Chapter 222 - The Surprise Guest
Ratchet scowled at the blank servo as he toiled away, wiring faults for the twins to find. It was getting more and more difficult to trick them; it made him proud.
The goings on in the crowded NEST Washington base floated all but unnoticed in the background. White noise, and the quiet little sounds of human night life. It was a peaceful, comforting soundtrack at odds with the malicious damage he was inflicting upon the unoffending servo.
The ground-bridge came online, and dissipated, and the life-sounds continued to remain in the background until the hint of a scent intruded on Ratchet's senses.
The scent of a human child recently under prolonged duress and a voice.
"And you're bringing in unread civilians?" Lena's voice stated in a tone which clearly indicated that she was questioning the man's sanity. Ratchet winced and leapt from his workbench, striding from the med-bay and toward the femme.
"I am not insane," Chance announced with a scowl, defiantly crossing his arms.
"Of course you are, we've been over this," Ratchet stated in an intentionally amused tone, flicking his holoform online amidst the odd little group. ::. Lena we need to tread carefully.:: he commed the femme worriedly, relaxing somewhat when a flash of understanding crossed the femme's optics. "Just not dangerously so," he continued with the holo without missing a beat. "What's your name, little spark?" he asked gently, completing the final leg of his journey by kneeling down to bring himself to the sparking's level.
"This is my niece, Ratchet: Lillian Tien Daniels," Chance introduced the femmeling, crouching down beside them. "Tien, this is Ratchet, he's our doctor on base. The big green guy over there is actually Ratchet; this is the holoform he uses when he's taking care of humans," the soldier continued, gesturing between them to emphasize his point.
Ratchet returned the child's grave look, surreptitiously scanning the femmeling as she sized him up in return. He noted her low weight, and the particular sensitivity to the proteins the humans had classified as 'gluten.'
"Can you fix my friend?" Tien finally asked in a worried tone.
"I can try," Ratchet replied automatically. "What's her name?"
"His name is Beachcomber, he's parked outside my pop-pop's house," Tien stated with wide-eyed, grave innocence.
"He is in grave state," a holoform with Firelight's signature embedded reported seriously. Ratchet nodded respectfully to the flier femme.
"Have you a preliminary diagnosis?" he asked.
"His self-diagnosis is having run so low on energon as to be capable only of speaking through the radio. Oxidation rates and his own admission indicate he has been exposed to this atmosphere for approximately three-quarters of the vorn," the femme reported seriously. "I did not dare fill his tanks with energon- my scans indicate he would be incapable of holding it. I did manage to sneak him a plasmic charge."
"Blast this rust ridden atmosphere," Ratchet growled to himself, glancing around at the near-invisible gas-cloud stubbornly clinging to it's rock. Near-invisible. Without fail some small amount of di-hydrogen oxide could be seen condensing into lethal clouds just beckoning a mech toward a cringeworthy, lingering, degenerative death. The mere thought had him scanning his own frame and paint with apprehension.
"Thank you for your service, Firelight," he added gravely, nodding once more with a deeper respect for the femme.
"My folks are already prepped to see somebot pick him up in disguise," Chance added offhandedly.
"They do not know that he is Cybertronian?" Ratchet demanded worriedly.
"I didn't know until a half hour ago," Chance replied, shaking his head with a stunned look on his face. "Tien knew before I ever did, and we grew-up with that old buggy…"
::. Optimus I need to borrow you, medical emergency.:: Ratchet instantly commed the mech. "Lena bring up the co-ordinates Chance just came back from-"
"The bridge is cued," Lena replied immediately. "There and back, already set, I'm needed in communications…"
"I can handle the safeties," Ratchet nodded instantly. ::. Optimus where are you?.::
"Right here," Optimus rumbled aloud, striding carefully into the entrance bay. "What size?"
"Class five scout, Prime," Firelight replied respectfully.
Optimus nodded his respect and thanks to the femme, visibly processing that information before Kae appeared in the doorway.
