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Ratchet honked his horn as Bumblebee suddenly spun out and looked like she was getting Dukes of Hazard thoughts, then sighed as the yellow Camaro belched black smoke from her tailpipe at him.

//Wait until we've got all this unloaded before you go off-roading.  I don't want anything ruined.//

She gave a double horn toot of acknowledgement, then paused to examine a pair of wires buried at a distance from one another in the road.  Finding nothing threatening about them, she tooted again and drove on.

Ratchet chuckled, glad to see the young scout being her usual happy self again.

Behind him Optimus shifted gears with the distinctive sound, then slowed down to get over a rough part in the road, the springs on his trailer creaking at the unaccustomed work they were being put to.  //I'm looking forward to putting these things to use.  We'll have a real home, with private spaces for each one.//

//Which will just make it harder to keep an eye on Honey.//  Ratchet chuckled again.

//Indeed.//  Optimus gave his own chuckle then groaned as a gopher ran across the road.

//Relax, you missed him.  Everything's fi....//

Ratchet's tires came in contact with the buried wires and the world exploded into flame as incredible amounts of electricity shot through him and ignited his gas tanks.

The blast tore him to bits, causing Bumblebee to weave wildly to avoid his front half, while his rear landed on Optimus's hood with a crunch of offended metal.

Bee was transformed in a heartbeat and running back to where his transformed upper body lay crumpled in the gully by the side of the road.  "Ratchet!"

He was shuddering as fried circuits struggled to carry out their jobs, but his optics unshuttered and stared up at her blindly.

Bumblebee stared at the fading light in them, then sent out a frantic call for backup.

* * *

Endeavour had been in the back of the compound when the call came through, most of her inputs shut down for the purposes of the construction project she was undertaking.  The frequencies of the sonic tools she was using were quite close to the fundamental frequencies of some of her components.  As such, it was necessary to shield them.  The result was that she couldn't hear much of the outside world.  However, her comlink was active, and the sound of Bee's voice as it came through made her spark jump around in an erratic pattern she'd never felt before.


//On my way, Bee.  What do you ...//  She stopped short when she saw the plume of ugly, black smoke a few miles in the distance.  Whatever had happened was bad and they'd probably need evac.  It took a few seconds' delay, but she summoned her drone half, transformed into her full-size mode, and raced to the scene, engines screaming as she covered the distance in mere seconds.

She discarded her drone for the time being and landed in bot mode amidst the scene.

It wasn't good.  Bits and pieces of the cargo that the convoy had been transporting were strewn across the desert, some of them on fire.  A huge skid mark rent the desert sand, and Optimus, Bumblebee, and Ironhide were leaning over... something.

Endeavour scanned the situation promptly and felt something akin to the human sensation of nausea.  What they were standing over was not something; rather, it was someone.

She knew this because about thirty feet away lay his bottom half.  Avoiding heaps of flaming cargo, she picked her way toward it, hoping very much that she was being delusional.  Her CPU caught up with the information her optics were processing, and she quickly realized that she wasn't.

-Oh no.-

The legs and bottom torso she was surveying belonged to Ratchet.  Bidding her internal subroutines to just get over the shock already she lifted her head and barked out to the others in a voice that, up until now, had never sounded authoritative:  "What happened?"

As she waited for their response she gathered the wreckage in her arms and strode toward them purposefully.  More purposefully than she'd ever done before.  It was almost as though Endeavour was acting on autopilot.

Or instinct.

Optimus turned and grabbed her shoulder, his optics intense under his dented and scraped helm.  "We have to get him back to base STAT."

"Hold on," Ironhide was saying gruffly, moving aside slightly as Bumblebee stumbled away and scanned the desert, her cannon at the ready.  "Your girl's here.  Everything's going to be alright.  Just hold on."

Endeavour looked at Prime and nodded.  "I know, that's why I brought the drone."  She carefully handed Ratchet's lower half to Ironhide.  "I'll get the drone, and you come with me.  Keep him as together as you can; that'll buy him more time.  The transit will take seconds."  She straightened and turned to Bumblebee and Optimus.  "You two find whatever's hanging around this desert of him, and bring it back."

