The North Central US is predominantly farmlands. These farmlands dominate the scenery, from the vast expanses of wheat fields all across Kansas, clear up through the fields of wheat, corn, and soybeans in Nebraska, and on up through eastern South Dakota and North Dakota. In the Dakotas, however, the farmland is partially divided by the Missouri River, west of which the territories become less farmland, and more ranchable areas. A lot of this area is flat, but in the western Dakotas, the rolling hills turn into the Black Hills in South Dakota, with their peaks and spruce trees. This area is also home to the rocky walls of the desolate Badlands, closeby. There are national forests and grasslands all through this area as well, through the Dakotas and Nebraska. To the east of this region, the 100000 lakes of Minnesota, and the Iowa cornfields span outward, into the open hills and plains of Illinois, and their historical importances.
Dr. Edwin Steen is returning to Offutt from Seattle -- he didn't drive the whole way, but instead took a regular flight from Omaha airport. Now, he's headed back from the airport, finally off the interstate and back into the city's regular side streets.
The mechalion folds up, collapsing in on himself as he turns into an orange and gold cassette.
On Edwin's way back from the airport, his car gets a somewhat audible 'THUMP' on the back of his car. It's not a loud thump, so he might miss it.
Edwin sighs audibly. His car isn't a very recent model, and it's been giving him some problems. "Oh, great," he mumbles in annoyance, assuming he just got a flat. Pulling off to the side of the road, he parks and pops the trunk to go retrieve his jack.
Before Edwin can even get into the trunk, he'll find a gold and silver cassette on the ground near his car....
"Hm." Edwin blinks, and picks up the tape, examining the label. Then, he checks out his tire, and it looks just fine. "...." He stands there puzzled for a moment, then closes the trunk and gets back into the car, with the tape.
The Tape doesn't make any sounds, but there is a very very tiny red 'dot' on both sides of the tape, right in the middle of it.
Edwin's always up for new tuneage, even if he doesn't look the type. With curiosity getting the best of him, he pops the cassette into the deck to see what's on it. (And yes, his car is old enough to have a cassette deck!)
The tape is mostly a mix of 80's rock n roll and more modern stuff. At the end of one song, however, a voice comes onto the speakers. "Rrrr......enjoying the music, Lifeline?"
Ed has already merged back into traffic, and is turning down a side street that leads to Offutt when the voice comes on the tape. "Huh?!!" He slams on the brakes, thinking he might be having a minor hallucination from not sleeping enough hours.
"You should be more careful, Lifeline. Don't worry, I'm a friend of GIJoe. Keep driving, you don't want to get into an accident do you?" The speakers rumble a bit. "You should pull off the road before you get onto the Military base. Rrr....you'll see why."
Still unsure at this point, Edwin slowly continues to the next corner, where there's a mostly-vacant strip mall with old parking spaces lined up alongside of it. "Who are you?" he asks as he parks the car into an end space.
"Eject the tape in your cassette player, and you'll see. I'm sure you're familiar with Blaster and his cassettebots."
Once the mystery tape mentions the Autobots, Edwin feels a wave of relief wash over him. "Yes, of course!" he says, ejecting the tape with all due haste.
The orange and gold cassette bursts apart, flying out to become Autobot Tracker Steeljaw!
Steeljaw is an orange-gold mechalion. He stands at more than six feet long, powerfully built, incredibly strong, durable, and agile. Steeljaw's face is a powerful and blinding orange, his teeth strong and powerful, and once they've locked themselves onto a target, nothing can escape their hold. His face is more angular than blockish as it curls up to meet his neck, and join with the main protrusions of his neck as his back arches up. The forepart of his back is fairly blocky, with on either side of the cassette reels from his transformed mode being visible, and his right foreside having a proud Autobot insignia. His legs are a powerful orange on the top half, with the lower halves being grey, capped with orange paws with steel talons. On his hindquarters, above his hindlegs, a pair of yellow chainguns sit, Steeljaw's Solar Pellet Guns. FInally, he has what appear to be a pair of orange aelerions from his hind-end, on either side of his aft, with his tail in the center.
Once out of the player, the Cassette flips out of the car and expands, transforming into a rather large (to humans) gold and silver cat-like autobot and landing on all fours. "I am Steeljaw, Lifeline." And the cat talks.
"It's a pleasure to meet you!" Edwin says. "Is there...something I can assist you with?"
Steeljaw rrs softly. "As a matter of fact, you could. And something I'd like you to keep somewhat quiet, except to General hawk and your commanders. There is a virus upon Cybertron that is spreading, turning Autobot and Decepticon into something akin to a 'vampire', or a Cybertronian that drains energon, then turns the one that was drained into a 'vampire' as well.
