Ri'tori was at a loss as to what to do. The young Khalam only wanted to show her lover a wondrous location that she had discovered in a scroll. Such a place would have been perfect to share her feelings with Fusahs, without the scrutiny of the public or the law. She was confident that it was well worth the risk of trekking through the Shadowgrove at night, when it was the most dangerous, and for a great distance, for their intended destination was no small walk from their home village. However, she had no means of predicting that their outing would cross paths with a lone Fangbeast, which resided in packs to the far west. They were not forest creatures; they roamed grassy plains and hunted much larger prey than any of the comparatively paltry ones that resided here. While the Shadowgrove did hold predators that were dangerous in their own right, Ri'tori knew tricks to avoid them. A Fangbeast, however, was living death to anything that did not fly or swim, and not even the brazen Skyhunter-in-training could claim otherwise. So, when the double-slit eyes fell on her and Fusahs', she knew that, with a sickening sense of shame in her gut, she had led them both to their deaths.
But then, something of a miracle happened. The strange, metal house that they entered out of curiosity (and remained in for want of... privacy) suddenly roared to life and whisked them to safety, away from the certain death the beast would have dealt with enthusiasm.
That was a lie. Not the "away from certain death" part, which was evident, as they were still intact and breathing the frigid, moist air of the Shadowgrove. The lie was the "whisked" part, for their mysterious savior rather manhandled them out of that situation. Ri'tori could feel bumps, bruises, and scrapes formed where her soft tissue violently connected with the harsh surfaces that lined the interior of the vehicle, and they all hurt. A quick glance at her companion confirmed that Fusahs had, indeed, accumulated similar signs of abuse. All things considered, though, no bones were broken and they could still stand, a fact that would have been comforting, if not for the burning, throbbing sensation assaulting practically every inch of her body. Considering that the alternative was an even more painful demise, she allowed herself to be thankful.
But to whom, exactly? She remembered that, after the rough ride through the forest, they were deposited at the edge of a clearing. Ri'tori then intended to throw her clothes back on, grab Fusahs, and run as fast as she could in the opposite direction, towards the safety of the village, never to speak of this incident again. But, as she was hopping back into her breechcloth, she turned around and saw something that caused her jaw to drop. The chariot that they, moments ago, resided in, transformed. It changed into a towering giant that looked similar to a Khalam, with arms, legs, and a face, but was made of metal. Metal! It continued to baffle Ri'tori, as all facets of common sense told her that metal could not move! Yet, the giant did so, and not only that, but battled with the Fangbeast... and won.
No, that remained to be seen, as the once-mighty steel goliath lay before the duo in a large puddle of glowing, blue liquid. It was motionless.
"Is... Is he dead?" Surprisingly, it was Fusahs who broke the long silence, as Ri'tori was still standing with a blank expression, attempting to process the events that led to this moment. Her companion's question temporarily brought the cyan one out of her stupor.
"Dead? I... I don't know..." Ri'tori stammered. "Can metal even die?"
"He's bleeding... a lot!" Fusahs exclaimed, and began to take a step towards the fallen figure.
"Wait!" She held up an arm, blocking her yellow-and-black mate from advancing any further. Ri'tori didn't know why, but she had a gut feeling that the luminescent fluid that lay pooled around the giant could harm them. Her nostrils dilated as she took in the scent. The alarming, acrid odor that hit her olfactory senses caused her skin to shift color and her tentacles to writhe involuntarily. She definitely didn't want anyone to go near it.
"It smells like poison," The huntress said. Truth be told, it smelled unlike anything she encountered before, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She knew the other Khalam was a healer by trade, and had a natural propensity to help the injured and the sick, and nothing hurt her more than to watch someone or something suffer and be unable to do anything about it. While Ri'tori would like nothing more than to give aid to their protector, she had no idea what manner of creature lay before them, and she doubted Fusahs' admittedly ample knowledge of medicine could even begin to apply.
"We need to help him somehow!" The healer asserted. "He saved our lives!"