She stepped back, summoned the drone, and transformed again, payload bay doors opening so fast there was an audible scrape against her wings.  "Let's go," she said.

The weapons expert got aboard, careful not to jostle his friend, who was still twitching and shaking and making a low sound of pain.  "It's going to be alright.  (Everything's going to be alright.)"

"Here."  Optimus hurried over and lay Ratchet's right arm inside, then turned back to Bumblebee, who was scanning the desert in a perfect fury of grief.

Endeavour could feel how Ratchet was halfway toward convulsions, and she was just plain scared, but there was no time to dwell on anything.  She closed her doors as quickly as she'd opened them, leaving he and Ironhide in darkness.  Another blast of her engines and a few seconds' delay and she was beside the back door of the hangar, taxiing right into the shop.

"Okay," she said, opening up and coming to a stop.  "Get him out and we'll - "

She stopped short, staring at the two humans who were standing near the bench and then shifting.  "What are you two doing here?"

"We're here to help you," Jeimu Chang-Oboa said mildly.  "He needs all the help he can get."

"What she said," said Uzulee McCoy with unwonted seriousness, shifting her grip on the life support module as she finished setting out what they were going to need.

Ironhide growled, holding Ratchet protectively as he eyed the two humans dangerously.

"Flonq, his systems are failing."  Uzulee set the 'crockpot' down and looked at Endeavour.

"It's okay, 'Hide," Endeavour said, her voice shaking only a little bit as she leaned over, fumbling slightly as she went to open Ratchet's spark casing.  "They know what they're doing."  Her own fingers twitched visibly as she got the compartment open.

And she stopped, sighing.  "I... I can't do this."  She couldn't wrench him from his body.  She just couldn't.  Her hand hovered in mid-air for an agonizing second.

Jeimu's voice broke the silence.  "Yes you can."  The human looked as bad as Endeavour felt; on the verge of crying.  But the 'Bot took strength from her words and leaned right over Ratchet, getting a good look at his face for the first time.  He was in a bad way, his optics open, glowing faintly, but distressingly blank.  She kept scanning his systems and heard master alarms going off within his own subroutines, realizing that he was in pain and she was about to make it a whole lot worse.

When she spoke to him, it was in his own native language, buried within her own new programming for a long time and only now coming to the surface.  "(I'm sorry.)"  She dug her fingers in and gently - very gently - began the process of extricating his spark from his shattered body.  "(The Amazing Robotic Crockpot, is what you'll be.)"

Part of her hoped he'd heard.  It took several minutes, but pretty soon his entire essence was bouncing around Uzulee's life-support canister.

Ironhide's face was drawn as he watched, but then he gently set the pieces of Ratchet's empty body onto the dusty floor and backed away, looking to Endeavour to see what she wanted him to do next.

Uzulee was swallowing as she surveyed the damage.  "We're not going to be able to salvage some of this.  And I don't think we've got the time and resources for a full repair.  It's a good thing you guys heal."

Endeavour stood silently for a few moments, shaking from head to toe.  "What... what else do you need?"  she inquired, the voice that had been so authoritative mere minutes ago now meek and hollow.  She dealt Jeimu a pointed glance.

"The flybox."  Jeimu nodded.  "E has a backup system that contains some Cybertronian circuitry."  The tiny astronaut nodded.  "It's nowhere near enough, this I realize, but it's something we can use."

"That... will help a lot," said Uzulee.  "Because I wasn't home when I got the call, and I didn't have time to get anything."  Her small square hand ran along the gaping wound where he'd been wrenched apart.  "Flonq flonq flonq!" 

Grabbing a tool, she set to work trying to get melted and fused parts free.  "You've got a cutting laser, right?"

Endeavour nodded.  "Yes."  She indicated the appropriate tool on the workbench surface, then grabbed it and handed it over to Jeimu, who wobbled only slightly at the weight of the thing.  It wasn't overtly large, but it was heavy.  That was when she seemed to snap out of a trance and remember Ironhide standing there, looking torn between wanting to help and wanting to fire a few rockets at the humans.  "Can you do without me for a moment?" she asked Uzulee.

