Author's note: Yeah, yeah, I know that *One Breath, Two* is supposed to be worked on. But my good friend, Jayd Hunter inspired this wonderful idea for something funny. So she and I are writing this together. This fic might be rated PG for a little language.


Pit Stop

Major-general Ultra Magnus was livid. The sheer volume of his *request* that Prime meet him central-com's main office nearly shorted out Prime's comlink. Optimus already knew what he was in for.

Prime entered the office with the impression of stepping in front of a firing squad. He found not the least bit of encouragement in the fact that Magnus stood with his back toward the door. The digipad held behind Magnus' back threatened to shatter within the deadly grip- the latest report no doubt, Prime thought darkly.

Magnus did not so much as turn his head when Prime entered. But the instant the doors closed, Magnus verbally opened fire. "YOU BETTER HAVE A DAMNED GOOD EXPLANATION FOR THIS PRIME!! How did you manage to slag two years worth of planning IN LESS THAN TWO DAYS??!!" He swung around and slammed both fists on the table, leaving a slight dent on its silvery surface. "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU TRYIN' TO PULL??!!" Magnus' face plates tightened to the point of fracture. The need to pound someone (Optimus, preferably) into scrap, clearly blazed in his optics.

Prime simply crossed his arms over his chest plate. "It's all there in the report, Magnus," he challenged, deliberately keeping his tone soft and level. After what he'd put up with in the last 48 hours, Prime dreaded the thought of having it out with Magnus now.

To Prime's great displeasure, Magnus made his intentions brutally obvious . . . "Oh yeah!! That's right!! " Magnus shot back with sarcasm that rivaled his volume, " A TRAFFIC JAM THAT TOOK *FOREVER* TO CLEAR UP!! AND PRIMUS KNOWS HOW MANY PIT STOPS, RIGHT?!." He hurled the unfortunate digipad toward Prime, who calmly side-stepped just enough to watch it careen past him.

"BULLSHIT!!" Magnus spat and turned his back on Prime again as the pad impacted with the console. "It's NO EXCUSE, Prime and you know it!!"

"I didn't say it was an excuse, Magnus," Prime responded, maintaining his neutral tone. "I merely attempted to explain the reasons for my delay in-"

"DELAY?!" The Major-general shot around and pounced forward on his fists. Prime swore he looked like an enraged bull on the verge of charging. And Optimus realized HE just became the 'red flag'.


For a moment Prime feared the Major would have a systems overload; that at any second, the sparks would fly. Magnus had the temperament of an ex-Con, though normally, he kept his inherent aggressiveness under strict control- But not today! Prime thought ruefully, and this rampage had only just begun.

"DAMMIT, PRIME! BETWEEN YOUR ERRATIC BEHAVIOR AND RODIMUS' ANTICS IT'S A MIRACLE ANYTHING GETS ACCOMPLISHED AT ALL!!" The Major straightened to his full height. His presence loomed over Prime like a brooding storm. "What am I supposed to tell Prince Nauhkteh when his back-up doesn't arrive?! ' OH! My apologies Your Highness, our leader got stuck in traffic so you're on your own-sorry! Have a nice day!! '"

Prime dropped his gaze with a sigh. He looked back up at the Major, finding it a bit harder to keep his voice low, "I ordered a team of 15 of our soldiers to be sent to Talistahn IV- exactly five days ago. There will be confirmation of their arrival any time now. I was able to speak with the Prince personally. He's quite confident he will regain his throne with our support and has already forwarded payment."

Mags shifted his weight as he set his hands on his hip plates. "Lovely!! That's one slag heap you managed to avoid!"

It had been ages since Magnus verbally assaulted him with such ferocity. And in some strange way, Prime almost enjoyed it, it made him feel . . . young. But only for a moment as the twinge of shame crept over him. He knew he'd botched up an important meeting. It certainly wasn't something he was proud of, but neither did he consider it the end-all catastrophe that Magnus had made it out to be.

Ultra Magnus had a right to be frustrated and angry, though. The notoriously impatient ambassador from the Nirra system had been contacting him - every few hours - to confirm that someone of authority would be there to discuss a raw materials trade agreement.

The ambassador, who happened to be a symbiotic species, would often verbally converse and/or argue with his (hers?) *partner* while in contact with Magnus. Being as how Mags could only hear the ambassador, it nearly drove the City Commander insane.

When Prime failed to arrive on time, the ambassador immediately contacted Magnus to complain. The Major managed to persuade the irrate alien to send a representative to a rescheduled meeting, but he vehemently refused to personally return after having been "unforgivably insulted".

Prime dropped his arms to his sides with a weary sigh as he wondered how long it would be before Magnus would finally short out his vocalizer. Then again, he thought, Ultra Magnus D.I. extrordinaire was perfectly capable of keeping this up for days without straining a circuit.

"Tsu-Shin was not so forgiving . . . " Magnus growled, "was he?! All the anticipation and planning . . . nothing more than scrap now!!" His volume leveled somewhat, but his words weighed heavy with disappointment. If Prime had eyeballs, they'd be rolling. So THAT'S what this is all about, Prime thought, knowing exactly what Magnus was referring to. Ambassador

Chung Tsu-Shin was another matter altogether. Ultra Magnus had worked privately for nearly two years to gain the favor of the ambassador in the hopes of being given permission to build a monument dedicated to the late, great actor-Jackie Chan- in Hong Kong. And how did Magnus rationalize such an eccentric little project? He claimed to have great admiration and respect for Chan's "unique discipline and fighting style" and that the human deserved to have a monument in his honor. What Magnus refused to admit was that Chan's wit made him laugh till it hurt.

"Thanks to you, he thinks that it was nothing more than a blasted joke and has canceled the entire project !!"

The fact that Magnus saw this as a serious failure made it rather difficult for Prime to keep his composure. And the more he thought about it, the harder it was to keep control of himself. He recalled coming across a few ' items' on the priority shipments-received reports over the years. Some notable items now belonging to Mags included an autographed cast that Chan wore as a result of a broken leg sustained during one of his own stunts. Also listed was an Official Jackie Chan roll of toilet paper . . . Prime didn't even want to know. And then there was the Jackie Chan bobble head that the Major had sitting at the corner of the conference table. Optimus nearly lost it in the thought of Magnus banging on the table just to watch the little object bob in *agreement*. Seldom did he think about his face plate, but at this moment he thanked Primus he had one. He glanced down, hoping Mags didn't catch the hidden smirk glinting in his optics.

The Major glared at him, his own optics narrowed dangerously, "What the hell's so funny!?" he suddenly belted.

Damn. Prime looked right up at him, slightly tilting his head, "I don't find this amusing Magnus", he easily responded in his classic deadpan tone, impressing himself once again. Practice, he thought wryly. Optimus caught himself staring at the bobble head of Jackie Chan. "Magnus. I realize you're upset that billions of fans all across the universe will be sorely disappointed. I am sorry."

"Uh-huh . ." Mags grunted. He stared at Prime for a moment then rounded the table and leaned back against the corner, folding his arms. "So what's the real story Prime? I know damn well it wasn't just a traffic jam and a sick girl!"

"Alright!" Prime groaned as he tossed his hands in the air, hoping to halt the tirade-at least for a moment. To his relief, it worked. However he knew the City Commander had no intentions of letting him off with a mere tongue lashing. He knew Magnus far too well to hope for that. He was going be punished one way or another, and Prime supposed that telling the whole wretched story over again was one of those ways. "Yes, Magnus, there's more."

"No kidding!" Magnus snarled back.

Prime had no desire to revisit the experiences of the past two days, save perhaps one: one he would keep private no matter what Magnus threw at him.

Still, Optimus resigned to finding himself a chair and submitting to his *punishment*. "Mind if I sit down?"


The early morning drizzle did nothing to improve Optimus' mood as he traveled along the Gateside Road. A series of frustrating circumstances forced him into driving all the way to Seattle Washington in order to attend an emergency summit meeting. Stress and exhaustion had already drained much of his energy. The fact that he had not recharged in over two days only served to make things worse.

