly," he replied, "there are far too many unknowns to calculate the odds exactly."
"And it will be extremely painful regardless of weather it works or not?" her honey smooth voice went on.
"Undoubtedly," Megatron growled never taking his eyes off the faces of the insensible Decpticons. "What exactly is your point?"
"Oh you know me my Lord," Ariachnid smirked as she stepped forward to trigger the machine, "I like to know the details before the show starts." She ran her servos lightly over the command consul and stepped back.
"It is begun."
The red mech suddenly arched his back and screamed. He strained against the bonds holding him to the table for a few seconds then went limp. The displays over his head resumed a normal rhythm.
"Is that all?" the spider-bot pouted. "Really Lord Megatron, I was hoping for more of a show."
"Sorry to disappoint," a weak voice gasped out.
"Report Knockout," Megatron ordered.
"Well," the red mech purred with as much suaveness as he could summon from flat on his back. "You ordered myself and Breakdown to investigate an odd energon reading. We bridged to some location in the middle of nowhere. And now I'm waking up here in desperate need of a plate buffer."
Megatron's optics narrowed.
"You do not recall tracking Optimus Prime and summoning air support?" he asked quietly.
Knockout shivered in his helpless position. The wrong answer could get him offlined.
"No my Lord, I can't say I recall any of that."
"Perform the procedure on Breakdown," Meagatron ordered, turning away from his medic abruptly. The red mech was of no further use to him at the moment.
Ariachnid triggered the system again. Knockout turned toward his fellow mech with an expressionless face, it was never wise to show true emotion in front of the Decpticon leader. This time the results satisfied even the sadistic spiderbot's expectations. As the energy surged through the blue mech he began to twitch, then struggle, then scream. The bonds protested at his strength. One snapped under the strain and the 'con began clawing wildly at his face. Megatron looked down at his soldier in distain. The fusion cannon on his arm surged to life.
"Breakdown!" Knockout called weakly but desperately. "Breakdown, we're on the Nemesis, we're safe," 'Relatively speaking,' he thought to himself as he saw Megatron lower the cannon.
At the sound of the red mech's voice Breakdown paused and looked vaguely in his direction.
"Knockout? He whispered, "are you there?"
"I'm right here you idiot. Our Lord Megatron wants a status report. Can you oblige him?"
"We were following the Autobots," Breakdown whispered turning toward the towering Decpticon, "but it was so long ago. The shadow people kept us for so long."
His lone optic roved over Megatron's bulk, then Arichnid's lithe form and he began to tremor.
"The shadows," he continued hoarsely, "the shadows have you both."
"What happened when you engaged the Autobots?" Megatron demanded.
"Autobot," Breakdown said, "there was only one, Optimus. The other, it was no Cybertronian. It wasn't real, didn't belong to this, this world. We fought them but it marked me. It marked me and the shadow people found us by the mark. They said so."
"Ah, Lord Megatron," Knockout hazarded when Breakdown seemed to drift off for a moment, "Precisely how long have we been gone?"
"That is an interesting question Knockout," Megatron turned his attention to the medic. "According to the Nemesis's logs your last contact was over forty-three solar cycles ago. When we discovered you ten cycles ago, wandering aimlessly around the eastern edge of the continent, I had you internal chrono circuitry scanned. It held no data for that time period."
"That's impossible," Knockout protested, even as he ran a diagnostic himself. It was true. There was some gap in his internal records. The internal systems of all Cybertronians were set to give accurate temporal readings even in the event of being sucked into a singularity. He felt fear trickling down his backstrut.
"Yes, and interesting scientific question," Megatron mused calling up a data display and waving for Ariachind to release the medic. Knockout staggered over to the screen feeling suddenly very old.
"Impossible," he whispered staring at the screen.
"Indeed," Megatron replied, "By analyzing the energon in your veins it was clear that it was from the same batch you received before you left. From your energon usage you were gone perhaps sixty cycles from your last refueling. However the degradation pattern on you mesh would suggest centuries of cosmic radiation exposure. You have no memory of the events…"
All three mechs turned toward the figure on the table. Breakdown was staring intently at Knockout's spark chamber.
"They kept us until the humans could escape. They said they didn't care about the blood demon, couldn't see Optimus, but the humans must live," he began to tremble visibly. "We were a threat. I was marked. I am sorry Knockout. They came for me and found you."
"Enough!" Megatron turned and strode to the door. "Knockout! You have a solar cycle to get him functional again. We have more important things to attend to than one malfunctioning glitch. If he's not coherent by then recycle him." The mech left with his dark second in tow. A younger Megatron would have been fascinated by the mystery presented here, but lust for power had subjugated even curiosity over the eons.
Knockout bent over Breakdown and rested a hand on his chest plates. The blue mech seemed to be calmer now that Megatron was gone.
"The shadows have Lord Megatron," he whispered and began clawing at his face again. Knockout swiftly initiated stasis lock and his assistant fell silent. He had little time to save him. The mystery would have to wait.
A grey haired man strolled into a small café in the Pacific Northwest. He was dressed warmly in a faded blue winter coat and baseball cap to protect against the ever present drizzle. Six others glanced up from the only occupied table in the café. For the most part they were ordinary looking middle aged men of European decent, but they had reached the age where time has a greater effect on their features than genetics. All had an air of authority. These were men used to being in command. Only one of the men might be called young. One looked as if he belonged to some northern tribe of the continent.