She had a point, so Ri'tori put a slender fist to her chin and rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet and desperately tried to conjure a solution in her mind. They couldn't get near the giant-who, according to Fusahs, was a him-due to his potentially harmful blood. They couldn't move him. One would probably have more luck uprooting a tree with one's bare hands. They... they couldn't get help from the village, because then they'd start asking questions as to why she and Fusahs traveled into the Shadowgrove in the first place. Besides, her fellow villagers would just as easily burn the giant for no better reason than it was unfamiliar, then hack apart his body for the precious metal. She began to grit her pointy teeth and erratically run her fingers through her head-tentacles. Her skin began to take on reddish hues in frustration. All this thinking was starting to hurt her head. Ri'tori was but a simple hunter who strove to be a Skyhunter. She knew how to set a snare, make a spear, fletch an arrow, and hit a moving target 20 body-lengths away, but she just wasn't mentally equipped to make make decisions of this magnitude. She wasn't a know-it-all scholar like-
An idea hit her so hard it nearly knocked the wind out of her.
"Fus!" The huntress grasped her mate's shoulders with renewed urgency. "I need you to stay with him. I'm going to get Tiimala. She'll know what to do."
Fusahs saw the logic in her companion's plan, but she wasn't completely convinced.
"You're going to leave me here, alone?"
"I..." Ri'tori hesitated as her lover gave her a soulful look. "Someone needs to stay with him, and I can move much faster through this forest than you. I'll be back in no time, I promise."
The healer swallowed hard, but nodded. "Alright," she spoke softly. "But what if something else comes along?"
"Just stay near his blood, but not too close. Nothing here would want to get near it."
With that, Ri'tori turned away and broke into a brisk run, leaping over ditches and exposed roots, heading back to the village to retrieve their friend.
"...You are Berzerkers, the boldest and bravest warriors ever forged on Cybertron..."
"...We are brothers, Impact! Brothers to the end...!"
"...We're getting you out of here, Purge..."
"...The Autobot cause is false! We were LIED to...!"
"...Do you even feel anything, anymore...?"
Impact jerked awake as a rush of energy poured into his neural cortex. He cycled the shutters on his optics as his glitching vision sought to regain focus. There was a faint glow directly in front of him, one that seemed to swim and mingle with spots of black and brown. The image finally became sharper, and he could make out what it was.
It was liquid Energon. His Energon.
There was only one reason he was still alive and not a cold, metal husk. In his body, located right under the back of his neck, was a charge of concentrated, high-octane Energon, programmed to activate in the event of a critical systems failure. Such an augmentation was one of many in his chassis, but also the most complex and, possibly, most important. Up to this moment, he had never been forced to use it, and he was infinitely thankful to the unknown Cybertronian who engineered it. Unfortunately, Impact noted with renewed urgency, the module did not give him immortality; it only gave him a scant few moments of extra time. Bleeding out was still a very real possibility.
Resolute, but still cautious, he forced his right arm to move. His limbs felt like they were made of solid lead, and his impetus was met with immeasurable resistance. His knuckles came dragging along the Energon-slogged ground with a pitiful whine of servos. The simple motion was made excruciating as his life-fluid continued to dribble out of the gaping wounds on his chest, further diminishing his chances of survival. Finally, his lower arm was perpendicular with the ground, and the palm of his hand was rested against it. Gathering his strength, he gave a push.
Searing pain erupted throughout his system, robbing him of any other thought. He could not stifle the cry of agony that tore from his voice-emitter. Impact grit his teeth and forced his pain-centers to shut down temporarily and continued to push. His body was gradually lifted from the earth as a slurry of dirt, dead vegetation, and luminescent fluid cascaded off his carapace. Each second felt like a mega-cycle, and each centimeter of travel became harder and harder, until finally, gravity took the reigns and Impact rolled onto his back.
The Autobot allowed himself a split-second of relief, but his job wasn't done yet. His left hand scrabbled across his thigh until he found the button-release for a compartment. It hissed open, and from it he withdrew a sizable, nondescript metal box. He struggled to bring his hands together with the purpose of opening the container. His actuators trembled, trying and failing to draw enough energy to function properly. With much fumbling, Impact managed to open the box. Inside were a number of foil-like strips and four vials of the same high-octane Energon that saved his life, designed to be injected directly into his body. He removed one of the strips and pressed it between a pair of shivering digits. The object suddenly came to life, and with a series of barely audible whirs, unfolded itself until it was a small sheet of shimmering squares.