To his continued dismay, traffic began to show signs of backing up. "Oh no." he muttered to himself. "Blaster?" he called through the com-link.

"Yeah Boss . . . "

"What's slowing things down northbound on the Gateside ?"

"Checkin' . . . " Blaster paused, then answered with, "There's a traffic jam at the conjunction." Prime groaned inwardly, but didn't bother with a response. He continued to creep along with the traffic. Hopefully he would be able to make up for the delay when he headed north toward Portland. He would have used a shuttle, but all shuttles were currently in use at the Lunar Colony. And Skyfire was on assignment elsewhere.

The screeching of tires grabbed Prime's attention just in time for him to watch as a flatbed rig jack-knifed and slammed into an embankment. The impact caused the huge Catapillar tractor to break the chains securing it to the flatbed. It lurched a hard right, taking the trailer and rig with it.

For a moment, all was still. But just as the driver of the flatbed scrambled out of the cab, a peculiar faint rumbling sounded from underground. Before Optimus could react, the hillside gave way. The onslaught of slick mud washed through the helpless vehicles. Not even Prime could avoid getting muddied.

Optimus felt relieved that no one had been hurt in the accident, but now he needed to find a place to get cleaned up. Another damn delay, he mentally grumbled.

Nearly an hour later traffic finally started moving more smoothly. Just as Prime thought he made it out of one mess, he found himself in another: in the form of a call from the school. Figures, he thought. Guess who's in trouble again.

"What seems to be the problem?" he asked the nurse through the comlink.

"Miss Witwicky here apparently has picked up a case of the flu", she replied. "She has a low grade fever and says she feels a bit nauseated"

"What do you recommend?"

"Well, there's not much we can really do for her, it just has to run it's course. The best thing for her would be to just go home and rest." Optimus was not about to tell her he was on his way to Seattle. If Rusti needed to be picked up, he preferred to do it himself. "Very well Miss . . ."

"Feldman," she answered.

"Miss Feldman," he amended. "I will pick her up shortly. I'm headed into town as it is. Let Rusti know I'm on the way."

"I'll make sure she's informed."

A little more than ten minutes had passed when Optimus reached the school grounds. He found Rusti and Nurse Feldman waiting as he slowly pulled up to the curb of the sidewalk. He could tell right away Rusti felt pretty badly. "How is she?" he asked after he transformed and knelt before them. The nurse presented the sign-out form.

"Well, it's definitely the ol' fashion flu. She tried *tossing her cookies* but I think not eating breakfast helped to prevent it so far."

"I see," Prime commented as the nurse laid the clipboard on the ground, enabling him to sign it more easily.

"We gave her medication to keep the fever down, as per your authorization."

"Yes, thank you."

He stood and transformed in one smooth motion. He heard Rusti whisper as she stepped off the curb to board him: "You have mud all over you."

"Really." he answered in an unsurprised tone.

{{Bad day too, huh?}}

{{You have no idea.}} He pulled from the curb and Rusti settled on the seat with a sigh. He cruised off school grounds and headed for the highway.

{{You can tell me all about it on the way home ok?}}

"I'm sorry, Rusti," he apologized, "but there's been a change of plans." There was a pause and Prime wondered briefly if she was listening.

"I need to stop, Optimus ," she declared suddenly. "I really need to use the restroom."

Without question, Prime pulled into the first gas station he found, letting her out as quickly as he could. She disappeared into the restroom only to return in just a couple of moments. "Sorry," she offered, closing the door. "False alarm."

Silence reigned while Rusti simply watched the world pass by. Optimus approached a road sign marking the on-ramp for I-5 heading north, and Rusti perked up. "Optimus, why are we going north?"

"We've had a change of plans, Rusti."

"Waddya mean ?"

"Uh, well, we have to go to Washington. I'm already late for-"

"What? But I don't have any other clothes or anything else."

"You know I always carry something for you Rusti."

Rusti proceeded to launch into a string of questions and comments that finally ended with, "And I'm thirsty, can we stop so I can get a drink?"

Prime waited patiently, wryly wondering if all human children had such a talent for interrogation.

Once he thought she had nothing more to ask he attempted to answer her. "I'm sorry about you fluffy duffy", he began. "This whole situation was unexpected. It will take at least six hours to get there, considering how often you need to stop. But yes, we can stop to get you a drink. Okay?"

"Okay. . " she sighed gratefully.

After a while, Optimus thought Rusti had finally fallen asleep, until he heard her softly moan. "Optimus, I have to go again."

He thought for a long moment. He had hoped to make it through the ribbon before making another stop. "Can you wait another couple of miles? We're almost off the ribbon."

"This kind of thing doesn't *hold*, Optimus."

"Hang on Rusti, we're getting off. Can you wait a minute or so? This isn't the nicest part of town here and I'd rather we stop at a restaurant . . . will that work ?" She simply nodded.

The nearest restaurant turned out to be a Denny's. Prime pulled in and let her out as quickly, but as safely as he could. She returned about five minutes later, hastily climbing into the cab, quite obviously relieved. "Real thing this time, eh?"

"Believe me," she grumbled. "You DON'T wanna know."

Optimus silently agreed and made his way back to the open road. She smiled faintly. "So tell me about *your* lousy day. Since we're gonna be on the road for a while. It might make me {{and you}} feel better."

He smiled. "Very well."

Many miles and a long, ugly story later, Rusti actually managed to fall asleep.

By late afternoon they neared the outskirts of Portland. Optimus would have preferred to just keep going, but he knew Rusti would need to stop again. He exited the highway and traveled into the a suburb of Portland. Rusti caught him off guard when she suddenly shot up on the seat. "Optimus, I have to get out . . Now!"

"I can't stop here . . . we're still out-"

"No, I mean RIGHT now!"

Optimus realized he had no choice. Fortunately the bridge he was crossing at the moment had an emergency lane. He slowed and pulled off. The instant he came to a stop, Rusti jumped out and lunged her upper body over the guard-rail. Prime sensed the misery the illness was putting her through, it made him feel terrible. He knew he should have just faced the consequence of missing the damn summit and taken Rusti home where he could care for her properly.

"Looks like I'm gonna need to get cleaned up too, Optimus," Rusti stated weakly as she turned back to him. Right then he decided she'd suffered enough for one day.

"Rusti, I think we'll just turn back and return you to Fort Max. The summit will simply have to wait."

Sleeping in her own bed sounded good, but even at her young age, Rusti understood the importance of summit meetings. She shook her head. "No! I'll be fine! I just . . . I just need a little sleep, that's all. I promise."

Heading back to Fort Max this late in the day would not be the best thing anyway, not when they've come this far. Prime scanned the local area for a place to stay the night. "I've found a nice place for you to rest, Rusti. It's only about a mile away."

"K." she sighed, trembling with exhaustion. Optimus scanned her and found that her fever had gone up a bit.

Within minutes they arrived at a cosy little cottage-style inn. The setting sun bathed the lodge/office in an inviting warmth. A young woman stepped out to meet them as Rusti nearly slid out of the cab. Optimus immediately shifted.

"Hi" The woman greeted Rusti with a gentle smile."My name is Jayd. And you must be Rusti Witwicky. We've been expecting you."

Prime knelt behind Rusti and offered Jayd a suitcase as another girl, about Rusti's age, came trotting up beside her. "These are her things." he stated quietly.

"Okay", Jayd replied graciously. "You can sign in with Tami in the lodge office."

Optimus nodded,"Thank you."

Jayd then turned to her daughter, "Hon, could you do mama a big favor and take this to Rusti's room for me?"

"Yeah, ok."

Jayd kindly put her arm around Rusti's tired shoulders and guided her toward the warmly lit room. The little girl padded just behind with the suitcase in hand. "He has a nice voice, doesn't he mama?" she suddenly piped. Jayd smiled, "Yes, hon. He does."

