Author's note: The kid is not an OC.
"It's very large."
Wheeljack grinned behind his blast mask at Resonance's reaction to his first view of Iacon. The kid peered through the shuttle's window, expression awestruck. His wings were hiked up with interest, and his blue optics bright.
In truth, Wheeljack felt a little of that reaction himself. He hadn't been home to Cybertron in fifty vorns. The last time he'd seen Iacon, it had been a blasted ruin of a city. Now, tall buildings rose again above the plains, and the rubble was gone. Fliers filled the air and the streets were full of people.
"Don't forget what we talked about. It's important that nobody looks at you too closely." Wheeljack reminded, gently, resting a hand on the kid's shoulder. He had to reach up to do so. Resonance, though young, was quite tall for an airframe. His gangly frame promised more growth yet, and he hadn't even begun to fill out. He was technically close to his majority at twenty vorns of age, but like many very large mecha, he was was slow to physically mature.
"I remember," Resonance said, calm and confident. "I understand the importance."
Wheeljack sighed. He was worried, though he told himself he shouldn't be. Resonance was a responsible and serious youngling, not at all prone to acting without thinking. Even if the worst happened, and Resonance's secrets were found out, it would not be a disaster. It would simply be unfortunate for Resonance, who didn't deserve the drama and political theater that would follow.
After a few minutes more of flight, the shuttle touched down at the skyport. Wheeljack and Resonance departed amid a small crowd of other mecha. They waited patiently in the queue for customs. Resonance looked about alertly, likely fascinated by - well, everything. He'd spent most of his life on a small moonlet, and this was the first time he'd ever been to Cybertron.
The customs mech was a small, tired-looking yellow minibot. The little mech didn't even look up as Wheeljack approached the desk. "Designation?"
"Wheeljack." He said this with a merry flash of his earfins.
The minibot looked up, sharply. "Wheeljack!"
'Bee rose from his seat, hurried around the desk, and threw his arms around Wheeljack's waist. "Jackie, welcome home!"
He returned the hug firmly. Bumblebee was a good mech, and someone he had missed. "So they've got you working customs, eh?"
Bumblebee shrugged after releasing the inventor. "I think it's because I know everyone and all their tricks. Speaking of which -" he surveyed Wheeljack head to toe with a suspicious look that was a sharp reminder that 'Bee had been one of Jazz's operatives once upon a time, "- anything explosive, dangerous, experimental, or reality-altering that I need to know about?"
"No!" Wheeljack held his hands up, palms out, in a show of submission. "Nothing, nada. Honest. I've got the kid with me. I'll risk my plating, but not his."
"Kid?" Bumblebee's gaze moved, for the first time, to the tall and metallic red flightframe next to Wheeljack. Resonance was watching them with curiosity, but hadn't said a word.
"Yeah, this's Res. Resonance. I found him in stasis when he was a sparkling, in a lab on a Primus-forsaken moon. He's been with me every since."
"You've got a another kid." Bumblebee said, with a giggle of delight.
"Not much of a kid anymore." Wheeljack turned to glance at Resonance. "I remember when I could carry him around. If he grows much taller, he's going to be carrying me."
Bumblebee laughed. Resonance smiled, flashing even white denta.
"Res, I fought in the war with 'Bee. He's good people." Wheeljack clapped Bumblebee on the shoulder. "I'm sure he'll point us in the right direction."
"I imagine," Bumblebee said, "you've got some immigrations issues with the kid."
"Yep. He's not in any registry - I've even checked by spark resonance. My best guess is that he was kidnapped from his parents and was destined to be one of Shockwave's experiments. He was in stasis for a few hundred thousand vorns."
So many lies in that statement. So much misdirection. Resonance was not a primally created mech, though he'd been decanted young enough to have significant natural growth left. There hadn't been time to grow his frame to full maturity in a vat, nor any easy way to smuggle such a large mech off Earth. Wheeljack had ran with Resonance when he was still small enough to fit in Wheeljack's subspace.
Bee's optics softened with sympathy. "Yes, that would explain why he isn't in the registries. Let me talk to the boss - I'll see what we can do for him."
"Rodimus. Our population is still so small that he still handles many administrative issues personally."
"That's convenient. Optimus would be proud of him for that, too. So - How's Roddy doing, anyway?"
Bee's smile softened. "We're all proud of him. I'm sure he'll be pleased to see you."
Fifteen minutes later, after Bumblebee had finished processing the other arrivals, the three of them walked the short distance to the Prime's offices.
