A/N: This was done as a prompt from livejournal inspired by chimeradark on Twins_x_Ratch on LJ. Please review!
Disclaimer: I own nothing, sadly enough.
Sanctuary: Part One
Listen younglings, and listen well, for this is your only warning. Your creators told you the Nightwalkers had vanished, that there was nothing in the darkness that could hurt you. They were wrong. Long ago they walked the land, crimson as the bloody foreboding dawn, golden as the gentle evening sunset. They were merciless. These nightwalkers hunted as a pair, seeking their prey without remorse. They ravaged entire cities, and brought civilizations to their knees.
Why not kill them, you ask? They were unkillable. One hundred thousand brave mechs tried, and all were slain with the pair's wicked laughter echoing through the darkness. Day or night, they were invincible. Finally, in an act of desperation, the Great Priest, Alpha Trion, sealed the pair away forever.
Listen younglings, and listen well, for this is your only warning. The nightwalker pair was never killed, nor have they been heard of again. Yet, somewhere in the Darkling Forest where all the evils dwell is a sanctuary gilded in polished stone. Deep within that sanctuary from evil dwells its darkest minions waiting …
Ratchet smirked as First Aid shuddered in the cool morning air, the younger healer drawing his earthen brown cloak tighter about his frame. "Cold?"
"No, sir." Aid replied skittishly, bright blue optics scanning the early morning misty forest warily "Just, last night, that old femme's story. It was creepy."
Ratchet laughed, not his harsh overworked bark that mechs normally heard, but the loud, long, face-splitting grin, laugh that had been missing since summer had ended. "Ha, Aid, that's a good one. My prized pupil is afraid of a nursery tale. Listen, I've been wandering these woods since I gained my journeyman healer's rank. I've passed through nearly a hundred towns and villages, and in every one you'll hear a different version of the same story.
"This one said the Darkling Forest. Iacon Green near the Imperial City claims they're holed up in some golden cathedral beneath the Elite's Crystal Towers. It's a myth." Ratchet finished with a smirk, drawing his own dark green full healer's cloak about him to ward off the early chill.
"But," Aid looked around nervously, "There are nightwalkers, right?" The youngster had come straight from the Imperial City, his family having some member or another in every major civil service within the city.
Ratchet pinned First Aid with a hard scowl, "Yes, they're real, and they're part of the reason why I travel the towns during winter." First Aid looked to his mentor, amazed once more that this brilliant, fearless and terrifying medic was only a couple vorns older than himself. Ratchet had a young face when he laughed, but when he snarled or frowned his plating changed, and seemed to make him twice his age with triple the intimidating bearing. Of course, Aid mused, given his parentage it was to be expected.
Aid finally nodded at Ratchet's words, the longer nights meant more time for the nightwalkers to hunt, and more time for fear to fester in the sparks of villages leading to brawls over nothing, sickness caused by the processors and starvation as cold weather mingled with the predations of the nightwalkers slowed trade to a crawl.
"Ratchet, how have you kept from getting killed?" Aid asked, suddenly afraid that he was walking with a nightwalker in disguise. Despite the older mech's creators both being master hunters with a reputation for their impressive weapons displays, Ratchet had inherited none of it.
"First, its daytime. While nightwalker's aren't killed by sunlight they're not fond of it." Ratchet looked at Aid somberly as the early rising sunlight kissed his pale face plating. "Second, the nightwalkers can't drink high grade. There's too much energy in the liquid and for them it's like drinking sunlight." Ratchet continued his glare not demeaning himself by reminding Aid of all the high grade he drunk the night before. "Third, well," Ratchet hedged momentarily, "I offer my services to anyone in need, and that's brought me some night time patients willing to open their territory to me."
"You treat mff-!" Ratchet slammed First Aid's mouth shut, cutting off the loud yelp with his own cherry red dermal plating pressing hard against Aid's white face plates.
"Shhh! You twit, yes, I treat vampires. They pay better than the living and I only treat those who have given up killing to survive. There are a few, not many and I only treat those the others vouch for." Ratchet snarled in a whisper. "I'm not proud of it, but if the fuel suckers can provide the credits that allow me to treat the poor then it's worth damning my spark to the Unmaker for."
Ratchet finally released First Aid with a wordless snarl, the good mood from earlier lost. 'As usual' First Aid thought to himself as he rubbed his face tenderly. He had been traveling with Ratchet for the last season, having just gained his journeyman status that summer. Ratchet was the best healer known in Iacon Province, the best that the wealthy could not buy. The older medic had been propositioned by every noble, elite and wealthy merchant from Kaon to Tarn and from Tyger Pax to Crystal Gorge. Yet no one could own him.
First Aid had begged, pleaded and done every iota of volunteer work, menial labor and 'favor' his instructors at Healers' Academy could throw at him just to be mentioned to the infamous Healer Ratchet for his Journeyman apprenticeship. Now, six weeks into a thirteen month trial First Aid was wondering if he shouldn't have listened to his eldest brother, Hot Spot, in the Imperial Fire Brigade and found a mentor within the city.