Optimus rose and watched the ladies disappear into the room. He felt better knowing Rusti would be well cared for. He approached the lodge's office and found the rustic feel appealing. It was a pleasant change from what he was used to. Prime entered the fairly large structure. The 50 ft. high vaulted ceiling allowed him to comfortably walk past the fireplace at the center of the lobby to the office at the far end. He spotted the young lady at the reception area, and knelt before the desk. "Are you Tami?" he politely inquired.

She looked up, "Oh, yes." A sweet, genuine smile lit her face. "Give me one sec and I'll get the form for you, Optimus Prime." She opened the top drawer and pulled out a registration form. "Ok, lets see now- " She glanced about the desk as though looking for something. "Where IS that silly thing ?" She continued to rummage through papers, in a pencil holder, and around the two small digipads scattered on the desk.

"My apologies Optimus Prime, I can't seem to find my pen at the moment."

Prime was mildly surprised that this establishment still used paper forms, though he didn't really mind it. He tilted his head slightly and regarded the fussing young receptionist with a touch of amusement. "I believe the object you're looking for is currently located behind your right audio sensor," he informed her politely.

She threw him a puzzled look, "My right what?"

Optimus couldn't help but grin, "Your ear."

"Oh! Yes, of course! " she laughed and plucked the pen from it's resting place, not at all embarrassed. "I do that all the time, ya know." Her attention returned to the papers on the desk. She nearly touched pen to paper then halted. "Heh, sorry . . . wrong one." Prime watched with growing amusement as the young woman automatically replaced the pen behind her ear and briefly searched for the correct form. "Okay, here we are." She reached for the pen that wasn't there. The baffled child cast an apologetic look up at Prime. He simply tapped gently on his right audio sensor and Tami thought she could almost see the smile in his optics. She smiled and dropped her gaze as she retrieved the pen once again, slightly shaking her head.

Optimus softly chuckled, "I know the feeling."

A deep, dark auburn sky met Prime's optics as he stepped out of the lodge. The coolness of the coming night slowly drifted over him. His thoughts were drawn to Rusti and he sensed that she had fallen very much asleep. For a moment he considered the possibility of leaving her here while he went on to the summit. But it didn't take him long to realize what her reaction to that would be. He quickly decided he'd rather just be late for the summit. Besides, her company -even as it was - granted a welcome distraction from the stress of the mission.

Optimus stepped off the curb and transformed. He pulled slowly and quietly around to the side of Rusti's room. He had declined the offer of one of three Autobot-oriented suites the inn provided, preferring to stay as close to Rusti as he could. He knew he needed to conserve what little energy he had left, and finally concluded to just get a few hours of shut-down time. Since he was already irrevocably late, another few hours would make no difference at this point. It took him almost two hours to settle enough to finally shut down.

Optimus roused rather displeased to find that the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Well, Rusti needed the extra time to rest. He then heard Jayd tap lightly on the door of Rusti's room. Not wanting to intrude, he chose to remain as he was and waited to see how Rusti was doing.

Around twenty minutes later Rusti emerged from the lodge. Prime slowly pulled to the curb to meet her. As she approached he noticed she'd managed to *freshen up* and changed her clothes. However, her posture and expression told of a rough night. She wearily eyed him for a moment, "I'd have been out here sooner, Optimus, but the girl at the desk couldn't find her pen." Prime smiled to himself, mentally shaking his head. He opened his door for her to board and she climbed in with a tired sigh.

Prime paused, struggling with the inevitable decision. "Rusti, I think I'll call Springer to come pick you up and take you to the hospital then home. You need rest and this traveling isn't-"

"NO!" Her little adamant voice startled him slightly. "No!" She started crying. "Please let me come with you! I won't make anymore trouble, I promise!" She curled up against the seat and rested her head. "Please?" She sniffed. "Please? I'll feel better soon, I promise."

How could he refuse that? Prime frowned inwardly. He had the ability to reject requests and wishes of his officers but one little girl . . . it was a losing battle.

Another silent fifteen miles passed before:

"Optimus, I have to go again."

Within minutes he rolled into a BP station that seemed to have more of an upper-class appearance about it. He pulled up and out of the way of the other patrons and let Rusti out.

Optimus transformed to stretch a little and waited. He ignored the stares thrown his way by pedestrians and drivers. After inhabiting Earth for over fifty years, one would think that most humans would be accustomed to seeing Autobots among them. Then again, Prime mused dryly, maybe not THIS Autobot.

While he waited, Optimus' mind mulled over all the issues that needed to be dealt with during the summit meeting. Some of which were of less consequence than others, the Wrath of Magnus being the most unpleasant as of this point.

Why was Rusti taking so long? He abruptly realized that over ten minutes had passed. He didn't like to attract attention, but . . . "Forgive me, Miss," he called to a woman as she exited the mini-mart. "But I was wondering if you might-"

"Ohmigod!" she gasped, dropping her small bag of groceries. "It's an Autobot! A real live Autobot!!" she declared as if she'd just won the lottery. Prime knew right then that things were going to get ugly. The nutty woman bee-lined right for him and collapsed on his foot, verbally slathering him with every ridiculous mushy promise she could think of.

Optimus groaned inwardly, half in annoyance, half in disgust. "Miss please!" Proper words escaped him entirely. "We're out in public!" was all he could manage. The woman completely ignored his protests, and he decided enough was enough. Without another word Prime lifted his foot just so the pitiful female slid off unharmed onto her rear. She gazed up at him with the look of an abandon puppy and started to cry. Optimus groaned again and glanced up to see Rusti stepping out of the building, looking as though she'd been run through a wringer.

However, before Rusti could reach him, all attention turned to a flaming red Corvette as it roared up and jerked to a halt a mere few feet from the deranged female. The driver, wrapped in a leather jacket and sunglasses, grabbed the edge of the windshield and hauled himself up. For a second or two he stared at the pathetic woman as she sat quite undignified on the ground, blubbering nonsense. "Hey Becki!" the guy suddenly yelled. "Get yer butt in the car! Now!" The lady ignored him, until he yelled at her again. "C'mon, woman, yer makin' a damn scene, let's go!" He leaned over and shoved the passenger door open. Indignant, she picked herself up and vainly tried to regain her composure.

By now, Optimus had backed off a ways and met Rusti as she approached him.

Rusti stood next to him and watched suspiciously as the woman flounced in the car and slammed the door. The guy dropped down in his seat, shaking his head, and pounced on the gas.

Optimus took the moment to transform and opened his door for Rusti. "Wanna tell me what just happened out here?" she questioned as she climbed into the cab.

"Trust me," he answered with the borrowed phrase. "You don't want to know."

"Try me ."

Prime gave her a weary sigh, "How about on the way home, after the meeting is through? Right now I'd rather not think about it."

"Okay" she sighed resignedly, shifting to a more comfortable position on the seat.

They soon reached the highway and headed for Portland. The miles rolled past for almost a hour until: "Optimus, I need t' stop again."

He figured as much and scanned for the nearest place to stop. He found, of all things, a truck stop. The name of the place struck him as rather wry, *The Pit Stop*. It seemed to be a fairly nice place in spite of it's name.

This time he chose to remain in truck mode. After fifteen minutes, hearing nothing from Rusti, he began to worry. He decided to check on her himself instead of asking someone to do it. No way was he going to make *that* mistake again. {{Rusti?}}

{{I'm okay . . . just . . hang on.}}

{{I didn't mean to intrude, Rusti. I just wanted to see how you were doing.}}

{{S' okay. I"ll be out in a few minutes.}}

Optimus rolled closer to the side of the building itself and spent the next ten minutes wondering if any of the delegates would still be there when he arrived or if this was going to be a miserable and utterly wasted trip. He scarcely noticed Rusti approach him, dragging something with her as she walked. A sudden splash of cold startled him and he realized Rusti stood just a few feet, spraying down his trailer. "Uh Rusti?" He felt slightly embarrassed. "We really don't have time for this."

