Chapter 18: First Impressions
"Aw, they are so cute!" Aria cooed an orn later. She was sitting on top of an empty counter looking down at the seven squirming new frames lying in metallic bassinets at the far end of the med bay. She, along with what felt like most of the Autobots stationed in Iacon, had invaded the medical wing when the news had gone out that all seven sparklings had onlined beautifully a few cycles ago.
Of course, the sudden rush of bots had nearly given Ratchet a spark-attack and he had practically emptied his mechanics bag by hurling his more readily available tools at the unfortunate mechs near the front of the surge.
"They're not even an orbit old and I've just gotten them into recharge! For Primus' sake don't wake them up!" The old medic had hissed at the crowd, holding a large wrench threateningly in one hand.
But it was too late. The high pitched cry of one of the sparklings echoed up from the quieter half of the med bay. It was soon followed by the other six that had woken up at their fellow's cry.
Ratchet turned an evil optic on the crowd.
They had scattered before he could so much as raise his wrench.
Aria watched their sudden dust trail in amazement. "Wow," she whistled low through her teeth, "that was impressive." Then she had turned back to the ornery medic. "Can I see them Ratchet? Oh please!" She had begged, clasping her hands together pleadingly in front of her chest. He had growled at her slightly, frustrated by the pitiful wails coming from behind him, but he couldn't find the harm in letting someone as small as Aria coming back. The sparklings might even find her entertaining and quiet down.
"Alright," he relented, but then he had pointed his wrench at her in warning, "but no touching. Alien or not they're bursting with new energy and still haven't bonded with their guardians yet. Someone could get hurt." Although he wasn't sure if he should worry more for the defenseless, impressionable sparklings or the extremely squishable Aria.
He had taken her back, lifting her onto a counter that sat close to the last basinet before going about trying to soothe the little bots, picking one up to hold him gently before hollering for Hoist and Wheeljack to come and help him.
Aria stared down at the little bot crying below her in amazement. He, she knew it was a he, was really nothing more than a mess of wires barely covered by small, thin plates – the robot equivalent of a newborn who was nothing more than wrinkles and soft skin, red faced from their first cries – that were colored the most blinding shade of yellow Aria had ever laid eyes on. Somehow she wasn't surprised that these had been lying around Ratchet's lab, free for the taking.
But the majority of her attention was elsewhere. "Hey there," Aria cooed at the little baby bot, "I know you. You're my little Glowball. What're you so sad for Glowball sparkling? Did those mean ol' mechs wake you up?" She murmured, automatically taking on the baby-talk she had dreaded so much when her sister had been born. Her parents hadn't been able to shake the habit even when their youngest daughter was out of the room. All the constant 'wuh-wo's' and 'I wuv woo's' had just about driven Aria mad.
But now she was starting to understand that it was completely addictive and quite out of her conscious control.
"Ah yes, there you go," Aria cooed as the little yellow bot blinked glowing baby blue eyes and focused in on her small face. Her heart just about burst out of her chest with joy when he smiled at her and started giggling, his feet kicking excitedly against the end of his small bed. Between his fragile chest plates, the bright glow of his spark shone through the gaps in his outer skin, making his small plates seem dark in comparison.
Aria giggled at the giddy sparkling. "You are so cute.You look just like a bumblebee my tiny friend." She told him.
Aria looked up to see the familiar frames of Jazz, Ariel, and Chromia as they walked toward her and the agitated sparklings.
"A bumblebee," Aria said again looking over at Jazz, who had asked in the first place, "they're these little insects on Earth that go buzz and have stingers on their back ends. They're yellow with black stripes with these itty bitty wings on their backs that shouldn't be able to lift them, but just try and tell the bees that." She told him, giddy with excitement.
Jazz looked down at the smallest of the younglings. The little yellow bot looked back up at him, head tilting slightly as he stared, unsure of what to make of this new mech standing over him. Somewhat surprised, Jazz pointed down at the now quiet sparkling. "Earth insects are the size of sparklings?" He asked incredulously. It was a miracle all the organics hadn't been carried off and eaten.
"What?" For the first time Aria turned away from the yellow sparkling to stare at Jazz. "No! I'm just saying that he kinda looks like one," she said as she turned back towards the confused looking sparkling, "yes you do, you look like a little bumblebee." She cooed down at the little bot.
Jazz looked down at the yellow sparkling with some sympathy. He could practically hear the tag sticking to the little bot's frame. "Poor bot," he thought, "but better you than me."
He was shaken out of his thoughts by a screaming sparkling being shoved in his face.
"Hey!" He yelled, automatically taking the sparkling to keep it from being pushed any closer. Already the little bot's cries were starting to damage his auditory receptors.
A much hassled Ratchet took no notice of Jazz's reluctance. "Here, take him," he ordered, not even looking to make sure Jazz had the squalling bot before letting go and turning to the others.
"What? Why me?" The smaller mech demanded as he awkwardly held the distraught sparkling away from his frame.
The medic didn't even turn around as he answered. "Because you obviously don't have a parental part in you frame." He said, sounding frazzled as he looked down at each sparkling, trying to comfort them all at once.