"We're going to need you to get him open."  The little brunette continued her work, her youthful face grave as she wondered if the body was even salvageable.

She sighed.  "Okay.  'Hide - just go back to the main part of the hangar.  See what Optimus and 'Bee have found.  He'll be fine."  She offered what she hoped was an encouraging smile.

Jeimu held out the cutting laser, and she took it, scanning Ratchet's body again, in pursuit of an appropriate place to begin the painstaking task of reassembling his internal systems.  It was only after she'd started work, cutting away the melted parts of his armour and plating, that she realized that the only reason she had any clue as to what to do was because he'd taught her what to do.

Ironhide watched for a few minutes, then turned and went to the living room, where Arcee stood at guard.  The closing of the door behind him was lost in the sounds of the torch and the soft beeping of the life support module.

"It's all...."  Uzulee went to look at his CPU and winced.  "We're going to need most of the parts here... but his programming might be affected...."

Endeavour shook her head slightly, not looking up from where she was arranging the internal wiring of his top half in preparation for the eventual joining to his lower half.  "We have a programming module."  She let herself grin - 'Bee's accidental procurement of the object was now a blessing in disguise.  "He'll be fine."  She grunted slightly and scowled with irritation.  "Can you be a bit more gentle?"

Jeimu grumbled slightly from her position underneath Endeavour's delta wings.  "You're the one who didn't want to swap back so I could get the flybox out the easy way."  A hollow metallic clang came from somewhere in the Autobot's interior, and Jeimu reappeared on the ground, holding the dull grey box.  "Okay, all the spare parts he loaned her are in there.  Take what you need."

Uzulee took it, then abruptly shifted to her blue simian form and set it on the floor to open it up.

"Explains a lot," Endeavour said mildly, going back to work.  Jeimu shifted her attention to Ratchet's lower half.

"The damage here," she said, running her fingers across the plating, "isn't so bad.  It's still pretty bad, but..."  She sighed.  "Hurry up with that laser."

"Almost done," Endeavour grunted, irritated that they only had minimal tools with which to do this procedure.  She cut away the last globules of molten metal and handed the tool off to the ex-astronaut, her optics finally focusing on Uzulee.  "What the..."

"I'm a mutant."  The furry blue girl didn't look up from her skillful gutting of the flybox and sorting of the components.  "Which means, in my case, that I've got three forms to choose from.  This one's stronger and more nimble."

Jeimu chuckled from her end of the room.  "Join the club."

Endeavour paused and looked toward her friend, who had a mass of wiring and piping all separated and hovering in mid-air while she sorted them out, making spot-welds on some, cutting away damaged portions of others.  "Impressive, both of you," she said, returning to her work.

Uzulee nodded absently, then went about getting Ratchet's head open.


Only now was Endeavour beginning to fall apart.  She knew it had taken fifty-seven hours, nineteen minutes, and six seconds to get Ratchet's body back to something resembling normal.  It was a complete hack job and it had left him with some rather disfiguring scars that resembled amateur welds along his middle.  Still, in time, they would diminish as his own CPU took over the healing processes started by her, Jeimu's, and Uzulee's combined efforts.

They'd done an admirable job, all things considered.  But Endeavour was left to reflect on the feeble wavering that she'd felt as she'd replaced his spark.  He'd almost died.  None of them could accurately tell how long it would have taken - how much of a delay would have done him in - before their efforts would have been futile.  And then she'd heard his voice as though he were speaking directly into her aural receivers.  Telling her once again that no, death and destruction did not cling to her like lint on a spacefaring window.  That this wasn't her fault. 

Even if that were the case, it was still a cruel coincidence that the worthless excuse for a creature that passed as a human who had laid that trap had almost taken the 'Bot she loved away from her.

Oh, of course, there was that issue as well.  The fact that she'd been stubbornly clinging to feelings that he had - probably just as stubbornly - refused to acknowledge or act upon was making this entire ordeal even harder.  It also explained why she was here in the darkened room, watching him as he rested on his bunk.  She'd kept a neutral distance between them for most of her vigil, despite the fact that they were always so close when he was up and online.  She figured it'd be inappropriate if she were to be so close to him while he was unconscious.  It might send the wrong message.