"Aw c'mon, Optimus. It's only fair. How many times did you give me a bath when I needed one?"

He found he couldn't argue with her persistent logic. When she began to rub him down with a soft, sudsy sponge mop, he decided the summit could indeed wait a little longer. Slowly he relaxed and basked in the private pleasure of her touch, quite surprised at how good it really felt.

{{Thank you Rusti.}} he softly sent. {{I take it you're feeling better.}}

{{Yeah, a little.}} She smiled and worked her way along the trailer and then to him personally.

Optimus fell silent while Rusti took her time and with great care cleaned every nook and crevice. No one had ever done anything like this for him in a long, long time. He was astonished by the immense calming effect she had on him. Even after all he'd dragged her though on this wretched journey, she still thought of him, still cared for him.

The cold water once again snapped him out of his thoughts. Immediately he noticed she had raised the pressure of the water for the rinse. The pounding water against his exostructure reverberated deep into his body. And he thought this sensation was the closest thing to a massage he'd ever experienced. He sensed Rusti grin, her face only inches from his metallic surface, no doubt amused by her own reflection.

But much to his sorrow, this little sliver of Heaven ended all too soon.

The situation demanded that they be on the road again. They traveled the next two hours to Seattle, stopping only once to get Rusti something to eat. They finally arrived at the hotel/convention center where the summit took place. Optimus hoped at least a few of the delegates still remained to speak with him.


"Well? Did you even bother to clean yourself up before you finally showed up!?" Ultra Magnus' harsh words yanked Prime's thoughts back to the present. He looked at Magnus as though he hadn't missed a beat. "Of course. There was sufficient time while Rusti made use of the truck stop facilities to take care of that."

"So that's it!?" the Major made no effort to conceal his skepticism.

"There's really nothing more I can say that's not already in the report. I included all the details of the summit itself-"

"What there was of it!!" Mags snapped coldly.

"It's all in the report !

"Yeah I know!"

Optimus sighed in frustration. He had the distinct feeling Magnus didn't really believe a word he'd just said. "Magnus", he finally offered. "I'm very sorry about what happened. I'll do what I can to straighten things out."

"Should've just done your job in the first place!!" Mags bit back.

Prime mentally winced, he knew Magnus was angry, but that one shocked him.

"Now if you'll excuse me, Prime," Mags grounded, "I need to figure out how the hell to clean up this mess!"

Optimus rose from his chair, more than happy to vacate the premises.

* * *

Roller zipped merrily along the main roadway from the EDC district toward Central Command. Rusti held on his steering wheel merely to pretend she was driving. He zagged across the courtyard, narrowly missing the great Two-Ladies fountain by a micrometer and almost ran into Duros who shouted profanity at him. But Roller merely responded with a Beep-beep that sounded more like laughter than an apology. He zoomed faster and Rusti laughed as the silly little car spurted up the small stairway toward Command. Ahead thunked Sludge as he and Grimlock made their way toward the Communications Division. Roller, tending to be a little mischievous, sped right under Sludge's feet and slowed to the Dinobot's speed. Rusti grinned as they kept in perfect pace with the over-sized pachyderm-like beast then just as Sludge lifted his front right foot, Roller vroomed right underfoot, just missing getting crunched. Rusti squealed in delight when the little car jumped from the sudden burst of speed. And for added fun, he beeped and whistled right into Central Command and moved fast enough to actually bolt right along the wall.

Suddenly he slowed, acting like a school girl who knew she was about to get caught doing something naughty and Kup came round the corner, berating Slingshot for disobeying one of Fort Max's close-counter flying regulations. Then as they disappeared into an elevator, Roller shot away again, causing Nosecone to dive away.

"Hey! You're not supposed to be doing that here!"

"Beep-beep!" It sounded like Roller just gave him a raspberry. Rusti laughed and they barreled up the next floor toward the central conference room.

Rusti entered the command room where Magnus, Optimus and Rodimus usually held their private meetings and keep an eye on the city as a whole. It was seldom she dared visit the huge room cramped with computers and video screens and a small table. But a bad feeling had disturbed her in the last several hours and she felt compelled to investigate. Her intuition led her here just as Optimus was leaving. He regarded her but departed without a word.

To Rusti, he acted like a whipped puppy. Her eyes swung toward a steadfast, stern Ultra Magnus who crossed his arms.

The ten year-old carefully stepped into the room. Roddi wasn't back from Moonbase Colony One yet and somehow she wished he was here right now. "What's wrong?" she immediately asked Ultra Magnus.

Magnus threw up his arms. "Ah! You figure it out!" He swung away, hands on hip plates. He snapped back around and pointed his whole hand after the departed Optimus Prime. "I ask him to take on a very important task; one we've worked on for two years. There's an emergency situation that requires handling and the whole thing ends up in the slag pit. You tell me what's wrong!"

Rusti chose her words carefully. "Didn't he tell you what happened?"

"Of course he did!" Magnus snapped. "There was . . . an accident."

"Which accident?" Rusti asked.

Magnus stared. "There was more than one?"

"It was my fault, Ultra Magnus. If I hadn't been sick-"

"Yes, yes!" Magnus snarled dismissively. "You were sick and then there was that Becki woman and you had to make a pit stop and that Jayd girl helped you out and the Becki woman made up with her boyfriend and they lived happily ever after. So why was Prime still twenty-four hours late?"

Rusti blinked at the 'happily ever after' phrase Magnus used. She stared at him out the corner of her eyes. "That's not how I remember it." she said slowly.

Magnus gave her his legendary Eye of Scrutiny. His arms recrossed. "Alright. Let's hear YOUR side of the story."

Now she was on the spot. Rusti cleared her throat and tried not to be nervous. "Okay. Um, it started Thursday morning when I accidently slept in late . . ."

* * *

Rusti turned in her bed and sighed. Another miserable wet Saturday morning. Rain pattered silently on the window outside her room in Fort Max's Central Command. What was Optimus up to today? Meetings, or policy writing; bills or plans for some of the other fortress cities. Maybe he had to meet with the officials in Central City. Maybe, maybe he was doing nothing at all.

Rusti laughed inwardly. That'd be a new one.

There came a tap at her door and Aunt Marissa's voice followed: "Rusti, dear, aren't you getting up? You'll be late for school."

"School?" Rusti sat up, her face twisted in perplexity. "But it's Saturday."

"No, you silly goose! It's only Thursday!"

Rusti caught her breath and swallowed it. "Damn!" no, she dared not say that in front of any adult, but that's what she said. Rusti rushed to nab her clothes, abandoning the idea of taking a shower. She swept up her notebook and all her papers spilt in seven different directions. She moaned and dropped to her knees, swiftly gathering them in any old order. The clock atop her dresser chimed-she was going to miss the bus!

The girl bolted out the door, not bothering to look back. No time for breakfast; she'd just have to suffer.

Rusti just caught the bus on time and plopped into the nearest seat. She heaved a sigh of relief and started to sort through her papers.

She forgot her science and math book. Well, perhaps one of her classmates would be willing to share. Rusti relaxed against the window and realized how sore her arms and legs felt. The back of her throat didn't feel all that great, either. Well, maybe she slept with her mouth opened.

It was not going to be a great day.

Optimus had not slept in two days. Roddi was at Lunar Colony reorganizing a problem with construction crews for the newer section. Magnus' time was consumed with city problems and restructuring security protocols. After the war with the Dopplegangers, the Autobots had to change many of their security precautions. An emergency summit conference was due in eight hours and Optimus tried to get a shuttle arranged to take him to Washington. But all shuttles were used to zip back and forth to the lunar colony where engineers frantically raced to make deadlines. Skyfire was away at Fort Sonix assisting with a new dam; he was out of the question. Prime tried to think of other options of travel, but nothing seemed available; not even a security shuttle which Kup used to transport new Paratron recruits from Fort Sagittarius to Metroplex.