"Gee, thanks," Jazz muttered, but didn't argue, especially if it meant he wouldn't have to take care one of these temperamental sparklings permanently in the coming vorns.
Three basinets down, Chromia was leaning over one of the slimmer sparklings. "Hey Ariel, look at this, it's a little femme!" She said, excitedly waving her friend over.
The red femme came over quickly, excitement showing through her usual serene nature. "Really?" She asked as she leaned over the middle basinet. "But there are only seven of them. Usually there's not even one in fifty!" She wondered in excitement as she looked down at the little hiccupping mini-femme.
The sparkling paused in mid hiccup as she caught sight of the two femmes standing over her. Then forgetting her tears, she reached up her small arms to them, gurgling as she begged them to pick her up.
"Well," Ratchet spoke up from where he stood, now patiently feeding one of the small mechs, "she's taken to you two it seems. Bonded sisters?" He asked looking over at the two femmes.
Vaguely both Chromia and Ariel nodded, there attention completely occupied by the small femme reaching up for them. They knew, along with everyone else, that sometimes sparklings from the Well of Allsparks didn't just choose one guardian; they chose two. But that was mainly in the case of siblings and, curiously enough, more with sets of sisters rather then brothers.
Ratchet nodded, an infinitesimal grin pulling at his faceplates, a sight that would have made most of the others stare if their attention hadn't already been preoccupied by the squirming sparklings. "Congratulations then, and good luck. She's been the most vocal of them all, although interestingly enough, not the touchiest of the lot."
"That's just because she knows what she likes," Chromia said, breaking out of her mute staring as she reached down and picked the little femme up, showing pink panels in the bright med bay light, "Isn't that right little one?" She said as she held the little sparkling carefully against her chest before turning to look at her sister. "It looks like we have a new sister." She said, grinning at the now smiling Ariel.
Aria looked up at the flash of pink and grinned when she saw Chromia holding the little femme bot.
"It's a little meimei!" Aria cried in delight as she stood up, leaning over the counter's edge to try and get a better look at the mini-femme. It was like getting a little sister all over again. Except with adding six boys in the process.
The moment she looked away from him, the little yellow sparkling began to fuss, quickly giving over to loud, squeaky wails. His loud, thin voice quickly drew a small crowd as its high pitch carried over the now subdued cries of the others.
"Oh, no di di, don't cry," Aria cooed over him, using a word for 'little brother' she had heard from a TV show back home. She thought it was Chinese, like meimei, but she wasn't sure. And with her little yellow bot edging toward a full blown fit she couldn't bring herself to care one way or the other.
"My, he's sure not a happy little thing is he?"
Aria looked away from the fussy sparkling at Alpha Trion's voice. He, as well as Optimus, Hound, Prowl, and Ironhide had just come in, probably from some sort of meeting or another. Aria noticed that most of them flinched at the shrill cries echoing around the clean, bright room.
Aria shook her head at the oldest mech, upset because her new di di was upset. "I don't know what's wrong!" She cried, halfway towards shedding a few tears herself. She felt a brief wave of confusion at her sudden stress, like she had just walked on stage for the second grade spelling bee all over again, but quickly wrote it off as all the excitement of seven new babies. The stress from Sera's arrival had been bad enough back home, but this - this was just nuts. "Bumblebee just stared crying and I don't know why!"
That caused quite a few confused glances as Aria turned back toward the crying sparkling, hushing and cooing at him as soothingly as she could still manage.
"What's she mean she can't comfort him?" Hound muttered to Ironhide standing next to him. "I thought she was the little sparkling's guardian cause she had direct contact with his spark for so long."
Ironhide could only shrug, just as confused, but Prowl shifted slightly nearby, catching both mechs' attention. "It appears we thought wrong. Obviously she isn't his guardian or he would be calmed by her presence now."
"But she has to be." A new voice spoke up.
The three adults looked down to find Bluestreak in his usual position next to the black and white mech that had become his primary teacher. The youngling fidgeted slightly at the sudden attention but didn't fall silent. If anything he started talking more.
"I mean, she was carrying Bumblebee's spark. She has to be his guardian. I saw her with him and he didn't zap her or nothing like some of the other mismatched pairs I've seen and lots of sparklings came through Helix so I've seen plenty of botched matches. He just sat there and flickered sometimes and I know they've got a bond between them I really do! That's why for awhile I wanted to stay with her when we first got here because I thought she was already going to be looking after one youngling already and I thought she wouldn't object to just one more. But now-"
The adults stared in stunned disbelief at the mass of words that came tumbling from Bluestreak's vocal processor. He was starting to trail off, mumbling to himself, when Alpha Trion laughed quietly.
"You notice quite a bit little one." The old mech said not unkindly before holding out a hand to the embarrassed youngling. "Now why don't you come over here while the adults try and assimilate your observations? It appears that most of the sparklings are calming down and I think they'd enjoy some company closer to their own age."
Bluestreak bridled a bit at that. "I'm not a sparkling." He muttered but took Alpha Trion's hand anyway. He was still glaring a bit when he peeked over the rim of the twin's bassinet, but he cheered up when one of them grabbed one of Alpha Trion's long whiskers and gave it an experimental tug, making the old mech yelp in surprise.