Essentially, it was a field-dressing. When placed on an open wound, it would automatically transform and fit itself on the breach, sealing the Energon inside. Impact slapped it on his chest and it began working immediately, shifting and folding, binding itself to his metal skin. He already knew that one wouldn't be enough, so he was already in the process of withdrawing another bandage as the first one worked. By the time the gashes were properly covered, he had gone through his entire supply; a supply that was supposed to last him the entire duration of his mission. The dressings would work in tandem with his self-repairing system and, in time, would become one with his body, but the scars would still be visible until he was properly repaired. For now, though, the danger of bleeding out has passed. He was still too weak to return to his campsite, but that was what the vials were for.
Impact was just about to reach for the first of the brightly-glowing tubes of emergency Energon when he realized that he wasn't alone. His head snapped to one side to witness, standing scant meters from his head, one of the sentient lifeforms he saved from the predator. It was the yellow and black-striped one, and it stood there, wide-eyed and obviously leery of the Autobot. Where the other one was, he could not discern. He hoped to Primus that he didn't crush one of them when he collapsed.
"Hello," Impact managed to rasp in the natives language. The sentient flinched, but after a pause, gave a reply with an uncertain wave of a hand.
The Autobot continued, despite the fact that the rush of energy from his built-in Energon reserve was beginning to wear off.
It took a moment for the sparse question to register, but when it did, the native glanced towards the treeline and pointed.
"...Went to get help!"
Impact's body jerked involuntarily, causing the organic to leap backwards in surprise.
"No!" he croaked. "No one else... can be told... of me!"
The native had no way of knowing what the Autobot Exploration Directive was, nor its guideline specifically disallowing direct contact with sentient species who were not sufficiently technologically advanced. These creatures haven't even discovered electricity yet! If his presence was made known throughout an entire civilization, it would be catastrophic. Impact wanted to explain himself in more detail, but the meager collection of words his translator function had insofar gathered wouldn't cut it. It would have to take his word on it. Thankfully, the creature seemed to understand.
"It's okay," it said. "Ri'tori went to only get Tiimala! No one else!"
Impact wasn't technically relieved to hear it, but he took solace in the idea that the knowledge of his existence on this planet could be contained to three individuals.
"Ri'tori..." The name echoed in his head. Such a strange name, nothing like the names of Cybertron, or even the names of Earth. It fit their language, which sounded like flowing water with its long, sing-song vowels and terse consonants. It was also a harsh contrast to the sharp, machine tones of Cybertronian, which, as Transformers have discovered, were difficult for other alien races to try and pronounce. He attempted to translate his own name into the natives language, but could not discern the word. Impact needed to build trust with this creature. He was immobile and still in danger of blacking out again, and the last thing he needed was an angry mob of aliens bearing down on him. He opted to speak his name in English, the favored language of the Humans.
"What...?" The native furrowed its brow in confusion.
"Too blunt," the Autobot thought, and tried again. "I am Impact."
The alien widened its eyes when understanding took hold.
"Eeem... paahct..." It fumbled with the word and repeated it a few times, and then it smiled broadly.
"I am Fusahs," the native said as it put its hand over its chest. "Fusahs Shaelasarahsa."
"Quite the surname," the Autobot noted. He tried the name for himself.
"Fusahs Shaelasarahsa." The name was spoken perfectly and without any hesitation as the organic may have experienced with his comparatively pithy name, which may explain why an expression of surprise crossed Fusahs' face. That was the advantage of the efficient linguistic skills programmed directly into every Cybertronian's body.
The alien seemed like it wanted to say something, but jumped as the digits gripping Impact's emergency kit suddenly failed and the container clanked on his chest. It then tumbled off his body and landed on the ground just above his shoulder, spilling the Energon vials. The Autobot almost swore out-loud and immediately attempted to reach for them, but the fatigue from a lack of Energon in his system was beginning to incapacitate him. The motion failed and his arm flopped to the ground. His vision phased in and out as darkness started to creep in once again. He willed himself to stay powered on.
"Urrrg..." Impact attempted to reach for the vials once again, blindly, as they rolled out of his line of sight. Pawing for them, he finally grasped something and pulled it towards him. It came with a high-pitched yelp, which sent a jolt of dread through him. Fortunately, it turned out that the native had taken initiative and rolled one of the Energon charges closer to him, but got its clothes caught between the cylinder and the Autobot's massive finger. It dangled from one of the straps of its dress, legs floundering in the empty air.