Optimus would simply have to reach Washington on time.

He made necessary arrangements with Ultra Magnus concerning his own daily schedules and divided his work between Magnus, Kup and Strike Back then headed out.

The cold grey morning met him with a gentle shower. It lifted about seventeen minutes to eight o' clock and by then traffic started to slow over the Gateside Road. Prime scanned ahead, finding the jam started from a conjunction. But he could not determine the reason for it. He contacted Blaster.

"Blaster what's slowing things down north along the Gateside?"

"Checkin' all parameters, Boss." Blaster fell silent over the comlink then came back with a "Traffic jam on Northbound. Something about a truck turn-over."

Optimus inwardly groaned, but said nothing. He followed the rest of traffic at a snail's pace, thinking he could make for lost time northbound for Portland. That would make things alright.

Just then a diesel-bearing flatbed slipped along the road the next lane over. It slammed sideways into the embankment and the huge catapillar tractor riding atop the flatbed slipped out of its bonds, tipping both the flatbed and the rig to the right. Optimus would have transformed right then to help the driver when a soft rumble sounded from above. The driver's side door of the turned vehicle opened and the driver tossed a bag over the side and the driver himself followed. He dashed madly away as a shower of mud cascaded from above. It slid straight down and sloshed over the road, drenching every car in its wake. None of the vehicles were moved or damaged, but everything within eight-cars north and south were washed in slimy brown dirt.

Optimus's whole right side from front fender to rear trailer tire was colored in a dingy brown. Well, Optimus thought, at least the driver was safe. But he hoped to find a place to wash down before reaching Washington.

Two long, slow miles later, the conjunction came into view-and so did the original problem.

An old beat-up pickup truck had turned on its side. Two tire blow-outs gave it the appearance of a wounded animal. Chickens flopped in every direction; on cars, in cars, across the highway, along the highway and sometimes, as chicken street-pizza. A caravan of Welcome Wagon ladies stopped all traffic. Their dresses flapped and fluttered in the wind, their purses dangled and swung as they puttered from car to car, apologizing to irate motorists and advocating chicken rights everywhere. Two Tupperware reps and an Avon lady danced between cars from one side of the road to the other gathering the misplaced poultry.

Prime inwardly groaned. He'd transform here and move on if he didn't think it'd make the situation worse. By now the wind dried the mud on his chassis, making his exostructure itch with dryness.

Another half hour passed before all chickens were accounted for and placed in their perspective pens. The ladies retreated to their vehicles as the police pulled the injured old truck off the road and ordered traffic forward.

It was then that Optimus received another call; one from the school. What a surprise, the Autobot leader mused, Rusti's in trouble again.

"Well," the school nurse said after Optimus answered the call, "Miss Witwicky here is sick with the flu. We took her temperature and it's sitting at a low grade. But we'd rather she just go home and rest."

Prime didn't think it a good idea to tell the nurse that he was on his way to Washington. "Very well, Miss . . ."

"Feldman," she finished

"Yes, thank you. I'm on my way into town as it is. I'll pick Rusti up in a few minutes." It satisfied her and Optimus was relieved the nurse did not ask any further questions.

Morning traffic had more than less settled as Optimus turned down three streets to the newer school. He personally like this school better than the one Rusti attended before the Doppleganger war. The teachers did everything they could to keep him and Roddi informed and they were quick to return phone calls.

Nurse Feldman stood outside with Rusti as Optimus pulled slowly to the curb. He knelt politely before the two ladies and Feldman held out a sign-out chart. It proved a bit awkward for Prime to sign such a tiny document until the nurse laid it on the ground.

"How is she?" he asked after signing Rusti out.

"Well, it's the old fashioned flu. She's tried uh . . . tossing her 'cookies' a couple of times, but maybe not having any breakfast has helped prevent it."

"I see."

"I gave her a little medicine as per your signature for treatment."

"Yes. Thank you." Prime transformed to truck mode and Rusti instantly noticed the terribly filthy right side. The girl stepped off the curb and whispered: "Optimus, you have mud all over you."

"Really." Prime's voice came deadpan. Rusti glanced sidelong at the nurse. Optimus wasn't a clean-freak, but he was no slob, either. The girl silently boarded the Autobot leader and Optimus closed the door after her. He veered off school grounds and exited the neighborhood at the first stoplight.

Rusti rested her head against the seat and sighed. The medicine seemed to help, but it gave her no energy.

"Rusti, I'm afraid there's been a change in plans." Optimus' voice came apologetic, but more businesslike than usual.

She opened her eyes and her stomach gurgled. "I have to stop at the next restroom, Optimus."

"Yes-I mean, very well. But I have to let you know-"

"Oh, that gas station there! That'll do!"

Prime did not argue. He pulled into the '76 gas station and let her out immediately. He did not have to wait long. Rusti darted in and jumped right back out and closed the cab door on her own. "False alarm." she announced.

Optimus slowly pulled back out and made his way to the main strip leading to highway 4 that lead to the Ribbon and on to interstate 5. "Rusti," he tried again, "we've had a change in plans."


"Uh, well, we have to go to Washington. I'm already on a late start-"

"You're taking me to Washington?"


"Optimus, I don't have a change of clothes with me."

"I always carry something for you, Rusti. You know that."

"And I didn't bring my Fluffy Duffy with me. How long will we be there? How long will it take us to get there? And I'm thirsty. Can we stop so I can get something to drink?"

Optimus waited to see if she had any other comments or questions before answering her; "I'm sorry about your fluffy duffy, Rusti. I didn't expect this to happen. It will take six hours to get there, calculating how often you need to stop. Yes, we can stop for you to get something to drink."

She smiled wearily, but gratefully. "Okay."

Rusti settled down and about fell asleep when her stomach cramped and made funny noises. She squirmed in the seat and moaned slightly before opening her eyes. "Optimus, I have to go again."

Prime was quiet for a long moment before asking: "Can you hold it for another couple of miles? We're almost off the ribbon."

"Optimus, something like this doesn't hold."

"We're getting off." Prime hastily exited off the center point of the ribbon, taking a detour route to the eastern side of Central City. It was the more unfriendlier side of town and it made him nervous thinking about sending a little girl into a gas station restroom. He found the nearest Denny's and let her out.

Rusti burst through the restaurant doors as a waitress led a group of seniors to a large table. Rusti bumped into an older lady pressing a walker. "Scuse me! Sick child, coming through!" she declared. The seniors all gave her a wide berth and two waitresses held their menus close as she passed them. Her beeline wove between two customers just as she felt her panties were not going to stay dry much longer. The door closed behind her and the crowd stared, waiting. The waitresses all glanced at one another but when they heard nothing, business as usual took over.

Rusti quickly exited the restroom just as a college student entered. "Phew!" the student declared. Rusti hastily existed the restaurant.

They managed to pass the Ribbon without another bathroom incident. Optimus flowed with the traffic as Rusti slept under a blanket he carried for her. It was already late afternoon by the time they reached the outskirts of Portland. While Optimus would rather have kept right on going, he knew Rusti would need another break, whether or not she slept.

About two miles north of the ribbon the traffic started to slow again. Optimus hoped this was just due to some minor accident and would be cleared soon. But the further along traffic moved, the slower it crawled until all traffic on both sides, all three lanes, came to a halt. Optimus was grateful Rusti slept but he feared the medicine given her by the school would wear off soon. Several honks derived his attention from her. His scanners indicated several figures approaching bearing objects in their hands. Several minutes later, those figures turned into several young men carrying buckets of 'ooze'. They danced and bounced between, around and on top of cars, spilling their containers' dark contents. Worse yet, the young men themselves were bare-butt naked save for signs dangling round their necks. Optimus caught sight of one:


"Good grief." Optimus murmured. But the worst of the situation came when one of the fanatically dancing young men actually splattered the contents of his bucket onto a small Saturn Skyline ZH. The driver of the vehicle freaked and abandoned her car to chase after the hoodlum with an umbrella.