"I pity the one that gets stuck with those two," Wheeljack said as he came in to the impromptu nursery, "they've been nothing but trouble since we brought them online." He griped.
If Aria hadn't been so preoccupied with little Bumblebee she would have noticed the fresh skid marks that had been left across Wheeljack's arm by itty, bitty wheels earlier that orbit.
Alpha Trion laughed as he untangled the left twin's – the green one while his brother was red – tiny hand from his long whiskers and stood up, safely getting out of reach. "Fortunately I think I know someone who might take them off our hands at least for awhile if he isn't in fact their guardian, which I find doubtful."
"Yes, well," Wheeljack grumbled lightly as he absentmindedly rubbed at his new decorations, "as long as they quit making trouble around here I don't mind so much-"
He stopped talking. Everyone stopped. They were all listening to the most beautiful sound on the planet.
Ratchet let out a great sigh of relief. "Silence." He muttered gratefully. "He's finally stopped crying."
"And I think I know why." Jazz added, pointing over at the littlest sparkling's crib.
Optimus was standing over the smallest infant, staring at him with an almost confused expression on his face. Below him, the tiny sparkling stared back. Then he smiled and started giggling in delight as he reached up for the large mech to pick him up.
Aria was the only one who didn't understand what was happening. "But then what else is new?" She asked herself as she looked between her old friend and her new di di.
"What's going on?" She asked Ariel softly where she stood nearby.
The rose colored femme managed to tear her eyes away with some difficulty. Bondings like this had always amazed her, however this one struck her as particularly important as well as strangely personal. "Optimus has just become little Bumblebee's guardian." Ariel told the girl.
"Oh," Aria said looking over at her oldest friend here and the little sparkling. Then she looked back at Ariel. "But what does that mean exactly?"
Ariel turned to give the little human her full attention. "It means that he will take care of him as he grows. I believe you would say he has 'adopted' him."
Optimus was too caught up in the little mech's glowing blue optics to pay any attention to the two femme's conversation or the other miscellaneous talk that had sprung up around him. It all sounded so distant to his auditory pathways. All he could hear or see was the yellow sparkling in his arms that was just as focused on his new caretaker as Optimus was on his new charge.
As lost in awe as he felt, it took the Autobot leader a cycle to notice the overly bright light of Bumblebee's spark where it shone through his yellow panels.
"Ratchet," Optimus said in his own tongue as he turned toward the head medic, carefully adjusted his hold on the yellow sparkling, "is he alright? He feels hot." The tall mech said, slightly worried.
Ratchet frowned slightly over at the smallest sparkling and from that look Optimus knew he didn't have good news. The chief medic stepped over and carefully inspected Bumblebee, who squirmed at the sudden interruption between him and his new guardian.
"Ratchet?" Optimus prodded when his friend didn't say anything.
Finally Ratchet sighed. "His spark's too big for his frame. He's creating too much energy and its putting a strain on him." He told Optimus.
The whole room was listening by this point. "Can't you just make a larger frame for him so he won't overheat himself?" Jazz asked from where he was still awkwardly holding the sparkling Ratchet had handed him. Oddly enough it was the only one still crying.
But the mechasurgeon shook his head. "There just aren't enough parts to go around. We did what we could to keep the proportions right, but no matter what we do he's still going to be too small for his spark."
Optimus looked down at the sparkling in his arms. Below him, Ariah was standing on her tiptoes on the counter so she could make faces at little Bumblebee. He was kicking and giggling just like any other infant Optimus had seen, appearing as healthy as the others except for his overly bright spark showing through his panels.
Eventually Optimus gathered up enough courage to look over at Ratchet again. It was strange, but he already loved the little sparkling more than anything. He had heard that that was how guardian bonds were, but even so he had never imagined he could feel so strongly about someone he had only known for a few kliks. "Can it kill him?" He asked quickly.
Ratchet was shocked into an answer. "Primus no," he said. The force of his words comforted Optimus somewhat and he felt himself relax slightly.
But then Ratchet kept talking. "At least, not directly anyway. His spark is so strong that his frame won't be able to keep up, leaving him open more to viral codes then the others. But otherwise he should be fine." Ratchet said, for the most part sounding sure of his words.
Optimus found only slight comfort in that.
Bumblebee's sudden movement brought his caretaker out of his gloomy thoughts. Optimus looked down at the now wiggling sparkling to see him reaching out his small hands towards Ariah, who seemed just as pleased by the attention as Bumblebee was with her.
Ariel laughed lightly as she stepped forward and gently picked Aria up and placed her on Optimus' broad shoulder where she was closer to the clicking sparkling. "You worry too much Ratchet. Just look at him. Bumblebee will be a strong, healthy sparkling. You'll see." She said as she smiled down at the bright yellow mech, her voice low and confident.
Her words did more to reassure Optimus than all of Ratchet's scans put together and he found himself smiling at the femme. But she was looking down at Bumblebee, letting him grab her finger to find out what it was, so she didn't notice.