"Optimus," she called aloud in a gently amused tone, wings flaring for a moment before transforming into twin blades. Instantly, Optimus turned to look at his mate. "Don't you dare butcher that beautiful frame for a deck, I need it later," she commanded in that amused tone, the sheathes of her blades releasing at her command as she reached to collect them.
Ratchet returned his visuals to that of his holoform's at the renewal of stress in the hatchling's odour.
"You are safe here, little one," he informed the femmeling gently.
"What are they doing?" the girl asked softly.
"They're going to go get your friend so we can make him better," Ratchet stated soothingly.
Tien regarded him with her vivid blue optics for a long moment before nodding her acceptance to that statement; closing the distance between them and winding her arms around his neck.
"Thank you," she murmured quietly beside his holo's ear. Ratchet smiled and gently hugged the femmeling for a moment before the girl pulled back somewhat, one arm remaining loosely curled over his shoulder to watch with fascinated eyes as Archangel Prime strode into the embrace of her mate; winding her arms over his shoulders to delicately connect her wings to the opened armour of Optimus' broad back - planting a kiss to his lip plating in the process.
~Should I be jealous?~ Arcee murmured gently.
~No, my mate~ Ratchet murmured fondly. ~But I would be greatly appreciative of your assistance in settling our newest hatchling on base…~
In an instant, Ironhide was striding into the entrance bay; Arcee, Flare and Chromia's holoforms blinking online at the camera point seconds later; the message ricochetting across their bonds.
"The sooner you leave, the sooner you're back," Kae commented the next second.
"I love you," Optimus rumbled earnestly.
"You'd better," Kae replied in teasing tones of mischief. Optimus laughed as his mate lightly escaped him, turning to transform. Kae delicately reached out and flicked her blade as he did: a ringing flash of energon prompting the wings to shatter alongside the Emperor Prime, shifting seamlessly into a hydraulically maneuverable flatbed positioned neatly above his chassis.
"Showoff," Ironhide rumbled in amusement, transforming to flank Optimus through the bridge.
"If you say so," Kae replied flippantly as holoforms came alive behind their respective steering column. The Lady Prime reached out, caressing the bridge controls.
"Eeeee!" Flareup immediately squealed excitedly, bouncing forward to swoop down and delicately caress Tien's helm. "I love your hair!" she commented with a bright smile; earning a shocked look from the femmeling.
"Truly this must be the central hub, our helms match," Firelight's holo commented in a flier's teasing manner, reaching out to touch the flaming curls cascading around Flareup's holoformatic face. "Do the Primes oft exchange armour thus?"
"Kae's a special case; you'll get used to it," Arcee commented in an amused tone, approaching at a much more dignified pace with Chromia at her side.
::. The bridge is clear, my mate, Ironhide.:: Archangel's voice stated over the comm. "What now?" Kae asked curiously, blinking her holoform into the group.
"No flier has ever willingly given their wings to a grounder," Firelight commented in a neutral, curious tone.
"He'll bring them back," Kae shrugged casually, glancing over her shoulder to smile at her mate driving through the stabilized bridge.
"Ladies-" Ratchet began.
"Wait up!" Lena's voice called out, her holoform jogging from the camera point. "Sorry, the chatter's gone insane at the moment. Hi, I'm Lena," she added to the girl still curled shyly against Ratchet's holo chest. "Sorry we haven't really got off to a great start: Colonel made me promise to cover the lecture bit if Chance made it back while he was sleeping…"
"Lena… you're a Major? When did that happen?" Chance demanded incredulously.
"Yesterday," Lena shrugged.
"So now it's your job to bust me down," Chance stated in a sinking tone.
"You're not getting busted down Chance, Chromia's taken over your newbie duty-"
"And done a fabulous job of it," Chromia interjected airily.
"And I reorganized the storeroom earlier," Ratchet finished calmly. "The index is catalogued - you won't have any trouble with it."
