Hard Facts, Simple Truths

Ch2: Assessments and Assignments, Part 2

Just over two joors later, Hank was wholeheartedly agreeing with his earlier thought. He hadn’t had the opportunity to handle a real gun in vorns, so it was to be expected that his skills were less than stellar - first with the pistol, then the one-handed blaster, followed by the two-handed, the rifle, and the cannon (which he could barely lift). The only person who’d done worse was Blurr, who had never fired a gun before in his life.

Arcee had done pretty good with all the weapons, being the only person to get a perfect score with the rifle test. Springer wasn’t far behind her, landing three or four shots each time. Warpath’s hands had swallowed the pistol and smaller blaster, making his job of aiming a bit trickier, but he was then the only one to able to easily lift and fire the cannon, making up for his earlier poor scores. Cliffjumper had also insisted on giving the cannon a try, and though he could raise the thing up to chest height, his short stature had the guy overbalancing and nearly hitting the targets on either side of his own, only scoring one proper shot.

By the end of it, Ironhide was grumbling to himself, heading off for the officers’ quarters as he ordered Bluestreak to escort the rookies to the mess hall for lunch.

“Don’t worry,” the young Autobot told them all as he led the way. “We’ll get everything sorted out by this evening. Ironhide’s really good at what he does, I’ve been here a long time, well not as long as him obviously, but for as long as I’ve been here there’s never been anyone better-”

“I think this guy might actually talk more than you do, Blurr.” Hank mentioned to his downcast friend as the two hung back from the others and Bluestreak’s incessant chatter.

“I dunno, Ha- Hot Rod, I used to go a lot faster than that when I babbled at people.”

“Well, either way, maybe you two could start a club.” Seeing that his attempt at humor wasn’t doing much to cheer his friend up, Hank decided to switch topics. “I wonder if they’ve got anything to shoot long distance besides guns here. I’m a crack-shot with a crossbow.”

That got Blurr to pick his head up and stare at the other youth. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope - my mom didn’t let me keep or practice with anything that fired bullets and energon, so I got one of the older hunters to teach me how to shoot his crossbow. It’s a pretty quiet weapon, with none of the noise and recoil that kept throwing off my aim today.”

“Huh. Think I could learn to use one of those?”

“Probably. I’m gonna ask if they’ve got any, so maybe you and I could train with those and let the gun-types leave us be!”

“That would be nice...” Blurr sighed wistfully. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to tough coaches pushing me to do better, but this Ironhide guy is in a league by himself.”

“Yeah, can you believe that he actually makes Kup look like pleasant company?” Both of them got to snicker over that, before entering the mess hall after their friends. The large room wasn’t very full, it being a bit before the usual mealtime, but definitely wasn’t empty either. And of the half a dozen people seated at various tables, the only one who didn’t look up to stare at the newcomers was a blonde kid in a yellow shirt working on the datapad he held.

It was straight towards this particular table that Bluestreak headed, calling back to the trainees that they were welcome to get their meals and sit wherever. Shrugging, Springer led the way over to the serving counters set along one wall, where wide window openings allowed the food to be transferred from the kitchens into the seating area.

“Ten credits says this is nowhere as good as what we eat at home,” Cliffjumper muttered as the six of them sat down at an empty table, loaded trays in hand. As his first bite of mashed potatoes, Hank had to agree. It certainly didn’t help that he’d grown up in his mom’s eatery where the food had to be exceptional in order to get return business. Arcee, though, was digging in as though this was the greatest meal she’d ever had.

Warpath was watching her with amusement. “Rhea, if you keep that up, you’re going to choke.”

“Like Pit I will,” the girl mumbled through her full mouth before swallowing. “The camping rations might have been better than what I survived off of in Hivus, but this is even better than those!” And with that startling comment, she dove back into inhaling her food. The boys all exchanged bewildered glances, but also returned to their own meals.

“Hi there!” An unexpected voice chirped in Hank’s ear, startling the youth and getting him to jump. A dark skinned man pulled a chair up to their table and flopped into it. “So! Y’all are th’ new meat ole ‘Hide’s been worryin’ at, huh?”

“Uh...” Hank blinked at the guy, still stunned from his sudden arrival. The others weren’t in much better condition. “Yeah?”

“S’cool, man, ‘Hide’s never as tough as he firs’ looks.” Grinning, the man leaned forward in his seat to peer at them all over the top of his reflective visor. “I’m Jazz, by the way, but y’all can call me whatever y’want: Jazzer, Jazzy, Jazz-man, it all works. No need ta return th’ intro’s, I already know who each a you is. What I’m interested in now is what the new reports don’t cover!”

