Flameout: Part 1: City of Fire


	"Buster! Come here. I've found something." Wheeljack's voice
echoed across the huge repair bay as machinery hummed with power and
computer terminals chirped and diligently displayed status reports. 
	"On my way." he said, shutting down his terminal. Ha, he
thought, `Buster'. I'm forty seven years old and they still call me
`Buster'! He smiled inwardly. He walked over to where Wheeljack was
working. The big white robot was on his back, slid under one of the
forty two energon processors in the room. Buster walked in standing up
with plenty of head room. 
	"Look at this..." Weeljack pointed to a residue that had built
up on the coils, "If we can find a way to make these things
self-cleaning, then we could increase power efficiency by 6%!" Wheeljack
scraped some of the goo off on his finger and put it in a cup. 
	"Can it be done though?" Buster did a quick calculation.  six
percent was about ten gigawatts. 
	"I think so." He said, "Huffer. Run this through your paws." He
slid the cup out from under the processor, in the direction of Huffer.
The smaller orange robot snatched it up, and inspected it. 
	"Geez, Wheeljack, can you give me just a little less?  I'm
actually able to see this smudge of dirt..." Huffer's masked face was
unreadable, but his cynical attitude was legendary. 
	"Quit yer bellyachin' and test it." Wheeljack said,
then,"YEEEOWWCHH!!" He yelped. A bright flash all but blinded Buster,
and when he cleared his vision, he could see Wheeljack nursing his index
finger. 
	"Wheeljack, are you all right?" Dan said, unable to suppress a
smirk. 
	"Aaghhk... Shokshokshokshocked myself-elf" He stuttered, nursing
a smoldering index finger. "M-mental note: Don't touch node
seventeen-een while grounded." The light panels on the sides of
Wheeljack's head which normally flashed with each syllable were heavily
out of synch. 
	"You've got to stop playing with things, 'Jack." Huffer said,
scanning the deposits. "Either that or read the manual.." 
	"Pheheheheeeee!!" an excite giggle came from one of the miryad
of monitors that occupied the room. The computer- generated face of
Ciudad Del Fuego appeared there, smiling like an amused child. "That
tickles!" Everyone looked up to see CDF's familiar face. 
	"Hi, CDF." Buster said, waving to the monitor. 
	"Ahhhh, senior Witwicky! Como esta?" CDF said "I dinn' know you
waz here, holmes, or I would have piped in some old METALLICA tunes!"
every speaker in the room immediately blared ENTER SANDMAN at top
volume, and Buster staggered back at the sheer power of the sound. He
couldn't help but tap his foot, though. 
	Ciudad Del Fuego was-- well-- he was the city they lived in.
Like Metroplex and Autobot City before him, he was a sentient,
transformable city. Unlike them, however, he had the habit of displaying
a computer generated "face" on monitor screens wherever anything
interesting was happening within his confines. People had gotten used to
his constant presence, though, and even come to like him for his
naturally gregarious nature. 
	"Turn that crap down!" Huffer said, covering the sides of his
head. CDF complied. 
	"CDF," Wheeljack said, standing, "Can you locate Ratchet and get
him on the horn?" He managed to get his finger to stop smoking. 
	"Ratchet here." came the familiar voice of a large white robot.
He had a large boxy chest with a silver, glassy plate that dominated the
center. He was all glossed up and looked as if he'd just had a hot wax. 
	"Ratch, what are the chances of getting you down here to give us
a hand? You're a surgeon, but I'm sure you aren't above a little
maintenance work." Wheeljack's armored face was unreadable, but his tone
made it clear that he wasn't expecting much. 
	"Aww, man! I been bustin' my aft all day, and I was on my way
out to the Auto Shop for some R+R!" Ratchet's face screwed up in
disgust, "Now you workaholics want me to come down and do grunt work?" 
	Wheeljack didn't know exactly what a `workaholic' was, but he
got the idea, "Aw, shock. Why can't you be serious for a change? This
has to be done!" 
	"Then I'll do it on my next shift. Right now, you'd do well to
join me at the Auto Shop." Ratchet looked quite adamant. 
	"Hey, `G', what say I meet you there? Word is that that's where
Daniel's gonna be." CDF joined Ratchet on a split-screen. 
	"CDF! Excellent." He said, looking at what was apparently an
adjacent screen. "See you there!" he turned and looked back at the
others, "Ratchet out." 
	"Ammonia" Huffer said. 
	"Huh?" Buster, Wheeljack, and Ciudad said in unison. 