"Sorry," Impact muttered weakly, and released the organic. It dropped a short distance before landing on his metal body. It landed gracelessly, but unharmed. The Autobot opened an access port at the base of his neck and brought the vial to it. It connected, and with what remained of his strength, he gave it a twist. Immediately, another burst of energy surged through his system, rejuvenating his motor functions and restoring his vision to its full capacity. Even though it was enough to keep him from blacking out, he would likely need to use the remaining charges to have enough energy for the trip back to his camp. As the golden fluid finished draining into his body, Impact looked to the one who helped him in his time of need-albeit in a small way-still idly sitting on his chest.
"Thank you," he stated.
Fusahs offered no verbal response. It merely beamed warmly at him, as if it lived for nothing else.
Tiimala Saraj's eye bolted open at the sudden noise. She continued to lay in her bed, fighting the sleep-induced delirium that caused her to forget the time, the day, and what she was supposed to do in the morning. Was she late for something? Did she forget to send a report to Her Majesty?! Did she-
The noise came again. Tiimala now knew what it was. Someone was rapping on the large, wooden door of the library she made her home in. Well, it was less than a library and more of an informal repository of information she needed for her studies. Scrolls, books, maps, tomes, any form of written information was collected, ordered, or otherwise obtained and brought to her spacious abode. There, she studied them, annotated them, and kept them for future reference. It started out small, but grew rather quickly. She even let other villagers borrow her research material for their own use, as long as they promised to bring them back. In a sense, that would make her house a library-
The frantic knock came a third time. Tiimala decided it was time to get up. She threw the blankets off her body, giving way to the rush of cool night air. Shivering, she threw on a gown and hurried down the stairs to the main floor. She passed shelf after shelf of haphazardly-organised books and stacks of parchment. They fluttered in her wake. She reached the bottom of the staircase and navigated through the veritable maze of writing desks, book piles, and other furnishings, coming closer to the door. A fourth knock resounded. Whoever was on the other end must have an incredibly urgent reason to disturb her at such a late hour.
"And they had better," thought Tiimala as she blinked the weariness out of her two regular eyes. She was certain that she had some appointment in the morning, or a deadline. Something. She needed to check her planner, but whatever it was, this lack of sleep will most certainly hinder her ability to work at her full capacity.
She finally arrived at the door, just as the fifth knock began. She slid the tempered-iron deadbolt, gripped the handle, and heaved it open.
"Ri'tori?" The librarian uttered upon the sight of her cyan friend.
"Hiya, 'Mala. Heh..."
Tiimala attempted to adjust her eyesight to the low light. The huntress was out of breath, panting with her hands resting on her knees. Her face was glossy with perspiration.
"What..." the scholar stammered. "What are you doing? Why are you here so late?"
"It's a long... story..." Ri'tori said between breaths. She stood upright. "I need... your help."
It was in that moment that Tiimala caught sight of the state of her companion's body. Her eyes went wide. Bruises, cuts, and scrapes bespeckled her where her flesh was visible. She also noticed that some of her clothing was damaged as well.
"You're hurt! What the heck happened?!"
Ri'tori put her finger to her mouth and shushed. "That's part of the story, but I'm alright."
Tiimala wasn't satisfied. "Let me look into it."
The scholar held her open palm out towards her friend, closed her eyes, and began to open her parietal eye-
"No!" The huntress blurted, interrupting Tiimala. "Er, I mean, I'm fine. Really. Look, I need your help and we don't have a lot of time. Get your clothes on and find some books on... metal stuff. We need to hurry!"
"Woah, woah, wait a minute," the librarian began. "You're being frustratingly vague. 'Metal stuff?' What's that supposed to mean? What's going on?"
Ri'tori's eyes shifted from side to side as she bit her bottom lip. "Alright, alright. I, well, Fus and I went on a... er... little walk. Through the forest."
Tiimala's nostrils flared. "You went into the Shadowgrove?!"
The huntress shushed her friend more fiercely than before, scanning her immediate vicinity with a few quick turns of her head.
"Okay, yeah, we went into the Shadowgrove. Skewer me, whydoncha? But, that's not the reason I came here."
"Where's Fusahs?" Tiimala suddenly inquired.
"Please, Tii," Ri'tori pled. "I really, really need your help!"
The librarian was irritated with the brazen Khalam's evasiveness, but she saw the sincerity in her look, and furrowed her brow in defeat.
"Alright. Let me get my things." She turned away with intent to gather her clothes, her shoes, and her book bag. Ri'tori sighed a breath of relief.
"And," Tiimala paused and added. "I'll get a couple books on... metal stuff..."