She sighed.  Who cares? flittered through her CPU and she crept closer, taking his hand that draped over the side of the bunk in both of hers.

"You probably can't hear me," she began, "but this'll make me feel better, at any rate.  It's a welcome thing to be able to speak my mind, I suppose, when you're not entirely online as to admonish me about how childish you think I'm being."

A sigh.  "I learned a lot these past two-and-a-half solar cycles, you know.  About myself.  About you - well, actually, I saw more of you than I'd like - and... what exactly it is you mean to me."  She lifted her head to look into his face and wondered if there was anything within him that was functional enough to hear this.  She wanted him to hear what she was about to say.

Her voice pulled at him through static and blackness and pain... and he listened, remembering the day... yesterday?  His chrono wasn't working... or he couldn't see it.  But Jeimu had cornered him as he'd visited the gas tank while Endeavour had taken her daily flight.

"You're such an idiot!" the tiny woman had informed him.  "She's still convinced she's going to die in three years!  Why can't you just let her live?"

-Let her live.-  His spark ached as Endeavour's words continued.

"I... I know you think I'm young, and naive, and that I barely have a handle on myself.  But the truth is...  I've seen enough, both in this form and the other one, to know exactly what's going on.  And you had nothing to do with this.  Nothing you did caused me to feel this way.  I just...  I've always felt a connection with you.  You get me more than anyone else."

She paused and sighed again, leaning over and touching her forehead to the back of his hand as her emotional processes came to the forefront.  Soon enough she was shaking, air intakes straining to cool down her overworked processing units.  A human would say she was trying to catch her breath.

His hand moved, just a faint twitch that was meant to be turning to cup her cheek.  On the bunk, Ratchet groaned as he struggled to come online.

She barely noticed as she spoke quietly to the ground.  "And I love you... please.  Just let me love you."

"(...Deavour....)"  His voice was scratchy even for Cybertronian, but her name in his native language seemed to hold centuries of meaning.

All she could do was scoot closer to the bed.  "I'm sorry," she intoned.  "I had to say something... just in case you couldn't..."  She fought through her emotions and realized the strain he was putting on himself.  "But don't hurt yourself," she whispered.  "I don't want to go through that again."

There was the faint hiss of metal against metal as his other hand... the arm that hadn't had to be reattached, moved across his torso and tugged at her weakly, trying to get her to move closer.

She let herself acquiesce to the unspoken request and gently let go of the hand she'd been holding, folding it gently back against his chest before settling down beside him in the bunk.  "You should rest," she said quietly.

He wanted to hold her; wanted to comfort her.  But he couldn't do more than rock slightly as he tried to turn on his side or get his arms to obey him.  His scarred face showed frustration.

"Shh."  She placed a hand on his chest.  "It's okay..."  She couldn't read his thoughts or anything, but he was clearly put out by the fact that his body wasn't quite up to responding.  "It's only been a few hours since we got you out of there.  You might be okay to sit up in a day's time.  Until then..."  She grinned to herself.  "...I'm not going anywhere."

Which was true.  If anyone had a problem with this particular arrangement, Endeavour mused, they could kiss her aft.

He settled back and looked up at her, then finally got his good arm to listen and put a hand to her cheek.  -Let her live.-

She felt her own spark wavering just a little bit, albeit in a way that left her feeling slightly... dizzy.  It was better than a shock from the electrical wires.  She moved slightly so as to be more comfortable, scaling her wings down even more.  She laid her head on his shoulder and smiled.  She'd already said what needed to be said, and although she wanted very much for him to repeat the sentiment, she figured that would just be too much of a good thing.

So she lay silently, watching his face, scanning him every so often to make sure he was still mending.

Ratchet rested for a moment, optics shuttered as he realized that his com was offline even more than his voice, then moved again, looking down as his hand went to the back of Endeavour's head.  -If I can't say it....-

She stirred, looking up at him, emanating a general sense of confusion.  "Hm?"

He gently set his mouth to hers, then winced as his awareness fizzled and he spiraled back down into blackness.

It was a soft jolt; and yet it shocked Endeavour right down to her spark.  Clearly it had done something similar to Ratchet, as he was back offline again.  But he'd be fine.  This she knew.  And when he woke up and could function, it seemed like they would have a lot to talk about.