Prime started to scan the contents and hoped the 'boys' would target only cars.

No such luck. Three young men whooped and hollered and screamed around him like a band of wild men at a brawl. Then one tossed the contents of his bucket on the starboard side of the trailer. That was followed by a splash across the hood and the third bathed the backside of Prime's trailer. Not only was the incident humiliating, it smelt bad. The concoction was not something Optimus would dare describe in his daily log entries.

A familiar siren-song pierced the air and Rusti moaned in her sleep. She did not see Hot Spot arrive and transform. He chased the young hoodlums down and sprayed them one at a time. But either they were carried away by the frenzy of the moment, or they were too drunk to realize what was going on. They kept on terrorizing motorists with their mad antics, even drenching one driver who had the nerve to leave the safety of his vehicle to take vengeance for his car's dignity. Hot Spot tried to rescue the moment, but the roadside was so slick with ooze that when he passed Prime, chasing down a pair of 'boys', he slipped and fell right on his backside and slid several yards between cars until he bumped into an old '22 Ford Lancer pickup.

The battle cry of a horn called from the right side of the road and over the hill a large group of females charged wearing light body armor and large water guns. They dashed into traffic, dousing the mischievous men with water, paint, and another substance that smelled just as badly as the ooze. The ladies chased the boys from car to car until Blades and Powerglide arrived bearing Oregon Highway Patrol officers.


College students? Optimus thought hard. Didn't Chip once tell him about a ritual known as Hell Week?

Rusti moaned in her sleep again and tossed. Prime checked her and found her fever had risen slightly. He tried to balance the cab temperature for her, but knowing fevers, no amount of hot or cold would help. She needed proper rest.

Twenty minutes passed before traffic started underway again. The boys and a few unruly ladies were arrested and taken out of traffic. Hot Spot and Groove proceeded to direct traffic forward. Neither of them seemed to notice Optimus and as late as it was, he felt it better the two Autobots handled the traffic rather than his personal problems. He thought about handing Rusti to one or the other of them, but their hands were full trying to prevent accidents along the slippery surface until cleanup crews arrived.

It was not for another forty-five minutes to an hour before traffic resumed its normal pace. By now night cast its quiet shadows over the world and the highway became a stream of white and red lights.

As they approached a suburb, Rusti sat up abruptly, gasping for air. "Optimus, I have to get out . . . right now."

"I can't, Rusti. I'm still out-"

"No, I mean RIGHT NOW." She swallowed hard, trying to keep her stomach down from her throat. Prime easily aimed right and slowed along the emergency lane on the bridge he presently traversed. No sooner did he flash emergency lights than Rusti hopped out and 'tossed cookies'. She thought her whole body would turn inside out with each wave of stressful pain.

She felt badly for the three cars she impacted far below.

Optimus knew this was a dumb question but . . . "Are you alright, Rusti?"

"Y-yes." she answered between gasps. Her legs turned to rubber and her arms and chest hurt. Her throat stung and eyes watered. What misery!

Optimus felt awful. He should have just taken the disgrace of missing the damned summit and taken care of Rusti. How selfish could he be, anyway?

"I'm afraid I need to get cleaned up, Optimus." Rusti announced as she turned from the bridge rail. Exhaustion made her tremble as she struggled to get back into the cab.

"Rusti, I think we'll just turn back to Fort Max. The summit will simply have to wait."

"No, Optimus. Summit meetings are important. I'm okay, I'll be okay. I just need a little sleep, that's all."

Prime scanned for a hotel and found one not more than a mile away. "I found a nice place, Rusti. We'll stop there and get you medicine and rest."

The nice homey little hotel was owned and operated by a young woman and her family. The cool air bit her as Rusti dropped out of the cab, her body trembling and her skin burning and icy with fever.

The young woman stepped out the office as Optimus transformed. "Hi," she greeted, "I'm Jayd. You must be Rusti Witwicky."

Rusti withered, embarrassed by her wet clothes and hair. Prime knelt behind her and handed Jayd a suitcase. "These are her things," he said simply.

"Okay." Jayd graciously accepted them and led Rusti into a small cozy room all lit up and warm with a pre-drawn bath and over-the-counter medicine at her disposal. Rusti assumed Optimus had called way in advance and made all the arrangements. The kind lady helped Rusti clean up and take medicine and prepared her a little warm tea and a few crackers to keep up her energy. Then she sweetly tucked the little girl into bed and turned out the light.

"Call me if you need anything at all, hon." she whispered.

But Rusti was already fast asleep.

Rusti slept a bit restlessly that night. Her tummy ached and her body complained of sore muscles and she paid the bathroom visits off and on. Finally the day came yawning over the horizon and the girl sat up, groaning. She did not want to move. But she knew it was necessary to get Optimus to Washington. It was kinda sad that Optimus was never allowed any sick leave. She feebly dressed as Jayd timidly tapped at the door and entered.

"Here's another cup of tea, hon. Are you better today?"

Rusti mutely shrugged.

"I see. Spent the night up and down?"

"Yes. Thank you for helping last night."

"That's alright. Are you going home, now?"

"No. Optimus has to go to Washington for a meeting."

Rusti checked out of the hotel and stepped out noticing again Optimus' dirty exterior. He looked dirtier than she remembered. Maybe she's been so sick, she never paid enough attention to how badly he looked. The girl signed resignedly and boarded.

{{How is everything?}} Optimus asked quietly.

"I feel like a squashed gnat."

"Perhaps I should call Springer to come pick you up and take you to the hospital then home. You need rest and this traveling isn't-" just forgo the meeting."

"NO!" She started crying. The idea of being subjected to a scrutinizing doctor and listening to Springer's anal babble was torture compared to just staying with Prime. "Please let me come with you! I won't make anymore trouble, I promise!" Rusti cuddled close against the seat and buried her face into the cushion. "Please don't make me go. I'll feel better soon, I promise."

This was an uncomfortable position. If either Netty or Delphra ever found out, he would have a lot of answering to do. On the other hand, they were already more than half way there and if they had no further delays, he could make it with ten minutes to spare.

Optimus rolled out of the parking lot and made his way toward the highway. For about twenty minutes, things remained calm and collected until:

"Optimus, I have to go again."

But it wasn't for an eighth of a mile before he found another stop. The gas station they approached looked a bit classy, especially for a BP gas mart.

Rusti disembarked and found the ladies room. Optimus transformed to stretch a little and waited. He ignored several stares thrown his way by pedestrians and drivers. All he could think of were the delegates from four different systems who bargained for materials he offered in exchange for news and other materials and supplies for the fortress-cities. There was also Prince Nauhkteh who desperately needed help to regain his throne. And then there was the final agreement between Fort Max and China regarding a ceremonial statue of Jacki Chan.

One ambassador in particular, Lancer, or so she called herself, threatened not to arrive at all since Rodimus wasn't able to make it. Optimus had to promise to allow Rodimus to visit her home world if she came here, first. Optimus did not know what the connection between the two was about, but he decided not to intrude. On the other hand, it could be-

Why was Rusti taking so long?

A sleek, scantily-clad woman just stepped out the station's mini mart in high heels and Prime called out to her. "Forgive me. I have a friend who-well, she's ten years old and has been sick. I was wondering if you would check-"

The lady dropped her small sack of groceries and ran right for Optimus. "Ohmigod!" she shamelessly declared. "Ohmigod! It's an Autobot! The Autobot leader! She flung her whole self on his foot and kissed and slobbered all over his metallic surface. "You've got to love me as much as I love you, you huge PRECIOUS hunk of steel! I'll smear kisses all over you day and night."

"You're doing a fine job of it now." Optimus observed unemotionally.

"Oh, no! I'll serve you and love you and squeeze you-"

"Not likely-"

"-and make love to you day and night!"

"I'm a very busy individual."

