TP: What-If Universe
Summary: An unstable, depressed Spike gives his father a scare and results in Sparkplug committing his son to a psychiatric hospital. Seven years later, Sparkplug takes a gamble, hoping his assignment in the Joes will be the thing that finally breaks Spike's crippling depression.
A young Buster is at his friend's house for a sleepover. Sparkplug has been retired for a few years. And for the past 2 years, Spike has been keeping Sparkplug on edge with his breakdowns. Now, it's just Sparkplug and Spike. Sparkplug's in his study. Spike is in his room, looking up at the ceiling. Suddenly, he gets up and nonchalantly goes into the bathroom and gets his pills.
Spike pours out some pills for himself and ingests about 12. He then takes a huge gulp of water and ingests the other 12 and quietly goes downstairs to see his dad.
Sparkplug looks through the files Hawk sent over. More giant robots found in the tomb beneath Mt. Hilary. The Joes have been able to revive a few of them, but it's slow going. They don't really have a dedicated staff devoted to learning the ins and outs of alien technology.
Spike smiles mischievously and creeps into the kitchen and uncorks the bottle of wine that Sparkplug had opened last night when he was entertaining some friends (Spike was sent to his aunt and uncles just so no outbursts happened).
Spike takes four big gulps and another two gulps. He steels himself - still fairly in control - the meds haven't done their job yet. He walks into his dad's study. "Heayh dad... whatcha workin' on?"
The Ark find is intriguing... Sparkplug even consulted on some of the rebuilds... but Spike needs him at home, and the last thing Sparkplug is going to do is abandon his son when he needs him most.
Sparkplug looks up from the notes, automatically closing the folder and keeping the information from view... habits from his years as a spy die hard. "Hey, son. Just some work. Are you OK?" Sparkplug frowns. Something about Spike seems more off than usual.
Spike grins and wipes his eyes, "Dad...I made..a big...mistake...HUGE..." He smirks and snickers a bit.
Sparkplug's hard eyes narrow. "Spike. What did you do?" He stands.
Spike reaches into his jeans and shows the empty vial of medication. His eyes well up with tears, "Dad...I'm sorry... I just... for a second I wanted to be with mom...but I think I wanna change my mi..."
Spike falls face first onto the floor, banging his head against a small clock table.
Sparkplug frowns, moving up and around the desk in one fluid motion. Cursing, he activates his radio watch and hits the emergency-medical signal -- medical attention should be here in minutes. In the meantime, Sparkplug brings his rusty medic training to bear and does what he can for his son, face set in a flinty grimace.
Spike looks at his dad in panic as he's realized what he's done. Sparkplug can probably smell the wine on Spike's breath as well. "I don't want to die! I swear! I'm sorry!'
Sparkplug rasps, "I've had about enough, Spike."
Spike doesn't hear Sparkplug's rasp and his eyes flutter up - fading fast. Fading out. But it's the last straw. Spike was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Where he stayed until...
The University of Oregon Medical Center's state-of-the-art psychiatric hospital - where Spike has been for the past seven years. Spike is outside in the garden, tending to a few tomato plants. Dr. Morin looks at Sparkplug and points to the places where the 'x's are. "Please sign here...here...and...here. This pretty much absolves me of ANY blame WHEN - not IF - your son tries to commit suicide again - he's NOT ready."
One of the nurses calls to Spike. "Spike - your dad's here!" Spike looks over from his gardening. "OK - thanks!" He then goes back to tending the tomato plants, putting just enough nutrients in so that the roots don't suffocate from the love.
Sparkplug gives Dr. Morin a cold look. "Dr. Morin, I appreciate everything you've done for my son. But it's time he comes home to be with his family. There's nothing more you can do here for him."
Sparkplug signs the paper, and hands back the pen with thinly-disguised malice.
Dr. Morin smiles back at Sparkplug, "Well, I'm going to miss him - your insurance here practically paid for my tennis court."
Spike looks on in intense concentration and weaves some of the leaves through the tomato cage. "Can't have you hangin' out like that..." Spike mutters.
Sparkplug rasps, "I'm glad to know you've personally benefited from my son's pain. Is he ready to go?"
Dr. Morin gestures outside. And there's Spike. A wiry 150 pounds. Jeans and a white t-shirt.
Sparkplug rasps, "Great. Again, I thank you for your efforts."
Sparkplug turns his back on Morin and walks out to see his son.
Spike sees his dad approach and brushes some dirt off his knees. He smiles and raises a hand to his dad. Throughout these 7 years - Spike hasn't uttered so much as a single criticism to his dad. However, he hasn't exactly been TFU-Spike either.
Spike nods and smiles, "Heyah Dad - " He walks over and gives his dad a hug.
Sparkplug returns the hug, somewhat stiffly, but sincerely. "Get your stuff, son. I'm taking you out of here."
- GAME: Spike PASSES an INTELLIGENCE roll of High difficulty.
