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Spider Web Infestations and Other Oddities on the Ark

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1984, The Ark, Mount Saint Hilary, Oregon

Spike strolled into the command center of the Ark, grinning and waving at Optimus and Ironhide as he walked in between where they were working (Optimus sitting and reading a datapad, Ironhide leaning against the wall next to the door and performing maintenance on one of his guns). "Oh, gross! Spider web!" he suddenly exclaimed, shuddering as he brushed the offending cobweb off of himself. Even as he made sure all of the sticky silk was out of his hair and checked himself for errant arachnids, Ironhide suddenly stood up with a muttered Cybertronian curse, subspacing the gun and stomping over him and out of the room.

"What's his problem?" Spike asked Bumblebee who was on monitor duty.

"Ironhide? Oh, nothing you need to worry about. He's always got ants in his alternators about something," Bumblebee said.

"Speaking of bugs, you all need to do something about the spiders around here. I'm always walking into cobwebs. It's probably Daddy Longlegs...what? Why are laughing?"

~`~`~`~`~`~`~`
Several Weeks Earlier

"So we have agreement on the regulations regarding the sharing of technology with our human allies - yes, I know you are noting your objection for the record, Ratchet, but if we give cybernetic implants to Chip or correct Sparkplug's coronary condition through nanite technology, we will have an ethical duty to do so for more than just the humans who consider us their friends, and will be interfering in this species' development."

"Our being here is doing that," Ratchet grumbled.

"The compromise position," Prowl interjected, "that Chip and the others can, if they wish, pursue their own research with our support, assists in the prevention of scenarios that in 68.93 percent of the simulations lead to the militaries of this species attempting to enslave us, dissect us or both. It is better for them to believe our technologies are far more incompatible than they are. We still are at greater risk from the humans on this world than the Decepticons, by every scenario I can account for."

"I still say there is more to gained by sharing our technology than withholding it," Ratchet stated stubbornly.

"And we will do so, but in a limited fashion that will not make us targets, and will not give humanity tools by which they could exploit us, changing our position only as it becomes clear doing so will not cause us or them harm. Do not forget that our kind were once slaves to a species that started out organic," Prime cautioned. It was a fact the Matrix would never allow him to forget, even with the fondness he felt for Earth's dominant sentient species. "Teletran-1, please note our decision for the logs, and the objection of the Chief Medical Officer. Are there any other topics we need to address regarding policies for interactions with the humans?"

"There is one further regulation I propose," Prowl stated calmly. "Namely, that we do not reveal to the humans any information about our bonding and sharing protocols. Furthermore, I propose that exposing humans to such activities or knowledge of those protocols be punishable by time in the brig, a minimum of four orns for minor infractions, increasing upwards and not excluding time in involuntary stasis depending on the severity of the offense, as detailed on your datapads."

The conference room exploded in protests until Prime had to raise his voice and order calm. "Your reasoning?" he asked his SIC when the yelling had died down to a murmur.

"Even the humans who regard us as friends still express surprise to one another that we think and feel like they do--"

"--All the more reason t' show 'em that you don't have t' procreate t' have love be a part of your functionin', mech," Jazz interrupted.

"If you will allow me to explain," Prowl continued, a single flick of his sensor wing expressing his frustration with his fellow officer. "We have opted to present ourselves as the dominant gender on this planet, to avoid certain prejudices and presuppositions that might arise should we present as non-gendered or as female. However, there exists extreme prejudice among many human cultures toward members of the same gender who share intimate relations with one another. In this country, they are subject to legal discrimination as well as various forms of harassment, including many documented cases of violent attack and even murder."

"Aw you've gotta be slaggin' kidding me," Ironhide protested. "And these primitives are supposed to be allies?"

"Considering their background, it is quite possible even our primary human contacts harbor such attitudes," Prowl responded evenly.

"But we ain't biological critters with a reproductive imperative. We don't even have sex!" Blaster interjected.

"The differences would be lost on them, and don't forget that humans regularly engage in non-procreative sexual intercourse," Prowl countered. "But the prejudice we would be subject to is not the sole reason. We are the first official alien contact for a decidedly primitive species. There are enough surface similarities covering deeper differences that will challenge our alliance with them without the complications this particular issue will cause. The culture of our host nation is simultaneously obsessed with and highly repressed regarding intimate expression, especially when it comes to aspects they deem as outside their given norms."

"Are you proposing the prohibition of all public forms of interfacing, or just those that humans would be inclined to view through their biological lens?" Perceptor asked.

Prowl's optics briefly flickered as he ran additional calculations. "The humans have little or no sensitivity to fields. Field-sharing would be permissible so long responses remain unvocalized and otherwise non-obvious to their senses."

"Unvocalized isn't even necessary," Wheeljack jumped in enthusiastically. "Only vocalized above or below their sensory threshold."

"Better be careful if they got canines around," Jazz added with a smirk. "Don't want the dogs howlin' every time you overload, Prowler. Ah've heard you whistle pretty high."

"It would be best if vocalizations were kept to lower frequencies, then," Prowl said flatly, refusing to take the bait, though a rather pronounced twitch of his sensor panels promised some form of retribution. Smokescreen silently began collecting wagers as to what form it would take.

"What about the nano-filament interfacing upgrades developed for Special Operations?" Perceptor asked. "Those connections do not even require physical contact, and are near-invisible to the human eye. If humans perchance came into tactile contact with an established connection, they would simply believe they had brushed up against the protein fibers excreted by arachnids."

"But that ain't fair. Most of us don't even have that upgrade," Ironhide jumped in.

"Hoist, do we have the resources to fit every mech currently out of stasis with the nano-filament interface upgrade?" Optimus asked, sounding intrigued by the prospect.