But Jazz did. Optimus heard him snort with laughter behind his other shoulder. "Whatcha smiling at there O.P.?" He asked cheekily. "Looking to give Bumblebee a new sibling so soon?"
Thankfully Ariel was too busy with Bumblebee trying to stick her finger in his mouth to hear him, or to notice Optimus give Jazz a smart kick in the shin guards.
There are seven sparklings in all. Valiturum (Don't ask), Fastlane, Cloudraker, Arcee, the twins Skids and Mudflap, and of course my di di, Bumblebee. Ratchet and the others keep wondering at how small they all are, especially 'Bee, but even he's about as tall as me even when he's all curled up so I wonder how big sparklings usually are. For the time being, Ratchet has them all sleeping in the med bay, even Arcee and Bumblebee who know their guardians already. I think he's terrified that something will happen to them the moment he lets them out of his sight, but eventually he's going to have to let them out. Well, I assume so anyway. I mean, this is Ratchet after all. If anyone can stubbornly refuse to do something, it's him. But then again, I guess there's no one else that knows more about sparklings than he does too.
Anyway, Ratchet says that aside from their small size, all of the sparklings are doing very well and that they should be okay to leave the nursery in half of an orn, however long that is. Hopefully it's soon. I'm tired of asking permission to go and see Di Di!
~About six and a half days later~
It turns out that's how long half an orn is. By now all of the sparklings have bonded with their guardians. Valiturum, the sturdiest of the sparklings, has bonded with this great, big, tough mech called Treads that used to live over in Slaughter City. When I gave into my morbid curiosity and asked him what it was like he only said that it had earned its name.
Of course then he went and laughed at me when I made that face and said that I was right to be afraid. "Slaughter City is no place for a soft little thing like you Sparkfinder. The mechs there would've thrown you into the pits just to see how you did against a swarm of drones and then where would you be?" He had asked rhetorically.
"Somewhere a mite better than here." I told him, smart mouth that I am.
Treads laughed so loud that I felt the ground under me shake slightly. Which of course set Val off laughing too, except it was much cuter when he did it. Treads went and picked up the strapping sparkling and I swear he's been holding him ever since. That kid won't learn to walk until he gets his last frame at this rate. n_n;
Let's see who else was there…oh! Alpha Trion's friend arrived and the old mech was right, he did turn out to be the twins' guardian. Now let's see if I can describe him. Hmm…oh I know! Imagine an incredibly ticked off Ratchet, a terrifyingly happy Ironhide with fully charged cannons surrounded by incredibly stupid Decepticons (and to be fair I'll give them partially charged weapons, well, wimpy weapons but that still counts right?) mix in some of Alexander's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and you'll come close to this guy's personality.
His name is Treehugger.
No I am not kidding.
As it turns out 'tree' here carries the connotation of 'die die you slaggin' moron' and a hugger is, well, I can't write that out just in case this ends up in the hands of any person under the age of twenty-one.
Anyway, he's a tough old guy and if anyone can keep those two scoundrels out of trouble he can. Fortunately he does not live up to his name and aside from a sour personality, he's not that bad. Well, not all that bad. Sort of.
But thankfully he'll be living…somewhere where I'm not. I don't know if I could bring myself to sleep with him around.
Oh no, you don't understand, he clanks all through recharge. It's kind of like snoring for humans except louder.
Alright, uh, anyway, Optimus has Bumblebee, Chromia and Ariel found a new sister in Arcee (interesting note: apparently 'guardians' here carries a connotation somewhere between foster parent and older brother, or sister if you're Arcee…) So that just leaves Fastlane and Cloudraker. It was kind of funny; they were adopted by a couple of brothers, Smokerunner and Cloudcover respectfully, so now they're bonded brothers, like how Ariel and Chromia are bonded sisters. Both of their guardians are Seekers (which means they turn into something like jet planes instead of wheeled alt-forms like all the other Cybertronians I've met), like Fastlane and Cloudraker, which is why I guess they bonded in the first place. Smokerunner and Cloudcover are two of the scanty handful of Seekers that stayed with the Autobots and they're an interesting set of boys. Heads completely in the clouds. I would say pardon the pun only it isn't a pun at all. They literally like to be up there in the clouds all day long. Sometimes I think they only come down for fuel and even then Cloudcover's feet hardly ever touch the ground.
Oh, it looks like Hound is here for language lessons. He's so curious about Earth that it kind of took me by surprise at first. He just wants to know everything there possibly is. It's kind of cool actually. I've been asking all these questions about Cybertron so that I can learn about my friends (not to mention have some kind of clue about what's going on around me), and now someone wants to know about where I came from. It's nice.
So I was helping Preceptor spark-sit today, because honestly he needs all the help he can get. I mean it was total madness. Skids and Mudflap were throwing their usual ruckus, Val and Arcee were throwing blocks at each other, and Cloudraker and Fastlane were hovering around the room dropping things on the others, turning the rest of their arguments into a full blown war. It was an equal three on three with no end in sight by the time Bumblebee (who had been on the other side of the room sulking because he was mad at the rest of them for not including him in on the fun) suddenly yelled out all excited, "Blue!" in his squeaky little voice. None of them can really talk yet, just a handful of half learned names mixed in with their baby squeaking and clicking.