Rodimus and his officers had claimed a late noble's former mansion as their headquarters. It was not much of an extravagance. The building was large, but it was the home of the entire Cybertronian government. The building had been rebuilt into offices and was crowded and busy. Wheeljack kept a close eye on Res as they entered.
Only about half of what he had told Bee was true. The rest was a carefully constructed lie, and not even Resonance knew the entire truth about Resonance's past. However, importantly, Res had grown up on a remote moon, deliberately kept out of sight by Wheeljack and the handful of others who knew his secret. He'd never been around strangers before. Wheeljack wasn't entirely sure how he would react to a busy, bustling office full of glitchy former Autobots and Decepticons. Resonance was about as laid back a mech as was ever created, but he was still young and this was an entirely new experience for him.
"Hi, kid." Wheeljack said, bemused, as Blurr shot out from an open office door. The young courier had grown a head in height since Wheeljack had seen him last, but he was every bit as hyper as Jackie remembered.
"Wheeljack!" Perceptor said, popping out of another doorway. Skyfire ducked out after him, followed by Grapple. Even as Blurr tackled Wheeljack in a hug, the others converged on him. "When did you get here?"
"Just a few klicks ago."
"What brings you to Cybertron?" Skyfire asked, as Percy hugged Wheeljack after Blurr let go.
Over Perceptor's shoulder, Wheeljack said, "Eh, it was time for the kid t'meet more people. I'm hoping to get him enrolled in the university."
Several sets of optics - more mecha had arrived, drawn by the commotion - all shifted to Resonance. Resonance, true to his personality, didn't react with anything worse than a bit of tension in his stance. However, he summoned a bright smile and said, "Hi."
"Kid?Youhaveanewkid?Whendidthishappen?" Blurr demanded.
"About twenty vorns ago." Wheeljack reached back - and up, because Resonance was so blasted tall - and pulled him forward by his arm. "Resonance, meet Blurr, Perceptor, Grapple, Skyfire - ah, hi Jazz!" The former Autobot TIC had arrived from a side corridor, a bright smile on his face that revealed nothing of Jazz's mood, "Silverbolt, uh, Thundercracker and Skywarp, Sunstreaker, uh ..."
"I apologize if I fail to keep your designations straight," Resonance said, now looking a bit overwhelmed as more mecha kept appearing. There were now more people in one place than the sum total that Resonance had seen in his life. Wheeljack had told Res stories about many of these mecha, but that didn't mean he knew them personally. Quite a few had changed their alts, and therefore their appearance, since the end of the war.
"Wheeljack!" An excited voice crowed, louder and deeper in tone than the general hubbub.
"Swoop!" Wheeljack held his arm wide.
The dinobot broke into a run, scattering the converging crowd. He folded his creator into an enthusiastic hug, actually picking him up and spinning him around.
Wheeljack pounded Swoop's back enthusiastically, and let himself be manhandled. By Dinobot standards, this was good manners. After a moment, Swoop set him back down. "Wheeljack, you could have told me you were coming home!"
Was Cybertron actually home anymore? He wasn't even sure. "I wanted it to be a surprise!" he said, which was true. Sort've.
Swoop, he thought, looked good. The past twenty vorns of peace had allowed the young pre-prog to mature, that much was clear. His speech was far less glitched than it had been, and his optics alert and calm. Wheeljack couldn't wait to see the rest of the Dinobots.
"Jackie!" And there were more of his creations here. He'd seen Silverbolt at the back of the crowd, though 'Bolt was hanging back with his usual reserve. Fireflight, by contrast, launched into Wheeljack's arms. Wheeljack hugged him with an enthusiastic crow of delight.
"It's good to see all of you." Wheeljack said, when the tide of new arrivals slowed.
"So I have a new brother," Silverbolt said, with a smile. "Welcome home, creator. Resonance, welcome to Cybertron. And Wheeljack, I thought you said you weren't going to create any more flight frames after the five of us!"
Wheeljack laughed at Silverbolt's gentle teasing. The Dinobots might have been more notorious with the rest of the Autobots when they were younglings, but from the standpoint of a legal guardian and creator, the Aerialbots had given Wheeljack far more nightmares. The Dinobots had generally been restricted to localized mayhem due to the limitations of their frame types. The Aerialbots, from the day their protoforms been imbued with sparks by Vector Sigma, had been frighteningly mobile. It was very hard to protect, teach, or rein in younglings when they could reach the opposite side of a good sized planet before he'd even noticed they were missing.