"-So there's nothing left to call you up on, just try to quit doing that?" Lena asked wheedlingly. "It sets a bad example for the rest of the troops."
Chance silently, solemnly raised his hand.
"I will henceforth ensure Chance is at the proper place in time for his duties," Firelight stated earnestly before smiling. "Ladies, this is Tien," she added sweetly, gently touching Tien's shoulder.
"Tien, this is my wife Arcee," Ratchet murmured gently, reaching up and touching the hand her holoform had delicately placed on his shoulder.
"Your friend is injured?" Arcee asked gently, taking a knee to regard the femmeling whose optics relaxed somewhat as she lessened the variance of their heights.
"Beachcomber's sick, Ratchet said he's gonna try'n make him better," Tien replied gravely before rubbing at her eye with her stone-laden fist.
"My husband is a very good medic," Arcee nodded in regal agreement. "You look tired little one, are you hungry?" she asked gently. Tien looked up at her Uncle Chance.
"Tien has Celiac's disease, she can't eat anything that has gluten in it," Chance announced to the group. "Tien, these are my friends Lena, Kae, Flareup, Ratchet, Arcee, and Chromia. They're all part of my family on base here, and you can trust them just the way you'd trust me or Pop-pop," the man finished with a small smile.
"I am a bit hungry…" Tien stated softly after a moment's pondering silence, looking back at Arcee.
"Then we should find you something to eat!" Flareup stated sweetly. "I'm on my way, Ratch, will you pipe me the scan-data?"
"Scan-data?" Tien parroted Flare in Ratchet's ear as the holo flickered out.
"Rather than trying to guess what foods you can or should not eat: Flareup will scan the food for traces of gluten and help you pick out your favourites safely," Ratchet informed the femmeling gently, simultaneously compiling the protein scan-signatures which would react badly with the girl's immune system and passing them to the bot-population at large along with the most complete data compilation of Lillian Tien Daniels, the newest Cybertronian hatchling-
Ratchet scanned the femmeling trustingly releasing her grip about his neck to follow Arcee, re-calibrated his sensors and scanned her again.
::. Kae do an independent scan on Tien.:: he sent to the femme waiting for her mate to signal for his return. Archangel Prime turned toward the group, optics brightening somewhat as she scanned the girl. Her optics narrowed almost imperceptibly.
::. Little-brother.:: she sent on the primary.
"In the house!" came the soundbyte reply as Bee drove into the entrance bay. The scout transformed the next moment, optics glowing with amber threads as he gazed around himself before chirping to his sister.
Bumblebee cycled his processors, his holoform yawning as he rolled the final few miles to home; intent on a cube or two of energon and a few joor of recharge. He tuned into the primary, curious as to the atmosphere he was going to drive into in a few moments.
There were many bots in the small base, and despite the loving, family bonds of the unit: Frictions and arguments were only natural in such close quarters.
Not that any argument was really all that serious.
::. Kae do an independent scan on Tien.:: Ratchet's voice stated with a frown, just as Bee made the final turn, his holo nodding to the soldiers holding the gate for him as he idled toward the slowly opening bay-doors.
'Tien?' Bumblebee didn't know any Tiens… intrigue upon base entry!
::. Little-brother.:: Kae's voice called out to him.
"In the house!" Bumblebee played cheerfully over his speakers, scanning the bay he was driving into. There was indeed a stranger among them - a nang Tien if his translations were correct - a slight little human femmeling dressed in a fairy's garb standing trustingly amidst the holoforms of his family. Bumblebee transformed, gazing around himself.
A tiny, overwhelmed femmeling with a spark-thread directed… down!?
"=Where'd-you-find-the-sparking?=" Bumblebee chirped to his sister curiously, he gave a bit of a start to note that her thread led to roughly the same place…
"=Chance's-nice, she-has-a-thread-yes?=" his sister answer-queried.
"=And-the-weird-part? Big-Brother-is-the-closest-and= underground?" Bumblebee finished in english, looking back and forth at his sister's feet and at Tien's.