Sure enough I turned to see Bluestreak in the doorway, looking all gritty from sparring lessons with one of the older mechs. He smiled at us and said hi as he entered the room. He had come to pick up something for Ratchet. It turns out Bluestreak wasn't sparring like I had first thought. He had been helping Wheeljack with a new weapon design and, well, you can guess what happened. Bluestreak was in the other room searching for a tool for the inventor when the whatever-it-was blew up so he's alright, but Wheeljack apparently lost a limb or two in the explosion. *sigh* It's times like these that I feel really glad that Cybertronians are so sturdy. You can blow them up, leave them in puzzle pieces and still they'll be alright with a little work. As long as you haven't damaged their spark they can recover from practically anything.
My lord these guys are just growing like weeds in spring! It feels like just yesterday I was helping Optimus and Ariel sparkling-proof what felt like half of Iacon before they were satisfied the sparklings wouldn't get into too much trouble and now 'Bee and the others are practically younglings; all walking and talking (and sometimes still screaming). Even Bumblebee, who's still the smallest, is big enough to pick me up with no problem. A fact he likes to remind me of almost every orbit. I'll be doing something and he'll just start giggling. "You're small Aria," he'll say when I ask him what's so funny.
I just roll my eyes and say, "Yeah? We'll you're yellow." And he'll just laugh more.
Right now though, he and Cloudraker are rough housing with Bluestreak. I haven't left Iacon since getting lost in the lava pits of Primahex (can you blame me?) and so far no one's exactly suggested the idea. Mainly I stay here and help whoever's turn it is to watch the sparklings. Ratchet says they're reaching that age where they'll be ready for lessons and he also says that if I want I can help with that too. I told him that sounds good with me. There are only so many things I can do to help now since learning their language is nearly impossible and their technology is way over my head, although that's easier than interpreting even the simplest of sentences like Ariel tries to teach me.
So yeah, mainly I look after Bumblebee and Arcee and the others. Sometimes even Bluestreak drops by, either talking with me or playing with the smaller kids.
Oh my gosh Bluestreak! He's so big now, nearly all grown up! He just got his final frame the other orn and I'm still not used to it. He's so…blue. I mean really, really blue. I only learned this the other day, but his real name is Kickback. Even Ratchet didn't know. I guess Bluestreak just liked my name for him so much that he kept it from then on. Now with his new paintjob no one will ever forget either, like he's sealed the deal.
But big, and blue, as he is, I still can't help but think of him as the youngling that gave me a lift when I got lost near Primahex. It's hard to think that Bluestreak isn't all that little anymore. It makes me sad.
He's just an unbelievably sweet kid you know? Not to mention an incredibly fast talker, but it worries me how fast he took to fighting. I learned that same day I found out about his real name that Decepticons led by Starscream completely sacked Helix, where Bluestreak grew up, not long before I found him underground. It was a good sized city with a big populace and Bluestreak was the only survivor out of all of them.
I can only imagine what kind of scars that left on my poor mech, but when I see him learning everything he possibly can from the other Autobots about how to take down Decepticons, well, it makes me deeply sad. It's like he's so determined not to be forced into that vulnerable place again that he'll do anything to avoid it. Sometimes I can't help but think that there are demons chasing him and it makes me want to cry for him. It just isn't right. None of this is.
I have to go now. Bumblebee wants to play hide-and-seek and the others will only agree if I hide too. They think it's funny at all the little places I can get into.
Oh my Lord in Heaven! You're just not going to believe this. Just will. Not. Believe it. I can barely believe it! It's just so mind blowing! So impossibly unexpected that you'll never guess what happened. Well go on, guess!
CHROMIA AND IRONHIDE ARE SPARKMATES!
I know! I can't believe it either! It's just so…so…OH MY GOSH!
And this time I'm not the only one who was in the dark (finally!) because nobody else knew about it either. Not until this morning when they both didn't show up for this meeting thing concerning supplies or something like that. Of course everyone thought it was kind of strange, but it is Chromia and Ironhide. Brilliant soldiers though they are, they're bots of action, not meetings, so none of the others thought it out of the norm if they were shuffling their feet trying to get there as late as they could.
But then they finished the meeting and they still hadn't appeared.
Slightly worried now and thinking that maybe Decepticons had broken through Iacon's defenses or something similar, Optimus and the others went looking for the missing bots. Well, they searched all through the rest of the Hall of Records, the barracks, the firing range, even Ratchet's makeshift hospital, but still there was no sign of them.
Now everyone was getting kind of worried. I mean, they hadn't really expected to find them in the Hall of Records, but that's where Optimus holds most of his meetings so they looked anyway incase they were around, and they hadn't exactly thought that the two had just slept through their alarms, so the empty barracks weren't that odd either. When Prowl hadn't found them at the firing range, that struck us as slightly odd, and then Ratchet said they weren't with him either so it wasn't like one of those times where they had picked a friendly fight and went slightly overboard (which has happened before. Honestly it's like watching Skids and Mudflap fight, there's no malice in it, but in the end they still end up in the med bay with Ratchet yelling at them, "Again? Why can't you two behave for more than two cycles? You were in here just last orbit!")