"Oh!" she cried, as though in orgasm. "I just want to press my fine fair flesh against your ungiving metal skin! I want to praise your greatness with the caresses of my tenderness!" She flipped her long dark blond hair, tossing it along the side of his foot.

"I won't feel a thing."

She stopped squirming all over his foot. "Oh but you will! You'll surrender to my passionate embrace!"

Optimus was at a loss for proper words: "Miss, if you please, we are out in public!" But his objections went unheard as she continued to stroke and slobber all over his foot. Optimus wondered if this was what if felt like to be kissed by a frog.

Rusti stepped out just then, teary-eyed and exhausted. She passed the mad woman with a tight zip-up halter top and stared at her like a jealous lover, crossing her arms.

Optimus was clearly embarrassed, "Erm . . . I'm sorry, I don't think this will work out for the two of us."

The woman finally spotted Rusti and put one and two together. She started to cry. "Why didn't you tell me you already had someone in your life? Is that your daughter?"

"No!" Op answered hastily, "She's not my daughter."

Rusti pierced the cookie with smouldering eyes. "Thank Primus." she whispered under her breath.

But the lady, seeming unconvinced, started to cry.

Rusti rolled her eyes. "Tell her not to cry." she elbowed Optimus' leg.

"Don't cry." Optimus' tone came unemotional, unremorseful.

"Nicely." Rusti added

"Please don't cry."

"Ask her if she wants a tissue."

"Tissue?" Prime offered.

The lady managed to soften her sobbing: "Please!"

"I don't have one."

Optimus transformed and Rusti hurriedly boarded.

The crazed woman pounded Optimus' door. "NOOOO! You can't just leave me like this, my love! Listen to me! Let's get married! I'll foot the bill for the licence! We could go to the Bahamas or whatever race track you'd love! Come, sweet mechanical mate-to-be-mine! Let me show you the meaning of REAL passion!"

Optimus inwardly groaned. Where's a Decepticon when you need one? He rolled away from her and onto the road. He could not believe she insisted chasing him on foot!

"Good grief."

His comment roused Rusti. "What?"

"Out the mirror."

The girl peeked into the passenger mirror and spotted the crazy woman running and calling out, her high heeled shoes pounded the street as though she were in tennis shoes. Rusti sat tight in the seat, wide eyes staring straight ahead. "Lose her, Optimus."

He took a right and up the nearest ramp along the main strip highway crossing through the town. A conjunction heading toward Portland lay ahead. Rusti shuddered and shook her head. "Must be from California." she muttered.

They traveled along the highway for a while. Rusti drifted in and out of sleep but not more than forty-five minutes passed when:

"Optimus, I have to go again."

Without a word of argument, the Autobot leader sought the closest facility, pulling into, of all places, a truck stop. This was a nicer place than a few others he visited on occasion and he wondered if Rusti needed anything to eat.

About fifteen minutes passed before the Autobot became concerned. Of course, Rusti was ill, but being gone quite this long . . . well, he really should check to see how she was doing. {{Rusti?}}

{{s' okay. I'm just . . . hold on.}}

Prime felt a bit sheepish intruding on her privacy like this, but he did not want anything to happen to her. He waited another ten minutes and then something cold and wet hit the exterior of his trailer. The sudden cold caused him to shudder and startle. When he recovered the next minute, he discovered Rusti standing a few feet away, hosing down all the mud and grime he acquired along the trip. At first, Optimus felt a little embarrassed. But when Rusti started rubbing him down with a soft soapy mop, he relaxed and enjoyed her caresses.

{{Thank you, Rusti.}} he said quietly.

{{You've given me baths when I was little. I thought today might be your turn.}}

{{Are you feeling better, then?}}

{{Yeah, a little.}} she scrubbed down the trailer then attended him personally, making sure every crevice and crease had its turn under the soapy fluids. Some areas Rusti attended to with a little more care, grinning at her reflection in his metallic shine. It was not so easy a task for a small ten year-old, but Rusti refused to be daunted by her size. She wished she had tried this a long time ago.

It was time for rinse. She raised the pressure and hosed off every inch of the cab-portion before tending the trailer.


The high-pitched call startled Rusti so that when she turned, the hose went with her and before she thought of pulling back, the water sprayed that crazy female.

No, not sprayed, exactly. It was more of a saturation. Her dark blonde hair dripped like melting wax. Her make up smeared like a wet painting. Her clothes clung to her and Rusti covered her mouth when the woman's 'topside unmentionable areas' peaked.

One. Two. Thr-and the lady screamed. Rusti would have laughed, for the woman almost freaked like a cartoon character. But Rusti did not have a moment to laugh. She dropped the hose and ran as the mad woman made way for her. The girl ran around Optimus, followed closely by the insane bimbo.

"I'll get you, you little rug rat!" she declared. "I'll rearrange your hair so that it won't grow longer than four inches! I'll rip your freckles off and paste them to the wall! I'll turn you into a toad! I'll-eeep!"

Rusti tucked and rolled under the trailer, ending up on the opposite side of Optimus' truck mode. She came out on the other side and peeked over the conjunction between Prime and his trailer, finding the insane woman on her rear-end, holding up a shoe with one hand, the heel with the other. Her face twisted in a terrible pout.

"My shoe . . ." her voice came small, a peep, really. "My hundred dollar shoe."

Rusti gave her a disgusted look.

A car screamed up and slid right next to Ms. Bimbo. A tall lanky guy sporting a leather jacket and dark sunglasses stood in the red convertible, using the windshield frame for support. "Becki, get yer butt in the car NOW!!"

The batty broad gasped and clamped her hands to her cheeks. Her eyes grew three times their normal size as she spun from the guy to Optimus. "Ohmigod. It's Robert!" She hobbled on her one foot toward Rusti. "You've got to hide me!"

Rusti stared at her sternly. "He's already seen you."

She shook her head. "I can pretend! You've got to hide me! My ex-boyfriend is insanely jealous and he'll kill anyone to whom he thinks I'm attracted."

Rusti folded her arms, still staring reproachfully. "You think he's gonna kill Optimus?"

Robert jumped out of the car in one leap and Becki shrieked. Optimus opened his door. "Rusti, get in. We're leaving."

Rusti rolled her eyes and boarded. She didn't see Becki leap over, abandoning both her shoes. She scrambled aboard and slammed the door before Rusti could protest.

{{She's wet all over me.}} Optimus complained to Rusti.

Rusti paled, embarrassed for him then turned to the bimbo. "What are you doing in here? We're supposed to be running from you!"

"I'm running from my ex-boyfriend!

Robert slammed into the door, frightening both ladies. He did everything he could to pry the door open and finally pounded Optimus' side.

The girls squealed when Optimus suddenly pulled away, driving at top speed. Rusti reached for the driver's side seatbelt while Becki pressed her hands against the dashboard for dear life.

Optimus ran through a stop sign, leaving two motorists with fender benders. That didn't slow Robert down, however. His convertible gained speed. Optimus exited to the highway north, veering a little off course of his intended destination. Robert and his little red car raced round one automobile after another and cheated along the emergency lanes twice to reach the Autobot leader.

"I don't believe this." Prime grumped. "I should just let you off to deal with him face to face."

"Oh no!" Becki's voice warbled in a half-sob. "He'd kill me for hanging out with you."

Rusti gave her a cross glance. "Getting soaked by a little girl is not exactly 'hanging out."

Becki returned the sneer, glancing up and down Rusti's little form. "I didn't say he was rational," she retorted.

Rusti's scowl did not let up. "That's a funny word coming from a lunatic who chased us all the way here."

Becki's mouth dropped. "Did you just call me a lunatic, you little worm?"

"Ladies," Optimus' voice echoed in the cabin. "There's no need to stoop to name-calling."

"You threw yourself at Optimus' feet, sloping your slobber all over him, swearing just about every disgusting love-promise you can think of and then you go chasing after! YES! LUNATIC!"


