He ran a black hand along a shelf stacked with datapads, stopping only when his fingers brushed the organic leather spine of the book he was looking for. With a light tug he pulled it clear of the shelf, braced it against one forearm and blew some of the dust off the deep red cover, wiping off the remainder with his hand. Then he carried it over to one of the tables in the small library of Autobot City, sat down and placed the book on the surface. Only, it wasn't a book, but rather, a Transformer-sized photo album.
He'd found it about a month ago amongst the wreckage and had placed it in the rarely used part of the library, knowing that no one would touch it till he next had the chance to look at it properly, and true enough – as evidenced by the dust – no one had. He didn't know to whom it belonged, but he supposed that since nobody had exactly come looking for it, they wouldn't mind him looking through it.
Cracking open the cover, he found handwriting in the form of a firm, yet flowing, script, solid black against the faded white of the page. It looked a little familiar, but he couldn't place it at that moment to exactly whom it belonged, though it didn't matter so much at that point. The writing itself was an introduction of sorts.
"So they suggested I take up a hobby," it read. "Something that would teach me to be a little more patient, since they felt that I was sorely lacking in that department. Jazz eventually suggested photography. Originally I thought 'what the slag?' till Hound came along and said I should try candid photography, since it would mean I'd have a lot of waiting to do till the perfect moment came along. Everyone else thought it was a good idea too, and Wheeljack eventually supplied the camera. So here's the result."
He flipped the first page as the writing ended, then stared at the first full-page photograph of Optimus Prime caught mid-leap as he jumped to slam-dunk an Autobot-sized basketball through a hoop, framed by a glowing orange sunset.
"Prime's a big fan of basketball," the caption underneath read. "If ever he had some free time, he'd go out there and shoot some hoops, either by himself or with whoever felt up to joining him – usually Ironhide, though the old-timer could barely get himself off the ground."
The mech chuckled as he glanced one more time at the picture, then turned the page. His smile blossomed into a huge grin when he saw the next two pictures. On the left was a head-shot of Ironhide fast asleep on a patch of grass, his face turned up to the afternoon sunshine. It seemed normal enough till one noticed the large monarch butterfly perched on his nose.
The picture continued onto the right page, showing Trailbreaker on his knees, his hand-arm out-stretched with his fingers clasped around the stem of a flower.
"I'll let this one speak for itself," the caption read.
The red mech stretched out his own hand and touched the photograph of Ironhide before turning the page again…. Two separate pictures this time, one of a rather angry Bumblebee standing over a seated, sheepish-looking Cliffjumper – quite a switch in personalities.
"Not sure what happened here, but I heard Cliffjumper messed up a mission that Prime had put Bumblebee in charge of. Guess Bee wasn't too happy about his orders being disobeyed."
The other picture was even more surprising. Huffer and Gears stood together, and to his shock, both were smiling. A far cry from their usual sour attitudes. The caption, too, consisted of nothing more than a few dots, and he quickly turned the page before he gaped any wider. Probably delighted that they had found something in common to complain about, he told himself. That was the only logical explanation for it.
The next page held a picture of Inferno braced against the trunk of a giant redwood, balancing Red Alert on his shoulders as the security director reached up to disentangle a colorful kite from the tree's branches. On the ground next to them a little boy stood with his father, looking up at the two Autobots with huge eyes.
The caption read, "Red Alert's idea."
On the corresponding page was a picture of Tracks, Warpath and Powerglide in a large pool of mud, helping to lift out a lorry that had gone in and jack-knifed onto its side.
"Ironic, this one. For once I don't think any of them thought about their paint-jobs when they jumped in to help. It's a good thing I didn't have to accompany them on the drive home though."
The warrior smiled again and flipped a few more pages, noting the pictures of Seaspray attempting to teach Cosmos how to swim; Skids reading from a book of fairy tales to the Dinobots, of whom only Swoop was paying attention, the other four having fallen asleep; Grapple and Hoist attempting to build a house of cards; Smokescreen and Brawn in what looked like Vegas, attempting to country line-dance at one of the themed resorts. He was mildly surprised to see a side of some of these Autobots that he'd never known about before. He looked at the picture of Brawn again and sighed before flipping the page.
Hound was in the next picture at what looked like a zoo of some sort, and he held a baby panda in his hands. There was a look of delighted surprised on his face which was in reaction to the animal relieving itself on him.
"Lets just say the cub adopted Hound," the caption beneath read.
Opposite that, on the other page, was a photograph of Beachcomber helping a fawn nurse from its mother. He had one arm around the little creature's body, helping to support it on its feet, while his other hand guided its muzzle to the doe's side.
"The fawn was prematurely born and too weak to stand to get to its mother, which was when our resident geologist stepped in to help. He took a couple of kicks from the doe before she decided that he meant no harm and was only trying to save her baby."
He looked closer at the picture at this point and then noticed a few small dents in the Minibot's armor, proving the photographer's words correct.
At this point, a yellow hand came to rest on his left shoulder, while the other placed a can of energon on the table in front of him. He looked back at the other mech who was in turn looking at the photographs.