“...Huh?”

“What y’all like t’ do in yuir spare time, what’re yuir favorite colors ‘n things, and most importantly-” He paused, getting all of them to lean a little closer. “Music! Always gotta know what tunes folks like best and least.”

“Music?” Arcee asked blankly. “I don’t listen to music.”

Immediately, Jazz’s clasped both hands over his heart, schooling his features into an expression of pain. “Don’t listen to it? Girl, y’don’t know what you’ve been missin’!”

Her response was just to shrug. “I’ve got better things to do with my time than waste it.” With that, Jazz tipped his chair backwards, falling to the floor with a crash that got everyone’s attention.

“A waste o’ time, she calls it!” He proclaimed dramatically, getting most of the spectators to realize what the problem was and to roll their eyes. One older man in a white and red medical coat growled something under his breath and came over.

“Jazz, if you pretend to have a heart attack over this again I will knock you over the head with something bigger than a wrench.” Looking up from his prone position on the ground, the music-lover favored the dour man with a dazzling smile.

“Aw, c’mon doc, that was a serious medical emergency!” He proclaimed, hopping back to his feet and righting the chair. “You ‘n ‘Hide are th’ only ones I’ve still t’ convince of music’s value - even Prowler’s agreed it can be helpful! Though, now it looks like I’ve got another non-believer t’ work on.” Arcee snorted while the medic crossed his arms and glared.

“I do agree that certain sound patterns can stimulate a response in the body, but only from a scientific standpoint. It does not mean you can cajole me into breaking out into song with you!”

“An’ my job will not be done ‘til I’ve succeeded on that verra important thing!” Out of the doctor’s pocket came a wrench, the sight of which had Jazz’s grin growing a bit weaker. He quickly made his excuses to the recruits before fleeing.

“‘Bout time.” Taking the chair that Jazz had vacated, the man looked them all over. “Chief Medical Officer Ratchet. If he or any of the other lunatics in this place get on your nerves, my best suggestion is to threaten them with one of these - I’ve spent vorns instilling a fear of wrenches and other projectiles into their thick skulls.”

“Uh, good to know.” Springer said quickly.

“Now, I’m perfectly aware that Ironhide’s got a prior claim on your afts for the next few orns, but I’m going to insist on getting in a proper physical examination for each of you by the end of the deca-orn. That’ll include you lot letting me know ahead of time about any particular quirks that need to be taken into consideration if and when I’m stitching you back up after a fight. Understood?”

“Yes sir.” Ratchet nodded in approval of their quick responses, relaxing a little more into his seat.

“Good. On another note, if any of you get on my bad side, I’ll make your lives so awful to endure that visiting the Pit will seem like a vacation. Got that into your heads?” Again, he seemed satisfied by the rapid affirmatives, and stood to take his leave of them. “Very good. We’ll be seeing each other later then.”

As Ratchet walked away, Hank leaned forward to ask a worrisome question. “Are all the officers in this place crazy?”

“It’s sure looking like it.” Cliffjumper muttered. “Let’s just hope we come out of here alive and with our sanity intact.”

“Here, here.”

When Hank approached Bluestreak at the end of lunch to ask about crossbows, the youth got an excited gleam in his eye. He soon led the recruits over to the armory, where they spent some time admiring the many, many racks of weapons and ammunition while their guide looked for something he’d set aside ages ago.

“A-hah!” Bluestreak emerged from the far shadows, triumphantly holding up a pair of hi-tech crossbows, accompanying packs of bolts slung over his shoulders. It wasn’t long before Hank had unfolded and set one of the weapons up, showing the others how to load, aim, and fire it. His very first shot hit a bull’s-eye in the target - the next five were used to form a star shape around the initial bolt. Ironhide returned to the shooting range in time to see this feat, and found himself a tad impressed.

Soon enough, though, he’d ordered the recruits back into their earlier line, handing out the weapons that they’d proven to be most proficient in that morning. Arcee got a rifle, Springer a two-handed blaster, while a cannon went to Warpath, and Cliffjumper was given a one-handed blaster. Hank was elated when told he could keep the crossbow, Blurr wearing a matching grin as he was instructed to learn how to use the other one. The rest of the afternoon was spent going over the cleaning instructions for each individual weapon, as well as some instruction on how to better their respective aims. By the time that Bluestreak was told to take the group back to the mess hall for dinner, each of the recruits had passed their first day of assessments.

“It gets harder from here on in.” Ironhide promised them with an evil grin. Even so, none of the rookies felt their spirits dampen.

They were one step closer to becoming Autobots, after all.
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