Edwin frowns. "I didn't even realize that your kind could fall ill," he admits. "But if it's an infectious virus, as you say, it bears some serious consideration. Please, continue."
Steeljaw says, "Actually, if you could just tell your superiors and not panic anyone, that'd be great. I am telling you this because some of them seem to have trickled onto earth." He then sniffs the ground a couple of times. "For the lower ranked people, I would just advise that they just report their whereabouts to the Autobots...."
"Understood." Dr. Steen considers what the Autobots are facing. "Can the Joes contact you if we need more information? We may be able to assist in rounding up the infected."
Steeljaw says, "I don't know if you should put yourselves in danger, but consider this.......imagine if Optimus Prime and Megatron were both infected, as well as the protectobots, Technobots, Aerialbots, Combaticons, Stunticons, Predacons and many others. I can track them easily, but I don't want the Joes to get into danger." He says before laying down on the ground, soaking up the sun.
"This is an extremely serious threat. While I don't understand the technology behind these outbreaks, as the Joes' doctor I know how to effectively quartantine sick patients, so maybe I can assist in that regard. Let me just meet with General Hawk, give him this information and see where we can go from here." Dr. Steen adds, "Your kind has been through so much, I'd like to think that with our mutual cooperation we can beat a viral menace."
Steeljaw says, "I'm pretty sure we have scientists on it, but If you want, you could contact them.....quietly....to help out." His tail swishes back and forth in thought.
"Well, the Autobots were very helpful with our last mission, I think it's time for us to repay that favor," Dr. Steen says. "The one big thing in common between your kind and mine is that we work as soldiers, as a cooperative team, and that may be enough to keep this virus from getting out of control with the Cybertronians stationed here, on Earth."
Steeljaw says, "Friendship isn't paid in favors, Lifeline. It's about being there when you need them." He then gets up. "Speaking of which, Lifeline.....could you hold out your hand?"
Dr. Steen smiles and obliges, holding his hand out with an inquisitive expression.
Steeljaw pads his way forward and rubs his 'nose' against Lifeline's hand.....even mouths the offered hand, but doesn't bite.
With a chuckle, Dr. Steen gives Steeljaw a headscritch. "Stay safe, my friend. And we'll definitely try to assist you with this ordeal. There's more than one way to take out a virus, no matter where it comes from or how nasty it is."
Steeljaw purrs a bit. "I now have your 'scent', Lifeline. If you ever go missing, the Joes should know to contact me. I'm the best tracker in the Autobots." he then tilts his head up into the headscritch, acting just like a cat. "and thank you, Lifeline."
"You are very welcome. Tell the other Autobots to keep the faith...if a cure becomes available, it's entirely possible that the Decepticons will call a truce for a while just to get that cure. But we'll consider that once we get there," Dr. Steen says. "I've got to go let General Hawk know about this as soon as possible!"
Steeljaw purrs a bit more. "all right. I'm going to try and find Sideswipe. Seems he's been infected, along with a few decepticons." He says starting to pad away.
Dr. Steen waves to the somewhat cute Autobot. Well, he *could* mimic a cat pretty good. Autobots never ceased to amaze him, the adaptability they possessed seemed endless to him. As Steeljaw heads off, Dr. Steen drives on towards Offutt, already composing the contact report in his head.
Subject: Autobot Encounter (IC Msg)
To: Lifeline, General Hawk
(Encoded message, for General Hawk's eyes only)
While driving back from the Omaha airport this afternoon (I took a red-eye to Seattle to tend to some personal business for a day), I had an encounter with the Autobot known as Steeljaw. He was the one who initiated the contact with me, and he wanted me to pass along some important information.
Apparently, the Cybertronians are dealing with a virus which alters their kind into vampire-type creatures, only concerned with draining energon. When an infected Cybertronian bites another, it spreads the infection. This vampire virus affects both Autobot and Decepticon alike, and has spread rapidly throughout their homeworld. Unfortunately, it has also spread to Earth as well. Currently, the Autobots are doing everything they can to prevent the wayward infected from causing more chaos.
Steeljaw has requested this information stay private, as they don't want to cause panic among the human population while they round up the infected. If we see any Cybertronians behaving strangely, such as emptying known energon reserves or being aggressive, the Autobots wish to be informed of this immediately. As to what extent, if any, we're going to get involved, this is naturally your decision. My own opinion as a doctor is to try and assist them with quarantine efforts, as the virus could spread between Cybertronians in more ways than even they realize yet.
Dr. Edwin C. Steen