"Australia," Kae replied calmly.
"Riiiiight," Bee stated in amusement, rolling his optics before flicking his holoform online sitting beside Ratchet's.
"I'm Bumblebee! What's your name?" he asked curiously, grinning at the femmeling.
"Tien," the girl replied shyly, glancing unsurely toward Chance and Ratchet.
"Bee's part of our family too, Tien," Chance stated soothingly. "He talks fast and has a ton of energy, but he's really nice, and I bet he'd play any game you wanted to."
Bee grinned at the soldier for his offhand praise, nodding emphatically at the sheer thought of encouraging the femmeling's imagination with games.
"You have a really really big family, Uncle Chance," Tien stated gravely.
"We both do, Tien," Chance stated with a small smile, glancing around at the little confirming nods present in every bot and holoform in the area.
"Stand clear for the bridge!" Kae called out patiently. Bee glanced at his sister and moved to stand beside her, even as the group of holoforms and humans began trouping toward the med-bay.
"You might want to cover your ears, the bridge is pretty loud on this side of the gate," Bumblebee informed the femmeling gravely.
"It is, we came through the magic fairy portal too," Tien told him gravely, turning to watch the arcs explode into the clear area. Bumblebee noted that the femmeling had a doll and a stone in her hands, so he reached out and gently covered the femmeling's ears. Optimus drove through the next moment, Ironhide close behind. Tien turned to look at him as the bridge collapsed.
"Thank you," the girl murmured calmly.
"Anytime," Bee grinned. "I bet I even have…" he trailed off, glancing at his carbon hold and inwardly crowing in delight. "The latest in fairy attire for the modern femmeling," he finished, materializing and offering the girl a lilac purple pinafore with deep pockets. "Criss-cross straps to stay out of the way of your wings, and pockets to keep your hands free!"
"For me?" Tien asked in shock.
"Of course for you, you gotta keep your hands free to cover your ears when you're in the entrance bay," Bee stated with smiling seriousness.
"Can I wear it now?" Tien asked with wide, hopeful eyes.
"Arms up!" Bee sang cheerfully, lightly draping the girl in the utilitarian linen pinafore. It took the hatchling mere moments to thread her arms through the straps, and obediently deposit her treasures in her pockets.
"Excuse me, please?" Kae's holoform stated sweetly. "I'll attend to Beachcomber," she added seriously, looking at Ratchet's holoform.
"Which will allow me to make sure you get something good to eat," Ratchet's holo stated cheerfully, reaching out to offer his hand to Tien as Kae blinked out.
"Why aren't you gonna fix 'Comber?" Tien asked with a little frown.
"Because his injuries are the type that Kae's better at dealing with," Ratchet stated with grave honesty, his proper form scanning the small mech riding in state over Optimus' chassis. Tien nodded her grave acceptance to that statement, reaching up and accepting the holo's guiding hand.
"Excuse me, please," Optimus rumbled, idling toward the med-bay. Bumblebee grinned and delicately caught Tien's other hand.
"Wanna hop really long distances?" he asked cheerfully, piping the short vid-clip he had of parental units carefully yet playfully swinging their progeny between themselves to hasten foot travel across the primary.
"Yeah!" Tien grinned, thrusting her arms up to better allow the pendulum effect.
::. Clever.:: Ratchet commented, the holo chuckling aloud as the pair of them lightly adjusted their grip on her hands, then gently hopped the quietly giggling girl into the clear zone.
"How are you doing up there 'Comber?" Tien asked worriedly, twisting her arms about herself to look back and up at the dune buggy being borne by their Prime.
"I'm just fine Sparking, they'll have me out in a jiff," Beachcomber's voice replied soothingly over the radio. Bumblebee winced somewhat, remembering his own days of voicelessness.
"Would you like to see him transform dear?" Kae asked in a gentle tone, striding behind her mate; her hands flexing as she warmed her joints and motor controls.
