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Dressed to Kill

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Even though the Alchemor was more useful as a giant paperweight than a ship, Fixit still gave himself the duty of maintaining it; calibrating the non-functional weapons, testing the door controls, even trying to fire up the defense systems one desperate time, just in case they worked.

But mostly he just cleaned. Running a brush across the walls, blowing dirt from the floors to the gutters at either side of the lonely corridors as he hummed and trundled down them. Dust led to rust, and rust led to sparks being burst. Or something like that. His maintenance training was always insistent about proper cleaning regimes.

He rounded the first sector of empty cells, peering into each one and half-expecting to see a Decepticon slumbering away inside. The second sector, reserved for the more dangerous criminals, proved just as thankfully barren. He shook his brush, dislodging a shower of metal flakes and dirt from the bristles, before making his way back to the entrance and rolling past a red glow flushing the east corridor-

And then rolling right back to squint at it. A red glow, on a ship with no working generator? That wasn't normal. It couldn't have been a faulty warning light; the glow was too faint, too... natural, almost pulsing along the walls. In the most peculiar way, it was familiar.

This is where a smart mech might have commed for someone else much better equipped to deal with weird, possibly Decepticon-involved, almost certainly deadly, lights from nowhere. Someone who wasn't the size of the average bot's leg. Fixit was usually a smart mech. Even so, his comm unit remained switched off. His wheels whirred, spinning grooves into the floor as safety protocols blaring across his processor held him back. He switched those off as well, zooming off into the artificial kindle of red before he could have even more second and third thoughts about it. The luminance sparked into a gentle blaze on his optics the closer he got, as if his vision was filtered only through red. He couldn't help but think if that was how Decepticons saw everything.

The end of the corridor branched off in two directions, one burning like a fire without heat to scald him. Fixit stopped just short of the intersection, almost falling flat on his faceplate from his momentum. Steadying himself with shaky vents, he cast a look down the safe corridor to his right, leading into the long-ago plundered fuel storage room. A dead end. His only options were to go back... or throw himself into whatever was making its mark on the walls.

The glow was beckoning him more than the safety behind him. He was the steward of the ship, and it was his duty to investigate anything strange. It was the only thing he was good for around here, anyway.

Testing his drill, firing up his shock prod and flooding his vents with air, Fixit shuttered his optics and propelled himself into the left corridor. The light washed over him, forced his optics open again as they scanned every inch of the way ahead. The glow didn't continue past a single point just in front of him, lying on the floor...

A bundle of... strings?

That was what he thought, until they started floating towards him. Then the familiarity became a realisation crushing his processor.

"Oh, no." His whisper floated out to meet the fibers, only spurring them onwards even more.

"Oh no no nonono-" Engines stalling and wheels slipping against the ground, Fixit only made it as far as the intersection before the strings latched on, sucked into his armour like it was peppered with black holes. They dug deep into his systems, coiling around his circuits and stitching themselves into his processor. It wasn't so much painful as it was... distressing, long dormant parts of himself suddenly lurching awake. The edges of his optics still burned red when they finally opened, staring up at the ceiling. By the time he picked himself up off his back, the fibers had fully infused themselves and prickled with life along his nerve nodes.

Either Life Fibers had been following him for centuries, or he had the most impossible odds of bad luck this side of the galaxy. How long had they been on the Alchemor, lying in wait for him? What were they doing on Earth? Did the planet have any more lurking around corners?

"Fixit?"

That was a much easier question to answer.

"I-I'm here, ma'am," Fixit called out, frantically rolling down back down the corridor even with the red glow behind him gone. He could hear Strongarm walking down the second sector foyer just a few walls away, and when he emerged from the utility hallway maze he almost fell right in front of her.

Strongarm quirked an eyeridge, debating over offering a servo to him. "What're you doing in there?" She nodded to where he just popped out from.

Fixit brushed his armour down, ignoring the lingering sting of the fibers phasing through him, and gave a sheepish look upwards. "Well... even if the ship's in pieces, I'm still its caretaker."

Strongarm kept her eyeridges raised, glancing around behind him. "Well, if you're busy, I'll just-"

"No, no, I'm... pretty much done here." Fixit wasn't overeager to have himself swarmed by whatever else was lurking ahead. His wheels carried him to Strongarm's side, veering her attention away from the corridor. "Did you need something, ma'am?"

Just as he hoped, Strongarm's gaze followed him with her back to the utility sector. "Didn't you hear? We've got a new arrival."

"Another one?" They had their servos full enough with all the escaped Decepticons; all the new ones attracted to the chaos wasn't helping them. Even if they were another Autobot, there was no guarantee to how useful they'd be.

Strongarm seemed to share the borders of his annoyance. "Yep. Cybertron can spare all the soldiers in the universe yet they won't send over just one thermal cannon to even out the odds around here." She rolled her optics, making way for the ship's exit with a beckoning servo. "Come on, she's waiting in the scrapyard with the rest of the team."

Fixit trundled along, unsure what to feel now that the fibers had faded completely into him. "So, the new one... is she a friendly?"

Strongarm knew what he meant by 'friendly'- someone who wouldn't be more trouble than they were worth. If there was one thing the Autobots didn't need, it was another Drift. "Well... she's sure trying to act like one." Her tone seeped skepticism, and a healthy dose of bitterness at its edges. "Calls herself Windblade, AKA 'the poster child of Primus himself'!" She gave the last title in mock awe with a flourish of her servos.

"You don't sound too thrilled to meet her, ma'am," Fixit said.

Strongarm snorted, putting a well-practiced scowl on. "Trust me, you'll know why when you see her. Unless you turn into Sideswipe, that is, and start falling over your own damn ped-" Her legs and vocaliser stopped short before she gave a guilty look down at the Minicon. "Sorry, wheels, I mean."

Fixit shrugged, a silent 'don't worry about it', but Strongarm only stared more intensely down at him.

"...Are you feeling alright?" she asked.

He could almost hear his spark starting to pound in his audios. "A-as good as I've ever been," he stuttered with a hasty smile.

Strongarm narrowed her optics."It's just... you're kinda glowing. And your optics look a lot brighter than usual..."

Fixit forced himself away from nervous laughter- making someone sound ridiculous only worked when that someone had a faulty processor. "Must be the dark playing ticks- uh, tricks," he suggested, praying it would also hide the coolant starting to bead on his supposedly glowing frame. And here he was thinking the fibers had completely disappeared...

Strongarm quirked an eyeridge, flicking her optics up and down, before finally accepting it with a shrug. "Makes sense." She picked herself back up and continued toward the exit, not seeing the relief shuddering through Fixit's shoulders or hearing the whisper of regret hissing out of his vents.

"I thought I'd left you behind."

Sounds rippled across his audios, a questioning and muffled chorus across eons. Fixit knew what they were asking him, and felt his drill tighten by his side.

"You know why." He turned his back on anything else they had to say, following Strongarm back to the new life he'd tried to carve for himself for so long.