(Disclaimers in Part 1)
After their meeting, Mearing and Simmons took a Humvee into the city to visit Hemmings in the hospital (and in Simmons' case, raise hell on his behalf). Optimus went back outside, but Mearing's information had opened up too many possibilities for him to shut down for the rest of the joor. He transformed and settled in the sun to think it over, hoping that Ironhide or Chromia, or better yet both, would be awake soon.
Diarwen came over and waited for his permission to take her usual seat on his running board. Instead he opened his door and she climbed into his cab. "Was Director Mearing very angry?"
"Yes, but not with us. The President, on the other hand..."
"I hope that we may soon be in a position to make it up to him."
"In what way?"
He displayed the photo that Mearing had given him on the small screen of his dashboard radio. Diarwen did a double-take, then leaned closer for a better look.
She saw two small Cybertronians, both in root mode: one the upright bipedal model, the other a flying form, sitting on a bare metal bunk in what Diarwen thought was a third-world jail. "What in the world? Is that Frenzy?"
"Rumble, his twin. The other is Buzzsaw, another of Soundwave's symbionts. We assumed them to have been deactivated."
"I was under the impression that one twin could not survive the other?"
"For a short time, possibly, no longer than three months, but the bond between carrier and symbiont is extremely strong as well. Undoubtedly that is how Rumble was able to survive his brother's deactivation. Mearing says that this image is recent, and if the electronic time-stamp has not been doctored before it was applied, it is. I can think of only one way for Rumble and Buzzsaw to have survived Soundwave, and that is by entering into a spark-bond with one another. That is the strongest of bonds between Cybertronians."
"There is something that I do not understand..."
"What is that, Diarwen?"
"Prowl was a casualty of the last battle before you left Cybertron, was he not? And Jazz came with you? That journey could not have been a swift one. How did he survive so long?"
"He wanted to continue his usefulness for as long as possible, so he went into stasis soon after we began our travels. Ratchet only brought him out of it when it was necessary for us to traverse a space bridge. The rest of the time, he was in...what might be termed 'suspended animation' in English. All it did was prolong the inevitable, but it did allow him to survive the journey."
"I see. Goddess, what an awful situation."
"Indeed. That is why few new bonds were formed after war broke out."
"I understand," she said. Then she shook her head and returned to the question of Buzzsaw and Rumble. "But where are they imprisoned? And why are they staying there? Could they not get out?"
"I would not expect a simple human jail to be sufficient to confine them, no. I cannot ascertain from the photograph what means are being used to keep them in place."
Diarwen continued to study Rumble and Buzzsaw. "In my years as an agent for this government, I have visited such places, and none of them would I care to see ever again. But I cannot positively identify this one."
"Jazz is working on that."
One delicate silver eyebrow elevated. "I believed Jazz to be in medical stasis."
"His frame is. He has inhabited his mainframe for the time being. I do not know whether Jazz is aware that Ratchet has Prowl monitoring him to assure that he gets some real rest frequently, but permitting Jazz to entertain himself this way makes him more comfortable, and simplifies everyone else's life considerably. I do not know how we would keep him from astral projection, and Ratchet believes that would put much more stress on his frame than inhabiting the mainframe as a remote does."
"I agree. Projection can be tiring for one already in an injured state. The mainframe, though, is a strong anchor point for him, and from there he can keep himself busy."
"The last time Ratchet put him on berth rest, he collaborated with Sideswipe and Sunstreaker."
"Oh dear Brigit. One can imagine…"
"Believe me, one cannot. That collaboration took place on Cybertron, while we still held Iacon, and resulted in a subroutine being inserted into Ratchet's programming which required him to do the…" Optimus made a noise. "There's no translation for the name of that dance. It's a bit like a samba; however you do it, it's sexual. In any case, the subroutine forced him to do it at all times, save when his surgical subroutines were summoned, and kept him from being aware of this. When he was made aware of it, his revenge was…I believe the human term is 'epic'. This during a time of war when physical incapacity of the perpetrators was out of the question. Imagine if you will a Jazz whose audials interpreted any piece of music as a single tone, and a Sideswipe whose every other word was 'drillerpup.' Imagine a Sunstreaker programmed to believe that rusty sludge of a certain viscosity was a type of dermally-ingestible energon. His vanity…he rolled in the sludge whenever he got hungry, then went immediately to the washracks after, then, still being hungry, went back to the sludge, and repeated this until Sideswipe pinned him down and fed him."
He waited until she had picked herself up, still snorting with laughter, from under his steering wheel.
"Therefore, that is...to be avoided. The only possible outcome worse is a prank war between Jazz and the twins. If that is declared, no one is safe."
"Keeping Jazz widely separated from boredom does sound like the best solution," she said, with a huge grin. "The search for those two will provide him with a fair amount of distraction. And I am certain Prowl will keep him on a short leash regarding getting sufficient rest."
"Yes. It also reduces my command issues in the matter of ensuring that Prowl has sufficient rest. One gives an order and it is carried out to the letter, which is much easier."
Diarwen, who had in her own time commanded a few Sidhe versions of both Jazz and Prowl, grinned again, but then sobered. "Optimus, all these electrical wires—what exactly is the situation with the energon shortage?"