"Can I 'Comber?" Tien asked with wide eyes.
"If you want," Beachcomber shrugged. "It might take a while…"
"I think you might be surprised," Kae stated in a gently amused tone. "May I use a suspension field on you?"
"I suppose…" Beachcomber replied in a somewhat confused tone.
Bumblebee grinned as the femmeling holding his hand gasped in awe at the scene before her: His Big-Sister delicately levitated the little dune buggy from Optimus' flatbed; the hand not controlling the field reaching out to gently caress her mate's frame - the touch transferring a soothing energon surge which prompted the deck to shatter beside the Prime as he transformed back into his root mode. The moment his transformation had begun, Kae turned back to the little bot held in mid-air suspension; reaching out to gently caress the bot's frame: A gentle, bleeding charge spread from her touch to cross and envelop the smaller.
∂Beachcomber, you are in a safe place with friends and allies to guard you∂ Archangel Prime crooned gently. ∂Please call your root mode, and disengage your armour to allow for medical attention∂ she added with the softest tone of command.
"Magic," Tien whispered beside his holoform as the dune-buggy shattered. Bumblebee looked down at the girl and grinned as she in turn turned to Ratchet's holo, tugging on his hand somewhat to get his attention.
"Yes?" Ratchet asked with a smile of his own.
"She's the Queen of the Fairies, isn't she? That's why she's better at fixing people," Tien whispered breathlessly.
"She's the Empress of Cybertron," Ratchet corrected gently.
"You don't get to call me that until after the coronation," Kae's voice stated idly, collecting the floating and newly transformed Beachcomber from her own fields; gently carrying him the final few paces to the med-berth automatically shifting at her signal to best accommodate his frame. The moment the berth stilled she gently laid Beachcomber to lounge in state while she took the bench beside.
"You're the mate of Optimus Prime, Emperor of Cybertron; that makes you the Empress whether we get to parade you though the Grand Central and weld a crown to your helm or not," Ratchet retorted in an amused tone as Optimus approached his seated mate, removing the twin blades from his back.
"No they won't literally weld the crown to your helm - Sentinel outlawed it," Optimus murmured with a low chuckle, solicitously offering the sheathed blades to the connectors across his mate's back.
"'Comber? You okay?" Tien asked worriedly.
"I know this is possibly one of the most brutal things you've ever been asked to do, but please stay still?" Kae stated gently, laying a restraining hand over Beachcomber's chest. "If you really want to give her a hug that much, use the holoform program my mate included in the welcome-update package."
"Holoform? Oh is that what the executable file is?" Beachcomber asked in a curious tone.
"It is," Kae smiled, looking up at her mate as her blades settled securely into place. "Thank you, my love," she added softly, smiling as Optimus grinned, leaning down somewhat to press a gentle kiss to her lip plating.
Bumblebee grinned at the holoform beginning it's initial loading process - a blank form coalescing a short distance from their group. In seconds the form had thinned substantially, the helm covered in shaggy blonde hair matched by a soul-patch upon the chin. The eyes sharpened a moment later, observing the new perspective.
"It's like being in Central Hub again," the teal-eyed holoform commented with a lopsided grin, touching his own face and regarding the tattered denim covering his legs. "Compliments to the programmer - it even has the funny little air-sponges the humans constantly use."
"We call those lungs 'Comber," Tien giggled, slipping her hands from both Bee and Ratchet's to stride toward the holoform.
"And you are the cleverest sparking of them all," Beachcomber's holoform stated fondly, kneeling down to wrap the femmeling in a hug. "Have you given Optimus Prime the fairy stone yet?"
"Nope, maybe you better do it," Tien stated gravely, her hand diving into the pinafore's pocket and offering the glowing stone to the holoform the next moment.
Optimus brought his holo online amidst the group, offering his arm to the newcomer.
"Fairy stone?" he asked curiously.
"The Ember stone, Prime," Beachcomber stated gravely, offering the softly glowing stone to Optimus' holo. Optimus visibly scanned the stone before reverently collecting it from Beachcomber's avatar.