But still, there was no sign of either one.
Optimus and Prowl were more than suspicious at this point. Optimus was on the brink of giving out a city wide alert when Arcee suddenly ran in.
"Ariel! Ariel! I found Chromia!" My little meimei yelled in her cute, slurred English as she ran through the door, surprising everyone.
"Where she is little one?" Ariel had asked and I could see the relief on her face as she bent down to be closer to Arcee.
Then the little femme said, cute and naive as any child on Earth that has said the same thing, "She's wrestling with Ironhide." She pointed roughly where.
With a statement like that, how could I not think what I thought? I wasn't sure if I should squeak in embarrassment or burst out laughing. Because I spend so much time with them, all of the kids, including Bluestreak, know English (and sign language because, let's face it, I am turning out to be an awesome teacher ;P) better than the adults. And with seven boys and a very tomboy girl, the word 'wrestling' has come up fairly often.
I just never realized it would translate that well.
But then before I could get out so much as a strangled squawk, Prowl grumbled, "Good, now I can give them a piece of my processors for casting aside their duty," and professionally stormed out the door.
I took off after him with a gasp, the others following me, probably wondering what I was so upset over.
I managed to keep up with Prowl pretty well until we came to the connection between Ratchet's med bay, where we had been trying to think of where else Chromia and Ironhide might be, and this little storage building that's almost always empty, probably because there are little enough supplies to go around.
Suddenly from around the corner we heard a loud shriek from Chromia quickly followed by Prowl's shout, which sounded pretty darn close to a horrified, "By all that Primus holds holy!" and then there was a loud crash.
I finally rounded the corner and let out a shriek of my own. Prowl had collapsed on the floor and for a split second I thought he had died instantly from the shock of seeing Chromia and Ironhide where they had fallen on the floor of the storage building. I was staring slack jawed between the three of them when Jazz, who was the quickest out of those behind me, skidded around the corner.
"Holy-!" He yelled when he realized what he was looking at.
Before the rest of them could so much as appear to gawk at them some more, Ironhide threw something at the door's controls and it snapped shut with a hiss. Even then I could still hear Chromia swearing in Cybertronian from the other side.
"Wow," Arcee whispered at my side from where she had seemingly appeared from nowhere, "Chromia sure knows lots of funny sounding words."
I dumbly nodded. I didn't need to understand what the silver femme was saying to know it was no doubt…creative.
Somehow in my lingering stupor, the only thing I could think was that Sera would have gone gaga over this whole little episode. She used to really like those pre-teen soap operas that were on after school. If I had told her (the censored version of) this she would have gasped, hands flying over her little 'o' of a mouth, as her eyes grew as large as dinner plates. "No!" She would've said. "No way! It happened just like that?" She would've asked, enthralled by the exotic piece of gossip.
But I was shaken out of my bewilderment when Hound, who had been enlisted to help us find Ironhide, asked, "What happened to Prowl?"
We all looked over and, sure enough, Prowl was still splayed out on the floor, his optics flickering spastically, like a light bulb about to burn out.
"It looks like his logic processors have stalled again." Jazz said with a somewhat sigh down at the Autobots' second in command.
Hound had looked over at Jazz in disbelief. "Again? This has happened before?"
Jazz had shrugged, not meeting Hound's eyes. "I may have told him a joke once." He said trying to sound like it was no big deal. "He didn't get it."
"Uh-huh," Hound muttered flatly.
Well, Ratchet, eh, 'rebooted' Prowl easily enough. By that time Ariel had gotten Chromia to open the door again, so that was one battle won, and Optimus had lectured them somewhat on time and place. He also expressed his congratulations.
Prowl, however, had something else to say. Maybe it was because he was miffed that they had gotten him to glitch in public, or maybe he was just being anal (because Prowl can be exceedingly anal at times) but he wrote up charges against the two for disrespect of duty or something like that, and had them both confined to the brig for a small amount of time.
Jazz suggested he put them in different wings. Otherwise they'd just end up macking through the bars. Or, whatever the Cybertronian equivalent of macking might be anyway. It's a disturbing mental image to say the least.
I have two siblings to worry over now.
Bumblebee is very sick. He was acting funny this morning and then before Treads, who was helping me watch the gaggle today, or I could think to tell Ratchet or Optimus, Bumblebee just crashed! And I don't mean like a sleepy child just lies down and goes to sleep, I mean his eyes went dim and he fell over and landed with a crunch on the floor!
I screamed when I saw it and ran over to him. For a second I hoped that he had just glitched like Prowl does sometimes when he sees or hears something that refuses to compute in his head, but then I noticed that 'Bee sounded funny, like when a human kid has asthma and they rasp when they breathe, and he was incredibly hot to the touch.
Fortunately, Treads kept his head and commed Ratchet immediately. He, Wheeljack, and Optimus were down there in record time, although to me it felt like forever. Ratchet and Wheeljack were by 'Bee's side in seconds, but Optimus picked me up and stepped back to give them room. I was so worried for 'Bee that I didn't even notice when he lifted me off the floor. It was all I could do to sit there leaning against his fingers, arms crossed over my stomach as if they could hold in my anxiety. I think I was crying, but I wasn't paying enough attention to myself to really remember if I was. All I could see was 'Bee and how his usually bright, blue eyes were so dim that their light was almost gone.