This one glanced over at the plump woman behind the counter and nodded slightly. She smiled at them and brought over a basket of steaming bread rolls and a fresh pitcher of tea. The bell clinked softly as she left, locking the door and turning the closed sign behind her. The man turned to his fellows and let a frown settle on his face.
"Have you all been briefed?"
They went around the table each nodding. One looked hesitant however. The other men sighed inwardly. He was new to this, he would learn, they all had, but that meant wasted time. The late comer began to explain the situation, slowly and simply. They could not afford misunderstandings. There was no time to waste in rushing. Finally the new one shook his head.
"I am still not sure I understand or fully believe all this," he said rubbing his eyes. " But really, does that matter? I believe the moon landing happened with less proof than I have been shown regarding this," he stopped at loss for words, "this mystic duty," he finished. "This wasn't in the job description, but when I took responsibility for California I knew I was getting in over my head, I just didn't know how deep. I will try my best to aid you whatever means I can, but to be honest I don't even know why you called me."
"The void walker passed through your territory Ed," the first one spoke up again, adjusting his thick glasses. "That alone is enough to put your people at risk."
"Steve?" Ed asked cautiously, "Why 'void walkers' exactly? That name was never explained to me."
"Very few of the signatories to the counsel of Erie can understand space and time as we do. To them the vast reaches of outer space are a trackless void. They see no stars, no new worlds, only an unknowable threat," he spoke clearly, as if he was teaching a class. "Our ability to see and understand that vastness was the main reason we were chosen to be the guardians of this realm."
"But the dragons can see the stars too," the old man said in confusion, "far better than we can, and they are more powerful to boot."
"Yes, individually they are more powerful, but they are relativity few and breed slowly. Moreover, for the most part they are bound to specific areas of this world. While they may have far greater powers of logic than us it was deemed our imaginative ability would serve us better against an unknowable threat."
"But to stay on track," the late comer said. "We are here for three reasons. One; make sure we are all aware of what has happened," he glanced around the table.
"An alien life form was injured by Raven and exposed to a blood demon. Two more were captured and held by the old ones. The blood demon got a taste of the alien's life blood and of the flesh of another," summed up another of the men. "All this in Clan controlled territory."
"No, we don't know if Sal is a blood demon," corrected another man. "He is definitely sentient for one thing and for another he is fully capable of forming emotional attachments. Either of those disqualify him from that designation."
"So what is he?" demanded Ed.
"For the sake of this conversation we only need to know that he is one of the others and he has a strong attachment to the Franklin family and therefore the Clan," Steven stated.
"Reason two; pool our information to see if the others are aware of our guests yet."
"The old ones held them for six weeks our time but didn't realize what they had," one man said.
"Sal knows but will remain silent to protect the Franklins," another offered.
"Amarok sensed danger but assumed it was Russian aggression."
"Raven noticed something suspicious but doesn't give a rip, won't investigate. Out of sight out of mind."
"Wolf tribe cast the interference over the western half of Canada at the request of the Caretaker but assumed American aggression towards the Russians."
"Man those old cold war sentiments come in handy," muttered the oldest of the men with a chuckle.
"So we can safely assume we're in the clear," Ed said brightly. Maybe he could get out of here fast after all. But the looks the others turned towards him, ranging from pity to disgust told him differently.
"You haven't spent the required night in the Winchester house yet, have you?" another asked him sourly.
"No, I didn't see the point," Ed said defensively.
"Do it. It will explain a lot," Steve said shortly. "We can only assume. The others might know everything by now. We have no idea who else the old ones might be in contact with. But I think for now we're safe to say there's nothing we can do directly so just keep your collective ear to the ground."
" Reason three; do we call a full counsel of governors?"
The men set back and each began to think; weighing the cost and effort to get one hundred thirty-seven leaders together in one place, from every corner of the northern hemisphere, without the rest of the world noticing.
One by one they all voted against it.
"But let me suggest this. The commanders in chief of each of the remaining descendants of the Erie Accord need to be brought up to speed," Steve said firmly. "They and they alone have the power to summon the power of North Clan if the need arises."
Uneasily they nodded in accord. The risks of that were all too clear. Few men could survive the stress of dealing with both the void and the depths. Fewer still could remain truly sane.
"So let us discuss ways of monitoring the others without tipping them off."
The meeting lasted long into the night.
Six Months Later
Breakdown rolled down the freeway enjoying the feel of the wind on his plating. There were fewer of the things on the big roads. The crawling creatures were growing more numerous by the day on the Nemesis. But no one else saw them, not even Soundwave. Afraid of showing any weakness, the powerful Decpticon refused to tell even Knockout of the things he was seeing.
Suddenly the bad feeling came again. Breakdown looked nervously around at the other vehicles. There, a few cars ahead; a semi the color of death. The mirrors tilted to get a better look at the approaching SUV. Breakdown felt fear rising up inside his spark. He cursed himself and willed his engine to accelerate toward the gunmetal grey apparition, but he only decelerated. The truck slowed down in turn. One by one the other cars passed them until they were alone on the blacktop. It was all Breakdown could do to keep from spinning around and tearing out at full speed.
"Well hey there," a deep voice growled. "Remember me?"
The 'con spun and jumped the guard rail, blindly fleeing from the terror.
"Why Zech," Sal said, mock offense in his voice, "I think he doesn't like me."
A dry chuckle came from the occupant of the cab.