"First Aid!" Ratchet hollered from up the road, "If you can't keep up then go home."
The younger healer balked, then scowled angry that Ratchet would tell to give up so easily and angrier that he had been contemplating the same thing. "Ratchet?" Aid froze as he caught up to his mentor, "What's that?" One white hand pointed nervously to a bend in the road that hid the origins of the strange distortion in the air.
"Heat shimmer," Ratchet frowned and hustled to where the hazy distortion originated accompanied with the singing of overheated metal.
"Heat shimmer? But, its freezing!" Aid balked, not wanting to find out if this was just an overheated mech who had run all night from a nightwalker or a nightwalker suffering sun syndrome.
"I'm going to kill him." Ratchet huffed once he reached the fallen form and knelt turning the pale figure over to reveal the unconscious figure of a well dressed white mech, blackened patches along his light green tunic and crimson vest over his chest and torso telling of a lost fight with a more powerful mech and the beginning of rust eating into the wounds.
"Hey Ratch." The mech gasped as pale violet optics flickered in and out. "Miss me?"
"You slagging glitch." First Aid flinched back from the snarled roar as much from the color of the fallen mech's optics.
"They're violet – they're real." First Aid babbled feeling his vents hitch in terror. Only nightwalkers had violet optics. Only nightwalkers. The creatures his older brothers had taunted him with, claiming they were under his berth, waiting in the hall, in the darkened wash room at night. They had tortured him in their youngling days with countless terrifying pranks as they lunged from the darkness to nip at his neck.
"Of course they're real you little ninny! I told you I treated the less violent ones; now help me get him out of the sun before the rest of his plating blisters off." Ratchet yelled at Aid, pulling the soft sparked city youngster out of his processor loop.
First Aid rushed to help, conditioned by weeks of Ratchet's verbal abuses to jump first and ask how high or where later. Together they pulled the large white mech out of the sunlight to a nearby shaded clearing, laid the unconscious mech as close to the sheltering trees as possible and began cleaning the worst of the wounds.
"This is Wheeljack." Ratchet finally spoke once the worst of the wounds were taken care of. "He's –"
"Trying to create an alternative to drinking mech blood." Wheeljack interrupted. "Hey Ratch."
"You already said that." Ratchet glared at his friend, "Now, what happened?"
Wheeljack winced, flinching as he slowly sat up, his nightwalker systems already having repaired most of his wounds. "Uh, leading Decepticons away from the sanctuary?" Wheeljack flinched away as Ratchet cursed roundly.
"What's a Decepticon?" First Aid asked blankly.
"One of the Three Morons" Ratchet snarled gruffly. "Those of the Decepticon faith are warrior monks who have pledged to wipe the land clean of nightwalkers, destroy them to the last infected innocent."
"But you said there were Three Morons?" Aid goaded, wondering why he couldn't keep his vocal processors muted today.
"The other major sect is the Autobots, those who pursue the nightwalkers in order to become one." Ratchet shuddered.
"Or volunteer to be their companion" Wheeljack chimed in, looking from First Aid to Ratchet and back with a slowly growing smirk.
"Or that." Ratchet agreed in disgust.
"Companion?" Aid looked blankly between Ratchet and Wheeljack, wondering if he would be quizzed on this later.
Wheeljack nodded, "Companions volunteer as food sources for us. They get the finest energon we can afford, in trade we get to feed off of them. We do not hurt them, just transfer a little of their supply into our reservoir." First Aid blanched, quickly huddling his major lines from his knees to his neck under his cloak.
"The last are the Neutrals, they're not as bad as the Decepticons, but they're bad enough. They push for nightwalkers and mortals to live in harmony, live and let live and claim the day will come when we can all sit together and sing the hymns of Primus." Ratchet spat as he packed up his healer's kit, shouldering the hefty bag as he stood.
"But – you live with nightwalkers, sort of." Aid pointed out hesitantly. Wheeljack couldn't blame him, he hesitated to piss Ratchet off unless if it was funny. Still the irony of a nightwalker fearing a – mostly – unarmed healer constantly amused Wheeljack.
Ratchet glared at his apprentice, Wheeljack howled with laughter until he was suddenly silenced by a wrench to the helm. "I treat non-lethal nightwalkers. I do not propose to build a village next to the largest coven in Iacon and expect to have a trading partner!" Ratchet snarled once last time before standing smoothly, smoothing out his simple dark grey tunic and brown leggings unconsciously as he turned on the nightwalker. "Come on 'Jack, if you're well enough to be a pain in my aft then you're well enough to take us to Sentinel." Ratchet stood, shouldering his pack.
"Ratch, Sentinel was terminated last night by Cyclonus." Wheeljack spoke softly ear fins First Aid only now noticed flashing a somber orange in sorrow.
"Fraggit," Ratchet snarled, "Then, take me to your leader." First Aid and Wheeljack giggled.