When I just couldn't take the not knowing anymore I asked Ratchet what was wrong with him. He barely managed to look away from his instruments to give me a concerned glance. "I'm not sure yet," he answered slowly, the majority of his attention focused on Bumblebee, "but it appears that a string of unwanted code has gotten into his system."
"A code can do all this?" Optimus said in surprise, making it sound like 'code' meant something like a 'cold'.
"If left untreated yes," Ratchet said as he removed a connection wire from on the small, boxy device in his hand and attached it to Bumblebee's yellow frame. "Has he been acting odd in the last few orbits?" He asked as he deciphered the data that appeared on he box.
Optimus answered him, but I zoned out of the conversation. A cold, I mean, a code could do all this?
"What about the other younglings?" I finally ask. "Can they catch it?"
Ratchet, Optimus, and Wheeljack shared a meaningful look that I did not miss but decided not to worry over at this point. Wheeljack's the one that tells me, in a very gentle voice, that the other younglings probably won't get it because Bumblebee's frame is too small compared to his spark. It can't keep up with all the energy he puts out and it wears down his frame and leaves him more open to illnesses than the others. Then he tells me that because of his large spark Bumblebee will probably get sick very easily, although hopefully not like this very often.
I nod vaguely and try to soak this in as Ratchet says he's given 'Bee something that should take care of this code. Optimus hands me to Wheeljack so he can pick up Bumblebee. I don't argue as Wheeljack follows Optimus towards the room where 'Bee sleeps.
Wheeljack talks at me as he walks and even though I can't tear my attention away from the splash of yellow I see over Optimus' shoulder to listen to him, I can still hear the concern in the inventor's voice as he tries to make me feel better.
Ariel arrived shortly after Optimus put Bumblebee in his bed. They're still out there now, alternating between talking softly and silently leaning on each other. From my spot near 'Bee's head I can just see through a crack in the door that Optimus has rested his head on Ariel's shoulder as they hold each other.
I would feel happier at this development if it hadn't happened because Bumblebee passed out.
I've decided to sleep in here with him tonight, just incase he needs something. I've done it before, although those were usually like sleepovers instead of sick watch. I overheard Ariel say that Chromia and Treads are with the other younglings so I'm not worried about them.
I know I should be mad that they didn't tell me about Bumblebee's spark earlier, but I'm too worried over 'Bee to put any effort into it.
'Bee is better this morning, although he's still feels feverish to me. His eyes are brighter, although still not as bright as the other day before all this happened. I still can't believe that no one caught on that he was sick before he crashed yesterday. How could I miss something like that?
Ratchet came by as soon as Optimus told him little 'Bee was awake. The cranky old mech actually smiled when he saw Bumblebee sitting up in bed so I knew he was better. Ratchet checked anyway but in the end said that 'Bee was out of the most dangerous part of the illness and that he should be completely well in an orbit or two. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I heard that. It was like I had been holding my breath since yesterday and hadn't breathed until now. Easily irritated though he is, penchant for throwing things he may have, but Ratchet is never wrong. Not that I've heard anyway.
Bumblebee for his part is actually very excited at all the visitors he's gotten today. Let's see, after Ratchet there was Treads with Val in tow, who brought Bumblebee his favorite toy he had left in the safe room the younglings play in. Then there was Jazz, then Hound, followed by Prowl, Bluestreak, and a mech called Windcharger. Then Wheeljack stopped by and gave 'Bee the first invention he had ever made. It was a toy he had made for himself but obviously didn't use anymore. He demonstrated it for him and then had to go find Ratchet when the simple catapult left a crack in his right optic.
Optimus said he put that toy somewhere 'safe'.
Ratchet came by again later, Skids and Mudflap with him because Treehugger was out on sentry rounds around Iacon to make sure there aren't any Decepticons trying to sneak through. The medic's earlier good mood had vanished with the twin terrors bouncing at his heels, although he got the chance to calm down a little when they went over to ask Bumblebee all those questions any kid, no matter what species, likes to ask when their cohort is sick. You know, "Are you feeling better?" "Did they have to operate?" "Can we see your scar?" Never mind if there actually is a scar or not.
The femmes came by later in the afternoon, Firestar and Moonracer and them, with Inferno tagging along behind them. The ladies all cooed and said what a brave little mech Bumblebee was and how good it was to see him acting like his old self again. I whole heartedly agreed.
Inferno made the mistake of saying that they were coddling the youngling too much. Firestar practically, and almost literally, kicked him out the door saying how sparkless could he be not to have sympathy for a sick youngling. Moonracer and I got to talk for awhile while the two of them argued out in the hall.