But for now, there was only this.  And she was okay with that.  She realized that she hadn't recharged herself in any fashion for a very long time, put her head on his shoulder again and eventually followed him into rest.


( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)

The aide squirmed visibly as he stood in front of the Secretary of Defense's desk.

Keller nodded in what he hoped was a completely non-threatening manner. "What is it?"

"We received word of an... incident at Nellis AFB, sir. You may want to contact your, ah, charges there."

Now Keller was no longer non-threatening. "What kind of incident?!"

"Sergeant Epps and his team would prefer you contact them, sir."

He sighed and dismissed the aide, then brought his phone toward him and dialed what appeared to be a random combination of numbers.

The phone began to ring.

He waited.
Nov. 5th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
An hour after the accident.
Optimus blinks as he catches the signal, then steers the still fuming Bumblebee toward the compound, leaving her with Ironhide and the members of Epps' team that was in the courtyard as he connects with the phone line via computer. "Optimus Prime here."

He sounds terse and uncertain.
Nov. 5th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
"This is the Secretary of Defense calling," Keller said, his own voice just as terse. "I understand something has happened."
Nov. 5th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
The uncertainty fades. "There's been another attack. Two wires that have been buried in the road from the base proper since before the first activated today and blew my medic to bits."
Nov. 5th, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
Oh. Oh damn.

"So you're without a medic," Keller said. "Do you require an engineering team?"
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Nov. 6th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)
Hour after the return
Arcee watched from the courtyard. The other bots were doing what they could to help, but she knew she was useless like this.

Every part of her trembled with rage at being denied permission to go hunt out the cause of the blast, so she sat very still and waited for news on whether Rachet would make it or not.
Nov. 6th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
Re: Hour after the return
Bumblebee's still got her gun out and her visor down as Optimus herds her into the courtyard and walks inside. When Ironhide tries to put a hand on her she flashes the gun at him and stalks over to stare through the now closed gate.

"Whoa... never seen Bee so @#$%&#d," says Epps from where he and a few of his men are standing guard by the hanger door.
Nov. 6th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)
Re: Hour after the return
Arcee looks over, then gets up.

"Bee. Hey. Is he gonna be alright?" she asked, voice cut and stiff as metal from her own anger.
Nov. 6th, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
Re: Hour after the return
She glares through her visor toward her friend, then turns away, shoulders slumping. "I don't know. They're still working on him. But... he was totally slagged. We saw mechs die from less than that at Tyger Pax."
Nov. 6th, 2007 05:14 am (UTC)
"I know."

#@$@ Optimus Prime, Arcee's friend needed her man. The young pink bot closed her eyes. //Prime, can you bring Jazz back for Bee?//
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Nov. 6th, 2007 05:46 am (UTC)
Jazz finally comes back from it all tired and bouncing Honey on one hip.

"Hey folks! Told I was to come home?"
Nov. 6th, 2007 05:55 am (UTC)
Optimus looks up from where he's sitting at the computer desk, watching the base through spy satellite feeds. "Yes. Thank you for being so patient. Ratchet... survived. He's resting now. Bumblebee... is in the backyard shooting cans."

It's been over fifty seven hours since he gave Jazz the order to grab his sparkling and evac... and the fact that Bee's still shooting things says much about her peace of mind.
Nov. 6th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Jazz nods. "Leave Bee to me and my Honey. Endy taken care of Ratch then?" He leans over to rest his upper body on one of Primes shoulders in a comforting geasture.
Nov. 6th, 2007 06:15 am (UTC)
"Yes." Optimus sounds a little bemused as he recalls how he'd found Endeavour sleeping beside Ratchet on his bunk. "Jeimu and another human named Uzulee McCoy helped."

He's glad for that gesture, though he doesn't let it show. He's got the feeling that a lot of people around the base want to kick his aft.

"Oh, and congratulations."
Nov. 6th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
Jazz's horns twitch and he tilts his head. "Why do I get congrats boss?"

He bounces his cranky baby on his hip again. "We see your mama soon."
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( 61 comments — Leave a comment )