"For the short term, tolerable. We will be able to supply the sparklings fully, and ourselves adequately. Remember that we are accustomed to short rations. The past few months have been the exception rather than the rule. No one is happy to return to the austerity protocols that we followed for vorn, but we certainly know how to deal with limited resources."
"For most of my life, winter was a time of hardship, and so I understand better than you might think I do. Making use of the electrical grid makes sense to me. What other measures do you need to take, and how may I be of help?"
"We must anticipate the possibility of a second raid, though I must admit that I think there is little here that Soundwave might still wish to steal. He may launch another attack for the purpose of killing as many of us as possible. For that reason, many of those less accomplished in combat, along with the less severely wounded and those whose basal metabolism, as Parker would put it, runs high, have chosen to go into stasis. The remaining active force is composed of those of us best suited to defense. Those who do remain awake will strictly limit our usage of energon. That means remaining in root mode when we are active, but taking our alt mode when we can sun ourselves, because it is most efficient. We will keep unneeded systems offline and strictly limit movement to that which is necessary. Ratchet will advise us on the regimen which is both most efficient and least likely to cause damage from prolonged immobility. We will attempt to take turns allowing everyone to completely refuel as often as possible, as long as we can keep enough energon in reserve to allow us to defend ourselves in the event of an attack."
"A complicated problem, dear one. Does it appear that you will be able to create more energon cubes? Or will we have to take them back from Soundwave?"
His voice smiled at his fierce Sidhe. "That, I do not yet know. Wheeljack hopes to salvage necessary materials from the Decepticon fliers at Area 51, and Director Mearing has obtained permission for him to do so. I will send him up there tomorrow to see what is available."
"I see. It is what it is, I suppose."
"I have never had so much cause to regret such a situation before."
"How so, Optimus?"
"I was not in a relationship before. Interfacing tends to burn though energon."
The light dawned concerning giving everyone a full tank as often as they could manage. "I see. Well, all the more reason to hope that we can remedy things soon."
"There is no reason why I cannot attend to your needs."
Diarwen grinned, said, "I appreciate that. But my needs are not so urgent to me as your own, my love. However, I will keep your generous offer in mind should I grow desperate enough to present a danger to public safety."
He laughed, as she intended he should. She smiled more widely, and her hand on his wheel was eloquent of affection shared. "There are meditations for couples which focus on intimacy rather than passion. We might explore such things; it is never a bad investment for a couple to learn more of one another."
A great weight lifted from Optimus' spark. "You continue to surprise me at every turn, so I feel we should do that."
Parker's intercom buzzed. "Dr. Parker," said the duty nurse, "Mr. Davis is here to see you."
He was late, but then he was a civilian, and likely failed to allow for the time needed to get through not one but several layers of security.
"Escort him to my office, if you would, please," she said.
Mr. Davis proved to be a thin man with a graying mustache. "Dr. Parker," he said, shaking hands. "Brad Davis. Understand you lost your ultralight."
After landing of the first Cybertronians in 2007, many of NORAD's assets had been repurposed to keep watch for things entering Earth's orbit from outer space, rather than for surface to surface launches. NATO had also launched a series of satellites containing telescopes and various receivers.
Lennox was surveying the repair efforts from the catwalk early on the morning of December 27th, as troops of both races worked together to remove the wreckage and salvage what they could.
An aide came over. "Colonel, there's a call for you, it's General McKenna from NORAD."
Lennox stepped over to the videophone terminal and said, "NEST actual, sir."
"Colonel." McKenna was a slender, dark-haired man with a maple-leaf flag on the shoulder of his uniform. "We've picked up a transmission this morning, and I believe it's one of yours."
"Could you patch it through, sir? We've had a bit of excitement here, and our antenna farm suffered some damage."
Lennox waved Prime over.
He broke out in a wide grin as soon as the transmission began to play. Others heard it too, and an excited buzz started. Ironhide transmitted a sharp glyph for silence, then repeated it in English .
The transmission was at extreme range, too distant for their personal comms. "Optimus Prime or any Autobot, this is Excellion reporting, please acknowledge."
Optimus swiftly transformed and hitched up his trailer, taking it outside where he had room to transform it into its command station mode and make use of its comms gear. It took him a while to get permission from NATO to piggyback on their satellite system, but even with that delay, it was still the fastest way to triangulate on the signal in order to reply. He did not object to using the human satellites to boost his signal, also.
"Optimus Prime, Excellion. Go ahead."
"Thank Primus, you're alive, sir! I am en route as per your orders, with over three hundred sparks aboard. I am transmitting a list of survivors."
Optimus received it, and immediately broadcast it to the other Cybertronians. A lot of mecha had friends and cohort on that list.
He replied with their own list.
The cleanup was momentarily forgotten in the celebration.
Drift came on the line, having been called out of recharge by the excited young shipformer's news, and while their people celebrated, the two commanders made preliminary plans. They were two orn out—they had twenty-six Earth days to prepare their human allies for the shipformer's arrival.
When the call finished, Optimus went to his office and put a call through to the White House.
Both he, and his human allies, would have a lot of work to do before Excellion got there. He had few illusions; his human allies in Washington would have their work cut out for them. The opposition, already in full-on battle mode to carry out their vows to make the current President's a one-term administration, would certainly be in no mood to cooperate with anything that might possibly make the White House look good.
Optimus Prime wondered what new concessions he would need to make.
(To be continued in A Year in the Life of Optimus Prime: Six)