Breakdown's armour slapped against his inner plating.
"You okay?" Knockout asked.
"Yeah, just got this weird feeling up by spinal struts."
"Someone lubricated on your grave?" Knockout turned back to his work, unconcerned.
"Yup. And my optic hurts."
Without decepticon activity, the autobots went back to Swan Song, the plague ship where Optimus was infected not long ago. They first fired the energon harvester at the ship, extracting all of the infected energon, and got it back to Ratchet so he could decontaminate it. He similarly vaccinated all the bots before deciding the gathered sixty-three cubes were safe to drink.
And then they pillaged the ship for everything it was worth.
It had been a warship before being a plague ship, and it showed. Weapons, extra room, training facilities, a hyperjump drive. The only real adjustments made was that most of the quarters were reformatted into medbays, and the makeshift medbays had far more power connections than the hyperdrive or weapons.
Scrap metal, optic cable, bio-neural cable, energon lines, computers, tools (they had a fairly well-stocked sickbay), downloaded data, datapadds, weapons, anything that could be of value.
Each of the autobots were scrounging through their respective 'departments' (Ratchet and Bumblebee on medicine, Bulkhead on construction & spare parts, Arcee and Wheeljack on weapons and explosives, and Optimus in data retrieval) and making a list of things it would be nice to have. They practically tore the ship inside-out looking for files, supplies, cabling, a battery, weapons, entertainment, and especially medical tools, a working computer console, and as much data as they could get their servos on.
They only activated the computer once they were back at Omega-One. That's when Raf added it to his growing list of files and started to scrounge through it. Optimus helped, and Margo tried before the boys shooed her away, but the sheer volume of the files demanded the two recruit more people to help.
Raf couldn't just create a new subsystem for analyzing files, either, since they were often mislabelled as a way of preventing decepticons from finding important files. 'Energon nachos' could just as easily be the fuel consumption log, just as 'photos of cyber-cats' could be the Iacon database (if it existed among the autobots at all). Trying to access the files in a way that wasn't manual or 'look this up with a specific file name' tended to erase every last terabyte of data and transfer a computer virus into the computer that would in turn erase every single file - a technique designed to waste time and encourage the enemy to give up. And since there wasn't a specific file they needed to immediately locate, but they needed to know the contents, the autobots divided the work between them and Raf's translation program. Margo simply played with a scraplet while the rest ate the remains of the ship they hadn't needed.
Though, quite a few rooms upstairs where only the humans could wander around were positively packed with bio-neural and electrical cabling.
The common room was rather interestingly arranged, with most of the autobots sitting on the bio-berth with their legs propped up by nearby crates. Optimus was the only exception, unable to concentrate on anything he read without his feet above his head - a remnant from his days as Orion Pax that always seemed to relax and/or amuse his troops. It was always rather relaxing to go back to his roots of simply sifting through data and research on a quiet afternoon.
Until Bumblebee came upon the video files.
"I didn't know Megatron was an actor!"
Optimus replied, rather unthinkingly, chin on his knuckles and his other hand tapping against the datapadd's screen, "Uh-huh. He did porn."
He heard six distinct squawks and three yelps. Save Ratchet, whose talent for rolling with the punches was without equal. Though, the medic did look up from his datapadd.
"HE FUCKING DID PORN?" Margo squeaked.
"Yes," Optimus said faintly, still concentrating on his datapad so much the tight control on his emotions was being disrupted. "Had to get credits to start the revolution. The Arena wasn't nearly as paying as the fetish porn. I don't recommend you watch the videos." His optics refocused and his legs leaned back. "Raf, are you feeling alright? Your face looks flushed."
"I'm fine!" Raf squeaked.
Optimus shrugged and returned to his datapadd, heels rising again.
"So, how exactly do you know Megatron did porn?" Jack asked cautiously.
"Jack," Margo warned.
"No, it's quite alright, my charge," Optimus said, still expending most of his focus on his files, and slipping into his old habits of rambling and putting his pedes straight in his mouth. "Megatron and I often spoke of how to start the revolution. There had to be a method for collecting credits. Porn was one of the more paying options, and because Soundwave is functionally mute, Starscream was too busy training the fliers to work in teams, Knockout had his servos full with his apprenticeship, and I can't act to save my spark, Megatron was the most logical option. He likewise spent an exceptional amount of time with myself, Soundwave, Knockout, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and Starscream for what he dubbed 'decontamination' while we planned. The actor types were rather odd."
"More weird than the decepticons are now?" Bumblebee snorted as Optimus started chewing on the end of his stylus.
"No. In fact, as I recall, he did a few recordings with Knockout and Starscream's trine when they had time. Cross-caste polyamorous material was rather popular."