That didn't stop until Ariel, Chromia, and Ironhide came by with Arcee an hour or so later. Well, actually I don't know if Firestar and Inferno stopped their little lover's spat or just took it somewhere else since they left soon after. Now, finally, there was some quiet time as Arcee and 'Bee played with Wheeljack's catapult (which Chromia had re-found with the exclamation, "What in the Pit is this?"), while us femmes talked. We talked about a lot of different things, like how Chromia was now that she and Ironhide were actually living in close quarters and how Arcee had gotten in a fight with Val over something silly and actually pinned him down in the end. She had gotten in trouble of course, but still, it was impressive, especially considering that Val is well over twice her size.
It was quite relaxing, just us girls. It was almost like being home again with my friends when we had hung out at the mall's food court, drinking dollar sodas from McDonalds as we talked about boys and how we thought we did on the latest math test.
At least, that's what we did until Optimus appeared. Then the rest of us femmes talked about Ariel and Optimus while they two of them had their own little conversation in the other room. Now that really reminded me of home.
Guess what our main topic was. ;3
It's been about two orns since 'Bee got sick and he's doing much, much better. Like Ratchet said, he was completely well in the next few orbits, but I've only now begun to relax. It was like every time I turned around to see he was out of my sight I was afraid that something horrible would happen to my di di, like he would crash again or something even worse would happen to him when I wasn't around. I guess I got kind of clingy because Bumblebee finally said, "Aria! You are smothering me!"
I'm not even sure where he learned the word smothering.
Anyway, I'm starting to relax, which is a relief for everyone involved, especially me since I was starting to feel like I was pulling a two ton weight between my shoulder blades. I mean, I still worry, but Ironhide is right; I can't keep going around afraid that something bad will happen all the time. Apparently it'll cause early rusting…
"But speaking of worry…" Aria thought from where she was writing in her little book on the counter of the safe room where the younglings usually played under someone's protective eye. She could see them tussling from where she sat, sometimes throwing out sparks as they scraped against each other. Bumblebee and Bluestreak were especially going at it, enjoying their wrestling match to the accompaniment of the scrape of metal against metal and the hot orange-yellow sparks they caused. They were all so big now – younglings Ratchet had told her rather than sparklings – and while Aria loved each of them even more than the first day she had seen them online in the makeshift nursery, their growth brought up other problems in her mind.
For the first time, I'm afraid to find out how long I've been here. If sparklings age anything like human children, then it's got to have been years.
Aria's hand froze above the last period as she stared in horror at what she had just written. She had written it without thinking. It just couldn't be true. Could it? It didn't feel like years. And then whenever Aria caught sight of her reflection in some shiny metal surface or another, she never looked any older. Maybe a little different in the brightly colored metal fabrics she had made into clothes to replace her old t-shirt and jeans, her hair a little longer, her face a little thinner from surviving on Wheeljack's nutrition experiments but still, she didn't think she looked any closer to nineteen than she was to fifty.
Bumblebee's innocent giggle made her look up from the simple string of words that were threatening to make her glitch harder than Prowl. She looked up, smiling automatically when she caught sight of the small yellow mech. He and Bluestreak had called a truce as Optimus appeared in the doorway.
"Time for recharge my little mech." He said as Bumblebee ran up to greet him. With a laugh Optimus leaned down and picked up his youngling, carefully throwing him up in the air before he caught him and settled him against his side. "That means you too Bumblebee."
Bluestreak rolled his eyes at his fearless leader. "Ha, ha." He laughed dryly as he made his way towards the door. "Very funny, but then again if that's an order-" the young mech said trying to get past Optimus still standing in the doorway.
"Nice try," the larger mech said, stopping Bluestreak, "but Prowl told me you have evening shift tonight. Better get to it before he realizes you're late."
Bluestreak made a face at the time and hurried off down the hall, but not before shouting out a quick goodnight to everyone.
"Now," Optimus said once Bluestreak was gone, "how about you Bumblebee? Are you ready for recharge?"
Bumblebee shook his head 'no' of course, but he was tired and he knew Optimus and Aria could tell, so he decided not to put up too much of a fight this time.
Instead he leaned his head on his guardian's shoulder and looked over at Aria still sitting on the counter. All the other younglings had left awhile ago, their guardians already come and gone.
"Aren't you coming Aria?" He asked, his young voice tired.
Aria nodded, her smile feeling slightly fake on her face. "I'll be there in a minute. I'm almost done." She told him.
Bumblebee nodded, missing the downward slant to her smile. But Optimus knew better.
"Are you alright Ariah?" He asked, his voice concerned.
Aria nodded, her smile going a bit truer as she thought how funny it was that even though he was the one that had known her longest, Optimus still couldn't say her name right.
"Yes, fine. I just want to finish my writing, that's all."
She could tell Optimus didn't quite believe her, but she also saw he wouldn't press her about it. Not right now anyways.
"Alright, goodnight then." He told her before turning and taking Bumblebee off to bed.
Aria waited until she couldn't hear his footsteps down the hallway anymore. Then she numbly turned back to her paper.
Oh God Sera, I hope you can forgive me.
Then she got up from the countertop and slid down the toy slide the younglings used for their alt-mode playthings. "Alien hot wheels," Aria thought as she quickly followed Optimus and Bumblebee's path down the hall. She didn't even bother to close her notebook before she left.
She didn't feel much like writing anymore.