"I keep telling these two they should just quit the army and go become veterinarians or something," the newcomer said.
"Oh yeah bro, great idea. I'm sure Roddy'd love the idea of opening up an animal clinic at Autobot City," he replied.
"Maybe you should suggest it to him, Sides."
"Nice try Sunny."
Sideswipe shifted to make room for his brother at the table as Sunstreaker drew up another chair and sat down, quickly, yet carefully, going through all the pages Sideswipe had already looked at.
"Where'd you find this?" he asked at last.
"One of the rooms, after the battle. Part of the ceiling had fallen on it, that's why no one had seen it before until a bunch of us were assigned to clean up all the debris. Don't know to whom it belongs to though, haven't come across a name yet," Sideswipe replied.
"Seems like a private project to me. Not sure if it was meant to be looked at by anyone else," Sunstreaker said.
"Or maybe it was – eventually."
Sunstreaker shrugged slightly, then turned the page over. He was met with a close-up shot of Bluestreak. While he didn't seem to be doing anything in particular, what attracted their attention was the look on his face. Gone was the sheepish smile and the usually skittish expression he often wore, replaced instead with a look of cold determination that was reflected in ice-cold blue optics.
"This was just before he and a few others rolled out to back up a patrol team that had come under fire from a group of Decepticons, leaving a couple of mechs injured. He'd just been told that Hound was one of them. That bit of news probably caused him to snap, 'cause I heard later that he'd shot down a few of the jets before they even knew who or what had hit them," read the caption.
Sideswipe grunted. "Didn't know Blue had it in him."
"You'd be surprised what mechs can do when they snap," Sunstreaker commented.
Its neighboring picture was equally disturbing. It was a close-up shot of Blaster, his optics glowing a fiery blue as he calmly looked at his energon-stained hand.
"Same battle," was the caption. "The energon wasn't his though."
"See what I mean?" Sunstreaker asked.
"Uh-uh," Sideswipe nodded.
He flipped the page over, then grinned. Sunstreaker couldn't help smirking either as they looked at the picture of Perceptor seated in front of a TV set, watching an episode of FRIENDS. The photo had been taken from slightly behind the scientist so they were able to see the TV screen as well as the small smile that played on Perceptor's lips.
Their own smiles faded considerably when they looked at the next picture however. Ratchet and Wheeljack stood on a small, make-shift stage, mics in hand, facing a group of Autobots as well as two karaoke screens. A few of the audience had their hands over their audio receptors which indicated that the medic and engineer were better off sticking to what they were good at. Sideswipe let out a pained sigh and leaned his head on Sunstreaker's shoulder. The yellow mech in turn put an arm around him.
"I know bro," he said. "I know. I miss them too."
He let out a sigh of his own when he looked at the picture on the next page – that of Prowl in what appeared to be the empty Ark lounge, late at night, a game console in his hands and an intent look on his face as he focused on the screen before him. The plastic disc casing beside him revealed the game to be Katamari Damacy.
The Twins couldn't help staring before they finally managed to tear their optics away and look at the other picture. This one had Mirage smiling widely at a Cookie Monster hand-puppet that he wore on his right hand.
"I didn't know he had that, did you?" Sideswipe asked.
"Nope," Sunstreaker shook his head.
They were down to the last couple of pages, and a flip revealed a wide-shot of none other than themselves. Sideswipe lay curled up on a couch, his head and shoulders resting on Sunstreaker's lap. Sunstreaker himself had his head resting comfortably on the back-rest of the couch, one hand placed almost protectively on his brother's shoulder. Both were fast asleep.
"It took me a really long time to get this shot. These two are very aware of what goes on in their immediate surroundings which makes it difficult to sneak up on them for any type of candid shot. This one time however, I guess they were too exhausted to care."
The final picture was a close-up shot of Jazz. At first glance it looked relatively normal compared to all the others they'd seen, until they noticed the shining teardrop that slid down from under his visor.
"It was Jazz's last day on Earth, before he flew off to the moonbase with the others. I don't recall ever seeing him this sad before. I guess he really did love Earth a lot. I was really lucky to get this shot, since Jazz was one of the few who knew about my project. It felt like he went out of his way to keep me from catching him off-guard. I suppose he had other things on his mind that day though."
"Well, he's good, whoever he is," Sunstreaker said.
They turned the last page and found one last hand-written note.
"So that's it. The final project. Cant believe it took me around ten years to put it all together. I almost wanted to give up at times, but looking at all these pictures, I'm glad I didn't. Its been fun."
The note ended, not with a name, but with a self-taken picture of none other than Windcharger. The brothers gaped.
"Wow," Sideswipe said at last.
Sunstreaker pointed to the date. "Looks like he finished this only a couple of days before the attack. Probably why no one's ever seen it before."
"So what do we do with it?" Sideswipe asked.
"Well…." Sunstreaker closed the album, stood up and went and placed it on one of the shelves in the main section of the library. "Its history now."