"He's not my creation," Wheeljack said, gently. "But I've raised him as my own. I found him in one of Shockwave's labs, after the war. So yes, you have a new brother."
Resonance held his hand out for a human-style handshake to Silverbolt. "It's good to meet you. And you, Swoop. And Fireflight. And - you are First Aid, correct?"
First Aid was another of Wheeljack's creations. He'd made so many, during the war. So many had been deactivated, too, at ages that were far too young. He'd hated sending young pre-progs sparked by Vector Sigma into war when they were still legally sparklings, though critical need had required it. However, through sheer, pure, luck, almost all the mecha he'd built on Earth had survived. Earth had been good to his children.
"Welcome to Cybertron, Resonance," First Aid said smoothly.
Unlike the others, First Aid knew Resonance's secret. So did Ratchet. The cranky old doctor was leaning one shoulder against a door frame leading to a conference room, and watching the proceedings with a sharp gaze. Ratchet finally commed him, using an old encrypted Autobot frequency. :He looks good. Wish you'd warned us you were coming, though.:
:If I had, someone probably would have said 'no'.: Wheeljack shrugged. :Kid was bored out of his mind on Titan. It'll be fine, Ratchet. You'll see.:
"What," a mech with a smooth voice and a flashy paint job demanded, "Is going on here?"
The owner of the voice couldn't see Wheeljack, who was currently being hugged by Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. Wheeljack, however, recognized the voice immediately. He wriggled free of the embrace and came to a proud parade rest.
"Just your usual Wheeljack-inspired chaos," Ratchet said, drily, in a voice that carried over the noise.
"Wheeljack?" Rodimus Prime strode through the crowd, which parted before him. Ultra Magnus followed closely on his heels. "This is a surprise."
"Everyone back to work. You can socialize when your shifts are over!" Magnus barked, causing the crowd to evaporate with surprising speed.
Bumblebee's plating flattened a bit in reaction to Ultra Magnus's voice tone, but he said, "Jackie needs to speak to Rodimus. The kid needs his immigration paperwork sorted out."
Ratchet, who had not fled Magnus's wrath like the others, straightened up. :Does he know?:
:I've never told Rodimus anything other than the cover story, so if you haven't ...?:
:Nope. And I don't intend to. This should be interesting.:
Rodimus Prime led the way to his office, which was on the top floor of the five-story building. The office's windows had an expansive view of the Iacon University grounds, and beyond them, new apartment buildings and small factories and warehouses.
"Welcome home," Rodimus said, to Wheeljack. "I hope you're planning on staying for awhile."
"Yeah, for a bit. Might try to get work at the university."
"If you promise not to blow it up," Rodimus said, amusement in his voice, "that could be arranged. There's an opening for an anatomical engineering professor in the science department that should suit you well - you will need to work with Starscream, but he's actually mellowed out a bit."
Wheeljack shrugged. "Screamer's not that bad. We got along before the war, I imagine we can get along after it."
"Heh. And Ratchet will thank me for lightening his workload."
Ratchet, leaning against the back wall of Rodimus's office, grunted agreement.
"So. You have a ... youngling. What's the story here?"
Wheeljack glanced over at Resonance. "Ah, you know Titan, right? A large moon in Earth's system? I was contracted by the humans to help them study it, after the war. It's an interesting world - Percy would love it. Anyway, we found one of Shockwave's labs, abandoned, during the survey. As best we can tell, Res was a primally created sparkling, most likely stolen from his parents at birth. He was either kidnapped, or, well, you know what Shockwave was like. I wouldn't be surprised if his progenitor was dead, but I don't have any proof."
Rodimus made a distressed noise.
Wheeljack sighed. "He was in stasis in a storage vat. I pulled him out, thinking he was a symbiont until I got a good look at him. I don't think his processors had ever booted before. And the rest is history - he's been tagging along with me every since."
There were so many lies in that brief explanation. Wheeljack didn't feel the least bit guilty about telling them. Fortunately, Rodimus lacked Optimus's nigh supernatural ability to spot falsehoods. It was best if Rodimus never, ever, knew Resonance's secrets. It would be bad for Roddy, and bad for Cybertron, and terrible for Resonance, if the truth was known.
Not even Resonance knew all of Resonance's secrets. Wheeljack intended to keep it that way. For everyone's sake, but most especially Resonance's.
"Ah. You didn't see fit to bring him to Cybertron before now? It must have been hard for a youngling, growing up out on the frontier ..." Rodimus's optics narrowed.