"If I understand the upgrade correctly, it is only a matter of a code patch to existing nanites, and then having enough energon to support the minor structural changes," Hoist explained. "Since energon does not appear to be a limiting issue for us here, there is no obstacle."

::Prime, you realize we can't go givin' every mech the exact form of these that we use for operations?:: Jazz commed nonchalantly.

::Make whatever changes to the coding you need to in order to prevent nonconsensual nano-filament penetration, and then turn it over to Medical. I agree with Prowl's concerns, but we both know how important bonding and sharing is to Autobot morale and cohesiveness.::

::Not t' mention the morale of our Prime. Gotcha, boss.::

~`~`~`~`~`~`~`

Five Minutes Prior to Spike's Arrival in Command

Optimus strolled into the command center, casually transmitting an informal greeting glyph both to Bumblebee on comms and Ironhide, who was sitting with his back to the wall and his solvent cannon taken apart for cleaning. The methodical, firm way in which the mech he had once known as Dion was moving his hands over the weapon's components called up a multitude of memory files from prior to their reformat. Of course things had changed, but the spark signature Optimus could clearly sense, so resolute and loyal, was the same one Orion Pax had come fresh out of the factory bonded with when he and his cadre had been built. Though no longer dock-workers, the function-specific coding that had connected Orion to those who did hands-on labor had never been overwritten. While Prime's bonds with all Sigma-sparked mecha took priority over Orion Pax's connections, his core coding could not help but to respond to the view of his former cadre's equipment specialist 'tinkering' with something.

Activate Interfacing Systems, Y/N, scrolled across his HUD, just as it had so often since coming back online.

Optimus had been unusually affectionate in many ways since surviving the long stasis. Whether it was new vigor that came with having energon available, the hope engendered by new allies and resources, or simple thankfulness that most of the Ark's crew had survived what by all rights should have been a tragedy, the Matrix was eagerly encouraging its bearer to strengthen the bonds that connected him with his Autobots. At least, that is how he justified it to himself.

If an extra measure of that affection went toward Ironhide, no one could blame him. They all knew what was said about mecha who were built together. He observed those well-armored, capable hands cleaning the cannon for a nano-klik longer and heard Bumblebee chuckle from the monitors when Prime's cooling fans kicked in.

Yes, activate interface protocols, and engage inhibitive protocol 39284 to prevent discovery by organic sentients.

Acknowledged. Interfacing Systems engaged. Disabling shielding nanites now. Have a nice breem.

Thanks for your vote of confidence. Optimus grumbled at his AI. He certainly planned on lasting longer than that.

Optimus settled in a chair about twenty feet from where Ironhide sat on the floor, and unsubspaced a datapad, setting aside a small portion of his processing capacity to reading it and interacting normally with any humans who might enter. With his shielding nanites disabled, the former heavy-lifter for the cadre could extend his field just far enough to brush comfortably against Ironhide's own.

::Now don't go startin' something ya ain't gonna finish,:: Ironhide commed, though his field pushed back, creating an envelope of interactive space between them.

::Oh, I intend to finish it,:: Optimus responded, his spark sending a wave of charged particles into the co-mingled fields, ions combining and electron clouds completing one another. It was but an allegory for the mingling of the far more complex energies of their sparks, but highly arousing nonetheless. The strength of Prime's unique sparkfield could fully dictate the direction the charge ran, so he pushed at his former cadre-mate until he was rewarded with a deep, fog-horn like rumble, something the whole Ark likely felt and heard.

Well, all except the new organic inhabitants, one of whom was approaching, according to Teletran-1's automatic silent alert that flashed on his HUD. Optimus was pleased. It would be an opportunity to test the inhibiting protocols the research team had developed for this very purpose. Not to mention there was something ridiculously attractive about overloading Ironhide without the armory master being able to move or give any hint of what was going on.

Optimus signaled his new spinnerets to extend thousands of nano-filaments, which shot across the distance, easily slipping into Ironhide's access ports to make connections with his neural net. A tingle in his own access ports let him know that Ironhide had done the same. When their firewalls lowered to accept the connection, the thousands of strands crisscrossing the space between lit with a warm ultraviolet glow. Prime let out his own whistle, followed by deep clicks of appreciation as Ironhide sent an impatient pulse along the sensor nodes that lined the living protoform beneath his red and blue armor. It was not surprising that his longtime lover immediately sought out the hotspots along the myriad of connections to his laser core.

Ironhide was never one for subtlety, and preferred direct action regardless of the circumstance. Optimus, knowing it would both annoy and inflame his self appointed body guard further, sent a surge of affection and affirmation of the bond they shared rather than the direct neural stimulation Ironhide preferred. He rumbled in humor at the simultaneous pleasure and impatience that raced through Ironhide's systems, knowing that if they had the luxury of being physical, the armory master would be attempting wrestle and provoke him into the more direct assault on his systems he craved.

Ironhide had just slammed him with his response, accompanied by Optimus's low frequency drone when Spike walked in, and unfortunately, straight through the majority of the nano-filaments.

"Pit spawn slagging sacks of protoplasm, Ah hate this planet!" Ironhide managed to mutter rather than yell only by turning his own vocalizer to the lowest setting. Optimus, for his part, decided that it was best to give the armory master a chance to calm down before cornering him somewhere more private. However, he did have a charge to take care of, and there was a sweet little Buzzer chatting with Spike at the monitors.

His query ping and glyph was met with an immediate enthusiastic response. ::Anytime, Daddy Longlegs!:: This time, when Optimus shot off his bundle of nano-filaments in the scout's direction, he took care to make the connection above Spike's height.