"Thank you, Beachcomber," he rumbled just as gravely before sub-spacing the artifact. "Where did you find it?"
"Tien found it, I'd been en-route to Cybertron to bring it home from Sigma Octamis before I was hit by a random solar flare and caught up by this strange little planetoid's gravity field. I lost everything on re-entry, and wound up stuck on a little rock utterly packed with violent, compassionate, chaotic, brilliant, adorable little sentient primates. I searched high and low for the stone, terrified it may have burned up on entry, but I carried on searching away anyway until my conversion unit gave out and I finally just stopped." he gave Tien a fond look. "The femmeling found it and used it to bring me back online."
"Bee?" Chance muttered to his holoform.
Bumblebee looked at the sharp-eyed human watching the exchange taking place with his niece directly at the centre and nodded.
"Where did you find it Tien?" Optimus asked gently.
"I saw a hungry raven pecking at it in a little hollow in the ground, I think he thought it was an egg," Tien replied gravely. "So I went into the coop and got one of the eggs from the chickens to trade for it."
"Thank you for your service, Tien, and for the life of our friend Beachcomber," Optimus stated with his regal, grave sincerity.
"They have a thread," Bumblebee murmured quietly. "Same as you and Firelight."
"Me and-!?" Chance stuttered for a second before whipping around to look at Firelight.
"It is you!" Firelight's holoform sang joyfully, throwing herself into his arms and kissing him soundly. Chance froze, clearly stunned. Firelight pulled back worriedly moments later. "I mean…" she trailed off unsurely.
"I'm pretty sure you blew his processor," Bumblebee interjected with a grin, reaching out with his holoform to poke at Chance's head.
"Shut up Bee," Chance retorted in tones of offhanded amusement before he looked seriously at Firelight. "Firelight, you are the kindest, most beautiful femme I've ever met, and I declare my intent to be your subordinate and adore you to the day I'm pushing daisies," Chance reached up and gently touched the femme's face, brushing a lock of hair back from her eyes. "You've been through so much…" he added softly. "You just startled me."
"I've been alone for a very long time, Chance," Firelight replied softly, a hand creeping up his chest. Chance offered a gentle smile before he leaned down somewhat to press a lingering kiss to her lips. "And I declare my intent to make you my bonded mate sometime within our future, perhaps even as my equal," she added softly the moment Chance gave her the room; their lips whispering against each other.
"Deal," Chance murmured, kissing her again before winding his arms around the holoform and turning to watch as Beachcomber's holo finally loosened his grip on the femmeling.
"Let's get you something to eat, and tuck you in for a nice long sleep: You've had a long day," he crooned softly.
"M'kay," Tien nodded, curling up against the holoform's chest as he rose, cradling the tiny girl.
"Jacobs'll be waking up soon, you might be able to convince him to whip up some of his banana paleo pancakes," Kae stated offhandedly, delicately helping Beachcomber's frame to complete it's straightening process before gently clamping the mech to the berth for his regenerative recharge. "Too tight?" she asked solicitously, gently touching Beachcomber's shoulder.
"Nope, it's perfect," Beachcomber's true form articulated contentedly.
"=Big-sister, Jacobs-is-offline=" Bumblebee chirped to the Lady Prime, he watched worriedly as she scowled to herself, running an internal diagnostic before shaking herself and blinking her holoform online.
"You're right, I'll just have to make them for you myself," Kae smiled at the little girl peeking shyly from Beachcomber's neck. "Shall we?"
"Are you not coming back to bed?" Optimus murmured softly.
"I'll be along in a few minutes," Kae's holoform replied fondly, looking up at her mate. ∂But it'll be a lot sooner if you just bring me∂ she added in amusement, reaching with her true form for Optimus. Bee grinned as his brother-in-bonding chuckled, lightly collecting the femme from her bench and bearing her down the corridor with a nod to all around them.