"Hold up, hold up!" Miko interrupted. "You were a 'con?"
"The war didn't always exist," Bulkhead said. "Interacting with people of other castes wasn't exactly frequent, but it did happen quite a bit."
"Mm," Optimus hummed, disagreeing. "I don't believe that to be true. An iaconian, two kaonians, three seekers, and a binar aren't exactly what I'd call the most likely circle, to be sure, but we got along rather well." He swiped his screen, renaming the file. "Raf, I've found a file of some interest."
"'Crash-landings'." Raf repeated, opening the file. It was immense, consisting of a file for every single ship on Earth. Severeal were decepticon ships, and others belonged to autobots. There were at least three neutral ships, too.
Ratchet whistled lowly. "Quite the file."
"You'll notice quite a few command ships. But those aren't the designations that interest me."
Arcee spotted it first. "NSYTS-EP? I-I thought the decepticons destroyed all those ships!"
"They're escape pods, all destined for here, and in rather the same place," Optimus said. "It's likely they're operating under some kind of cloak."
"Or the dark energon under the Earth is interfering with the decepticon scanners," Raf said, eyes widening at the energy profile. "I've been trying to find a match..."
"Holy fuck," Margo whispered. "That's more energon than what's on Earth. Wh- this is batshit crazy. What the fuck is dark energon doing under the Earth?"
"And why would the dark stuff be interfering now, and not then?" Bulkhead scratched his head.
"Irrelevant," Ratchet said. "We need to get to them before Megatron can."
"Who're you talking about?" Jack asked.
"The neutral sparkling-youngling transport ship escape pods," Wheeljack said. "So, after the bot/con divide. They were probably getting away from war."
"Bad luck for them, to end up right here," Miko said.
"In either case, they need to be brought here," Bumblebee said.
"Agreed," Ratchet said. "If the decepticon scanners should suddenly become active again..."
There were no objections.
The neutrals were brought back to base before being sequestered into storage in the basement, safe from all forms of scanning. There were fifteen pods, all full with stasis drawers in sets of twelve, a sparkling in each drawer. Likewise, there was a guardian with each of the cases.
If they hadn't chosen a side now, it was unlikely they would. And the sparklings didn't deserve to be raised by war machines, nor were the adults deserving of being conscripted.
The second neutral ship they visited, the ship was in shambles and energon stained the deck. Either the decepticons got there before the autobots did, or they'd died in the crash. Either way, they harvested whatever they could, and had the hive eat the rest.
The third Neutral ship was a ship belonging to a team of Rescue Bots. They carried it through the bridge.
Ratchet scanned them. "They're low on energon, and their engines are somewhat injured. But the stasis fields are stable, and the hull's dented, but intact. If we transfer them downstairs, there should be no issues. Wheeljack, hook them up to the base's power system. Bulkhead, help with transportation."
The wreckers both transported the ship downstairs.
Arcee's optics danced over the updated list, divided into two files, each with a faction insignia. "Okay. That's all the neutral signals. Now, what do we do about the others? Are we going for the bots or cons first?"
"Autobots," Optimus answered. "It would save us the trouble of splitting up so thoroughly, and if we do have living allies, I'd prefer we find them first before our enemies."
"Do you need me to come, too?" Margo asked.
"No. If there are decepticons aboard the ships as prisoners, we do not need you to be meeting them in such a violent manner."
"But isn't coming to base and seeing scraplets littering the floor also a 'violent manner'?" Miko pointed out, pushing a stack of cubes with Jack to the hallway.
"Warn them about the scraplets this time," Ratchet advised. "If they know in advance, it may prepare them."
"I dunno," Wheeljack said. "I wouldn't've stayed if Margo didn't eat my ship. I still wanna squish you for that, squishy."
"Good fucking luck," Margo said, and then picked up a scraplet and a ball of jumbled melted scrap metal. Its mouth closed around the ball, but everyone could still hear the faint whirring and shrieking of the metal.
"Was that a threat, little thing?" Wheeljack asked.
"Does it need to be?" Margo asked, eyes narrowing and arms curling protectively around her scraplet.
They stared at each other a while before being broken by Wheeljack's laughter. "I like this one! She's got spunk!"
Bulkhead sighed and Arcee silently resheathed her arm blades.
"Get going," Margo smiled, and went to help with another pile of cubes. "Have fun, have good reunions, have a nice orgy, give each other lots of mind-blowing orgasms, I don't fucking care. No one fucking cares. Just don't die, ya piles of shit."
On that note, since only Bumblebee knew what that human thing meant and refused to speak, they went through the bridge.