Spike blinks and shakes his head. "Wait... Dr. Morin - they were talking about a few more years here just last week."
Spike shows Sparkplug the garden. "I gotta watch after these tomatoes as well... that's my new job here."
Sparkplug rasps, "Someone else can watch over the tomatoes, son. I have more important work for you."
Spike rubs the back of his neck. "OK..."
Spike walks back to his quarters. And in true Spike fashion - he's ready to go in less than 5 minutes. Toiletries, a book (Infinite Jest), and his iPod. His bag even has room to spare - not bad for a seven year stay.
Sparkplug frowns. A moment of doubt crosses his face. Maybe his son isn't ready after all.... no. If he stays here, he'll wind up one of these vegetables in the garden. It's now or never, and Sparkplug was never one to hesitate in the face of risk.
- GAME: Spike PASSES an INTELLIGENCE roll of Very High difficulty.
Spike looks over at Sparkplug "It's about these robots, right?"
Sparkplug rasps, "Yes. It's about the robots. My job gives me a lot of time and quiet on my hands. I think working with me will be good for you."
Spike stops on his way to dad's car. He can't even drive - since he's been admitted, no driving privileges. He gives his dad a cautious grin. "Really? I mean... after all the ... stuff I've put you through?"
Sparkplug has a script to pick up from the pharmacy for his son. It's only seven medications - hopefully in a few months, it'll be down to 5.
Sparkplug rasps, "Well, you'll have to work to earn my trust, that's for sure."
Spike's mouth drops agape slightly as he looks out the window of his dad's car, amazed at how much he's seen today - and they're just a few miles outside hospital where he's been at for almost 7 years. Spike then looks blankly at the road after his dad's last remark. "OK."
Spike stares out vacantly, not really knowing what to do. But he doesn't want to throw himself out of the car and onto the freeway, so it's a start...right?
Spike looks at Sparkplug, then at Mt. St. Hilary. Then looks at Mt. St. Hilary, then looks at Sparkplug. "Is this... is this were you've been doing your work?"
Sparkplug stops the car, letting it tick quietly as it cools. "Yes, son. Years ago, we found a tomb containing several - perhaps up to a dozen - alien machines. After much testing, we discovered they were sentient, and could be repaired. A few have chosen to help us -- others... have gone their own way."
Spike listens intently and nods. "Are there any more asleep?"
Sparkplug rasps, "Several. Including their leader, who is known as Optimus Prime. He was very badly damaged..."
Spike looks at The Ark and says in a pretty deadened tone. "I don't know if I can be that good with repairs. The hospital was pretty adamant about me not working around heavy equipment."
Spike nods again. "Is there anything I can do - you think?"
Sparkplug finally cracks a smile for the first time since he picked up his son earlier that day.
Sparkplug rasps, "You're my son. I'm sure we'll find something for you to do. Hell, your brother plans to study to be a cryptologist, and there was a time I wouldn't trust him with a can opener."
Spike smiles and mutters "Thanks..."
Spike smiles at the mention of his brother. "Well, Buster will always find a way to surprise you. (Spike finds ways too!)"
Spike's eyes look on in wonder at the Ark. "My god... this is amazing, dad."
- GAME: Spike PASSES an INTELLIGENCE roll of Immense difficulty.
Sparkplug smiles again, his flinty exterior warming up. "Would you like a tour?"
Spike nods and heads in. "Sure!"
Sparkplug gets out of the car, and waits for Spike to join him.
Spike walks with Sparkplug. The fresh air, the awe of Mt. St. Hilary. What are those thoughtful globes on Spike's face - they look like - his eyes. He looks around and approaches the massive structure. "Wow..." he says.
"This is... humbling."
Sparkplug rasps, "Wait until you see inside of it."
Spike stays close to his dad. The hospital did a lot to Spike. Managed to stabilize his crippling depression, gave him some confidence, but one thing he doesn't have is independence as he was basically at the mercy of doctors and nurses.
Spike begins to walk in. The enormity of the place hits Spike and he begins to laugh, a genuine laugh that his dad has not heard in years. "In...credible!"
Sparkplug leads Spike into the Ark. It is dark and vast, with lights strung about like it was underground... which it is. When they get to the bridge, however, the entire area is lit by permanent, high-power lights, and the enormity is simply mind-blowing.
Spike shields his eyes and squints.
Sparkplug rasps, "Welcome to my lab."
Spike pauses and his eyes widen. "Th...THIS?! This is your lab?!"
Sparkplug smiles again. "And yours as well, Spike. This is where you'll be working with me."
Spike makes a slight move away from his dad. "This is... " He looks at the setup. He then looks at his dad and nods, getting serious. He smiles cautiously at Sparkplug, expecting a lecture now. But honestly, he probably deserves it.
Sparkplug grins. "This this is worth sticking around for?" he asks simply.
Spike nodnods. "Oh yeah..."
Sparkplug's smile widens. "Good. That's what I thought. Come on... I'll show you where to start."