Wheeljack shrugged. "I wasn't sure if the peace was going to hold. I was tired of sending younglings off to war. Call it selfish, but I wanted to make sure at least one of my kids didn't end up either being killed, or killing someone, before their first vorn of existence."
"Understandable, I suppose," Rodimus said, with a weary sigh. Hot Rod had been created during the war, though not by Wheeljack. Like most of his generation of pre-progs, he would bear the scars on his spark until he died. He'd never had a childhood, and had been sent to war within a few earth weeks of onlining. Rodimus was also the first pre-prog in the history of Cybetron to become a Prime. He was living proof that, unlike what many primally created mecha believed, pre-progs were not inferior.
"I can confirm Wheeljack's story," Ratchet said, mildly. "He called me for advice when he found the kid. I talked about it with Jazz, just in case there was anything Ops knew about that installation. All Jazz could tell me was that Shockwave used that lab to design experimental warframes."
"Hnnh." Rodimus regarded Resonance. "And you verified his spark frequency's not on file?"
"Nope. Already checked." Ratchet put in, tone casual. "He was so young when Jackie found him, they probably never scanned it in before Shockwave got his claws on him - assuming the kid wasn't born in a lab somewhere."
Wheeljack wished they weren't having this discussion in front of Res. He glanced back. Resonance had no expression discernible on his rugged features.
That Res's spark frequence wasn't on file was a lie, but Rodimus was no medic nor scientist and was vanishingly unlikely to insist on independent confirmation. Besides which, Jazz had altered a few key medical records in the Autobot databases. Someone with ample time and sufficient clearance might dig the truth up, but Wheeljack was counting on most mecha accepting Resonance at face value. He wasn't the only sparkling to be plucked from a Decepticon vat and raised by sympathetic Autobots after the war. Not by a long shot.
"So." Rodimus turned his attention on Resonance. "What do you want to do with your life, kid?"
Resonance blinked, then answered with his usual calm thoughtfulness, "For now, I simply wish to attend the university and take a core classes and a few electives. Wheeljack has suggested I study a range of subjects, and this seems sensible. I am not certain what career I wish to focus on yet."
"Anything in particular interest you?"
"Medicine." Resonance said, promptly. "And history. And ... art."
None of those answers surprised Wheeljack. Resonance's love of art had been a bit unexpected, but on reflection, it shouldn't have been. The interest in medicine came from a spark-deep sense of compassion. That Resonance would be strikingly intelligent and academically oriented was also an easy assumption.
"He's got the mind for medicine, too," Ratchet said. "Wheeljack's showed me some of the kid's lessons. He's doing work way ahead of his age. He shouldn't have a problem with the admissions tests, and he can use me as a reference."
Rodimus flashed Resonance a grin, clearly having reached a decision. "Welcome to Iacon, Resonance. I'll have your residency permit done by this afternoon."
Later - much later - Wheeljack knocked on Ratchet's apartment door.
The medic let him in quickly.
"Where's the kid?" Ratchet demanded, optics narrowing.
Wheeljack held his hands up defensively. "Hey, he's twenty vorns old. He can be trusted not to burn the hotel room down if I leave him alone for a few hours."
Ratchet huffed. "I suppose."
"Ratchet," Wheeljack said, following the medic inside, "I know you want to protect him - and that you'd rather not actually see him - but he's grown up. He's not a sparkling anymore. I couldn't keep him alone on that moon anymore. It just wasn't fair. He deserves a chance to live a real life. Like we agreed, you know?"
Another huff. "I know. It's just hard."
"Tell me about it." Wheeljack glanced behind him, making sure the door was shut tight. "The older he gets, the more he reminds me of Optimus. He's - he's got potential, Ratchet. I brought him home not just for his sake, but for all of ours."
"No!" Ratchet snapped, visibly bristling. "Wheeljack, no. He gave everything for us, and in the end all I could save was his spark!
Wheeljack snorted. "I wasn't suggesting he petition Rodimus for a return of the Matrix. Pit no. Over my dead and rusted corpse! But - but he deserves a chance to be anything he wants to be. Anything at all. And Cybertron will be better for it, no matter what that is. That's just the way he is."
Ratchet settled, a bit, armor relaxing.
"You gonna be okay with him here?" Wheeljack regarded his old friend with softening optics. "I know it's going to be hard on you. Particularly when you see how much he's like Optimus."
"Yeah." Ratchet folded his arms across his chest. Something like defiance blazed in his optics as he insisted, "Yeah, I'll be fine."