Author's Note: Protectobot Beginnings AU - takes place shortly before "The Art of Saying Ouch."


"Whoa!"

"Do it again, Ironhide!"

The fun thing about newsparks, Ironhide reflected as he obligingly transformed back into his alt mode, was that they were impressed by everything. With the lack of drivable terrain on their planet none of them had witnessed transformation to alt mode until now. He drove in a circle around the admiring Protectobots, and then took off at a faster clip, just enough to stay ahead as the sparklings ran after him, yelling in excitement at the chase. He couldn't go too far, although Grapple had plans to do a little subtle terraforming, something that wouldn't be obvious from space, that would let them drive further over the somewhat treacherous landscape.

Ironhide finally stopped and transformed back to bipedal mode, letting the laughing, shouting Protectobots catch up.

"Ironhide, that was so amazing!"

"How fast can you go?"

"How did you do that?"

"When do we get to transform?"

Ironhide chuckled as Blades gave him an excited hug, and he patted the sparkling on the shoulder. "Aw, it's nothing special, just yer basic heavy duty artillery alt mode, nothin' too fast or fancy. You all were built with your alt modes pre-programmed, but it'll be another vorn yet before-"

Ironhide broke off as Hot Spot, who had been standing a little apart with a look of concentration on his faceplates, suddenly transformed into a large, shiny rescue fire truck.

"I did it!" Hot Spot said, rolling forward. Ironhide had to dodge out of the way though as Hot Spot kept gaining speed.

"Ironhide, how do I stop!" Hot Spot yelled as he careened past them, swerving wildly.

"Use yer brakes, kid!"

"Where are my brakes?!"

"Hot Spot, come back!" his teammates yelled, running after him.

"Aw, slag," Ironhide groaned, transforming to give chase. He hadn't gotten more than a few spans however before he caught up with the other four Protectobots clustered in a circle. Groove waved a cautionary hand at him as he transformed yet again.

"Be careful, Ironhide. Hot Spot found a hole. We're assessing the situation."

Despite his near panic (lost one of them down a hole! How was he ever going to explain to Wheeljack?), Ironhide felt a burst of amusement at Groove's entirely professional demeanor. He'd kind of been expecting more crying and screaming, to be honest, but instead all of them seemed to have gone instinctively into rescue mode.

"Is he ok?"

"I think he's fine," First Aid answered. "He says he doesn't hurt anywhere, and he didn't fall very far, but I think I'd better check him out before he tries to move." Ironhide could just see Hot Spot's back bumper; it looked like he'd landed nose first. They were all sturdy construction, Ironhide reassured himself, and Hot Spot was built to withstand the demands of supporting the Protectobots' eventual combined mode. It would take more than a little fall into a hole to do him any harm.

"Go ahead, then," he told them, since they seemed to have things well in hand. This was what they were programmed for, after all. "What's your next step?"

"We need to make sure the hole is stable, before First Aid goes in," Blades said, looking over at Streetwise. His brother's optics flickered a little as he accessed his geologic database.

"Igneous, basalt. This area has been geologically inactive for the last eight hundred vorns, with extensive tunneling and pocketing, cause unknown, most formations are stable except for slow weathering from water runoff and erosion. So, we should be all right!"

"It feels pretty stable to me," Hot Spot contributed. "Especially when I hit the bottom with my...front part? Er, bumper?"

Blades nodded. "I think it's safe enough, then," but he jumped up and down near the edge a few times and checked for movement or falling pebbles, just to make sure. Ironhide watched as they lowered First Aid slowly down next to Hot Spot.

"He looks fine," First Aid reported after a moment. "All his vital signs are normal, no dents, and he didn't even scratch his paintjob."

"All my fuel's rushing to my head, or where my head was, anyway," Hot Spot said cheerfully. "It feels funny!"

"Do you think you can transform back?" Groove asked. "Then you could probably just climb right back out."

"I don't know...I'm not sure how I did it in the first place!"

"We can lift you out, but transforming back would be safest," First Aid concurred. "You've got enough room once I get out of the way."

Blades and Streetwise pulled First Aid back out of the hole, and then they waited while Hot Spot tried to figure out his transformation sequence in reverse. Ironhide couldn't think of anything helpful to tell him; it'd been so long since he had first learned to transform. You just...did it, and that was that.

"Hm. Legs. Where are my legs? This is so weird," Hot Spot laughed. "Maybe if I…" The bit of Hot Spot's bumper that was visible wriggled a little, and then flipped out of view to the sounds of a transformation sequence. "Whoops! I'm still upside down!" There was giggling and clanking from the bottom of the hole, and then a few kliks later Hot Spot's helm appeared at the top as he clambered out.

"Hot Spot!"

"There you are!"

"You did it!"

Ironhide waited while the other four piled onto their gestalt leader with hugs of reassurance and First Aid confirmed that all of Hot Spot's parts were back where they started.

"All right, time to head back," he told them finally. They were due for a recharge cycle in just a few breems.

"Let's drive back!"

"Yeah!"

"Show us how you did it, Hot Spot!"

"And I could fly!"

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Ironhide waved his arms, getting their attention. "No driving, no more transforming! Definitely no flying! Not until we get you all trained on how to use your brakes, at the very least."

They looked briefly crestfallen, until Streetwise poked Groove. "Race!" And off they all took, running and laughing back towards the base.

Ironhide groaned, then chuckled. "I think I need a recharge nap more than they do. Driving lessons." He couldn't remember the last time he'd had to give anyone driving lessons. Maybe Wheeljack already had a plan, but he doubted it. Sparklings didn't usually learn to transform until they were at least a vorn old. He waited until the Protectobots were out of sight and then transformed to drive back - no sense in giving them any more ideas!