	"If we flood the processors with ammonia, it'll clear out the
crud." Huffer explained. 
	"Won't that decrease the efficiency?" 
	"1%" He said. "And in trade we gain five more" 
	"Do it." Wheeljack said. He sat down. 
	"Well, amigos, I am afraid I must be leaving you. The NIGHT has
begun, and I have a date with a math coprocessor!"  Ciudad smiled,
wiggled his nose, and disappeared. His face was replaced with a far less
animated status report. 
	"Hey `Jack?" Buster said with a bit of a smirk. 
	"Eh?" The old robot turned to look. 
	"It HAS been a while since we took some time off..." 
	"Heh. Yeah." He stood and seemed to think a moment, and then
transformed into an old style Italian sports car.  "Let's blow his taco
stand." his aircraft-style cockpit canopy raised and buster jump in. 
	"Hey guys!" Huffer said in his legendary whine. 
	"Oh, relax, Huff. I need to unwind. My shift ended six hours
ago!" Wheeljack's tires screeched and left peel marks s hbolted out of
the power center. 
	The lights of Ciudad at night were astounding. Orbital photos
had shown one bright pinpoint of light in the Brazilian jungle, but from
ground level the place looked like a seventy five story forest of fully
lit Christmas trees. 
	Wheeljack pulled onto one of the "Transformers only"  roads.
Transformers only means that the road is forty feet across, with one
lane and two way traffic. To humans, this would be an insurance
nightmare, but to the Autobots, it was like walking down a crowded
sidewalk.  Buster threw his head hard to the left, feeling the joints
crack and then eased back into the seat, losing himself in the hypnotic
lights. 
	The lights of the AUTO SHOP were anything but hypnotic.  They
strobed and pulsed in a multitude of colors, all to the tune of
_You_could_be_mine_ by Guns n' Roses. The music had made a huge
resurgence since Axl, the band's lead singer, had died of throat cancer.
	The place was lit. It was Friday night, and every being in town,
carbon or silicon based, came here to unwind. Most of CDF's human
population was United Earth Alliance personnel helping the Autobots,
with the odd civilian advisor. Like every military in the world, these
people partied without limits when off duty. 
	At fifteen stories tall, with a maximum occupancy of three
thousand humans on the dance floors alone, AUTO SHOP CIUDAD was the
largest AUTO SHOP on earth. Autobots were allowed on the first and tenth
floors only, and there were various mezzanine levels for humans, but the
crowning achievement was the two huge crysteel floors that the humans
used as dance floors. 
	Through these floors, human clubgoers could look down and see
the Autobots dancing below. The chrome steel floor was blackened with
tire marks and scratched as only a dancing autobot could scratch it, but
it still have several years left in it. 
	Awestruck humans looked on as no less than fourteen, twenty foot
tall robots started the largest mosh pit in human history. Sparks flew
from their elbows and shoulders as they clanged into each other. A
fifteen foot tall boom box rested upon a raised stage, supplying music
to the crowd, but then transformed and leapt from the stage, diving into
the crowd where he floated on a sea of hands. 
	Daniel Witwicky entered with Arcee. Sitting on the feminine pink
robot's shoulder, he couldn't help but smile. 
	"They ARE pretty rowdy, aren't they?" He called over the din. 
	"Yeah. What say we head up to the lounge?" Arcee answered. 
	They took one of the lifts up to the lounge on the ninth floor.
Arcee sat down at the bar, with Daniel sitting on the bar. 
	>Would you like to hear our specials?< a large drone glided over
to their section of the bar. 
	"Yes. A Coke for my friend and I'll have a 10-40." Arcee said.
10-40 referred to 10w40 oil: the transformer equivalent of `Milk'. 
	"Hey, Barkeep! Make that a Rum and Coke..." 
	"Yes sir, mister Witwicky." Barkeep said. The drone had become
something of a pet in the club. 
	"Dan, what would your father say?" Arcee commented in a motherly
tone. 
	"He'd say, `Make it a double.'" Daniel chuckled.  He turned and
looked at the scene around him. Autobots and humans interacted all
around, joking and talking. Brawn was taking all comers in a miniature
arm wrestling championship in one corner, and the Autobot twins sat at
the bar to his left. 
	"Hey....Fastlane. Howya doin?" Daniel said to the one closest
him. 
	"Cloudburst. I'm Cloudburst." He said. 
	"I'm Fastlane." An identical robot next to him explained. 
	"Right. What's up guys?" 
	"Not much, Dan-dude," Fastlane said. 
	"Just came by for a quick 220 before going on shift." 