"Why you little pig dropping! Just who do you think you are!? You should be in school, learning how to flush toilets and replace light bulbs!"

"At least I'm in school!"

Optimus suddenly swerved right and both ladies squealed in surprise. The Autobot nearly skidded along the road, trying to avoid several other vehicles. Rusti clung to the driver's side door, her eyes shut tight. "Optimus, what's wrong?"

"He's trying to ram me."

"What?" Rusti glanced out the mirror and sure enough, there was Robert, sliding his car back and forth between lanes. He tried to sideswipe Optimus, but ended up sliding right under the trailer instead. Rusti turned to Becki: "I don't know which is crazier; his idiocy or your bimboism!"

Becki set her fists on her hips, indignant. "BIMBO?! HOW DARE YOU?!"

Optimus swerved a hard left and Becki screamed.

Optimus swerved a hard right and Becki screamed.

Optimus steered straight and Becki screamed. She stopped in the middle of her screeching, realizing the swerving was over. She cleared her throat and tried to compose herself. Then her eyes darted once more at Rusti.

But Rusti opened her mouth before Becki: "You're the one who declared-" and here she raised her voice to a mimic- "Oh, my love! I'll slobber goop all over you and show you how much I want to worship the ground you walk on!"

At first Becki seemed to be at a loss for words. Then her eyes narrowed. "You're jealous of me!" she concluded.

"What?!" Rusti squinted her eyes in disbelief.

"You're jealous of me because I'm more than twice the woman you are! You little twerp! You'll never get as far as me! Why, you're not even wearing a training bra!

Optimus and Rusti groaned simultaneously.

"I think I've lost him for now." Prime declared after taking an exit. Rusti felt relieved that part of their problem was solved.

"So where do we drop Ms. Bimbo off?" Rusti stabbed the female with her grey eyes.

"I dare you to call me that one more time!" Becki snarled.

Rusti pressed forward, holding her lips closed tight and paused for just a few seconds before shouting: "BIMBO!"

It took about three more seconds for the word to register in the woman's head before she grabbed Rusti about the shoulders and shook her, shouting all the while. "YOU LITTLE LARVAE! I'LL BET YOUR PARENTS TAUGHT YOU TO BE SO MEAN! YOUR OWN MOTHER DOESN'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PUT HER PANTIES ON RIGHT AND YOUR FATHER WORKS IN THE SEWERS! THEY PAY IDIOTS TO BABYSIT YOU BECAUSE THEY CAN'T GET REAL PEOPLE TO TEACH YOU MANNERS!"

Rusti thought she was going to 'toss' all over the woman. She was barely able to hold her stomach back, but could do nothing about her headache. And while the batty broad shook her, the girl's eyes spotted the zipper bracing her tank top together. Rusti reached between shakes, and tugged.

The lady shrieked and closed her arms about herself. "That's IT! LET ME OUT OF HERE!"

"Gladly!" Rusti shouted back, "Through the front windshield or the air vent?!"

"Rusti." Optimus' voice came as a quiet warning for her to behave.

"She started it!" the ten year-old declared, pointing. "This stupid broad probably didn't pass first grade and wouldn't be admitted into junior high if she offered them GOLD!"

Becki dropped her jaw in shock. "I'll have you know that I was one of the top cheerleaders in the eighth grade!"

"And hasn't graduated from bimboism YET!" Rusti's little face twisted in disgust. Becki's dropped jaw turned into a pout and she turned away. Rusti wanted to visit the restroom again, but decided to try and hold it as she did not want to leave Optimus defenseless.

One mile led to another. Becki had nothing further to say. She pouted horribly, but at least things were quiet. Settling down from her temper, Rusti fell asleep little by little, comforted by Optimus' presence. Becki fumed for a while and traced her fingers along the window ledge of the door. She sulked but still said nothing as the signs indicated their approach to Seattle.

Rusti woke after Prime made his first pause before a traffic light. She drew a deep breath and moaned slightly. "Optimus-"

"Another pit-stop, Rusti?" he hurriedly guessed.

"Yeah. And I'm hungry."

"That's good to hear."

Rusti gave Becki a sidelong glance. "Are you hungry?"

Becki seemed a bit surprise at the tacit offer. "I'm wet and miles away from home, thank you."

"I will see to it you get home, Becki." Optimus kindly offered.

Tears weld up in Becki's eyes and she choked. "I really do love you!" her voice wailed and she started crying.

"Oh gawd." Rusti covered her eyes with her hand and shook her head.

They stopped at Denny's where Rusti reluctantly offered Becki one of her larger T-shirts. It wasn't much, but it was drier than what she had on. The bimbo dried her hair with the hand drier in the restroom and called her family to let them know she was safe and would be home soon. Rusti ate a breakfast plate while Becki ate a tossed green salad complete with sardines, cottage cheese, nonfat buttermilk dressing and all the carrots she could acquire. She tried to pick another fight with Rusti, but the ten year-old threatened to make a terrible scene in front of everyone if the bimbo didn't simply shut up and eat her meal. That was the end of that.

Afterward, Optimus brought them to the summit meeting where he hoped at least a few of the delegates and ambassadors lingered to speak with him.

Rusti checked into a room there at the hotel/convention center. Becki simply let her do all the talking and glanced about the mammoth-sized building, taking in every little detail from the high sky lite ceiling to the dangling delicate wind chimes that tinkled like tiny brooks in the main lobby. It was then that Headmasters Gort and Arcanna entered the lobby wearing their helms and gloves. Becki gave a cry of delight and Rusti eyed the woman over her shoulder.

Becki followed their every movement with her eyes. "They're just my size." she wistfully sighed. "Oh, they're so beautiful!" Mesmerized by their metallic forms, Becki bee-lined her way toward them.

Rusti rolled her eyes and took the hotel room key and left the bimbo to fend for herself.

* * *

Rusti sighed. Her throat complained for something to drink, but she dared do nothing until Magnus was convinced the situation was not Prime's fault.

Magnus stood there, dumbfounded. He recovered a moment later and shook his head. "If I did not hear it straight from the defender's vocalizer, I'd say it was a good story. As it stands, Miss Witwicky, that must be the most ridiculous story I've heard in years."

"It's the truth!" Rusti defended. "Even the bimbo-especially the bimbo!"

"Well, it's pretty convenient for Optimus Prime to simply say that she got in the car with her boyfriend and drove off, happily ever after."

Rusti sighed. "He's trying to save face. I mean, how would you feel if someone 'wet' on you and someone of your staff found out?"

"Okay, okay! But that doesn't solve-"

Magnus' words were cut short when Headmasters Gort and Arcanna entered the room. Gort limped in, dragging something on his right leg. Magnus and Rusti peered over the conference table and saw Becki, clinging to Gort as though for dear life. He dragged her like a tumor he could not dispose of.

"Ultra Magnus!" Gort snarled. "I'd appreciate it if someone of high authority would help me to kindly explain to this lady that I'm NOT her type!"

Magnus' optics shot wide and he glanced from the deranged woman to the ten year-old standing atop the conference table. Rusti folded her arms, looking rather smug. She was expecting an immediate apology.

"Erm . . ." it was all that would come out of the major-general's vocalizer.

Becki gasped. "Ohmigod! Magnus! He's so big! He's so beautiful! Just like the Autobot leader!" She scampered and glommed onto Magnus' foot, kissing and slobbering and squeaking disgusting love-promises.

From the door way, Optimus peered in. "Hello, Magnus." he greeted quietly. "I'm going to take the day off. Rusti, let's go for a Sunday drive."

"But, Optimus, it's Monday."


Rusti did not hesitate a second longer. Arcana helped her off the table as Magnus whimpered half in helplessness, half in disgust. Optimus wiggled his fingers good-bye.

Rusti gladly followed him as she heard Becki's voice trail through the hall: "I'll love you and hold you and shine you up and press my fair soft skin against your . . ."


Jayd Hunter/T.L. Arens