Cloudburst finished. In unison, they drained their drinks and stood.
"See ya." They said in harmony. 
	"Those two give me the creeps." Dan said, shaking his head. 
	"Ha! At least I can read their FOFID signals! You have to
guess!" Arcee laughed. Her drink had come in what was literally a fifty
gallon oil drum. She popped the top like a giant beer can and drank
deeply. "Hmm...  looks like we've attracted some attention, Dan. Or at
least you have." Arcee nodded in the direction of a uniformed young PFC.
She was a redhead, and she was headed his way across the bar. Arcee
couldn't help but crack a smile. 
	"Pardon me, Lieutenant." the young woman said, acknowledging
Arcee.  Her name tag identified her as `C.Kochanski.'. "But I wondered
if I might steal mister Witwicky away from you for a while." 
	"That's up to him, I'd say." Arcee smirked. 
	"I thank you for the offer, milady." Daniel said, kissing her
hand, "But I could not in good conscience leave my date to sit alone."
He gestured towards Arcee, who nodded.  C.Kochanski smiled weakly and
wandered off in bewilderment.  She'd never been dumped for a robot
before... 
	They tangoed! 
	Oh, how they tangoed! 
	It had taken Wheeljack all of three seconds to go completely
berserk. He currently held Sideswipe in one hell of a mean dip, while
Sideswipe held a broom in his teeth.  Blaster played "The Masochism
Tango" at top volume. 
	"Geeze. Those guys are too weird." Prowl said from the
sidelines, looking to Kup. 
	"Yup." The grizzled old robot replied. "That Wheeljack sure is
something." 
	"Think he'll dance with me next?" Prowl said deadpan.  Kup just
stared at him with his mouth open. 
	Buster snuck out of the "Psycho ward", as the autobot dance
floor was called by humans, and trotted up to the lounge. He immediately
spotted Daniel and Took a seat with him. 
	"Hey, Dan." He said, giving his son a hug. 
	"Dad! Long time no see." Dan was genuinely happy. With their
constant busy schedules, it was all but impossible to find time
together. 
	"No kidding." He said, signalling Barkeep for his usual.  "I
been working on those energon processors for a week now. I think we
finally licked the problem, though." He looked up, "Hey, Arcee!" 
	"Hello, Sir." She said with a smile. 
	"What've you been up to?" Buster said. 
	"The usual: Combat training the new human personnel.  Only way
to teach them to take out Transformers is to have them fighting
Transformers." She made a gun shape out of her hand and made as if
picking them off as if in a shooting gallery. 
	<<Message for you sir.>> a flying drone blurted out, startling
Buster. 
	"Eh?" He looked at the egg shaped drone, which sprouted long,
skinny legs and touched down gently next to him. A single sensor eye
also popped out of a port on it's surface, comparing Buster to his
files. Buster passed. "Where do I sign?" Buster finished, realizing what
the thing was. 
	<<Right here.>> it said, and a screen on it's left "shoulder"
lit up yellow. A small light pen popped out of a slot on it's right.
Buster signed and a legal sized envelope was issued from another slot in
the drone, who then immediately sped off. 
	"Hmm...." He frowned as he opened and read the letter.  "Oh my
god." 
	"Dad?" Daniel said, worried. 
	"Sir?" Arcee added, "General Witwicky?" 
	"We have to go." Buster said, gulping down his drink, Ravage has
escaped from confinement." 
	"Sir. Before you go in, I feel like I should warn you that you
aren't going to like it in there." The gold robot said as if the concept
were alien to him. Humans so far have found it.. disturbing." 
	"Thanks for your concern, Bumblebee, but I think I can handle
it. God knows I've seen enough." He charged past Bumblebee without
stopping, headed for the cell blocks.  "Which one?" He said. 
	"Seven." Bumblebee said, pointing to the door. 
	Arcee, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Daniel, and Buster all walked up
together. The massive blast door swung open and the first thing to
strike Buster was the smell. 
	"Fuck....Me.....Hard." Buster said, staring at the scene. 
	One autobot lay in complete shreds. His internal systems were
spread across the floor like an upended jigsaw puzzle.  His eyes were
cold and black. 
	Five human heads were lined up on the floor as if in some
macabre puppet show, their faces frozen in permanent terror and their
bodies were ripped to pieces. They had been torn apart at every joint
and had their bones broken for good measure.
	And on the far wall, drawn in blood and claw marks, was the
Decepticon insignia.
	Bumblebee put his hand on Buster's shoulder, "All we heard was
the screaming, sir."

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